30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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 Braithwaite and Mr McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned residents of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government not to proceed with the introduction of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory until the residents of the Australian Capital Territory are consulted, by means of a referendum, on the issue.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry and Mr Haslem.
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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Shipton.
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.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the new Government during the recent election campaign, promised lower taxation and more money in people’s pockets.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray-
That the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to prevent the introduction of television and radio licence fees, the imposition of a tax levy for Medibank and the introduction of higher charges for drugs dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray. by Mr Morris.
– My question, which relates to natural disaster insurance, is addressed to the Treasurer.
– He is the biggest one.
– The only national disaster is the Government. As the Treasurer is aware, his predecessor was to have announced endorsement in principle for such a scheme on 1 1 November last after having considered 3 reports, two from the insurance industry and one from the Treasury. Since the Minister has had more than ample time to study the reports is he now prepared to endorse in principle the need for such a scheme? Further, can he advise the House what were the terms of reference for the working party which he set up to examine the proposal? Finally, when does he expect its findings and will its report be tabled in the House?
– I appreciate the honourable gentleman’s interest in this question and I recall that he has given notice of a motion to debate this matter in the weeks ahead. It is true, as the honourable gentleman suggests, that this matter was subject to examination by the former Administration and has been before me during the months since the new Administration has taken over. I can confirm to the honourable gentleman that the Government has decided to accept in principle and introduce a natural disaster insurance scheme in Australia and has decided to establish a working party of officials working with the industry to provide the necessary report. I hope that that report will be available at the earliest opportunity but, necessarily, a number of very substantial technical and policy considerations need to be taken into account.
I can also say to the House that the Government’s approach to the question of natural disaster insurance recognises the existing deficiences in the present arrangements. Our approach will be to work with the industry, with free enterprise, rather than to introduce an Australian Government insurance office. We indicated that, on assuming office, we would not proceed with the Australian Government Insurance Corporation. I will provide the honourable gentleman with additional details during the course of the day.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Resources and refers to a report in this morning’s Financial Review under the heading ‘Government’s dilemma on uranium policy’. I ask the Minister: Does he intend to carry out an independent survey of world uranium demand? Will existing contracts be allowed to proceed before new developments take place? As delay in this area is causing speculation and adds to development costs, when can the House expect a statement on Government policy in this area?
– I am told that there is a report in the Financial Review this morning of suggestions that the Government is going to bring forward certain proposals as to the orderly development of uranium in Australia. Let me make an initial statement that no development will take place until the environmental inquiry produces a report, but there will be contingency arrangements made as a result of Government policy. However, the Government has not reached the stage of examining any proposals. What has been proceeding is discussions between my Department and the potential uranium developers. When my Department has concluded discussions with these people a report will be presented to me for consideration and then I will present it to the Government, but until I receive a report I am not in a position to say what the proposals will be or when the matter will be considered by the Government.
-I direct to the Prime Minister a question which relates to the question I asked him yesterday in regard to office construction. How can he state that if the Whitlam Government’s office accommodation program were proceeded with it would take more money from the taxpayers and increase the Budget deficit, when what was proposed was merely to rent accommodation in suitable localities to help the Public Service to service society, particularly in respect of transport systems which at present are overloaded in peak periods, and to reduce the overloading on the infrastructure of the central business district, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, which occurred under a former LiberalCountry Party administration? As he has indicated that he does not intend to proceed with the program which was proposed by the Whitlam Government, what measures does his Government intend to take to stimulate the construction industry which is now in very difficult circumstances?
-The honourable gentleman seems to miss one salient point, that there is, as I am advised, in Sydney and Melbourne a surplus of office accommodation. The former Minister, by whatever means he seeks to finance them, seems to have proposals that would result in more office accommodation being built and under present circumstances there would therefore be more empty office space. That does not seem to make much sense. It does not seem to be a reasonable allocation of national resources.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that his reply to yesterday’s question about briefing selected newsmen on Iraqi funds already being provided to the Australian Labor Party is being interpreted in some quarters as confirming that he did in fact provide such a briefing?
-The principle I referred to yesterday about replying to questions on private conversations is an important one. However, I have noted the interpretations in today’s Press placed on my reply in this House. In view of those interpretations I want to make it quite clear that I have not sought to brief and have not provided a briefing to journalists which would give any substantiation to reports that payments of money had already been made to the Labor Party from Iraqi sources. The substantiation that did appear in the Press seemed to come from the President of the Labor Party in a reported conversation from Tel Aviv when he seemed to confirm that an offer had in fact been made.
– I ask the Minister for Defence a question. It rests upon his reported decision to increase the size of the Australian Army from 3 1 500 to 38 000 persons, at a cost between $72m and $90m. Is it a fact that the advice given to him is that such money would be better spent equipping the Army with weaponry which was perceived to be necessary in the Middle East conflict of 1973?
– I find myself in substantial agreement with the proposition which resides in my honourable friend’s question. I thought the answer I gave to the honourable member for Herbert yesterday would have dealt in all particulars with the question which the honourable member for Fremantle has now put. May I briefly recapitulate what I said yesterday. A report prepared some years ago, known as the Farrands-Hassett report, argued that in order to facilitate access to all military skills- that is to say, facilitate with the maximum efficiency- the desideratum in terms of the optimum size of the Australian Army was 38 000 persons. The Government, for reasons which I am sure the honourable gentleman will acknowledge as being sound, takes the view that the figure is not immediately within reach. As a consequence, the present size of the Army is 31 500 persons. We seek, in the present 5-year defence program, to raise that figure to 34 000 persons by the year 1978. So, in summary, I say that the honourable gentleman and myself are in agreement. We seek to put the emphasis upon defence equipment at the moment and at some time in the future to gain the ultimate, the desideratum in terms of the size of the Australian Army. May I assure the honourable gentleman and the House that the fact that we do not have 38 000 persons, the maximum desired by the Government’s military advisers, is not to be taken as any indication that the country is being denied access to military skills. That is the figure which would enable the most efficient access to the skills.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. I refer to his recent announcement that the Government is in the process of raising a 100 million Deutsche mark loan in Germany. Can the Treasurer inform the House what progress has been made in this matter?
– I welcome the opportunity to say to the House and to the honourable gentleman in particular that the loan agreement was signed yesterday in Frankfurt by the Australian Ambassador to West Germany, Mr Border. It is of special interest to the House that the terms of the loan include the lowest coupon rate for any foreign borrower on the German market since July 1973.
– Hear, hear!
– I appreciate the support of the honourable gentleman.
– I ask the Treasurer not to encourage interjections, even if they are in his favour.
– I thank you for that marginal admonition, Mr Speaker. The loan reflects the present Government’s very high status as a borrower in the European capital markets.
– Come off it, Phil.
– I would have thought the honourable member for Oxley would be very interested in our capacity to raise loans through the conventional mechanisms. (Opposition members interjecting)
- Mr Speaker, I am having some difficulty with the Opposition, which is obviously somewhat miffed by our capacities in these areas. Preliminary indications are that the loan, amounting to approximately $A31m, has already attracted applications of three to four times the amount to be sought. Therefore applicants will be alloted only some 25 per cent to 35 per cent of the amount for which they have applied. It is a particularly pleasing result for the Government. I might add, for the information of the House, the proceeds of the loan will be used to assist in financing the Commonwealth’s 1 975-76 loan program.
– I ask that the paper from which the Minister quoted be tabled.
-The honourable member for Corio has asked that the paper be tabled. Was the Minister reading from it?
– In order to offset any further questions on any matters to which I refer in this House, I can inform the Opposition that all the papers that I have before me are in fact marked confidential.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the fairly widespread feeling that for the present Government overseas aid has a reduced priority? Will he consider in relation to those views the establishment of an immediate overseas aid group designed to provide needed medical aid and essential food quickly to other countries in the event of floods or earthquakes, such as the one which recently occurred in Guatemala, so that the supply of these essential foods and medical aids can be quickly taken to the spot by Australian aircraft? Will the Minister consider the formation of an immediate overseas aid group of that kind.
– In answer to the introductory remarks made by the honourable member for Lalor, I point out that this Government does not have a reduced priority in regard to overseas aid or development assistance. In fact, we are pressing forward in the long term with the same goal of 0.7 per cent of the gross national product for such aid. There will be fluctuations in that percentage from time to time, as there were fluctuations during the term of office of the previous Government. The major criterion to be met is always the needs of the people, and that will be the major factor taken into account.
As regards the second part of the honourable member’s question, I think the honourable member referred to an immediate overseas aid group. In fact, my Department and the aid agency are already giving consideration to this matter. I view his suggestion as a very valuable one. I think it has been raised on only one or two occasions. I can see the benefit in being able to inject into a given disaster area some immediate relief along the lines suggested by the honourable member. So as soon as I receive the report on this matter from the working group, I shall see that the honourable member and the House are informed of the results of it and the Government’s decision upon it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and relates to the near doubling of bulk postage rates for newspapers under the previous Government, and in particular its serious effect on local and provincial newspapers. Many such newspapers have lost 30 per cent to 40 per cent of their subscriptions. This is causing concern for the viability of newspapers which are often a very significant employer in country centres, and it is also causing concern for local businesses and advertisers as well as for rural residents who rely on their provincial Press for information on local issues and interests. Is the Minister aware of the seriousness of this situation? Will he consider reducing these disastrous bulk postage rates introduced by the previous Government?
– The honourable member will appreciate that the matter of postal charges is in the hands of an independent Postal Commission; independent in the sense of day to day management. It has to conduct its affairs in a businesslike manner and in a manner compatible with making profits. Of course there is a social content which has to be taken into account. I am aware that the loss in respect of registered publications, such as the newspapers to which the honourable member referred, is about $1 1.5 in a year. As is the Government’s right, it subsidised those publications to the extent of $ 1 and this has kept costs down. Costs have increased from 4.5c to 7c. Had the subsidy not been provided the cost would have been 12c. Obviously I am concerned to prevent a lowering in circulation of country newspapers. Provincial newspapers play a significant role in providing the community with information as part of the general fabric of society. I shall mention the matter to the Commission. I can give no assurances whatsoever. These are the sorts of matters that I continue to raise before the Commission. Any review will have to be handled in a Budget context.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware that the former Labor Government made a decision to construct and operate a 150 000 ton dock in conjunction with the Newcastle State Dockyard? Was complete and total agreement reached on all points with the New South Wales Government and was there only one outstanding decision to be made, that is, a decision relating to the geological formation underneath the proposed dock site? Did the former Government engage people to carry out the necessary drilling and testing? Has that report been received? What was the result of it? Was it favourable or unfavourable? When can we expect tenders to be called, bearing in mind that a considerable amount of material already has been purchased and financed by the former Australian Government?
– The answer to the first 4 questions is yes, so far as I am aware the information given to the House by the honourable member is correct. In answer to the fifth question in respect of the survey done by the Department of Transport as to the stability of the soil around the graving dock, a report has been received that this will involve much greater expenditure patterns than was first known. In respect of this whole program I should inform the honourable member that the Government, as he may know, is reviewing the program along with a lot of others and a policy decision in respect of it will be announced in due course.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he is aware of suggestions that the Economic Consultative Group would be strengthened by the addition of a person who is engaged in small business. If so, has the Treasurer decided to act upon that suggestion?
- Mr Speaker-
-This is the first he has heard of it.
– It is not the first I have heard of the suggestion. We have received a number of representations concerning the matter to which the honourable gentleman properly refers. Unlike members on the other side of the House, we on this side form a government which is prepared to listen to responsible representations and to take remedial action because this Government recognises the need for flexibility in the administration of its policies. The honourable gentleman would be very much aware that the Economic Consultative Group was chosen from a wide cross section of the Australian business and commercial world. The individuals appointed by me some weeks ago were chosen not on the basis of their representational role but on the basis of their personal capacities to contribute to the work of that very significant consultative group. I have examined the representations made from the small business area and have come to the conclusion, on the basis of representations made by the honourable gentleman and others on this side of the House, that the work of the Group would be very much strengthened by the appointment of someone from the small business community.
I can report that the Government has invited Mrs Lisa Brodribb, managing director of M. Brodribb Pty Ltd, manufacturers of transformers and electronic equipment, to take a position on the Group. Mrs Brodribb is very well qualified by background. She has extensive experience in the small business sector. She was a member of the Wiltshire Committee. She is a member of the Victorian Government’s Committee on Small Business. She has a Ph. D. in management and has very widely recognised qualifications in this area. She is a vice-principal of the Caulfield Institute of Technology. I am sure that her appointment will be very warmly welcomed by the small business community. That appointment will be seen as evidence of this Government’s capacity to back the needs of small businesses which do depend upon the total economic health of the business community.
– My question, addressed to the Prime Minister, follows on from a question I asked him earlier. Accepting that there is surplus office accommodation for a period of three to five years in the central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne, due to the policies of Liberal-Country Party governments between 1960 and 1972, is he aware that the planning lag in this sector of the construction industry is at least 3 years? Is he aware that there is an extreme crisis because of under use of resources in this sector of the construction industry? What action does his Government plan to take to overcome this situation.
– The Minister for Construction will answer the question.
– It is a fact that the nonresidential construction industry is in some trouble and the situation may become worse. It is also a fact that it was in trouble before we came into government- in very great trouble- as a direct result of the policies pursued by the former Government. At this moment we are consulting with the industry’s leaders. What we do in the future will be a matter of our own policy, which is not appropriate to be discussed at question time. Can I say that the - (Opposition members interjecting)
-Order! The interjections from the Opposition side are continuous. I ask honourable gentlemen not to continue to make a noise by interjecting and certainly by their interjections not to encourage the Minister to make a ministerial statement for that would only limit their capacity to ask questions during question time.
– Finally, there are literally millions of square feet of first class office accommodation available in Melbourne and Sydney at $6 or $7 a square foot. The proposition proposed by the former Government would have put Government rent at $ 1 0 to $ 1 5 a square foot.
-I ask the Minister for Transport whether his attention has been drawn to a recent Press report that a Trans-Australia Airlines captain, due to sudden ill health, was unable to continue in control of a jet aircraft he was piloting interstate. Can the Minister assure the House that medical examinations of air crew are carried out strictly in accordance with air safety regulations and that the Australian airlines take due notice of such medical examinations?
-I am able to confirm that a TAA captain suffered a bout of illness during the course of a flight. But having said that, let me assure the House immediately that this in no way endangered either the flight crew or the passengers on board that plane as there is, of course, on these large aircraft a second flight crew member who has the full capacity and capability of bringing the aircraft in safely. Insofar as the second part of the question is concerned, the honourable member ought also to know that all pilots undergo a rigorous medical examination every 6 months and the medical checks are on a level equivalent to or indeed better than any international standards. The point I am making is that whilst these events occur very infrequently, the whole system is such that it has a built-in safety mechanism to ensure that they can occur only infrequently and that there is absolutely no danger at all to the flying public.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security aware that long term recipients of Commonwealth employees’ compensation are in receipt of only $57 a week for a single person and that there are further reduced rates for dependants- the worst compensation payments in Australia? Is the Minister aware that the previous Government planned prior to 1 1 November to legislate to increase these amounts considerably? In view of the hardships being experienced by these Commonwealth Government employees on long term compensation, does the Government intend to increase the rates to a reasonable level in line with more advanced State Acts?
– The present Government is examining this problem in the light of representations that have come to it. It is intended that we should adopt a policy that is fair and reasonable to all. The compensation code for Commonwealth employees was regarded by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government as the standard for workers’ compensation generally. I understand that the former Government departed from this principle. I do not know why this was done. There is provision now in the Ordinance for automatic adjustments, but it is not contained in the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act. But whether the automatic adjustments of benefits should be provided for in compensation, that is, by the Compensation (Australian Government Employees)
Act, is one of the questions that we need to consider. There is no mention of this type of arrangement in existing legislation or benefits included in the Social Services or Repatriation Acts. But if it is included in the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act and not another Act it could well create an anomalous situation. However, I thank the honourable member for Grey for the question. I should like to give him an assurance that the Minister is examining all the aspects and he can be assured that the Government, in accordance with its general policy and attitude, will adopt a very fair and reasonable attitude to Commonwealth employees.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, relates to the imposition of estate duty by the Commonwealth of Australia. Upon legislation being introduced to lessen the incidence of Federal estate duty on property passing from a deceased to a surviving spouse, can the Treasurer advise the House of the estimated amount which would be lost in revenue and the percentage that that sum bears to the total government revenue? Further, does the Treasurer anticipate further amendments to the Estate Duty Act to reduce liability for this tax or the abolition of estate duty as a source of revenue for the Commonwealth of Australia? If so, when?
– The question of estate duty is of very considerable concern to a significant number of people in the Australian community. In that sense I welcome what the honourable gentleman has posed to me by way of question. The Government’s policy was put down in the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister. That policy speech indicated that the estate duty provision will be changed to give an increased exemption where the estate or part of it passes to a husband or a wife. That is a matter which is before the Government. The question of timing and the extent of the exemption are very much matters of policy which will need to be determined. It is in that sense that I am unable to give the honourable gentleman the precise figure that he has sought. But, as I recall, the figure of lost revenue which would be caused by abandonment of Federal estate duty would be $75m. As for other amendments, necessarily they will be before the Government. I should welcome from the honourable gentleman any suggestions he might have which would seek to look at the provisions which take the Government’s policy beyond that which is in the present policy speech. I say to the honourable gentleman that we do understand the difficulties that the present provisions entail and the Government is concerned to see that those problems are overcome in the future *
-My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to the one he answered earlier in respect of the Deutsche mark loan. Could he please indicate to the House the commissions and other charges paid in respect of that loan and to whom those commissions were paid?
– Consistent with the practice of open government and inconsistent with the whole sordid background of the affairs in which the honourable gentleman had some marginal part, this Government will be very happy to provide the honourable gentleman with those terms. He does me too much credit in his apparent expectation that I carry all of these figures in my mind. But I shall be happy to provide the information to the honourable gentleman. All I can say to him by way of a passing and final probe is that if this Government is prepared to come clean on its loan dealings- and we are- the honourable gentleman might be prepared to consider whether he is prepared to allow the Government to release the files which would be a matter of some embarrassment to honourable members on the other side.
– I address my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade and briefly preface it by stating that the beef industry has in the past suffered severely from price fluctuations as a result of reports that have proved to be groundless or greatly exaggerated. I ask: Can the Minister confirm reports that the United States of America intends to import less beef from Australia this year than she did last year? Does the Government have in mind taking any action on the matter?
– Negotiations are proceeding with the Americans for an allocation for this year. An offer has been made and I note that some publicity has been given to that offer. One newspaper concluded that there would be a reduction in our allocation to the United States of America market. That is a hasty conclusion to arrive at for several reasons. Whilst the initial allocations might be smaller than was our final entitlement last year, our initial allocation this year is some 9 million lb greater than the initial allocation last year. However, there are 2 very significant factors which must be taken into account. One is that there is a considerably larger buffer being provided this year between the trigger point and the restraint point. Last year it was one million lb; this year the United States of America has provided a gap of 1 3 million lb.
The other point of significance is that at this stage Canada has been offered a very substantial increase. There was a dispute over trading between the 2 countries and whereas Canada got an entitlement of only 17 million lb last year, this year the offer is 70 million lb. Any additional trade from Canada to the United States of America has the consequence of opening up even greater possibilities for Australia on the Canadian market. What I am not happy about is a possible reduction despite that we have been able to meet the expectations of the United States. There has been no shortfall. In fact, the United States has had to give a reallocation to Australia to meet its full entitlement. Last year we finished up with an additional 23 million lb and I can see no reason why our allocation, in percentage terms, should be cut back when our performance has been well in advance of that of any of the Central or South American countries. We are expressing our concern to the American authorities that our basic entitlement should be even higher than the increased entitlement we have obtained at this stage.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He will have noted yesterday’s decision of the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to award a 36% hour working week to the 500 employees of the Australian Postal Commission and the recommendation of Deputy President Isaacs to the Postal Commission to discuss the extension of the shorter working week with the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union. Has the Government hitherto refused to allow the Australian Postal Commission to negotiate with the union on this matter? If so, will it now allow such negotiations to take place or will it repudiate the recommendation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and jeopardise industrial peace by refusing to allow such negotiations? In view of the fact that the Full Bench in unanimously awarding the shorter working week once again rejected the Government submission that to grant the union’s claim would be economically catastrophic, will the Government now consider taking a more realistic and sensible attitude to industrial issues?
– The general question of shorter working hours has been raised in various cases recently before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission relating to the postal and telecommunications area. It is the view of this Government that the previous Government acted in an inappropriate way in tackling this problem on an ad hoc, piecemeal basis. The general question of shorter working hours, whether in the postal and telecommunications area, the area of government employment generally or in all areas of employment, including private employment, is a matter of great moment both economically and socially to the community. The Government therefore believes that this matter should not be approached on a piecemeal basis, and that is the tenor of the submissions we have made before the Commission. It is true, as the honourable member said, that the Full Bench granted the shorter working hours in the case which was immediately before it. The Government is presently considering in detail the implications of that decision not only for work in the Post Office but in view of its importance to the community.
-Has the Treasurer’s notice been drawn to reports in this morning’s Press that consumer confidence, according to a recent independent survey, has substantially increased? Is this significant, and does it indicate a growing degree of certainty by the public in the Government ‘s economic policies?
– The Government’s attention has in fact been drawn to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. The survey indicates a substantial increase in consumer confidence. In the December quarter only 19 per cent of those surveyed expected ‘good times’ in the period ahead. The figure for the March quarter has increased very strongly to 36 per cent. The positive balance of the survey for the March quarter of this year is the highest since the March quarter of 1973. The Government is very encouraged by the result of that survey. What does it reflect? It reflects a change of confidence because of a change of government. It also reflects a recognition by the community, particularly the business section thereof, that it now has an Administration which is serious about inflaton and which is putting down sensible economic policies.
– I address a question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations concerning the proposed new pay arrangements for trainees under the National Employment and Training scheme. Is the Minister aware that under the proposals many trainees will suffer a drastic reduction in their allowance, some by as much as $73.40 a week? As these people undertook their training and made commitments on the basis that payment would be made to those receiving full time training of at least $96.80 a week does the Minister not consider that his action amounts to a breach of faith? Is he aware that because of the reduced allowances and the tight means test imposed on other income many people will have to cease their training and that the scheme will be far less attractive to prospective applicants? In view of the likely drastic consequences of his action, will he advise the House whether the revised allowances are meant to be the first step towards the complete destruction of the scheme?
– I shall deal with the last part of the honourable member’s question first. The Government has made clear its support for training. Indeed, the Liberal and Country Parties during their previous administration introduced many individual training schemes- for married women, Aborigines and other specially disadvantaged people in the community. One such scheme was the general employment retraining scheme. All these schemes have been incorporated under the present NEAT scheme, which the Government has also continued and which it supports. Prior to the election we made it quite clear that we favoured the introduction of a means test on NEAT to ensure that those persons who were most in need received most assistance. That remains our policy. It is true that some people presently engaged in NEAT training will get less. Those with 2 dependants or more -
-What will they get?
– I have not got the precise figures for the honourable gentleman, but I shall try to get them for him if he would like them. Those with 2 dependants will get approximately the same as they did under the previous scheme. Those with a dependent spouse and two or more dependent children will get more than they got under the previous scheme. Some of the NEAT allowances were being abused. I give one example to the honourable member of the sort of undesirable features which attached to the NEAT scheme allowances without a means test.
A person undergoing NEAT retraining recently complained to an honourable member on the Government side of the House about the reduction of the NEAT allowance. It transpired that the person concerned had a spouse with an income of some $30,000 a year. The complaint was that a reduction in the NEAT allowance would not enable that couple to pay a housekeeper. I am not implying that that was by any means a universal situation but it did arise in many instances. The Government’s policy is that those most in need should receive most. We anticipate that the new means test will enable some 3000 extra people to enter the NEAT scheme this year and retrain for skills which are in demand in the work force and which will enable them to lead a more satisfying and productive life
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the success of Russian and Cuban backed forces in Angola and the recognition of the new regime by various Western governments, will the Minister advise the House when the Australian Government will accord recognition to the new regime in Angola?
-The matter which the honourable member has raised has happened and is of deep regret and concern to the Government. Australia’s substantive interests in Angola are not great, but with other countries we believe that the people of Angola should have had the chance to work out their future without outside interference. In particular the presence of Cuban troops acting as agents for the Soviet Union, and also Soviet weaponry, made this impossible. The people of Angola have suffered greatly as a direct result, both in terms of the loss of life and damage to their economy.
The Government deplores intervention by outside forces in the strongest terms and expresses the hope that even at this late stage it will be possible to achieve peaceful solutions to the problems that beset Angola. In these circumstances, and in common with most other governments of the region, the Government has not seen an urgent need to take a decision about recognising a government in Angola. At the same time we must assess the situation on the basis of present realities and against the background of our established criteria for recognition of other governments. We have noted the wide degree of recognition of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, known as MPLA by African states as well as by states in Europe.
We therefore currently have the question of Australian recognition under serious and close consideration.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Has the Minister noted allegations by the British bodyguard provided for an Australian overseas by an expatriate newspaper proprietor that he was interrogated by Commonwealth police in Singapore for 18 hours in circumstances amounting to psychological torture? I am quoting the allegation. Is it a fact that the bodyguard has refused to sign the police record of interview? On whose authority and at what cost were the police officers despatched to Singapore, under what agreements are they conducting inquiries in that country -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. In view of the substance of the matter which is on the notice paper for discussion may I suggest that this question is out of order.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The matter of public importance to which the honourable member refers is on the Blue Paper which is issued only for the guidance of members. It is not on the notice paper. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask: On whose authority and at what cost were the Commonwealth police despatched to Singapore, under what international agreements they are conducting inquiries there, and what information have they obtained from this British bodyguard?
-The Leader of the Opposition has asked a series of questions, some involving matters of fact and detail. They are all complex and sensitive. I shall treat the question as being on notice and refer it to my colleague in another place.
– I direct my question on the motor manufacturing industry to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that his statement yesterday about the motor manufacturing industry has been well received and will he, as a tribute to the people who work in the motor industry and their technicians, consider using an Australian Holden motor car for his own personal use and for official occasions? Does he realise that General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd will be glad to assist him in obtaining such a car?
-A large number of the cars in the VIP fleet are Australian made, although admittedly they are made by a competitor of General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd. For better or for worse, my predecessor bought a particular car of another quality.
– Replacing another overseas car -
-A much older one.
– … of lesser quality and greater price.
– It is characteristic of the Leader of the Opposition to denigrate products from the United Kingdom and to praise those that come from other places. Anyone who heard his remark would know that that was involved in what he said. I think that the appropriate course is to spend a little more time wearing out the purchase of the previous Prime Minister. When the time comes to replace that vehicle an appropriate decision will be made one way or the other.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Whilst appreciating his comments about foreign troops in Angola I ask: Why does he maintain such a craven silence about the Indonesian invasion of East Timor?
-The honourable member ought to be aware of the craven silence of his own Party during the period when he was in the ministry. He knows only too well the circumstances surrounding Australia’s policy towards Timor.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was no Indonesian invasion of East Timor during the period in office of the previous Government.
– Does the honourable member for Wills wish to take a point of order or just declaim? No point of order is involved in what the honourable member has said. He has asked his question succinctly. I ask him to remain silent while the Minister answers succinctly.
– You will recall, Mr Speaker, that the honourable member made loud noises about invasions in Cambodia. We did not hear any loud noises during the period in which he was a Minister when there were alleged and substantiated threats of an Indonesian invasion of East Timor. All he did was continue to stroke his platitudes until they purred. So it does him no good and it does his own side no good to stand up today and make that sort of accusation. The Government has not engaged in any craven silence. Indeed there has not been silence from this side at all. I have recounted previously that it was during our period in government that we took action in the United Nations. We sought initially to co-sponsor a resolution. When that was overtaken we supported a resolution in the General Assembly. We sought a voice in the Security Council. We made known our views through diplomatic channels and at government to government level, between me and the Indonesian President and Foreign Minister. Our policy has been clear. It has called for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops. It has called for a cessation of hostilities. It has called for the implementation of an act of self-determination and a resumption of humanitarian aid through the International Committee of the Red Cross. On each point, there has been marked contrast with the craven silence and the tacit acceptance of what occurred while the other side was in power.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd for the year ended 31 March 1975, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
Pursuant to section 16 of the Social Welfare Commission Act 1973 I present a Social Welfare Commission report on the Australian Assistance Plan, together with a statement by the Minister for Social Security relating to that report.
-Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs)- Pursuant to section 42 (d) of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948-1973 1 present the annual return of persons granted certificates of Australian citizenship during the year ended 30 June 1 975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the monthly reports on the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for October, November and December 1975 and January 1976. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of these reports have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 16 March, at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1964-1973 this House appoints Mr Les Johnson and Mr Wentworth to be members of the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and to continue as members until the dissolution of the Thirtieth Parliament.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The use of Commonwealth Police for Party political purposes.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the standing Orders having risen in their places)
– On 25 February, acting on instructions from the Government, Commonwealth Police impounded the diaries of police officers who accompanied me during the election campaign. On 27 February, last Friday, the police interrogated the Australian Labor Party’s advertising agency. These facts constitute unprecedented abuse of the powers of the police- a political inquiry into the internal affairs of the Labor Party and the activities of the Leader of the Opposition. The Government has refused to inform the Parliament of the precise allegations which the police are investigating. It has refused to say on whose advice or on what information the investigations were authorised. I hasten to assure the House that I make no criticism of the police themselves. They were acting on orders. The Question is: Whose orders? And on what advice, and for what purpose were these orders given?
A pattern of evasion and self-contradiction has been evident from the Government’s first statements on this matter. Last Wednesday week the
Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) told the House that he had ordered these outrageous inquiries because of an alleged inconsistency in a request for visas by two visiting Iraqis. His statement was remarkable for 2 reasons. The Prime Minister claimed- quite wrongly, as it now appears- that the Iraqis were staying with Mr Reuben Scarf. He has never seen fit to correct that statement, but let it pass. Secondly, he gave a reason for the police investigation- the matter of visas- which the Government has now abandoned. On Sunday it was replaced, or at least embellished, by a second reason. In a Press statement on Sunday the Prime Minister said that inquiries had been instituted ‘in view of the allegations that large sums of money were brought into Australia’. Who made these allegations and what was the basis for them? The Prime Minister has refused to say. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has refused to say. Yesterday the Prime Minister refused to confirm or deny that he was the source of the allegation. Today he says he was relying on a statement by Mr Hawke in Tel Aviv. It will not do.
Consider this remarkable sequence of events: A flimsy excuse is given on Wednesday for the police investigations. Four days later a second excuse is provided. It depends upon an allegation for which no source or evidence is offered. A report in today’s Australian Financial Review flatly declares:
When the reports first broke in the newspapers on Wednesday, 25 February, Mr Fraser called in a small number of journalists and told them that there were additional allegations.
The reports in the Wednesday papers said that the Labor Party had been promised $500,000 from Iraq, but that it had not arrived.
Mr Fraser said that another $500,000 had actually arrived, according to allegations available to him.
Subsequently reports appeared in the Press the next day, attributing the allegations to government sources . . .
Mr Fraser refused to either confirm of deny that the briefings had taken place.
However, it is well known in the Canberra Press Gallery that briefings did occur.
I do not recall any such specific and flat declarations of a Press briefing by a senior political figure. It is significant that the Prime Minister is not listed to speak in this debate today. I believe the briefings did occur. I believe that the Prime Minister peddled a mischievous and damaging rumour to the Press to justify the mischievous and damaging inquiries by Commonwealth police.
By Tuesday of this week the Attorney-General was offering a more elaborate version of the allegations peddled by the Prime Minister last Sunday. He told the House:
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.
Notice the incestuous nature of these investigations. The Prime Minister makes them up. They are mentioned to the Attony-General That becomes information available to the AttoneyGeneral. It is the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Treasury which are responsible for the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations. Yet the Attorney-General, in answer to questions yesterday, refused to indicate whether the Reserve Bank, the Treasury, the police or any other authority had drawn to his attention any possible breach of the regulations. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) seemed to be more than unusually blank in countenance when he was asked on the same matter. The public is entitled to know whether the police were acting on the advice of responsible authorites or on the personal initiative of the Attorney-General or the Prime Minister. We need look no further than the AttorneyGeneral’s own statements and admissions to discover who authorised the inquiries and with full knowledge of their grave implications. On Tuesday I asked the Attorney whether he was aware that the Commonwealth Police were to be asked to hand in their diaries. He replied:
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 . . .and that they might wish to ask questions of the Labor Party’s advertising agency . . . That is, I think, a very frank answer to the question.
It was a very revealing answer. It was a scandalous answer. The Attorney-General believed that he was aware of the possibility of such inquiries. His answer meant that he knew in advance that the police would seize the diaries and would interrogate the Labor Party’s advertising agency. It was done with his knowledge. In other words, we are told by the Attorney, by the first law officer of Australia, that he initiated and approved police action against the Government’s political opponents.
In the Senate on the same day, Senator Withers, the Minister responsible for the Commonwealth Police, did not beat about the bush. This is what he said:
The simple fact of the matter is that the Attorney-General authorised an investigation to be made. It was made for quite a simple reason. In view of allegations in the Press relating to a recent visit to Australia by 2 Iraqis, questions have arisen whether a serious breach of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations may have been committed or attempted. Because of that the Attorney-General asked the police to make certain investigations into the matter.
Not for the first time Senator Withers has been frank about the motives and behaviour of his colleagues. The Prime Minister stated in a grandiose fashion last week- I notice that the right honourable gentleman yesterday pronounced the word ‘grandoise’; I do not wish to use the Franglais, I still prefer ‘grandiose ‘-
Honourable members he pontificated; will note that there appears to be some inconsistency about the reasons for the visit.
The real inconsistency is not in the reasons for the visit but in the reasons for the police investigation. The real inconsistency is in the statements of the Government. It appears in instance after instance. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) told me in a letter on Tuesday- he said he would write to me, he did not want to answer off the cufT- that only one of the Iraqis had a diplomatic passport. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) said yesterday that both had diplomatic passports. One ought to be able to count. There were only two. The Minister said that the men were met at the airport by immigration officials and issued with documents. Yet these men were supposed to be gun-toting emissaries. Were their guns not noticed by the immigration officers?
In all this farrago of invention and intrigue what possible reason could there be for impounding diaries kept by my official bodyguards? I have never made any secret about my movements as Prime Minister or as Leader of the Opposition in Australia or overseas. I do not travel in disguise at home or incognito abroad. I am sorry the Prime Minister is not here so that I could say this to his face now: It would bring no shame on my country, my Party or my family if it became known to what places or to what persons, by what means or at what hours, I had made visits in Singapore or Manila or in Sydney or Melbourne. When the Attorney-General was aware of the possibility of police investigations into the Labor Party the men concerned had already left the country, and the fact of my meeting with them was public knowledge. Nor have we been given any convincing explanation for the police mission to Singapore. Mr Street, the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), was quite baffled this morning when I asked on whose authority and at what expense police “ officers were despatched to another country and under what international agreements they conducted their inquiries of the citizen of another country.
– The Prime Minister is here now.
Mr E. G. WHITLAM What would have been thought if, after the 1974 election, I had instigated a search of the diaries of the police who protected you, Mr Speaker, during the campaign? What would have been thought if we had interrogated the Commonwealth drivers who drove you, as my drivers have been interrogated? What would be thought if the next Government were to instigate an inspection of the diaries of police who attended the Governor-General on his visits to Hobart last month or the visits he made in September, October and November last? What would be thought if the next Government were to check the call boxes at Government House and Admiralty House to discover which men or which women had gone there last year? What would be thought of the next Government if it were to interrogate the official drivers of last year’s Leader of the Opposition about the newspaper proprietors, the bankers, the company directors and the clubs he had visited, or if it were to instigate an interrogation of the official drivers of the Governor-General and the Chief Justice to discover what trysts and rendezvous they had, where they met each other or where they met others in November, October or September last?
The most sordid and cowardly aspect of the Government’s behaviour is its attempt to shift responsibility to the police themselves. Both Senator Withers and the Prime Minister have said that what the police do is a matter for themselves; everything was done on the instigation of the police. This is humbug of the worst kind. The Attorney-General has already admitted that he knew what the police were likely to do. Either he saw nothing wrong with political harassment of the Government’s opponents and he approved that harassment or he was aware of the enormity of it and did nothing to stop it. However we look at the Government’s behaviour, it was shameful and unprecedented. The Commonwealth Police, who are and must be respected by their State and overseas counterparts, were compromised and corrupted by the Government for party political purposes. The Prime Minister has gone. They were employed by the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister for a naked inquisition into the activities of the Leader of the Opposition and the internal affairs of a political party.
In no other democracy would that behaviour be tolerated. In no other democracy could the first law officer authorise such activities and deny the Parliament any convincing explanation for them. I firmly believe that such an outrage in Britain would compel the resignation of the Attorney. What crime has been committed to justify the methods he has used? We are not told. What crime is suspected? We are not told. What evidence of crime exists? We are not told. What allegations of crime have been made? We are not told. The Parliament and the nation have been treated with contempt. A government with the slightest respect for free institutions and the rights of members of the Parliament, a government with an ounce of sensitivity to the public’s anxiety on this matter, would at least feel obliged to explain and justify this gross departure from democratic practice, this gross abuse of the law enforcement agencies of the Crown.
The Attorney-General has not long been a member of this House. He came to the Parliament, like many other honourable members, after a career in law. He graced the office of Solicitor-General. He served his country with distinction in that post. I take nothing away from that record. I wish only that as a member of this Parliament he had shown the same respect for its traditions and the rights of its members as he has shown himself diligent in political advocacy and the pursuit of personal advancement. Last year he and his cousin devised a plan to overthrow the elected government commanding a majority in the House of Representatives. He revealed on that occasion the uses to which his training and experience in a noble profession can be put. He was rewarded for -
– That is a completely untrue allegation.
– I believe it to be true.
– It is absolutely untrue and you have no evidence to support it.
-Do not protest too much.
– Go outside now and make it, and I will give you a writ and we will go into court. How dare you!
– Order! The House will come to order. The Leader of the Opposition has made an imputation against the Attorney-General. He is not entitled to do that except by means of a substantive motion. There is no such substantive motion before the House. He is therefore not entitled to make such an imputation. The reason for the standing order which makes that provision is clear, as can be seen from the reaction of the Attorney-General. I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw the imputation.
– Well, Mr Speaker, in deference to you I will withdraw. The Attorney has revealed on this occasion the abuses of power and common decency of which his office is capable and to which, I regret to say, its occupant is vulnerable. He has disgraced that office. He has one honourable course left open to him.
– Those of us who have seen a rooster with his head chopped off have known him to run around the farmyard squawking- squawking because he still has a little bit of life left in him. The performance of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in this place this morning is reminiscent of the performance of such a rooster, for tomorrow before his extra-parliamentary peers the future of the man who is now the Leader of the Opposition will be at stake. This morning we have heard a defence. What we heard was not concerned with the matter of public importance in the terms submitted to the Parliament; it was a defence of the man who has just presented it to the Parliament.
The substance of his assertion is that the Government has been defective in 3 areas. He asserts that the Government has refused to disclose the nature of the inquiries being undertaken by the Commonwealth Police; that the Government has refused to disclose with what authority those inquiries are being undertaken; and that the Government has refused to disclose on what advice those inquiries were initiated. Let me in complete refutation of those 3 allegations advert to a response given in this chamber by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) at page 400 of Hansard of 2 March 1976 in which each of those charges is specifically answered. The answers are set out in full for all honourable members clearly to see. Mr Ellicott said on that occasion: … I decided that as first law officer I should request the Commonwealth Police to undertake inquiries about the matter.
He then sets out the reasons for doing so.
The matter of public importance is, of course, in a broader form than its terms would indicate. It refers to the use of Commonwealth Police for party political purposes. Before I talk about the particular allegations of the Leader of the Opposition, I think it is wise that we remember a few of the abuses of the Commonwealth Police undertaken by the previous Administration. Honourable members will remember those infamous St Patrick’s Day raids on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in 1973 which even the present Leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister, acknowledged was the biggest blunder of the Labor Government. But that was not sufficient. Honourable members will remember those dawn raids on Yugoslav migrants’ homes in Sydney. More than 300 people were detained following middle of the night raids in Gestapo style, and this occurred under the leadership of that great advocate of democracy who has just been before the Parliament. No charges of conspiracy or of collusion could be brought forward as a result of those raids. The only charges were in relation to minor misdemeanours in a handful of cases and were totally unrelated to the reasons for the raids.
In relation to the third of the abuses of powers of the Commonwealth Police and relating very much to the circumstances of the matter before us today, there was, in a far more sinister form, the Commonwealth Police surveillance under the Labor Government of a member of the staff of the then Deputy Prime Minister. I am not too sure at what stage in his career it was. I refer to the surveillance of Miss Morosi’s apartment. We can all recall the spectacular apprehension of an intruder who proved to be a former business partner of Miss Morosi. At the time of the Commonwealth Police surveillance we all recall that the Attorney-General, who was then the Leader of the Government in the Senate and who is now a justice of the High Court of Australia, was seeking for that same lady discounted Commonwealth accommodation in Canberra. Just on what basis is that Party, in its position - ‘ Mr Martin- I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party is making imputations against a justice of the High Court. I ask you to rule in a fashion similar to that in which you ruled previously in regard to the imputations against the Attorney-General, namely that they are out of order.
-The Leader of the House is referring to events that occurred when the present justice of the High Court was not a justice of the High Court; he is referring to his actions as a political officer, namely the Attorney-General. So I cannot uphold the point of order that the honourable gentleman has made. However, I think that the courtesies of the House are such that the honourable gentleman ought to observe the point made by the honourable member for Banks.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I wish to make no further reference to it. I think there are 3 matters -
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I did not argue, Mr Speaker; I accepted your request that I should withdraw an imputation against the present Attorney. I believe that the same request should be made by you in respect of a former Attorney. I do not wish to argue the matter, but it seems to me that on principle there can be no difference between references to a present and a former Attorney. I did not argue the point; I withdrew. I ask you to make the same request of the Minister and ask him to withdraw.
-Let us put this into perspective. The honourable member for Banks took a point of order. I ruled against him on the point of order because there was no point of order involved. However, I did call upon the Minister to observe the courtesies of the House. The Leader of the Opposition has now correctly drawn attention to my previous request that he withdraw. I feel that the circumstances are very similar and, in the interests of the House and the dignity of the House and the level of debate, I ask the Minister to withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, I withdraw. The substance of this complaint, however, relates not to those events of which I have just spoken but rather to another historical series of events. It is interesting that tomorrow the Leader of the Opposition does face his peers within the extraParliamentary Labor Party. We all recall that the man who was Deputy Prime Minister was confirmed as having the confidence of the Labor Party before he was finally condemned. I refer to the man who was Deputy Prime Minister, who was Treasurer, who was Minister for Overseas Trade and who became Minister for the Environment. His role was confirmed within the Labor Party. His escapade relating to overseas borrowings was denied in this Parliament, denied by the man making the allegations this morning, and one of his colleagues was subsequently condemned. The man who was at that stage condemned, the present honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), came into this House- we all respect him for this- and was prepared to state his case and to explain to the Parliament and the people of Australia the whole of his belief and understanding of the circumstances, and he asserted the reasons he believed the allegations of his leader to be false.
There was another charge, a charge against a man who was formerly Minister for Minerals and Energy. It is true that those allegations were made against a man who was confirmed in his position by the man who is now Leader of the Opposition and was then Prime Minister. We all recall that the then Prime Minister said in the Parliament that the difference between Mr Connor and Dr Cairns was that Mr Connor told him everything that happened. We remember the details of the Khemlani letters and the debate in the Parliament, and we recall the events which led to the defeat of the Labor Government. Mr Connor was confirmed by the Labor Party and then the circumstances of his confirmation were revealed to be false. How familiar it is. In each of those 2 other cases overseas borrowings from dubious sources were involved.
Now we have the case of the man who is Leader of the Opposition. We know nothing of the circumstances other than that which has been alleged in the Press. I think it is important that we look not just at what has been alleged in the Press but also at the events surrounding which led to the Commonwealth Attorney-General deciding that Commonwealth police, inquiries should be initiated. It is not a haphazard series of events; it is not based on any assertion made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Indeed it is interesting to note, if one analyses the suggestion made by the Prime Minister, that the reported interview at which disclosure of overseas borrowings was alleged to have been made apparently came after the inquiry had been initiated.
At the time of these events there were a couple of other happenings which are material. Why did the President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hawke, rush back from a meeting of the International Labour Organisation, a body in which he has played a prominent part? Why was a special meeting called of the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party? Why did Mr Hawke, as alleged in the Melbourne Sun Pictorial, comment in Tel Aviv that the Iraqi Government had offered $500,000 to the Australian Labor Party? Why was it that Mr Egerton said that he and Mr Hawke had heard rumours about money from Iraq and had taken certain steps? They said that they had not really been told what had taken place or what was supposed to have been promised. Mr Egerton said that he does not disclose details about his leader’s funds and added: ‘You will have to ask him where the money comes from’. In Mr Egerton ‘s statement there was a clear implication that there was more to it than meets the eye. Why was there all this secrecy, this double dealing, this double talk, these changing explanations, day by day, about the purpose of that breakfast? Why were all these things not openly acknowledged in this Parliament by the man who is Leader of the Opposition?
The man who was Minister for Minerals and Energy in this Parliament has never explained to the Parliament the whole of the nature of his involvement in those overseas loan transactions. The man who is Leader of the Opposition now seems to be prepared, in exactly the same way, to refuse to reveal his involvement in what apparently is another escapade in overseas loan negotiations. Why do these men, who came into Government in 1972 and purportedly were going to pursue a policy of open government, persistently proceed to hide circumstances which quite obviously should be revealed to this Parliament? These circumstances are material not only to the Labor Party, the Labor Party Caucus and the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party but also to the Parliament of Australia. If the Leader of the Opposition believes that the assertions by the Prime Minister were the basis for a Commonwealth Police inquiry, why does not the Leader of the Opposition prepare a consistent story and come into this House and make a statement? If he would like to come into the Parliament and state his explanation of his involvement in the affair we would be only too pleased to give him leave to do so. Surely that would reveal all and, at the same time, rebut all the allegations. Surely the reason for his not doing so is that there must be more to the whole escapade than meets the eye.
There are so many unanswered questions. Why was the special meeting of the National Executive of the Australian Labor Party called? To quote the Leader of the Opposition, ‘We are not told’. Why did Mr Hawke come home? To quote the Leader of the Opposition, ‘We are not told’. Why all the inconsistencies about the purpose of that breakfast? Why all the inconsistencies in the application for a visa on behalf of the Iraqis? It was said that they were to set up a consulate here. They arrived in Australia and then it was said that they were here to visit relatives. According to Mr Whitlam in the interview conducted with Mr Bryan Boswell, reporting of the Caucus discussion, it seems that the breakfast was just to meet representatives of the Ba’ath Party. Why representatives of the Ba’ath party, and why in the home of an apparent anti-Zionist right wing individual? Why exactly was the Leader of the Opposition prepared to go to somebody else’s home to meet these representatives of foreign government? Why was he, as Leader of the Opposition, not prepared to meet them in his parliamentary office? Why was he not prepared even to invite them to his own home? Why did they stay in that motel in North Sydney under assumed names? Why exactly was it that Mr Combe of the Labor Party stayed with them? What exactly was the involvement of Mr Combe, and why was it in the resolution of the Labor Caucus that there seemed to be some inconsistencies? While it is alleged that no member of the Labor Party was involved in overseas loan negotiations, where did Mr Combe come into it? Is it really that Mr Combe was the intermediary for Mr Whitlam? We all know that in parliamentary political affairs it is not normally a practice for the leader of a Party -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 76 which states:
All imputation of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
My point of order is that the reference made by the Leader of the House to the Leader of the Opposition should be ruled by you to be a personal reflection on the Leader of the Opposition, that it is highly disorderly and that it should be withdrawn.
– I rule against the point of order. In this debate it is not possible to completely avoid all imputations because questions are being asked by the Minister for Primary Industry in the course of his speech. He is saying: ‘What is the answer to this question’, etc. I remind the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) that it was the Leader of the Opposition who raised this matter of public importance for discussion in the Parliament. In doing so he must have known that inevitably in the debate questions of the kind now being asked would be asked.
– Speaking further to the point of order, Mr Speaker, I respectfully suggest to you that merely because the matter was raised by the Leader of the Opposition does not give liberty, or should not give liberty, to members of the Government to make imputations. Imputations have been made. I am seeking to ensure that future speakers on either side do not make these imputations or reflections on any honourable member because I do not think they do any credit to members of this Parliament.
– I appreciate the intervention of the honourable member for Banks for the purpose of maintaining the standard of debate in the House. The Minister’s time has expired.
– I move:
That the Minister’s time be extended.
I do so because of the interruptions which took place and which prevented him effectively putting his case to the House and to you, Mr Speaker.
– I ask for leave to move:
That the Minister’s time be extended for 1 minute.
The Leader of the Opposition had exactly the same fate and the time lost, according to the clock, was exactly 1 minute.
-The motion is before the Chair. I do not propose to listen to the point made by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) because the motion already has been stated and I was about to put the question. The question is: ‘That the motion be agreed to’. The motion is that an extension of time be granted to the Leader of the House, the Minister for Primary Industry. All those in favour say ‘Aye’, to the contrary ‘No’. I think the ‘Ayes’ have it. Extension of time is granted.
-I thank the House. I do not intend to take much time. I wish just to come to a conclusion. We have a motion of an extraordinarily serious character before this Parliament. It is a matter of public importance. It has not been moved as a substantive motion, but the words contained are: ‘The use of Commonwealth Police for Party political purposes’. The allegation and the inference is that in some way the Commonwealth has acted in a totally improper fashion in making inquiries with respect to the visit of 2 Iraqis to Australia early in December. There are allegations that the conduct of the police inquiry has in some way been out of the ordinary and that there have been underhand political overtones in the conduct of those inquiries. I totally refute all those charges.
The balance of this debate has rather demonstrated that the Leader of the Opposition is not here making those charges but defending his position within the Australian Labor Party. The basis of the charges can be far more effectively answered, however, not by presenting a countercharge against the Government but by the Leader of the Opposition coming clean. If the Leader of the Opposition has a case, if all these allegations are true, he might at least be consistent. He might at least come into this Parliament and demonstrate his own preparedness to follow that policy of open Government which he earlier advocated. He could have told us the full circumstances of the visit. He could have told us the full involvement of officers of the ALP and, presumably as a result, even his Federal President might then not have found it necessary to return from an International Labour Organisation meeting in order to conduct an inquiry into just what did happen on that day. Any suggestion that it was a result of statements made by the Prime Minister that led to this inquiry is total nonsense. It was inconsistencies in the visa applications. It was the suggestion that there was some breach of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations and the total inconsistency of the Labor Party’s presentation of the circumstances. I totally refute the allegation by the Labor Party and suggest that the easiest way for it to resolve its obvious concern is by the Leader of the Opposition coming into this Parliament and making a free and open and honest statement of all the implications of the affair, not to the National Executive of the ALP tomorrow but to the Federal Parliament of Australia.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) set out in detail the actions of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) in involving the Commonwealth Police in politics in Australia. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) has not answered in any form the criticisms and details set out by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the House traversed a wide number of issues but he did not answer in any way the charges of the use of police in Australian politics as set out by the Leader of the Opposition. The Fraser Government’s actions over the last 6 months, but especially the extraordinary actions of the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral in the last week, have been the first ugly step down the road to a police state. The Government has taken on at a minimum of 43 per cent of the population of Australia. I say ‘at a minimum’ because I am sure it is becoming increasingly obvious to more and more people that the Government’s promises mean nothing, its intentions are suspect and its tactics are shameful.
Our supporters comprise a large cross-section of the Australian population. Generally, we are the wage earners, and this includes the older people who have completed their contribution to the production process of Australia. We are the ordinary people of this country. We include proportionately a large section of the minority groups in Australia and we include the progressive people who give their time and energy to improve the quality of our existence and life. But one will find very few company directors, wealthy graziers and people with powerful international connections amongst our ranks.
We have a lot in common, we 43 per cent. We also have a great amount of diversity. Any divisions that exist in our ranks are quickly put aside when we go up against the sort of attack that the Government and its interests have found necessary to make on the Labor movement and on the Leader of the Party in the weeks past.
A short time ago- as recently as a week ago- it would have been inconceivable that any Australian Prime Minister would use police against a parliamentary opponent. People in Australia are now realising that the police can be called in in a variety of ways to examine their activities associated with their legitimate political allegiances and beliefs. Australia is substantially less free than it was a week ago. There has been a huge step backwards since 1 1 November 1975.
With a closer examination it is possible to see an alarming pattern emerging in the weapons chosen by the Government and the interests it represents to attack the Australian Labor Party and its leader. The media, particularly certain Press proprietors, were the first and most obvious in the attack. People have become aware of the actions of the Murdoch newspapers. Their sales have fallen. Murdoch has become a joke. It really would be funny except that the implications are so serious. We saw, particularly during the so-called caretaker period, the attempt by the Prime Minister to use the bureaucracy for his own political ends. We have seen the use of the law for political purposes- that is, the Constitution and the foreign exchange regulations. There has been a breaking of the fabric of the understanding and the convention that surrounds the law.
Until recently normal use of these institutions was sufficient for control of society. The institutions are generally controlled by the most powerful economic interests and their servants. These institutions are used to direct and advance objectives which tend to oppress those less powerful in society and those who seek fundamental change. But now we can see that it has been necessary to use the overt oppressive power of the police to advance these interests- an action which will affect the integrity of all policemen. That is the sad situation. The Government puts the brand on all police that they are a ‘state’ police, that they belong to the Government. The Government has called out the police not against the picket, not against the Eureka Stockade or a moratorium demonstration; this time the Government has called out the police against the Leader of 43 per cent of the population of this land.
The scope of the attack on the Labor movement has left many people puzzled as to why the attack has been so fierce. Perhaps the answer could be this: All industrial societies including our own are facing very serious problems which have not been experienced at any time in the post-war era- the problems of repression, inflation and a high level of unemployment. These pressures on societies like ours will increase in the coming decade. These pressures will arise out of the problems already mentioned and the measures that will be taken by the ruling economic interests to maintain their relative position and power.
As always the pressures will be felt most heavily by the people not represented in the ruling power group. They will be felt by the wage earner and his family, by the minority groups and by those people most vocal in advocating fundamental changes to this present system. But these pressures will also inevitably be opposed. The little people of Australia, like people everywhere else in the world, know how to say ‘enough ‘ and to fight in opposition to oppression. Opposition is most effective when it is organised. The Labor Party is the largest organisation that could form a focal point for people under pressure. The Government is well aware of that. Could it be that somewhere in the strategic organisation that works behind the scenes in the Liberal Party and the National Country Party it has been determined that now is the time to crush the Labor Party when it is weakest after its electoral defeat? No one can doubt that the Labor Party provides the only alternative for people under pressure in this economic system, and that, equally, now is the most opportune time to try to get rid of the Labor Party.
When one thinks about it, there seems little other justification for the extremely heavy handed attack that has been made in the last week on the Labor Party and especially the Leader of that Party. Honourable members opposite have not destroyed the Labor Party and they cannot destroy the Labor Party. Thenattacks on the working population by way of their wages policies, their proposed industrial policies, their increasing of unemployment as a fear weapon and their police repression of the Party of the Labor movement will not be tolerated by the Australian people. As their motives become more obvious the ordinary people of Australia will oppose them. They will require even greater repression to keep us down. They will not keep us down because we of the Labor movement have fought for too long for justice for all. The action of the man who will follow me in this debate, the Attorney-General, in involving the Commonwealth Police in political action is a disgrace. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Attorney-General has only one course- to be a just and decent man and resign from his position.
- Mr Speaker, may I apologise for my outburst. When a foul, untrue attack is made like that made earlier today, I am afraid that the man came out; the Attorney-General gave way for a moment. I apologise to this House.
– We are not so sensitive.
– You may not be so sensitive, my friend. There was a famous American advocate whose name was Clarence Darrow. When he went into court he always appeared for the defendant. The way in which he operated was to try always to make the defendant the prosecutor and the prosecutor the defendant. We are seeing something of that this week. We are seeing it here in this Parliament today. A man, that man, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the former Prime Minister, the first Prime Minister to be sacked by a GovernorGeneral in this country, is fighting for his political life. That is what this is all about. He is fighting for his political life. I am very sorry about today, my friend, because when I left the office of Solicitor-General, I had a deal of faith and respect in you. You have destroyed it. I mean that; you have destroyed it.
– We have none in you.
– The first political AttorneyGeneral ever.
– The office of AttorneyGeneral is a very ancient one. It is one that has very high responsibilities.
-Order! There have been some interjections from the Opposition front bench which were not designed to contribute to the debate, but to reflect personally upon the Attorney-General. I deliberately did not hear a couple of them. I have now heard them. The Leader of the Opposition, in raising this matter, was heard in silence except from his own side. I believe that the Attorney-General should now be heard in silence while he makes his case. I call the Attorney-General.
– The office of AttorneyGeneral is a very ancient one and it carries a very high responsibility. When I assumed that office I resolved one thing, and that was that I would try to give it whatever honesty and integrity I could give it. That is what I have done in this matter. I have not one twinge of conscience in my mind. If I may say so, I cannot defend myself today. I cannot, because if I were to defend myself I should have to destroy the reputations of other people. I received some information, and that information vilifies other people. It may or may not be accurate, but I can tell honourable members that I have made checks to see whether the reliability I thought it had was still there. I have no reason to change my mind, but I am not going to deface the office of Attorney-General by coming out and making an attack that I could make upon individuals either in this House or outside this House. If I received information that I feel is credible and that I feel may involve the committing of serious offences against the law of this Commonwealth, I shall, without fear or favour, take on the duty that is mine. My duty is to ensure that the law is upheld. My duty is not to be a toady to a Prime Minister, and anybody who suggests that I am is quite wrong. I will not be told by the Cabinet, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or anybody else how I shall perform my function as law officer in prosecuting criminal offences. That has been the principle by which past Attorneys-General should have acted; that is the principle by which I will act. So, I shall not, as I could, defend myself today and possibly destroy two or three men. I shall not do it. I shall uphold the honour of my office.
When I received information, I had to make up my mind whether it was information that ought to be investigated. Sometimes you receive information which has a national security aspect. Sometimes you receive information that relates to relationships with other countries. Sometimes you receive information of an ordinary character but which suggests that certain criminal offences may have been committed. I received information and I made up my mind independently that I should ask the police to carry on an investigation. The morality of this matter is that that investigation shall go on and it shall go on until it is completed. The police are not under the direction of the Attorney-General. Every citizen has of course a moral and a social duty to aid the police. How much greater is the Attorney-General’s responsibility. How much greater is his responsibility when he learns of information that could be correct and that involves high crime, serious crime. From time to time I do have information which I take into account.
May I say, as this matter has been raised outside this House, that I have considered statements by the Leader of the Opposition about the Governor-General. I have a prima facie view that he has committed a breach of the crime of libel- seditious libel. But may I say to this House that I have decided not to prosecute that gentleman. I will not make a martyr of him. Public interest demands, apparently, that he shall go free for the moment from that crime of seditious libel which I believe he has committed. He goes on making these statements. He makes comments which are completely unfounded about me and about public figures.
– They are imputations of a very serious nature.
– But you see, Mr Speaker, the office of Attorney-General is a very high office and one that has to be approached with dignity. Of course this matter is of a serious nature.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who appears to wish to take a point of order.
- Mr Speaker, when the AttorneyGeneral rose and interrupted the Leader of the Opposition you supported the Attorney-General. You did not in any way call the AttorneyGeneral to order, but you made the Leader of the Opposition withdraw. The remarks that have just been made by the Attorney-General could not be other than imputations against a member of this House. I ask for the same ruling.
– The way in which the Attorney-General put his remarks was as a statement of fact, that he had considered a matter. I understood him to be saying that as the law officer he had considered it, reached a conclusion and made a decision not to proceed with a prosecution. I did not interpret the AttorneyGeneral’s remarks as making an imputation. That is why I did not call the Attorney-General to order at the time. However, as the honourable member for Corio has interpreted it as an imputation and has interpreted it differently from me, I ask the Attorney-General to withdraw, in accordance with the Standing Orders, any imputation against a member of this House which was not on a substantive motion.
-I do that.
– You do not say ‘I do’, you say ‘I withdraw’.
-I withdraw it, in case the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) does not understand the language. The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) made some suggestions in the House last week of a breach of privilege and he was making similar allegations. In accordance with my duty as I saw it I had investigations made into that to see whether there was any foundation in his allegations. I felt that it was proper that I should do that. As a result of those investigations I found that there did not appear to be any substance in the allegations. However, I want to emphasise this point. My approach to my office as Attorney-General is simply this: Members of Parliament and members of the public are entitled to the protection of my office and the public interest is entitled to the protection of my office and will get it whilst I hold that office. I have already said that I have not been directed in this matter before us by the Prime Minister. If there is any blame to be given to anybody it rests fairly and squarely on my shoulders. (Extension of time granted). Another matter that has been suggested is that information which a person acts on ought to be prima facie evidence. I think that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) said this over the radio yesterday.
– He will say it again today too.
– He will say it again today too. Good on him. At least he is consistent and that is good to see. Of course, that contention does not bear examination. Why would one investigate or why would the police investigate a matter if they needed prima facie evidence before they investigated it. It is a lot of nonsense. It is absolute nonsense. It cannot be a principle at all. A person in the position of a law officer or a police officer- they have the same responsibilityhas to make up his mind whether information is credible or not and if he believes that it justifies the investigation of a person, he has to decide whether to pursue investigations. The police in this country are independent of the Executive and had the Commissioner of Police last week wanted to do so, he could have said to me: ‘Attorney-General, I will not inquire into this matter’. He could have said that quite independently. The police are not under my direction or control nor is this inquiry under my direction or control. The police are inquiring into this matter in the ordinary way.
The fact that it involves political personalities is not to the point. I did not cause the former Prime Minister to have this breakfast, as he has admitted in this place. It was not at my or anybody’s behest except apparently that of members of the Australian Labor Party that these 2 gentleman came here from overseas. I cannot help that. There is no immunity to a politician from investigation in relation to criminal matters. The Leader of the Opposition was all too ready, of course, perhaps to applaud the fact that I caused investigations to be made in relation to the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) and yesterday I indicated that investigations would be made into another matter. Are they not party political matters? Are they not matters involving the Liberal Party and independent candidates? What is the Opposition talking about? Where is the consistency in this argument?
– Double standards.
– As the honourable member says, there are double standards and they are all because of this attempt by a man to use this Parliament and, as he has done this week, the Press to defend himself because he is fighting for his political life. He is trying to do a Clarence Darrow. He is trying to put me in the box and trying to put the Prime Minister in the box, but he is the man who is in the box, though not the box I was just talking about. The box I speak of now is the box of the Australian Labor Party. It is that party which will judge him. It is that party who will decide whether he is fair dinkum in every sense of that Australian phrase. It is that party which will determine it. All I can say to honourable members opposite is that I gave them some advice last October which turned out to be correct and I give them some advice now. They should think well before they endorse the continuation of this man in the office of Leader of the Opposition.
– That is our business, not yours.
– Sure it is, but the Opposition has brought it into this Parliament today and used the Parliament for that very purpose. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) would love me to tell this Parliament, as he asked me to do yesterday, the facts upon which I requested this investigation. Why would he want them revealed? Does he have love for the Leader of the Opposition? He would love the facts that I know to be revealed.
– What sort of imputation is that?
– The honourable member can take it as he pleases, but that is my advice to him.
– You have been advising a hell of a lot of people.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The matter of public importance which we are discussing is the use of Commonwealth Police for political purposes. In the course of the last speech it became a personal problem for the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), but that is not what the debate is all about. If we can give the Attorney-General some advice it is that he appears to be acting like Captain Queeg acting on what is in his mind. This has become an obsession. Apparently it is a fixation developed while he was Solicitor-General against certain people and their behaviour. However, let us look at what has happened. What is the legal justification for this conduct, or is it just in the mind of the Attorney-General? Are we to run a system of justice in this country which is dependent upon the mental ability, or lack of it, or peculiarity of any Attorney-General? What are the facts on which one would have an investigation undertaken by the Commonwealth Police?
We now have another spurious suggestion that the Attorney-General thought one of us on this of the House was guilty of sedition but he is not going to do anything about it. That person is either guilty or not and the Attorney-General cannot say that he thinks he will not do anything about it. It is a dereliction of his duty to suggest that somebody has committed a crime and then not to do anything about it. We heard that he has information which he cannot disclose. Apparently two or three people have told him that there has been a breach of the foreign currency regulations. I come back to the point that these things can be readily established irrespective of the mentality of the Attorney-General or the Prime Minister. We cannot run justice according to the peculiarities of the mentality of those men. There may be malice in the sense that they have said: ‘We will destroy a political opponent or a political party’. Malice is a crime because one can by hiding the truth or irrespective of the truth cause something to happen which will do damage to other people. That is malice and that is what we are here to discuss.
Why is it that the police have had to do what they have done and in the way that they have done it? The diaries of security officers have been seized and there was a big splash in the Press on that issue. What is the law on the point, the law which the Attorney-General must know? Regulations 3 A and 3 B of the regulations under which those officers work provide for a regular weekly inspection of those diaries by the officer in charge. Accordingly, the diaries would have been inspected certainly in December. Why is it there had to be another investigation? Does it not come back to the apparentness of malice about which I was speaking? The Government’s approach has been to create a suspicion of crime, send the police in to do something that would have been done under the regulations, and publish the matter in the Press. What citizen could get away from the stigma that police visited his home when everybody was looking on? There is a suspicion that there must be something wrong. Why was there a need to seize the diaries? There are regulations relating to regular inspection of them.
Reference was made to foreign currency. The Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations are specific. They are approved by this Parliament. They set out a course of conduct which must be followed. I suggest again that the AttorneyGeneral did not follow it. He said: ‘I formed an impression in my mind that there had been a breach’. Today he went a bit further. He said he had information from two or three men. The regulations we are talking about are under the control of the Reserve Bank. They relate to foreign currency. If, as suggested, two gentlemen came to Australia with foreign currency there could have been a breach of the regulations, but they have since left without evidence of any breach of the law. But what happens? A police officer went to the advertising agency employed by the Australian Labor Party during the election campaign and, according to Senator Withers, had a very pleasant conversation. But the fact that the police went to the advertising agency creates a suspicion of crime. Again there is malice aforethought and a suggestion that the leader of the Labor Party or the Labor Party, or both, are involved in some criminal action.
No bank in Australia can accept foreign currency without first consulting the Reserve Bank. Foreign currency cannot be banked in Australia without the permission of the Reserve Bank. Honourable members opposite know those rules. The specific rule is that notice has to be given to the Reserve Bank of any amount over $2,000, and any amount of over $50,000 cannot be banked without the approval of the Reserve Bank. That is what the banking regulations provide. Why is it that the Attorney-General cannot understand the law or, I am prepared to say, does not want to follow it? Why is it that the police could not have gone to the Reserve Bank to try to find prima facie evidence of foreign currency coming into the country? Why is it that the police could not have gone to their own diaries on the weekly inspections to find out what they contained?
People can always make accusations to destroy a man, particularly a man in political life. We saw it here again this morning with the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). People can always make accusations. They will stick. Explanations never really eradicate the accusations. But we are the supreme court of the country when it comes to the law. This is why we debate this matter. The
Criminal Investigation Law Reform Commission clearly showed that there should not be any search or seizure unless there were facts that could be relied upon. No such facts were produced in this case. If they still exist they can still be found through the Reserve Bank, the Treasury or the regular weekly inspection of police diaries.
I come to the credibility of the AttorneyGeneral. I suggest that both he and the Prime Minister are not fit to hold their offices. You cannot uphold democracy in this country if you want to dictate to the police what they should do. It is no good the Attorney-General saying: ‘I am guilty; therefore everybody else is exonerated’. That is not good enough. If he is guilty, why is he allowed to continue in his office? If the Prime Minister encouraged the Attorney-General he is guilty as well. The real issue is the intrigue behind the Prime Minister’s suggestion that there is something wrong.
I come to the inconsistency of the AttorneyGeneral as recently as Tuesday of this week when he was asked 4 questions. First he was asked whether he was aware of what was happening. His answer was: ‘I requested the Commonwealth Police to carry out the investigation’. What right has he got to do that? There is no master and servant relationship. The Commonwealth Police are an independent body. If members of Parliament were to request investigations no citizen would be safe. The AttorneyGeneral is no different from us unless he has information which he can put before the police so that they, of their own initiative and exercising their own independence, can make an investigation. His first answer was that he had requested the investigation. His second answer was an interesting one. He was asked about other information. He said: ‘I have already indicated that if an investigation has been undertaken that is a matter for the police’. His first answer was that he had requested an investigation. From his second answer we assume that he did not know whether an investigation was going on or not. In his third answer he said he did not know that the diaries had been seized. In his fourth answer he said that he gave no instructions. Can we accept the credibility of this man? Can we accept the credibility of the Prime Minister when he says that he knows nothing about these matters? The Press is full of the knowledge of what he said.
Yesterday a question was asked of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), who will follow me in this debate. However, it was answered by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) following a short conversation on the front bench. Why is it that there had to be entry permits if the 2 gentlemen were travelling on diplomatic passports? It was said in answer: ‘If people are travelling on diplomatic passports we never ask any questions’. The Minister for Immigration went on to say: ‘We asked them what they were doing here. When they said they were coming for family reasons we decided to ask them to fill in another form ‘. If they were travelling on diplomatic passports and it is usual not to ask questions, why were these gentlemen asked the questions? There is a complete lack of balance in the whole presentation of the Government’s case.
Again it was admitted today that the honourable member for Fraser has been under investigation without his prior knowledge. The police who took part in the raids referred to by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) were New South Wales police under the control of Sir Robert Askin. They had nothing to do with the former Labor Government. So again the information is wrong. Why is it that any instructions were given by the AttorneyGeneral? Why is it that sympathetic consideration was given by the Prime Minister to sending police to investigate anybody, to make seizures or conduct any searches without there being some prima facie evidence as opposed to something in the Attorney-General’s mind? He formed a clear view in his mind. We cannot run law and justice on that basis. Every legal reform suggests that search is a dangerous thing. This looks like an action of search and destroy. This has been the Government’s approach: ‘There is no evidence. See if we can get some. Give it to the Murdoch Press. It will be a good story. The people will believe it. There is obviously criminal conduct. We do not know what it is yet but perhaps we will find it later’. I submit that now it will be worth at least $3m to the Leader of the Opposition. At least we have some justice. (Extension of time granted). I thank the House for its indulgence. The fact is that Commonwealth Police were used for purposes for which they need not have been used- political purposes. The political problems of any party are subject to the judgment of the people but police action is subject to the judgment of justice, a court, a jury, a judge, based on the facts. The Attorney-General cannot say to a court: ‘I prosecute because in my mind I feel something is wrong’. The first thing he has to do is to produce evidence. There is none in this case. For that reason the Opposition says that the Government is determined to try to destroy us to suit a newspaper proprietor and to suit its own personal ambition. We do not say that all honourable members opposite are guilty. We will exonerate most of them. Power is a dangerous thing. It does corrupt, as we see now. Already the Liberal Party has destroyed a former leader through the man it now has as Prime Minister. The Government will be destroyed. It is not going to destroy us.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs I have something to say. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith during the course of his speech made 2 comments which attracted my attention. I did not- interrupt him at the time because I did not want to take up the time that he had for his speech. The second of the comments he did not completely develop. He referred to the deliberate intrigue of the Prime Minister and said that he would prove to the House that the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister were not fit to hold their positions. Here again there would need to be a substantive motion. I hope that a deliberate inference was not intended in the honourable member’s speech.
– The inference is pretty clear. I am not trying to debate the matter with you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but the substantive motion is a procedure we have used when referring to a person who is not in this House, but the 2 people I mentioned today are in this House. One of them made an accusation of criminal conduct on our side. In relation to that I said that that person was not fit to hold his office. I said it, and I say it again. One cannot make a criminal accusation of that type and say as AttorneyGeneral: ‘I know you are wrong, I feel you are wrong, but I am not going to do anything about it’.
-Order! I am sure that the honourable member for KingsfordSmith has an appreciation of the situation in relation to motions as they relate to members. I still would ask the honourable member to withdraw the imputation.
– I am not going to withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. I said they are not fit to hold office. I make that accusation -
– If you do not withdraw you know the consequences.
– I make that accusation on the facts.
-The honourable member will recall that during the course of his speech -
– I said that they are not fit and that I would show why. They sent the police in to investigate people outside this Parliament without any reason to do so. I submitted to you regulations 3A and 3B. I also submitted to you during the course of the debate the actual criteria that is used by the Reserve Bank of Australia. I gave you all those facts. None of them were carried out by the 2 responsible officers.
-Order! It is not for the Chair to decide a situation on the facts presented by an honourable member in his speech. I have given a ruling that if the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith feels that he has evidence that a person is not fit to hold office in this House he should move a motion to this House. I have asked the honourable member to withdraw the inference he made during the course of his speech that these 2 gentlemen were not fit to hold their positions.
– What you are putting to me though, Mr Deputy Speaker, is not quite that- it is that I should move a substantive motion. If that is the position I will do so.
-No, the honourable member cannot move the substantive motion at this stage in this debate.
– No. I am in difficulty in this respect, Mr Deputy Speaker: You waited until I had finished my speech, you let me make the statements that I made, and now you are drawing my attention to the fact that I should not have made them.
-The situation is not quite as the honourable member has put it. The honourable member said that he would prove to the House that these 2 gentlemen were not fit to hold their positions. At that stage the honourable gentleman had not made a definitive statement in relation to this matter. I therefore did not interrupt the honourable member as I did not wish to do so during the course of his speech at that time. When the honourable member finished I asked that he withdraw. I said that I hoped there was not a deliberate imputation in the honourable member’s speech. He did not proceed with it until he replied to my request to him to withdraw the imputation. If the honourable member feels that 2 members of this House are not fit to hold their positions it is my opinion that he should take definitive action in regard to that. That action cannot be taken at this point in time. What I asked the honourable member was that he withdraw the imputation made during the course of that speech.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I acknowledge that recently I recalled that you have sat in the chair longer, I think, than anybody who has ever been a member of this House. But with respect I must put to you that I do not believe that you are logically or consistently putting the position. You are saying that you did not interrupt my colleague when he asserted that certain Ministers were not fit to hold office because he had said he would go on to prove that assertion. Even if he had gone ahead to prove that to the full extent that the time available to him allowed, you would still not allow him to give that proof; you would still have ruled him out of order then. You are saying that it is not possible to reflect on a Minister in those terms in this procedure of an urgency motion, that the way you call a Minister into question is by moving a censure motion against him or against the Government where the government is covering up for him. The fact that you spared my colleague until a later stage or until the conclusion of his speech still does not carry the matter any further forward. If what you say is correct you should have hauled him up immediately he offended. You allow him to offend at length and then you ask him to withdraw.
There are quite possibly other things that he would have put or there are other procedures that he could have followed or there are other arguments that he could have adduced which would have the same effect on the reputations of the Ministers concerned. But you let him go on. Now, even if he had given all the proof at length, you would still have said that he was out of order and you would have asked him to withdraw. With all respect, Sir, you should have hauled him up straight away so that he could have used his speaking time to the greatest advantage that he could. Might I put this further argument in this matter. Among other reasons that my colleague has given for saying that the Attorney is not fit to hold office is that he made an aspersion on a member- it happened to be me- saying that in his view I could have been charged with seditious libel because I referred to the GovernorGeneral.
– I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is now canvassing a matter which has already been withdrawn because of the nature of the imputation. I would suggest that that part of the point of order that he is now canvassing is totally out of order. In any event his point of order seems to me to be canvassing the point of view of the Chair and as such of itself it is out of order.
-Order! I would uphold the point of order raised by the Leader of the House. I point out that the matters canvassed by the Leader of the Opposition are not relevant to the point of order he was raising. Might I say that I will accept what the Leader of the Opposition has said in relation to the speech of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. Possibly this is where one of the difficulties lies; I should have taken action at the actual time the honourable member mentioned the words. Because of a specific factor relating to this debate, a debate of extreme importance which concerns the House and which deals with most important matters relating to the Parliament, I did allow the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to proceed. The reason I have taken the action of asking the honourable member to withdrawand I make my reason perfectly clear in this respect- is the danger of a precedent being established in this Parliament which can then develop from one point and flow on to another. What I asked the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to do was to withdraw any imputation in relation to the capacity of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to be members of this House. At this point of time that is the only thing that I have asked the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to withdraw.
– I rise on a point of order. My point of order does not canvass your ruling but relates to the extent to which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has made any imputations of improper motives. It is not a case of imputations. I would point out to you, Sir, the standing order 76 states:
All imputations of improper motives . . . shall be considered highly disorderly.
– If the honourable member for Banks had been listening he would know that the comments I have made have been justified. That is the position at the moment in relation to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– Can I make the point with the greatest respect to you -
– Stop trying to wheedle your way out of it.
– Just a moment. Who is running the House? Not you.
-Order! The House will come to order. We are not assisted by interjections from either side.
– This is a serious matter. You have just said, Mr Deputy Speaker, that 1 suggested that the 2 men should not be in this Parliament. I did not say that.
– I am sorry.
– I said they should not hold the offices they hold. I made a big distinction because within the office -
– On a point of order, the honourable gentleman is again canvassing a decision of the Chair. I suggest that he complies with the requests of the Chair.
-I accept the point raised by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. I said ‘members of the House’ but I meant to say ‘officers in their positions’. The only matter to be considered at the moment is a request from the Chair to the honourable member.
– I cannot agree to your request, Mr Deputy Speaker.
- Mr Deputy, may I move a motion?
– I think that it would be to advantage if no more points of order were taken at the moment.
– I want to move that the Minister for Foreign Affairs be heard.
-The honourable member cannot move the motion. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has placed the Chair in a most -
– At this time I want to suggest, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you take the matter into consideration and ask Mr Speaker to make a ruling on it. This is a matter which will be of very great significance and substance to future debates in this chamber. Had the ruling which has now been given by the Chair been given in the previous Parliament, most of the speeches which were made in the last session could not have been made. I ask you to do that in the interests of obtaining a ruling which is not made on the spur of the moment but which is a considered ruling. The time is ten minutes to one. If necessary, you could leave the Chair and continue the matter immediately after lunch. I believe that there is a longer term significance than the immediate question before the House.
– It would be completely and absolutely unfair for me to place the Speaker of this House in that position. I do not think that anybody, after thinking the matter through, would consider that to be a fair or just action on my part. I have made a decision. I am prepared to accept the full responsibility for my decision. As everybody knows, I have held the position of Deputy Speaker for a considerable period of time. I have made many decisions from this Chair, some of them perhaps not in keeping with the Standing Orders. I have explained the reason I made the decision, and I have explained the reason I asked the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to withdraw. I do not think that any difficulty for this House is established. I do not think that it will establish a difficulty concerning the future proceedings of this House. Because of the reasons I have given, because of the points that I have made and because I believe that it is of vital importance to this House I have asked the honourable member for KingsfordSmith, and I ask him again, to withdraw his imputation.
– I cannot withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would prefer to move a substantive motion, which you have said I can do.
-The honourable member may move a substantive motion at a later stage but he cannot do so during the course of this debate.
– I can move for the suspension of Standing Orders. It is the same thing. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not want to delay the House but you have made a -
– Be a man and withdraw.
– Why do you not be a Minister for a change?
– Frankly, the question is not whether the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith is taking a certain stand. As I see it the situation is that in the future perhaps the Chair will not show such tolerance and understanding in allowing an honourable member a certain latitude to enable him to continue his speech without interruption. That is my position at the moment. The honourable member has -
– I ask for leave to move for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable me -
– Leave is refused.
– Well, I will move for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I move:
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the matter before the Chair is a point of order and we await your ruling upon it.
-The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has a perfect right to move dissent from my request for him to withdraw.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
– Write it out. You should know the Standing Orders.
– I will write it out. I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith moving a motion relating to the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister.
I have moved that motion, Mr Deputy SpeakerMotion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the honourable member for Corio be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1.8 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith be not further heard.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) Mr Deputy Speaker, by leave, you mentioned -
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, I do. In the course of the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) he suggested to the House that I had misled the House in some way in my reply to a question which I was asked yesterday. It applied to the travelling arrangements that 2 Iraqi gentlemen had when they arrived in Australia. The initial advice to me, submitted on 25 February, was that both Iraqi visitors were travelling on diplomatic passports. Subsequent to the answer I gave in the House yesterdayhonourable members will recall that I was not in the House at question time on Tuesday as I was in Adelaide- I was advised that one was travelling on a diplomatic passport, the other was travelling on an Iraqi official passport. On arrival the Primary Officer, Customs, consulted with the Senior Immigration Officer on duty who gave approval for temporary entry to Australia on the basis that the people concerned were diplomatic or official personnel being formally met by an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In essence the answer I gave was correct. The only perhaps misleading aspect of it was that I said that both were on diplomatic passports. In fact, that was the advice that I had when I gave the answer. I have subsequently been informed that one was on a diplomatic passport and the other was on an official passport.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, could I ask -
-Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
– No. I was correctly respresenting the situation as stated in the House. I do not dispute what the Minister is saying at all, but it is not what he said before. I would ask that the document from which he was reading be tabled.
– I have no hesitation about tabling it.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide financial assistance by way of loans to the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia for on-lending to co-operative canneries to enable them to raise cash payments to growers for 1974-75 season deliveries of apricots, peaches and pears for canning. At the present time, the canned fruit industry is facing such acute financial difficulties that the major co-operative canneries have been able to pay growers to date only 40 per cent to 60 per cent, depending on the cannery, of the prices declared in 1975 by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee- FISCC -for peaches and pears delivered for canning early in 1975. The traditional lending authorities are unable at this stage to finance the canneries under accepted banking procedures to make further payments for this fruit, given the current marketing situation. Further payments by canneries depend on receipts from sales of canned fruit.
The canned fruits industry has encountered difficulties at various times over a long period. The 1974-75 season has been particularly difficult. There was a serious ‘price-war’ between the canneries on the Australian market which lasted for some months in the first half of 1975, with disruptive effects on that market and a marked reduction in returns from domestic sales. I find such behaviour by canneries most disturbing. No canner gains. No producer gains. Nobody gains. In fact, all major canners report or expect losses for the year, and it is the grower, of course, who suffers at the end of the line. I am pleased to note, however, that canners have very recently agreed upon an arrangement for the orderly marketing of canned fruits for 1976. I trust that this will be complied with. In addition, export sales are significantly down in quantity and value, because of reduced overseas demand, increased competition, especially from Greece and South Africa, and higher marketing costs, particularly higher freight costs. Returns from sales have also been reduced by currency variations and increased tariff charges on imports into Britain and other countries which have acceded to the European Economic Community. To make matters more difficult, an unseasonably large crop of peaches for canning came forward in 1975 beyond pre-season expectations. The general inflationary climate has also aggravated the industry’s circumstances.
Following consultations between the Commonwealth and the 3 State governments concerned, it was assessed that immediate cash assistance was required for growers in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia to avert the very serious consequences of the canners’ financial difficulties. It has been agreed between the Commonwealth and the 3 State governments that this assistance would take the form of loans and that the Commonwealth would contribute on a dollar for dollar basis with the State governments concerned. To this end the Bill authorises financial assistance to the States of an amount equal to one-half of the amount expended by each State in making advances to the various cooperative canneries. The Commonwealth’s total commitment is limited under the Bill to $2,456,567. Such an amount will provide funds sufficient, with those from the States, to enable co-operative canneries to increase their cash payments to growers for 1974-75 season peaches, pears and apricots purchased for canning to 70 per cent of the FISCC prices. The State governments concerned are to administer these arrangements to ensure that the loans to canneries are to be passed to growers.
As provided in clause 4(1) of the Bill, the loans are to be subject to such conditions as are determined in writing by the Minister. Clauses 4 (2) and (3) provide that the funds provided to the States will bear interest, and repayment of principal and interest will be required in instalments over a period of about 2½ years. Interest will be at the rate of 10 per cent per annum. Clause 4(3) also provides that the conditions may permit an extension of the period of repayment in special circumstances. Clause 5 of the Bill provides that payments to the States may be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Loan Fund or from both funds. Clauses 6 to 8 provide authority to borrow, for the application of any moneys borrowed, and for reimbursement of consolidated revenue from the Loan Fund. Clause 9 appropriates the necessary funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or the Loan Fund.
Because of the severe downturn in the industry’s financial position since the 1974-75 minimum prices were determined by FISCC in January 1975, it is one of the conditions of the loans that canners and growers request action by the FISCC to reduce by 15 per cent the declared prices for canning peaches and pears. FISCC recently took action to reduce the orginally declared prices accordingly. Individual canneries and their supplying growers are, of course, free to make any payments of amounts for 1974-75 fruit beyond 85 per cent of the original FISCC 1974-75 prices. Canners have also agreed to limit the intake of fruit in the 1975-76 season in line with sales prospects and have undertaken to cooperate fully in industry rationalisation and restructuring proposals directed to long-term industry viability.
Finally, in an endeavour to ensure that the industry can overcome some of the causes of its present difficulties, the governments concerned have agreed to jointly examine the situation to see what steps might be taken to promote the greatest possible degree of stability in the industry. I have already commissioned the Australian Industry Development Corporation to up-date the report it provided last September on future restructuring and rationalisation of the canned deciduous fruit industry. I expect that that report, which will be available very shortly, should provide the basis for in depth consideration of this matter. It is essential that all parties concerned with the industry use their best endeavours to place the growing, canning and marketing sectors on a firm footing to ensure that in the long term an economically viable industry will be established. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
With the leave of the House, I will present the second reading speech on this Bill and on the Dried Vine Fruits Levy Amendment Bill together. The purpose of these Bills is to extend the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Scheme which was in force from 1971 to 1975 for an additional year to cover the 1976 crop. The Industries Assistance Commission’s interim report on dried vine fruit stabilisation support was released on 19 November 1975. The Commission recommended extension of the existing dried vine fruit stabilisation scheme for the 1976 season on an unchanged basis. These Bills give effect to the Government’s decision, announced on 10 February this year, to accept this recommendation of the Commission. The opportunity has also been taken to convert quantities and units referred to in the legislation to metric units, and to bring the language in the existing legislation into line with current drafting practices.
The Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Scheme provides for the establishment of an annual base price for each variety of dried vine fruit, calculated each season according to movements in grower cash costs as assessed by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Stabilisation funds for the 3 dried vine fruit varieties are maintained, into which government and industry contributions are paid, and from which payments to growers are made. When the average return to the grower is within the range of $10 per tonne above or below the base price, no payment will be made into or out of the fund. When the average return is more than $10 per tonne above the base price, all of the excess over the $10 per tonne with a limitation of $20 per tonne will be paid by growers into the fund, subject to the crop exceeding a minimum tonnage. Conversely, when the average return is more than $10 per tonne below the base price, payments from the stabilisation funds are made to growers. Commonwealth Government contributions to the funds which may be necessary to meet these payments, are subject to a limit of $23 per tonne on maximum quantities of fruit.
The scheme is linked to the industry-operated system of equating returns from export and domestic markets for payment to growers. These equated returns, and the base prices, are the yardsticks which determine whether payments into or out of the funds are required each season. The IAC noted that while the scheme has historically had little impact on the stability of grower returns, the international dried vine fruit market is likely to be over-supplied in 1976, while grower production costs are expected to increase further in 1976. Consequently, although government contributions to the funds were required only in 1971 and 1972, a significant government payment in respect of sultanas is expected in 1976.
The Government accepts the Commission’s view that this stabilisation support, while deficient in some respects, is a useful bridge to subsequent seasons when different policies may apply as a result of government consideration of the Commission’s final report on the dried vine fruits industry. This final report, which was preceded by the interim report referred to earlier, is expected to be tabled shortly. The dried vine fruits industry is a labour intensive and export orientated one. Because of this, it has been particularly affected by the severe inflation of the past 4 seasons, while its international competitors have a lower cost structure and compete vigorously in the industry’s northern hemisphere export markets. There can be little doubt that considerable adjustment will be required in the industry in the next few seasons. Because of the importance of the industry to areas along the Murray River, this adjustment will have serious regional implications. It is the Government’s intention that this process of adjustment should be orderly, and should not be accompanied by unnecessary individual hardship.
These Bills provide Commonwealth Government support for the 1976 dried vine fruit crop, which is already being produced. As such, they provide interim support for the industry for the period during which longer term and more comprehensive proposals for the industry can be considered. I commend the Bills to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
-by leave- This Government has been elected to office at a time when the Australian economy is experiencing the results of its most serious setback in the post-war period. Indeed, it is largely as a consequence of this economic reversal that our opponents, and their economic policies, were so overwhelmingly repudiated by the Australian electorate in December, after just 3 years in office. The Government has a clear mandate during its term of office to restore economic stability and prosperity. The overriding importance which the Government attaches to its economic program is reflected by its decision to bring down a major economic statement during the early stages of the first parliamentary session. Unlike our predecessors, we intend to use the Parliament as a forum for economic debate and as the avenue for putting our economic program before the Australian people.
If there is one single element which is fundamental to all that I shall have to say today, it is the absolute necessity of combating inflation. As a result of the economic vandalism of the past 3 years, inflation now threatens not only the future working of our economy but the very structure of our society. Not only inflation, but unemployment also, are at record levels. The private sector has not yet emerged from its state of deep shock. Even so, as the policies we have adopted have their effect, there is now the prospect of some recovery in 1 976. But any sustained recovery will depend on our progress, as a community, in curbing inflation. A recovery which took place with inflation poised to take off again from its present double digit rate would inevitably be short-lived. It is this harsh underlying reality which has closed off the easy option and which dictates a policy mix dominated by a long view rather than a short one.
The Government is now steering a new and positive course- one which will be long and difficult. We are determined to pursue that course even though doing so will not be painless. It will require a measure of restraint and sacrifice by every Australian- by the Government as well as by the people. It will require an acceptance of the fact that our nation’s resources are limited and that not all competing claims for an increasing share of those resources can be met now or in the period immediately ahead; insofar as the Government is concerned, the assistance it provides will have to be strictly tailored by economic constraint and judged rigorously on the principle of need. But, as the great majority of Australians are very much aware, there is no longer any alternative if our economy and society are to be hauled back from the brink.
I do not intend to go over the economic events of the past in detail but I offer the House a brief reminder of why this once lucky country must now face its most critical economic test for over a generation. In 1974-75 Commonwealth Government spending increased by a colossal 46 per cent. Despite all the talk about applying tourniquets, that budgetary haemorrhage was continued in the 1975-76 Budget. Consequently, planned outlays this year were well over twice those budgeted for in our last Budget in 1972-73. The results of this abandonment of all sense of budgetary responsibility led, in the ultimate, to a drying up of demand in the private sector and quite devastating loss of confidence. Consumer spending fell away. Business investment slumped. Production fell. Job opportunities vanished and unemployment soared.
The Labor Government’s reaction to those trends as they developed was more of the same old alleged remedies- more government spending, bigger deficits, more credit creation. After the mid- 1974 credit squeeze, the liquidity tap was turned on hard and left running. The money supply soared by about 20 per cent in 1975- and this in a year of stagnation. Clearly, these policies just did not work. The consumer price index in 1975 rose by 14 per cent. Inflationary expectations, deliberately inflamed by our predecessors’ permissive attitude towards wage increases, were firmly entrenched by late 1975.
That then, in brief, is the situation. If the facts were not beyond dispute it would be unbelievable that the Australian economy could have been brought to such a state in just 3 years. We can, however, learn some important lessons from Labor’s record of mismanagement. In the 23 years prior to 1973 successive Liberal-Country Party governments consistently steered the Australian economy along with a record, so far as inflation and unemployment are concerned, better than nearly all other economies. Australia’s relative deterioration in terms of those world comparisons came only with the advent of Labor. Stagflation in Australia did coincide with similar experiences overseas. But the relative deterioration of our own position can only be explained by domestic policy errors. This has been made clear time and again in the reports and statements of authoritative and respected world economic organisations such as the International Monetary Fund.
Two developments that contributed to our present economic situation were the explosions in wage increases and government spending. Excessive wage increases, actively encouraged by a permissive and pace-setting government, fuelled inflationary expectations and reduced employment opportunities. The rapid increase in government spending resulted in a huge increase in the Budget deficit and, concurrently, a quite unacceptable acceleration in the volume of money; the explosive growth in Federal outlays also led to a massive transfer of resources away from the private sector with consequent severe inflationary effects. These linkages- between wage increases, excessive government spending and inflation on the one hand, and inflation and unemployment on the other- underlie Labor’s failure in economic management. The same linkages are fundamental to the design of policies that are to have any chance of restoring economic growth and job opportunities. Most important is the set of links between inflation and unemployment- the reasons why high and accelerating inflation intensified and prolonged the Australian recession.
In the wake of a period of excess demand pressures, strongly rising prices and the build-up of strongly inflationary expectations, a number of very large wage increases occurred during 1974. Not only were claims made for successively higher amounts but awards were renegotiated more frequently. As a consequence, 1974-75 saw an acceleration in wage and, to a lesser extent, price increases, even though aggregate ouput declined sharply and the unemployment rate climbed to 5 per cent. As a result of the uncertainty thus created in respect of future prices and incomes, consumers stepped up their savings- the squirrelling phenomenon. The savings ratio climbed from its long term average in Australia of about 10 per cent to some 17 per cent over the last couple of years. With inflation and unemployment running at their recent heights, households have reacted by seeking higher liquid balances to protect future spending power and to provide a hedge against the threat of future unemployment which past policies made every day more likely.
In the business sector, the tide of rising costsparticularly, though not only, wage costs- had its immediate impact in a severe erosion of profits. The ability of companies to recover steeply rising costs was hampered both by the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal and by the policyinduced flood of imports. Within the first 3 quarters of 1974 company profit shares fell by almost a third from their historical level of around 15 per cent of gross domestic product to 10 per cent. During the same period the share of wages, salaries and supplements in the gross domestic product rose from 61 to 68 per cent. This squeeze on profits did more than just alter relative shares of the national income. In 1974-75 company incomes, as recorded in a conventional accounting manner, fell in absolute terms by 7 per cent while wages, salaries and supplements increased by 28 per cent. These trends forced businessmen to reassess the expected future profitability of their enterprisesthe key ingredient in decisions to undertake investment projects.
As well as this tangible influence, there were also well justified fears about the attitude of the then Government to business and the private sector generally, fears to which one action after another gave continuing credence. As well as reducing expected returns on investment, the onset of rising inflation and inflationary expectations increased the range of uncertainty surrounding all investment decisions. Longer-term projects became particularly vulnerable- it is impossible to plan if costs might double in three or four years and the prospects of recovering those costs are uncertain. These factors- a reduction in expected returns from investment and their increased riskiness and the drying up of internal cash flow- all led to a sharp falling-off business investment. These inflationary forces depressing both consumption and investment caused the level of activity to slump sharply: demand for labour fell away. The squeeze on profits made severe pruning of labour requirements essential for business survival. With the encouragement of a misguided Government, trade unions have been vigorously pursuing a policy of pricing workers out of jobs. In short, the trade union movement and our opponents in this House put the drive for ever increasing money incomes ahead of employment and job security.
What I have said so far has stressed the direct interlocking connection between inflation and recession. But the broader social consequences of inflation should not be forgotten merely because of their greater familiarity. Consider what a continuation of even 14 per cent inflation would mean: Prices doubling every 5 years and increasing by around 25 times within a generation; a wiping-out of the value of savings- over a normal lifetime of 70 years an investment of $100 would fall in value to less than one cent. I could go on but the point is obvious- rapid inflation is socially as well as economically destructive. It is a hidden tax to which the unorganised, the aged and the thrifty are particularly vulnerable.
We hear a lot- though most people have stopped listening- about the great strides our opponents claim to have made during their 3 years of office. But where was the compassion for those on fixed incomes who saw the real value of their incomes slashed by the 50 per cent rise in prices between December 1972 and December 1975? Was it really only the rich whose savings were robbed of value by the Governmentinduced inflation? Or was it, also, the poor and the already disadvantaged members of the society? The report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty gave the answer in these explicit terms:
No country with a continuing inflation rate of over 10 per cent has been able to prevent this causing grave hardship to important groups of poor people.
This Government’s overriding philosophical commitment is to lessen public intervention in the private sector and in the lives of people. That commitment goes beyond economics to the very way of life of all Australians.
Before turning to the Government’s policies for the period ahead, let me say in brief something about our broad philosophical approach. A very basic aim will be to reverse the trend to big government and reduce the extent of bureaucracy- particularly centralised bureaucracy- in Australia. We are working towards an Australia with maximum freedom for individuals to pursue their own goals in ways of their own choosing. The Government will restore the private sector and encourage enterprise. It will consult with those in the community who are affected by its decisions or who can contribute to better informed government. This Government will demonstrate that individual choice is not only compatible with a deep concern by government for the needs of the disadvantaged, but is an essential ingredient of it. The dignity and capacity for self-help of those in need is preserved by government helping them in ways that least impinge on their independence. Compassion for the less affluent in the community will be shown, not by the rhetoric of our predecessors, but by deeds. This Government is determined to do away with the shameful rip-off which inflation has inflicted upon so many Australians, particularly those in retirement.
I turn now to the Government’s economic policies for the period ahead. Some clear implications for future policy can be drawn directly from the mistakes of the past 3 years. The recession has been intensified and prolonged, and unemployment worsened, by inflation and by the growing feeling in the community at large that, in the absence of resolute government, the only realistic expectation must be that inflation will continue and worsen. In that respect the activities of all those who supported the recent 6.4 per cent national wage increase have served to support and further entrench those expectations and to directly damage job prospects in the process. What used to be thought of as conventional ‘pump-priming’ efforts to reduce unemployment have proved ineffective and even counter-productive, essentially because they do not slow inflation in the present circumstances. Indeed, the resulting increased deficits heighten inflationary expectations.
Policies must therefore focus on ways of ensuring that there are reductions in government spending, a reduction of the deficit and a cutback in excess liquidity. To some, cutting back on government spending and the deficit seems paradoxical; we hear it argued that that will not contribute to economic recovery but, on the contrary, will simply serve to depress activity still further. In today’s world that orthodox ‘keynesianism’, in my judgment and in the judgment of the Government, is no longer appropriate; on the contrary, it is hopelessly outdated. It is of course characteristic that out-dated orthodoxies of this kind should be most strongly adhered to by political parties which were wont to describe themselves at one stage as radical. That this old orthodoxy has had its day is widely recognised around the world. We ourselves made the point time and time again during our period in Opposition. It is now well-recognised internationally. For example, the United States Economic Report of the President, January 1976, said:
The events of the past several years have once again convincingly demonstrated that accelerating inflation causes instability and disruptions, increases unemployment, and ultimately precludes real prosperity.
The September 1975 International Monetary Fund Survey reflected that view in the following terms:
Any handling of the current problem of international recession that involved a setback on the inflation front would inevitably be short-lived, representing a prelude to further economic instability.
In the United Kingdom, the home of Keynesianism, and under a Labour Government, the futility of piling on new deficits in order to reduce the unemployment created by the succession of previous deficits is finally being understood. As the Prime Minister, Mr Wilson, said on 2 February of this year:
It would be a great mistake to act precipitately and reflate now on a massive scale. That is no easy way out of our economic problems. For the result would be yet another inflationary boom, febrile and short-lived. It would be a clutch of measures creating and reinforcing another move into depression and unemployment.
Later in February a British Government White Paper was issued announcing sharp cuts in future public sector spending. Similar examples could be drawn from Germany, Japan and, more recently, Canada. But the point is made; piling up ever-increasing deficits in relation to the gross domestic product is simply not a viable policy option. Countries which have gone down that road for a time are now trying hard to go into reverse. Even the last Labor Treasurer in Australia belatedly recognised the reality when he said in his Budget Speech last August:
We are no longer operating in that simple Keynesian world in which some reduction m unemployment could, apparently, always be purchased at the cost of some more inflation. Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
It is true that, looked at purely in a short-run context, cutting back Government expenditures in order to reduce the deficit will depress activity in the Government sector and, in some cases, demands upon and activity in the private sector as well. That is a cost that has to be borne if big government is to be eradicated and the private sector is to be enabled to start expanding again in response to the spending decisions of private individuals instead of governments. Over and above that, big Budget deficits mean excessively easy monetary conditions.
Throughout 1975 the underlying rate of expansion in monetary aggregates in Australia, fuelled by the huge deficit, was in the vicinity of 20 per cent. Our recent actions in both the monetary and fiscal fields have begun to slow the rate of growth of these aggregates. This, of course, is essential. There is no way in which sustained increases of that magnitude can be made consistent with a continued moderation in inflation. That is why a Budget deficit in the order of $4,700m such as this Government has inherited, and consequential monetary growth rates of 20 per cent per annum or more continuing through 1976, was not a recipe for recovery, but at best a recipe for a pause in the further downward slide to even higher inflation and even higher unemployment as a direct consequence.
The hard fact is that vigorous action to cut back the deficit and rein in the potentially destructive increases in liquidity may produce some temporary costs in terms of a lower overall level of economic activity and resource utilisation than might otherwise prevail in the short term. But what must be faced up to is that there is no longer any alternative unless we are prepared to abandon our present form of society. The restoration of economic health will be a slow process. As Prime Minister Trudeau said to the Canadian people in December last:
I cannot promise you that the battle will be won in a matter of months. It will take time for a program of national restraint, in company with appropriate fiscal, monetary and other policies, to exert a real impact upon the rate of inflation. It will take time for us to accept self-discipline as normal and expected behaviour, rather than as heroic sacrifice. It will take time for us to learn to reduce our expectations; but we must retain our resolve.
President Ford echoed these basic sentiments in his 1 976 Budget message when he said:
This is not a policy of the quick fix; it does not hold out the hollow promise that we can wipe out inflation and unemployment overnight. Instead, it is an honest, realistic policy- a policy that says we can steadily reduce inflation and unemployment if we maintain a prudent, balanced approach.
In essence, the Government sees its task as that of slowly steering the economy onto the path of a firmly based recovery. Control of inflation is fundamental to this objective. Balanced and sustainable recovery also requires creating the conditions for growth in both consumption and investment. The Government places strong emphasis on the desirability of an early revival of investment activity. The economy’s productive capacity depends in part on its capital stock- the stock of plant, equipment, machinery, buildings, etc. built up by investment activity.
The several years of subdued investment activity which Australia has experienced have impaired the economy’s productive capacity in that respect. What this means in terms of the period ahead is that the economy will be able to accommodate, without strain, a much smaller expansion of demand than would otherwise have been the case. A recovery which did not encompass an early upturn of business investment would be easily frustrated by the early appearance of supply shortages in a number of economic sectors. In turn, this would lead to a resurgence of demand inflation and a spill-over into imports.
It may seem paradoxical to be raising here the possibility of future supply constraints at this time when there is capacity lying idle. The point is, however, that increased capacity cannot be brought in overnight. That is why we need to get business investment moving again as soon as possible. Whatever is said about consumption or investment-led recoveries, the key point is that the Australian economy should not wait another year or more for private investment to begin to turn up. The policy measures we have taken during a relatively brief period in office reflect the foregoing considerations both of sound economic management and a broad philosophical commitment.
We have acted to encourage investment, to cut government spending and to mop up some of the dangerous excess of liquidity. Those measures and our reasons for them were fully described at the time of their implementation and I merely sketch them during my remarks today. We also moved strongly to oppose, before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the passing into money wages of the full 6.4 per cent price increases of the previous 2 quarters. It is obvious that in present circumstances large wage increases strongly depress the incentive to invest and to take on more employees. Like large deficits, large wage increases are a self-defeating formula for recovery.
The Government’s earliest major action was to boost the private sector and, in particular, private investment directly by introducing the 40 per cent investment allowance on plant and equipment. The cost to revenue of this broader allowance as recently modified will be some $470m in a full year. A more balanced and rational approach to foreign investment in Australia will also contribute to an improved investment climate. I shall shortly present to this House a detailed statement of Government policy in relation to overseas investment. The Government has undertaken during its short term in office a sweeping although only preliminary review of all Commonwealth programs and priorities which has resulted in savings to date of some $360m this financial year. This review of expenditures is continuing- both via the operations of the Bland Committee and in other ways- and will be of fundamental importance in the formulation of the 1976-77 Budget.
In parallel with what will be a continuing policy of expenditure restraint, employment in the Commonwealth Public Service is being subjected to stringent control ceilings. As a result, it is presently estimated to fall from June 1975 to June 1976 by more than 3 per cent in contrast to the 2.8 per cent increase planned by the former Government. But expenditure control is a gradual process, if only because, if decisions are to be sensibly taken, the administrative processes and management control involved in ordering priorities and assessing programs are time-consuming. The reduction in the deficit which will flow from the process of expenditure control will make a vital contribution in the period ahead toward resolving the problem of excessive liquidity and its direct inflationary consequences. However, the requirement to control the already excessive level of liquidity was far more pressing at the time we came to office than could be handled by expenditure control measures alone. Accordingly, the Government deemed it necessary to take direct monetary policy action to deal with that problem in the first instance.
We have acted decisively to reduce the rate of monetary expansion so that it will be less accommodating to price increases but will, at the same time, be sufficient to permit financial institutions to underwrite recovery within the private sector. The measures of 22 January were aimed at soaking up part of the excess liquidity in the financial system without sending the economy once again into a tail-spin. Indeed the package was carefully constructed to do this while in some areas actually lowering borrowing costs to businesses and individuals. I want to stress that in circumstances in which the money supply has been growing at 20 per cent per annum when the Budget deficit in the first 7 months of the financial year exceeded $4 billion, and when, largely because of the deficit, the past year has seen an enormous increase in funds flowing into financial institutions, there is no call for alarmist cries of ‘credit squeeze’ simply because the Government acts responsibly to soak up some of the surplus liquidity.
It is true- I am glad to say- that over $ 1 billion was subscribed to the recent Commonwealth Loan and Series 1 of the new Australian Savings Bonds. But is it seriously argued that that was excessive, given the magnitudes of recent additions to liquidity and, seasonal elements aside, the continuing size of the deficit? What we have done is to drain off a sizable portion of the surplus liquidity into a new security which is now very attractive to hold rather than prematurely cash in. In that way the introduction of the new Australian Savings Bond, Series 1, was an outstanding success. Because of the deliberately attractive terms it offered, it not only drew in $759m of subscriptions- virtually all of it from non-bank sources- but it established the new ‘household’ security in a way which will stand this Government and this country in good stead in future. When we judged that Series 1 had done these jobs we replaced it with a much less attractive series. That also has been successful. The inflow into it has been much diminished but it is still proving a useful source of non-bank funds.
Meanwhile, apart from some minor tightening of rates for short-term money, the effect on other market rates of interest has been negligible. The plain fact is that the essence of successful monetary policy in the extremely difficult circumstances we have inherited is, and must continue to be, flexibility. Thus, as a result of our monetary actions, the liquidity of banks and other financial intermediaries has already declined from the very high levels of end-1975. Notwithstanding this, bank lending is continuing at virtually unchanged levels and we expect to see it go on doing so. While all such estimates of course, must be subject to considerable uncertainty, our present expectation would be that over the 6 months ending June of this year, the volume of money- what is technically called M3- might rise, in seasonally adjusted annual rate terms, in the order of 1 1 per cent to 13 per cent. By comparison with the figures of 20 per cent prevailing throughout the previous 12 months or so, this will be a notable and welcome development. But no rational person could describe that as a ‘credit squeeze’.
Within that period there will, of course, be some seasonal tightening of liquidity, as is normally the case, between April and the end of this financial year. In turn, that will be succeeded once again by a period of strongly rising liquidity. The government will, during the short period of seasonally tight liquidity to which I have referred, ensure that the financial system has the capacity to maintain an adequate now of funds. In other words, the Government will respond to future developments, as it has already displayed its capacity to do, with flexibility. But, in doing so, it will not swerve from its longer-term aim of reducing inflation. When the Government is successful in that aim it will also be moving to accomplish another of its longer-term aims- to get interest rates down closer to the pre-Labor Administration levels. Even though some interest rates, for example, those applying to bank overdrafts, have been brought down, I want to emphasise again that the general structure of interest rates can be reduced only as inflation is diminished.
One important element of our economic program is the commitment to index personal income taxes and provide inflation adjustments in the company tax area. We see both measures as part of the strategy of shifting command over resources away from Government and back to individuals and private businesses. As promised in the policy speech, these reforms will be commenced in the 1976 Budget on a 3-year phasing-in basis; the extent of such phasing will be governed by a mix of considerations. Inflation adjustments to company tax are an important means of maintaining corporate cash flow in times of inflation while avoiding the need to increase profit margins. Personal tax indexation is clearly a measure which is anti-inflationary in the longer term to the extent that it moderates tax-induced wage demands and constrains excessive spending based on ‘automatic’ growth of government revenues. Clearly, that will be one of the major elements in our considerations. Another element must be the immediately pressing necessity to get the deficit down because of its adverse effects on liquidity, inflation and inflationary expectations.
It should be obvious- as indeed it was even to our predecessors- that formulation of a Budget which led to another huge deficit, far from helping to bring inflation under control, would be entirely destructive of that objective. In so saying, I am in no way resiling from our policy speech commitment- in fact I maintain it in the words that I have put down- and am in no way allowing myself to be hoodwinked by those sinister Treasury officials to whom the uninformed, both in the Press and beyond it, spend so much time in attributing motives and attitudes. I am merely stating the plain and unvarnished facts with which I, as Treasurer, and the Government as a whole, have to contend.
As I said earlier, the prospects for renewed growth of the economy and of job opportunities depend critically on reining in inflation. That is the interlocking key to everything else. Hopefully, though less so now in the light of the recent decision in the national wage case, there will be some recovery in demand, production and employment in 1976. But this will prove weak and short-lived unless there is a continuing and discernible moderation in the rate of wage and price increase during that time. The Government acknowledges that this is a very sombre outlook. However, trying to push things along would be counter-productive. Unless the recovery is gradual we shall not succeed in making headway against inflation. Those whose professional business it is to make economc forecasts caution against any dogmatic presentation of prospects. Their business is always a chancy one and almost all of them have been particularly caught out by the events of the 1 970s. Such a caution is particularly apposite at present. At this point in time the Australian economy is rather delicately poised; there may very well be only a fine margin between a recovery which firms and strengthens and a recovery which aborts early.
As has been stressed and re-stressed, the future course of inflation and inflationary expectations is the single most important element around which this fine balance presently pivots. Given these qualifications, the immediate outlook is for some growth in demand. Consumption and private dwelling investment, together with inventory changes, seem likely to contribute to that growth, and this is very much to be desired. Government spending, on the other hand, is one component of demand whose growth rate is expected to be low for a time as the excesses of the past are successively pruned away.
On the external side the position is satisfactory. The underlying current account deficit is of modest proportions viewed in the context of the overall outlook for exports as economic recovery gets under way in our major trading partners, and having in mind the Government’s desire to see overseas capital make a more appropriate contribution to Australia’s development on terms protecting our national interests and identity. Our balance of payments policy more generally will continue to be framed on the basis set out in detail in the statement I made on behalf of the Government, on 4 January last, on the Australian dollar. Overall, then, a moderate rise in gross domestic product during 1976 seems likely, but whether it carried on into 1977 and, if so, how strongly, will depend on our success- I come back to a central point- in controlling inflation. Much the same can be said about job opportunities.
The process of mopping up liquidity has been given an outstandingly successful start by the recent set of monetary measures; the Government’s fiscal policies have been working in the same direction.
But even if fiscal and monetary policies can be set correctly and maintained, there remains the problem of cost pressures.
The Govenment has not yet determined, in detail, the approach which it will take on future occasions in the wage-fixing arena.
It is not my purpose to canvass that matter now.
Nevertheless I can say that we are firmly resolved to put an end to the helplessness some in the community have been feeling about this seemingly intractable problem.
We, as a Government, have already spoken out, and we shall go on speaking out, for the national interest in this area.
Unlike our predecessors, we do not propose to run away from the criticisms- the empty charges of ‘confrontation’ and the like- which that stance will undoubtedly call forth.
The indisputable fact is that the recent 6.4 per cent increase in wages handed down by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has been a severe setback to hopes of improvement in the economy- to hopes of a continuing steady reduction in inflation, to hopes of business recovery, and above all, to hopes for more jobs.
Quite apart from this, the full flow-on of price increases has widened further the gap between the wage and the non-wage sectors.
The fixed income recipient- especially the aged and the retired- will again be forced to bear a disproportionate burden of the price rises which will flow from the Commission’s ruling.
There is now a very real danger that 1976 may see a further entrenchment of wage/cost pressures as a result of the 6.4 per cent increase. Nothing could be more directly destructive of employment opportunities. This point tends to be ignored by those who have sought to criticise our stand. But it was recognised by a former Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who said, as he will recall:
One man ‘s larger pay packet is another man ‘s job.
He said, and this was in late 1974:
It is becoming clearer every day that increased labour costs are in part responsible for retrenchments and reassessments of labour requirements in a wide range of industries.
However, what was true in 1974 is true today. The greatest threat to recovery in employment is continued inflation and particularly continued escalation in wage costs.
Built-in inflationary expectations add to pressures for higher wages and these expectations can be progressively reduced only if the rate of inflation is seen to be coming down.
The Government believes there is a growing realisation in the community that large money wage increases are not the way to improve real living standards and put people back to work.
A recent Gallup poll showed that most of those polled did not favour the recent 6.4 per cent increase: An interesting comment on the thesis advanced by some that it had to be awarded because of ‘community expectations’.
Most in the community, it seems, are not subject to the ‘money illusion’ which so distorts the vision of some that they applaud a money wage increase which can only harm recovery and cut back employment opportunities.
It is not going too far to say that wage-cost pressures, intensified as they have been by the 6.4 per cent decision, are a threat to our economic survival.
The Government believes it has a duty to the community to pursue every possibility of reducing such pressures.
In the last resort unless inflation is controlled there will be no soundly-based return to prosperity and no lasting creation of employment opportunities.
The Government is under no illusion that this is an easy task.
Inflation is like a drug; it destroys incentive and drains the energy of the whole communityyet withdrawal from it must produce painful side-effects.
But if we are concerned with Australia in 1980 we have no choice but to kick the inflationary habit.
The Government has a responsibility to say this clearly to the community and to do what it can to enlist the support of all in doing so.
We are confident that a policy wholeheartedly directed against inflation will in fact command wide support from the community and that in the next 3 years a great advance to our goal of a freer, fairer, more prosperous Australia can be made.
I commend the statement to the House.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Adelaide speaking for a period not exceeding 47 minutes.
– I thank the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) for the courtesy of making available to me 2 hours before it was presented the statement he has just read to the House. This has given me time to form a judgment on the statement. Never in the history of this Parliament has as much as this been said to so little purpose. We have learnt nothing new from this statement and I can describe it only as a long and windy statement. We have heard it all before. In a nutshell the message is: Damage the public sector, confront employees to ensure industrial turmoil and let us hope- it is a forlorn hope in my view- that the private sector will take up the slack. In the friendliest way I want to tell the Treasurer about his new nickname. I do this because I look upon myself as a friend of his. His nickname is ‘Afro’. It has nothing to do with his appearance. It happens to be short for aphrodisiac because he is always trying to stimulate the private sector. This is the reputation he will have and the nickname will go with it.
To elaborate further I turn to the philosophy of the Treasurer as it was given in this Parliament. Unfortunately it goes along the following lines: Let us ignore that the rest of the developed world is suffering from exactly the same economic ills as we are. I hope that the Treasurer and other honourable members will take a good look at the leading article in today’s Australian Financial Review which points out so clearly that one only has to take the report on France of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and substitute the name ‘Australia’ for the name ‘France’. From the report one could form the view that France has almost the same problems as we have . in Australia today. Yet this long and windy statement attributes to the previous Government all the ills of our economy. This is nonsense.
Let us ignore, so goes this statement and the philosophy of the Government, that the economic ills of inflation combined with unemployment, or stagflation as it is now mostly called, are not going to respond to the old castor oil economic theories. A dose of strong medicine is what we need, so they say on the Government benches. Where and when has this worked anywhere else in the the world in the circumstances from which we are suffering now? I am sick and tired of hearing that they are not Keynesians. I am sick and tired of hearing the misuse of what President Ford said in the United States of America, what Harold Wilson said in the United Kingdom and what Pierre Trudeau said in Canada. What they are saying is quite irrelevant to what this Liberal-National Country Party Government is doing in Australia now. They too are not Keynesians, as we in the Australian Labor Party in the new and changing world are not Keynesians. The policies of the Labor Party were much closer to what is being done in the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada at present than are the policies of those who are now using the words of Ford, Wilson and Trudeau in Australia. Those countries are not applying a stop policy in the old stop-go syndrome. They are not operating credit squeezes at a time of severe unemployment. They are seeking to come out of their troubles slowly because they know that it is only in a steady and slow way that they will properly come out of their troubles. They are not using, in short, the castor oil economic philosophies of the present LiberalNational Country Party Government. Certainly in Great Britain I concede the Labour Government is looking ahead at projected government expenditures and it is saying that it will not increase the sphere of the gross domestic product in the public sector.
Let us look at the comparative figures of the public sector proportions. After 3 years of the Australian Labor Party Government I can say proudly, although we can argue about the rate of change, that we had increased the public sector proportion to 3 1 per cent in order to get rid of the public poverty compared with private affluence. In the United States of America, the great home of free enterprise, the proportion is already 33 per cent; in Canada it is 39 per cent; in Great Britain it is over 40 per cent; and in Sweden, a country which has fewer of the economic problems of stagflation than any other country in the developed world, the proportion is 50 per cent.
This is why it is a false doctrine that we have had preached to us in the past and again today in the long and windy statement that was read to this House. There is no joy in this false government doctrine. Of course it is important to ensure that inflation is contained. Of course there is a causal relationship between inflation and unemployment. Of course it is important not to have excess liquidity- too much demand chasing too few goods- at a time of relatively full employment. Of course we have to educate the Australian public that our resources are not limitless; that wages have to be contained to reasonable increases; that one man’s wage increase may be another man’s job. All these things were said by Labor Treasurers Frank Crean, Jim Cairns and Bill Hayden. They have all been said in this House by Labor Treasurers, and it is not adding anything to the body of knowledge to hear these things said again today.
However, that is not the point here and now. That is irrelevant here and now. We are experiencing a time of unemployment and of under employment of resources. We must act in a much more sophisticated way than is the LiberalNational Country Party Government. We must stimulate demand in areas where there is excess capacity right now. We must not allow interest rates to increase to the extent that investment decisions on the margin will not be taken. We must not cut government expenditure which would directly and indirectly throw men on the labour market which is already oversupplied with men and women. We must not institute a credit squeeze such as is being instituted right now by the Government. This credit squeeze will mean that loans will not be available for investment which will use the resources which are not being used right now.
All these destructive acts which are being undertaken by the Government and which are the basis of its philosophy are the results of the economic measures the Government has introduced since 13 December. I outlined them in my Address-in-Reply speech. We have outlined them in debates on matters of public importance in this House. They have been dealt with by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) in this House already. We only have to look at the slow way in which the Government denied that there would be a revaluation of our currency. A sum of $600 m flowed out of our foreign exchange reserve because the Government did not act quickly. We only have to look at the so-called monetary package. The Government was trying to mislead the public by talking about lower interest rates for overdrafts. What is the use of lower overdraft interest rates when the money is not available to obtain an overdraft? At the time the Government brought in the Australian savings bonds with an interest rate of 10.5 per cent. They have had a marked effect on the monetary market in this country, with interest rates being increased in the building societies and elsewhere.
More than anything else we must not strut around this country, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer are strutting around this country, Scrooge-like, talking in terms of an Otto Niemeyer here, believing that the same conditions apply now as applied in the 1930s, talking about tightening belts and a measure of restraint. We heard these sorts of phrases again in the statement today. They are useless phrases because they are killing the consumer confidence that is needed to get the country back to operating at the level of activity at which it should be operating, to get it back to full employment. At the end of last year we were slowly coming out of our troubles. This was in spite of the outrages of the Liberal-National Country Party Opposition in delaying the passage of the Australian Budget for 1975-76. What more could have killed confidence than that outrage in delaying the Budget? In spite of that the surveys of business confidence- I am ignoring now the one that was announced today which originated from the Institute of Applied Economics because there are plenty of other surveys to counter that one- show that we were coming out of those problems and that recovery was on the way. That slow, steady recovery has now been put in jeopardy by the Government’s economic measures, by its monetary package, by its cuts in government expenditure, and by the other policies it has instituted since 13 December. Let me refer to a few headlines in newspapers around Australia relating to government expenditure cuts. The headline in the Australian Financial Review of 20 February 1976 states:
Fraser Governmernt policies are recipe for building industry collapse.
The article beneath it states:
It now appears clear that the Fraser Government in Canberra, obsessed with an erroneous interpretation of the Federal deficit and oblivious of the pipeline delays inherent in building and construction, is bent on compounding the gathering problems in the building and construction sector.
The West Australian of 28 February carried the headline:
Funds run short for home loans.
That newspaper said:
The days when almost anyone could get a home loan from a permanent building society in Western Australia are over.
A headine on 2 March read:
The January building proposals slide 8.2 per cent as Government housing slumps.
These are the direct results of Liberal-National Country Party Government policies. They are a direct result of cuts in government spending. I admire and commend the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for the work he is doing pointing this out to his own colleagues. It is ridiculous to cut government spending in areas where that spending could be put to immediate use. Is anybody suggesting that there is not an under employment of men and resources in the building industry? Of course there is right now. Government policies are directly responsible for under employment of resources in the building industry and will be responsible for the position getting worse.
The statement we just heard from the Treasurer shows no change of heart on the part of the Government. It will rue the day that it took on board the false policies which were outlined in the statement. In the meantime the country suffers. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later time.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1976.
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1976.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to extend the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act 1966-1974 for a further period of 12 months from 1 January 1976 pending examination by the Government of the Industries Assistance Commission report on nitrogenous fertilizers. Because of the importance of nitrogenous fertilizers in many areas of rural production the Government feels that the Act should be extended rather than held in abeyance until a decision has been made on the report. The Act was previously extended for a similar period in 1974.
Subsidy is paid on the imported nitrogenous fertilizers under certain circumstances. Last year new anti-dumping legislation was passed by Parliament and the anti-dumping provisions of the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act have been amended to make them compatible with the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Act 1975. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the House is intended to give effect to the Government’s announced intention of reintroducing the phosphate fertilizer bounty for a period from 1 1 February 1976 to 30 June 1977. An interim report on the matter has been received from the Industries Assistance Commission and it is anticipated that the final report from the Commission will be received later in the year. This extension will allow consideration of the Commission’s report before the proposed bounty period expires.
Because stocks of higher priced phosphatic fertilizers were held by resellers at the commencement of the bounty period provision has been made for sales of this stock to end users to attract bounty. Without this provision such stocks could only be disposed of at a substantial loss by the reseller. Similar provisions were included when the rate of bounty was varied in 1970. Opportunity has been taken to change to metric expression of weight at the appropriate rates of bounty. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 2 March, 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’.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). The amendment is in 3 parts and it sets out what are in the opinion of members on this side of the House matters of considerable concern and matters which the Government, through the GovernorGeneral, ought to have made quite clear in the Governor-General ‘s Speech. The first section of the amendment deals with the pre-eminence of this House in financial affairs. I do not intend to deal with what has happened. However, I do want to draw to the attention of honourable members the current position of this House in the parliamentary system. Traditionally the basic and sole power of the people’s House,- be it the House of Representatives or the House of Commons, has derived from its total control over the appropriation of money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Treasury. As a result of circumstances and certain revelations which were made in correspondence between me and the Monarch it is now evident that this pre-eminence exists only on the basis of good faith between the Governor-General of Australia and the Parliament. The fact that the Senate, on the precedents now established, is able to refuse to consider the appropriation of funds by this House is a serious departure from the historic precedents on which the power of this chamber and this Parliament has rested.
It is of equal importance that we should note that the chamber which took the action to refuse to consider a request for funds from this House was not in fact, as has been repeatedly claimed, the chamber which was election in 1974. It consisted of 58 elected and 2 appointed members and neither of the appointed members represented the Party to which the senators whose places they filled had belonged. Therefore we have a situation which is not covered by any statute or by the Constitution and which was certainly not foreseen by those who framed the Constitution whereby the political balance of one of the Houses of this Parliament can be completely destroyed by the appointment of persons of political viewpoints, different from those of the senators whom the people of the States concerned chose. Such a situation did occur and as a result other events followed.
The second part of the amendment deals with the failure of the Government to provide in the Governor-General’s Speech any suggestion whereby the occurrences of last year will be prevented. I point out to members of this House quite seriously that if we continue with a situation in which the authority of this House on financial matters is non-existent, or is so flimsy that it can be overcome not by the defeat of requests for funds but by the refusal to consideror, to put it in terms which members on the other side of the House would use in respect of employers or employees, if the Senate goes on strike and refuses to carry out its constitutional functions- and the person who for the time being happens to be the Governor-General of Australia is brought on to the Senate ‘s side of the argument, the power of this House disappears. It does so because absolute authority rests with the Governor-General to appoint and dismiss Prime Ministers, and absolute authority rests with him whether or not he dismisses this House.
These are serious considerations. They are considerations which should not be taken lightly by members on the other side of the House merely because they at the present time happen to have a majority in both houses. If one’s long term view of the rights and position of Parliament is dependent on whether or not at the time one has a majority, Parliament itself has no real role to play. I suggest to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that unless consideration is given by the members of this House to continuing or restoration of the authority of this House over the appropriation of money and its pre-eminence in that area the authority of Parliament will totally disappear.
The third and quite different point in the amendment deals with the apparent policy, spelt out in the Governor-General’s Speech, of transferring funds from the lower income sections of the community to those in our community who are better off. This is a matter of some consequence because there are in every community those people who are unable to provide, care and tend for themselves. These people, for whom the community itself has a responsibility, normally are a minority. Because they are a minority they have little political muscle. Their access to the media and even to the Parliament is restricted by their lack of finance and their position in the community. There are always those who speak on their behalf, but that is not the same as being able to speak on one’s own behalf. We find that any disadvantaged section of the community which represents a major section of industry or commerce, a major ethnic group or some other major pressure group will be able to be heard and will always be able to obtain space in the media in order to have its protest heard. Those people least able to care for themselves do not have that advantage and do not have ready access to publicity and to the general public.
In the initial weeks in office of this Government some of the decisions on the cutting of expenditure- if that is the Government’s policy then let us accept it even though we do not agree with it- are open to the gravest interpretation and the gravest charges of publicity-seeking or seeking to establish in the public mind a train of thought rather than being actual savings on revenue expenditures. I point to one or two of the so-called revenue saving measures which have been announced and which have very little or no effect at all on a $4,000m deficit. The saving by removing the funeral benefit for pensioners will be less than Sim for this year and less than $2m in a full year. The $40 taken away from a pensioner responsible for the funeral costs of another pensioner is a major amount of money to that pensioner. The sum of $lm in a $4,000m deficit is not even peanuts to the Treasury. I understand that the advice to remove it was given because the $40 was so insignificant that it was not worth maintaining. Although $40 is not much- it is about 6 per cent or 7 per cent of the cost of the lowest priced funeral that one can get- it is a considerable amount to a person who is unable to afford the costs of a funeral anyhow. All that the
Government is doing is saving $700,000 or less, possibly convincing a few people that it is serious about cost cutting without actually doing so, and penalising a person in the most tragic circumstances imaginable.
Similarly, the increase in pharmaceutical benefits does not hit the person who is in the best position, rarely going to the doctor and even more rarely having a prescription filled. It hits the person who has to have regular and quite often numerous prescriptions- the person who may have three to six prescriptions filled a week. There are a substantial number of such people in the community. Some of them are not in a position to be able to afford the additional funds. If a person goes to the chemist once a month the increase is insignificant. If a person goes to the chemist regularly it is a substantial reduction in his standard of living, and the amount of money saved is again insignificant.
It appears that the cuts in Government spendingthe items I have just mentioned are part of them- are designed more to set a mental state in the community than a financial one. At least one of the cuts of substantial proportions was appropriated for the Australian Industries Development Corporation to increase its capital if it required additional borrowing rates because of a fixed ratio between capital and borrowing rates. The money was not required and was not to be taken up, yet it is announced as a cut in Government spending. That is not true. The money was never to be spent, therefore it could not be cut. It appeared in the Budget. Another amount which has been cut appeared in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) which was not passed by the Parliament and therefore the money was not available to be spent. This is part of the psychological warfare against the community in order to establish a state of mind. My objection is that, in establishing that state of mind, those least able to care for themselves have been the subject of the major assault. The big sums of money taken from areas where there are large sums of money may not have anything like the same effect. They may affect the Budget. Small sums are being taken from those people who gain real benefit from those sums and that is where the transference of income takes place and where the responsibility of government rests.
We must question what the Government intends to do about the sums of money which are available to the States. After all if the Government is to cut out a funeral benefit in order to save $700,000 a year, if it is to reduce its Public Service by 6000 or 7000 people and create unemployment in that way or remove employment opportunities, which is the same thing, we must question the sincerity of a government which remains totally silent on the amount of money it makes available to the States. Throughout last year we had regular statements from the Premier of Victoria- we heard from the other Premiers and not only the conservative ones but the Premier of Victoria was the most outspoken, with the possible exception of the Premier of Queensland- to the effect that his State was going bankrupt because it was starved of funds. During that period the Victorian Public Service increased by 50 per cent more than the increase in the Commonwealth Public Service. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has indicated that the rate of growth of the Commonwealth Public Service is unacceptable. He is seeking to reduce that rate by denying jobs to school leavers and to persons who would normally have entered the Public Service. If anyone takes the trouble to look at what the Premier of Victoria has said in the last week or two he will find that that State intends to increase the rate of growth within its own Public Service and the rate of spending within that State. If a State increases its spending and the Commonwealth reduced its spending, surely that is counter-productive because the deficit we talk about includes the amount of money paid by the Commonwealth to the States.
I would prefer to trust a Liberal government in this House than some of the governments in the States with the care of those people in the lower income groups who are in need because at least the Commonwealth tends to treat people as people, the States tend to treat them as political events. They act where votes are required. However if, as has been announced, the States are going to be given revenue raising capacities which they do not have now- apparently those capacities are going to allow them to increase their expenditures substantially; either that or the Premier of Victoria is misleading a lot of people- what purpose is being served by taking away pensioner and pharmaceutical benefits, hearing aid benefits for pensioners and deferring pensions and going through all the pinpricking exercises which have been gone through in the last few months in order to save $300,000 or $400,000? What purpose is being served if the Government reduces Commonwealth taxes on those on high incomes, which I understand is the Prime Minister’s policy, and it becomes a flat rate tax imposed by the States, which is obviously what the double tax system is going to mean? All that the Government is doing is ensuring that the political odium of increasing Government spending to cover those areas in which the Commonwealth is abdicating responsibility will fall in the States.
It is time that someone did a rethink. I do not believe that any member in the Liberal Party or the Country Party can stand up in this House and justify the removal of the funeral benefit for pensioners. If anyone can justify that, then they cannot justify any form of additional expenditure which the Government may seek to enter into, and it is seeking to enter into additional forms of expenditure which exceed the savings which have been announced as being due to the existing cuts. I am referring to the real savings, not the fictitious savings which have been included in order to pad the figures. If the States are going to raise revenue in order to meet expenditure commitments which have already been made then the deficit, whether it be State or Commonwealth, is not going to alter materially. I suggest that, as the amendment says, the policy of the present Government is the transference of income from one sector of the community- the low income sector- to those who are better off, and that this is in line with statements made by the present Prime Minister last year that this rubbish about an egalitarian society which has been practised by governments, both Liberal and Labor, for the last 10 years has to stop. I would suggest that we have a responsibility to those people who cannot care for themselves. I do not object to the Government attacking those people who would defraud the system, but when the Government attacks those people who have genuine need under the guise of attacking those who would defraud the system or under the guise of saving money, then I suggest it is attacking the basis of our society.
– In this my first statement to the House on foreign policy matters I shall restrict myself to several questions of current importance following on the recent visit to Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. I wish to comment on recent developments concerning the Association of South-East Asian Nations and Australia’s relations with it. I propose to deal only briefly with Timor at this time when the report by the Secretary-General’s special representative is still awaited. I will make some observations on our approach to African issues including recent developments in Angola. I intend also to report to the House again on foreign policy matters after my return to Australia at the end of next month after attending a number of international conferences- the South Pacific Forum in New Zealand, the Law of the Sea Conference in New York and the ministerial meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok- and having discussions, of course, with American and Thai Ministers and officials. At that time I shall give a more detailed report on the world scene.
ASEAN is an association which encompasses our nearest Asian neighbours. The importance we place on our bilateral relations with these States- Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand- extends naturally to the Association itself. We consider the Association a model of regional co-operation in which member countries at their own initiative and relying essentially on their own resources have promoted common objectives. In doing so they have given rise to fresh aspirations in a region which has suffered a history of turmoil and instability due to both internal and external pressures. The ASEAN heads of government met together last week for their first summit since ASEAN ‘s inception in 1967. The main significance of the summit meeting was that it provided for the first time an opportunity for the leaders of five very significant South-East Asian nations to come together and discuss privately their concerns and their aspirations for the region. ASEAN does not declaim doctrine or dictate policy to individual members. The heads of government nevertheless were able to conclude a Treaty of Amity and Co-operation and a Declaration of ASEAN Concord in which the 5 leaders laid down the guidelines for further political and economic co-operation.
At the time of its formation ASEAN ‘s concerns were cultural and economic. In recent times the Association has given increased attention to the development of closer political co-operation. There has been fresh impetus behind efforts to increase their individual and collective stability and strength, in accordance with their concept of ‘national and regional resilience’. As a longer term aim, the ASEAN nations have adopted the concept of South-East Asia as a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality- ZOPFAN as it is often referred to. We regard the prospect of the development of ASEAN in this way as a positive contribution to discussion on the region’s political options. The ASEAN proposal for a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality admits the legitimate interests of the major powers. It does not propose excluding them from the region. It aims rather at minimising their military and strategic rivalry and the tensions that ensue. This Government believes that major power presence in the region is likely to be a fact of life for some time yet. We acknowledge that ASEAN is not expecting ZOPFAN to be realised overnight. The immediate objective of the ASEAN countries is to reduce and balance, to induce a greater measure of restraint, rather than to exclude. These are objectives which the Australian Government strongly supports.
ASEAN has extended the hand of friendship towards the other States of South-East Asia, including the new governments of Indo-China and we welcome this positive approach. Australia has had the closest bilateral relations with each of ASEAN ‘s members and we are now developing ties with the Association itself. These ties have been in the area of economic cooperation. It is the Government’s objective to extend and broaden this practical collaboration. The ASEAN countries themselves have told us that they would welcome further co-operation with Australia. We do not, of course, seek to impose ourselves on ASEAN in any way. Rather we look forward to a relationship of mutual benefit and equality which will develop naturally and as opportunities occur. Nor are the relations we hope to develop with ASEAN countries to be regarded as exclusive. We shall be concerned to maintain and develop substantive communication with all the countries of the South-East Asian region- an approach which accords with the policies of the Asian countries themselves.
Turning to East Timor, the situation in Timor has been a matter of deep concern to the Government. We have been active in trying to secure a peaceful settlement. It is a matter for regret that events have not moved more quickly towards that end. The Government came to office some time after events had come to a head in Timor. Despite this, and despite the previous Government’s inaction, we have taken a number of initiatives and put ourselves very firmly on record in terms of what we believe should happen in Timor. We have made it clear that we cannot condone the Indonesian resort to force and we have carefully avoided favouring any of the parties in Timor or endorsing their claims.
In short, the Government believes that there should be a cessation of hostilities, thus putting an end to the bloodshed; a resumption of international humanitarian aid, preferably through the return to East Timor of the International Committee of the Red Cross Society; a withdrawal of Indonesian forces; and a genuine act of self determination. I underlined the importance which the Government attaches to all these points during my talks with Mr Malik in Jakarta on 19 and 20 January. Furthermore, in line with this policy, the Government has supported resolutions adopted during December by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. We have strongly supported sending a United Nations special representative to East Timor. We welcomed his visit to Darwin. We deeply regretted that his stay in Darwin did not lead to his being able to visit Fretilin held areas in Timor. The Government did what it could to assist, including the provision of Australian Telecommunications Commission facilities to supplement the radio facilities of the Portuguese corvettes. It is to be noted that Mr Winspeare was able to have discussions with Fretilin representatives in Darwin. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has told us that the mission can be reactivated in the event that Fretilin finds itself able to make secure arrangements for a further visit to Timor.
The Government now looks forward to the resumed Security Council debate in which we shall again be seeking to participate. The Government is aware that there is a feeling in some quarters in Australia that we should take our opposition to Indonesian action in Timor to the length of a breach of the relationship which has developed between the 2 countries. In reply I say that the Government will continue to put its views on Timor most firmly to the Indonesian Government. The Government believes that the relations between the 2 countries are such as to allow a frank airing of views and the existence of quite serious differences, but we have no intention of allowing a breakdown in relations. This would not help the Timorese, and it would not help Australia. Indeed, I should say that I regret that Timor has become a matter almost of ideological dispute, generating some unreasonable demands and some unrealistic proposals rather than, as it should be, a matter demanding a constructive and humanitarian approach directed towards the problem of Timorese suffering.
Turning to southern Africa, this is the first opportunity since the Government assumed office to review our relationships with southern Africa and to speak about how we see recent developments there. This Government intends to maintain and develop good relations with African countries, to our mutual benefit and understanding. We recognise and acknowledge the legitimate interests and aspirations of the governments and peoples of Africa and hope to continue to work with them for the attainment of shared objectives. While we will maintain a correct diplomatic relationship with South Africa, we are completely opposed to the system of apartheid. We will continue to support appropriate measures in the United Nations and elsewhere aimed at bringing an end to the practice of racial discrimination, not only in Africa but wherever it exists. We believe that some progress has been made in the past year. There has been some easing of discriminatory practices in South Africa. While this has not gone nearly far enough, it is a move in the right direction. We believe that the scope for exerting our influence with the South African Government to change policies which are internationally unacceptable is greater if we retain reasonable links with it. We believe that no purpose is served by refusing all relations with countries whose social or political systems do not meet our standards. Like other western countries, therefore, we will maintain diplomatic and economic relations with South Africa. We will also oppose moves to expel or suspend South Africa from the United Nations or other international bodies, since this would run counter to the principle of universality of membership and remove South Africa from exposure to the critical views of other United Nations members.
The Government is also opposed to racial discrimination in sport. If our objective is not merely to express moral indignation but also to help end the discrimination, we have to consider how best this will be achieved. Is our objective better furthered by total boycott of sporting contact with South Africa or by permitting contacts subject to reasonable conditions which would encourage change? While we recognise that a case can be argued for a total boycott, this Government feels that the second approach will be more constructive. For this Government, the basic condition will be South Africa’s willingness and ability to move away from racial discrimination in sport. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has indicated, we will apply the test of selection on a proper multi-racial basis. As to Australian teams going to South Africa legally we cannot impose restrictions on Australians if they should decide to compete in South Africa. Australians travelling abroad are not subject to such restrictions on their activities, and it would be contrary to our philosophy of liberal pluralism to attempt to alter this. At the same time, we would hope and expect that Australian sportsmen would note the Government’s views on multi-racial competition and would take these fully into account in any plans they may have to compete in South Africa. The Government also looks to Australian sports bodies to adopt an approach consistent with these principles.
I turn now to Angola. I cannot leave the question of Southern Africa without reference to recent events in Angola. While in principle the emergence of a new nation in Africa is to be welcomed, there are prospects of these events which are deeply disturbing in several respects. First, to a large and even decisive extent what has happened in Angola has not been the outcome of a struggle between the contending forces within the country. The decisive factor has been imported military personnel and equipment brought there not at the invitation of the Government, because there was no recognised or established Government, but one of the several claimants to the Government. Over 10 000 Cuban soldiers and Soviet tanks, aircraft and missiles have determined the fate of Angola. Secondly, this episode is significant because it casts doubt on the implementation and nature of detente, a word which I note President Ford has said he will no longer use in speaking of relations between the super powers. In the basic document of detente, ‘The Statement of Basic Principles of United States-Soviet Relations 1972’, the Soviet Union together with the United States promised to ‘attach major importance to preventing the development of situations capable of causing a dangerous exacerbation of their relations’, and recognised that ‘efforts to obtain unilateral advantage at the expense of the other, directly or indirectly’ were inconsistent with the objectives of detente. While it is possible that the involvement of the Soviet Union and Cuba in deterrnining the outcome of the struggle in Angola grew with events and opportunity as much as or more than it was a deliberate attempt to steal a march on and humiliate the United States, it is difficult to see how the Soviet Union’s unprecedented and significant military incursion into southern Africa can be squared with that basic statement of principle. It is difficult also to see how the image of the Soviet Union as a conservative, status quo, defensively-minded state- an image which has often been projected lately, not least when the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean is under discussion- can be reconciled with this deliberate projection of its power.
Finally, the implications of what has been happening in Angola may be far reaching for the future of southern Africa. We believe that all foreign forces should be withdrawn from Angola. They should never have been there. If those who are newly come to power follow the path of negotiation and political settlement, if they reject outside intervention and provocation, if they refrain from interference across their borders and from actions affecting the security of their neighbours, there is a hope of orderly change and transition. But the possibility of peaceful transition in southern Africa depends at least as much on a willingness to change and to compromise on the part of the minority groups who exercise power in a large part of that region. They must rapidly come to terms with such realities as the fact, now unmistakably clear, that the present situation in Southern Rhodesia cannot remain unchanged.
In our view there is only one acceptable path in southern Africa, and that is the path of peaceful, negotiated transition without interference by outside powers. The alternatives of intemperate resort to force or of interference from outside risk terrible damage to the peoples of southern Africa. Such courses would inevitably exacerbate the issues of race and colonialism on which the international community has slowly been working towards a difficult consensus. They would put serious new strains on the existing precarious international order, already threatened by the forces of scarcity, inflation and over-population. The Australian Government will do whatever it can to encourage those primarily concerned to take the constructive course of negotiation and compromise.
-I am prompted to speak again in the AddressinReply debate to the Governor-General’s Speech in support of the amendment. After listening to some of the speeches of honourable gentlemen opposite, and in particular to that of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and those of the members of his Cabinet, and as one reads the purple prose that fell from the lips of the Governor-General, one would be led to believe that the promised land was just around the corner. However, the decisions of the Government in the recent past, and more particularly perhaps in the last few days, have put paid to the hopes and aspirations of the under-privileged in our community. The amendment is timely, and it raises the question of the transfer of resources from those on middle and low incomes to those on incomes of a higher level. It also raises the question of the rights of parliamentary democracy to prevail without the intrusion by individuals who are not elected by the people of this country and to protect the rights of parliamentarians to carry out their obligations to the people who elect them without interference from the Commonwealth police or any other organisation.
The first area of responsibility with which I would like to deal is that which comes within the province of the first custodian of the law in this country, the Attorney-General. The performance of the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) so far has hardly given any joy to those who fear that their civil liberties may be at risk. They would hardly be impressed by the recent exhibition of this jackboot democracy. During the first few months of being Attorney-General the honourable member for Wentworth has managed to establish a firm reputation for hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member is casting aspersions on and making implications in relation to the character of the AttorneyGeneral.
-I would remind the honourable member that he is speaking to the amendment; he has already spoken in the general debate.
– I am speaking to the amendment, and the amendment -
-The amendment is in 3 sections.
– Yes, it is in 3 sections. Paragraph (b) of the amendment specifically states: 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,
I am raising the point that actions have been taken, statements have been made, and unprecedented steps have been taken to investigate individual members of the Opposition, which clearly shows that if this sort of practice were continued the Attorney-General would be put in the” exclusive position of being able to have Opposition members investigated without any recourse. It constitutes a change. If that is the implication and the interpretation, and if we are not able then to take issue with the AttorneyGeneral, I believe that, because of the manner in which people expect the Attorney-General to act, parliamentary democracy is at risk. I believe that it naturally follows that the line of criticism I am taking against the Attorney-General is in order.
-Yes, I uphold the point that you make.
– The principles which according to him guide him in the conduct of his high office are set out in a lengthy interview reported in yesterday’s Canberra Times. The interview includes these high-sounding words: ‘Under the new Government the role of the AttorneyGeneral has been returned to its traditional role as the Commonwealth first law officer’, says the new Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott.
The interviewer goes on to proclaim that an Attorney-General needs a special sense of independence and perhaps isolation from his colleagues. In elaboration of that proposition the Attorney-General is reported as telling the interviewer: ‘Of course it depends a lot on the Attorney-General’s personality’, he said. ‘He has to be an adequate person to perform his role. I do not think that in the areas where he has to exercise a discretion that his political allegiances should interfere with his decision’.
The Attorney-General has had ample opportunity to translate those sentiments into action, but he has failed dismally to meet the highsounding standards that he has set himself. The day before yesterday, in answer to a series of questions, far from snowing independence and isolation from his colleagues, he demonstrated beyond doubt that he is prepared to use his high office for the most blatant political purposes. When caught out, he is prepared to use all his political wiles, to be evasive and tricky, even while he self-righteously proclaims his own honesty and frankness. I am referring to the answers he gave this week to the several questions asked about his role in impounding the diaries of Mr Whitlam ‘s bodyguards and the interrogation of members of the Australian Labor Party’s advertising agency. At one stage he said self-righteously:
It is highly desirable, of course, that the police should not be used for political purposes.
That is reported on page 407 of Hansard. But look at the way in which he squirmed in answering about his role in these two shameful episodes. He told Mr Whitlam in answer to a question- it appears on page 400 of Hansard- that as first law officer of the Commonwealth he requested the Commonwealth Police to inquire into a possible breach of the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations. But he would not admit that he had specifically instructed or asked the police to look at the diaries. He hid behind this phrase:
Any action of the police in looking at diaries or interviewing other people is simply at their discretion.
That appears on page 400 of Hansard. If words mean anything at all, that answer means that Mr Ellicott left it all up to the police as to how they would conduct their investigations. He repeated that line in answer to a question asked by Mr Young, and that appears on page 404 of Hansard. When Mr Whitlam returned to the attack and asked the Attorney-General squarely- this appears on page 404 of Hansard- whether he was aware that the Commonwealth Police who were assigned to Mr Whitlam as bodyguards last year were to be asked to hand in their diaries, the Attorney-General saw that he was on a spot and replied as follows, once again on page 404 of Hansard:
The answer to the question is no. I will say this: I was aware of the possibility that if the Commonwealth-
Obviously disbelieving the situation, Opposition members interjected ‘Oh! ‘ Mr Ellicott went on to say:
I want to answer the question 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.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I do not want to be unjust in this matter. I know that paragraph (b) of the amendment does refer to the constitutional crisis, but I suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne that he is covering and canvassing what happened in the debate which took place in this chamber today. I think that he should stick strictly to the amendment.
– He is just wandering.
– That happens continuously to the mind of the honourable member for Wimmera. If I am to be inhibited in pursuing -
-Nobody wishes to inhibit you.
-I think I am being inhibited. This relates directly to the amendment. I already have put forward an argument that you have accepted, that it is relevant to the amendment.
-Order! The situation is that so long as you do not refer to the debate this morning you can refer to the subject of the constitutional crisis.
– In my view I have not referred to the debate this morning. I have referred simply to the copy of Hansard setting out the particular statements. In fact I have not referred to the debate this morning. I have called into question the role of the Attorney-General in this matter and I believe that that is my prerogative. I believe that the police were given riding instructions from the Attorney-General to seize the diaries and to question advertising people. I believe that that is what he did and I believe it was a blatant abuse of his office.
What possible bearing could the seizure of the diaries have on an investigation of movements to which Mr Whitlam had already admitted? I wonder if it would be possible for Parliament to have access to the diaries of the Commonwealth
Police who were outside of the door of the present Prime Minister during the course of the election campaign in order that we might examine his comings and going during that period. When the full story comes out Mr Ellicott may well be the next Minister to be sacrificed. I thought the Prime Minister looked most displeased with his performance yesterday. Perhaps he will follow Mr Garland into obscurity. Perhaps one day we will also get the full story of the Attorney-General’s association with other people which in my view resulted in the fall of the previous Labor Government. It would be interesting to know whether his advice to Sir John Kerr, that he had no alternative but to dismiss the Labor Government, was merely conveyed in writing when he also had had secret talks with Sir John. It would be interesting to know when and where such talks took place. All these things are the subject of ifs and buts but from what has been said during the course of debates in this House might well be that these things are correct. If, without prima facie evidence, there is in the mind of the AttorneyGeneral a belief that some crime is being committed by some individual on this side of the chamber he can take whatever steps are necessary to defame that individual by having him investigated. I believe that there is already a yawning gap in the Attorney-General’s claim to independence, isolation from his colleagues, frankness and honesty, judging by his actions, which are those of a very shoddy politician. The other areas of responsibility -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, would you rule that it is not proper to say that an individual on this side of the House is a shoddy and irresponsible person?
-I think the Attorney-General would have the opportunity of claiming later that he had been misrepresented. I would not think that that term is out of order
– I am thankful for your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker. The other areas of responsibility where ruthless cuts have been made which affect the underprivileged are those of child care and the Arbitration Inspectorate. The Arbitration Inspectorate is an arm of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which serves workers and protects their interests against ruthless employers, those people who would sink to the depths of degradation by not observing the standard award provisions. What has the Government done in that area? It has ruthlessly cut expenditure. Cases are being brought before the Inspectorate in Western
Australia and in other places that will not be taken before the court because there is insufficient finance to do so. Travel for Arbitration Inspectors within each of the States has been curtailed and there is no overtime. What is the Government doing? It is throwing defenceless workers to the wolves. This happens more particularly in the rural areas. There is only one member of the National Country Party in the chamber at the moment although all its members should be standing up in this place and screaming their heads off about the advantage that will be taken of rural workers because of the number of Arbitration Inspectors to cover the areas concerned. People like the honourable member for Wimmera ought to be taking up the call for more money to be made available for this work.
Child care has been the subject of debate in this House but it also is relevant to the amendment. In this area, as I said in the first place, we are seeing a transfer from the middle and low incomes to the higher income levels. We have canvassed the fact that there has been a display of where this Government’s priorities lie. We have seen $9m cut from the budget for child care while the Prime Minister hands out a superphosphate bounty to his cronies, the wealthy graziers. I ask: Where is this Government’s order of priorities? We also have challenged the Government to come out and tell us publicly where the cuts are to be made. All the proposals put forward by people in the community are never going to see the light of day. The Government should be honest enough to come out and tell the people what it intends to do and let them judge the situation.
A government is only close to a given community if it is responsible and willing to involve that community in its decision making process. The Government ought to be going to the community and asking what areas of child care should be given priority. It should not go to the wealthy electorates and put paid to the opportunities for people in the underprivileged areas to have proper and adequate child care. As we of the Opposition have indicated already, the Government should not put up mausoleums and Taj Mahals that will house small numbers of children while the kids in Footscray and Collingwood are running around the streets, waiting for their parents to come home from work. This Government has indicated that the previous Labor Government was divorced from the rank and file of the community and the reality of the situation. Nothing is further from the truth. It is a misconception of the philosophy of the Labor Government. In a real sense local government can be further from the realities of a situation than a government physically located hundreds of miles away. It depends on the attitudes of those who make up those governments. This certainly has often been the case in the field of child care. Local governments often have provided child care facilities which are remote from the actual needs of the communities that they are meant to serve. They have built imposing mausoleums. Therefore that is not the answer.
The criteria ought to be looked at in a real way. In implementing the Australian Labor Government’s child care program it was our desire to really involve the community and that desire was demonstrated. Shortly after the Australian Labor Government came to office it commissioned a report from the Australian Government Social Welfare Commission. That report, entitled Project Care, established a huge and pressing need for adequate child care facilities. Rather than follow the policy adopted by every conservative Liberal government, both State and Federal, the policy that ‘the Government knows best, ‘ our Government set about meeting those child care needs in a new and innovative way. Unlike our opponents we truly are the Party of the people and it was to the people that we turned to come up with the solution that generally met child care needs. More importantly, we took into account the different circumstances and the different wants of different groups in different communities. In our child care program we set out not only to provide child care facilities but also to encourage people to take part in the making of their own destiny, to grow as they assumed new responsibilities, to regard themselves as decision makers rather than as the objects of the decisions of other people.
I have personally observed this process in my own electorate where there is a fairly substantial Turkish community. These people took the initiative after encouragement by the Labor Government to set up their own survey. They dealt specifically with the needs of their own community. Indeed, they were reliably informed that people amongst that community had come to Australia believing that they were to be here for a period of time to work and then to return to their homeland. All sorts of problems are involved in that community, and it is an important one. Some of the Turkish people send their kiddies back to Turkey for a period of time because there is inadequate child care here in Australia to accommodate their specific requirements.
But that is only one of the 68 projects that will be axed because of the disdain of the Government for the requirements of people who are disadvantaged in all sections of the community. Government supporters ought to hang their heads in shame. We have been entertained with all this ballyhoo about what the Government feels about people and feels about disadvantaged groups. Those are only pious words because the Government supporters then give in to their wealthy grazier friends and to the people in industry in general by giving them handouts. They show clearly and unequivocally that they do not give a damn about the people who are really underprivileged. All they are concerned about is carrying out the will and the bids of those people who control them.
Before calling the honourable member for Wilmot I remind honourable members that this will be that honourable member’s maiden speech. I would expect the usual courtesies to be shown to him.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. At the outset I should like to say that I feel a sense of pride in being able to stand in this place representing the people of Wilmot and the people of Tasmania. In the period since the election I have had talks with some people about my having the opportunity to sit in this House. Some of them claimed that I have come here for no better reason than to collect the socalled massive salaries of politicians and for good living. I assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and this House and also the people of Wilmot that I have no great desire to sit in this House in an uncomfortable seat or to be here eating good food and getting fat on the riches of the land. My purpose in standing at the election was to ensure that not only the people of Wilmot but also the people of Australia could look forward with assurance to freedom in this great country. We have seen a period of 3 years of government in which people were not sure that they, their children or their grandchildren could look forward with confidence to freedom. But I believe that with the results of the election on 13 December there is now a resurgence of confidence in the Australian community. I know of my own assurance that I can now be sure that my children and their children can look forward to the same sort of heritage, the same prosperity and the same opportunities that I have been able to enjoy.
I should like to join with other speakers in congratulating the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden) on being elected as Speaker of this House. I also congratulate the honourable member for Lyne, Mr Lucock, on being elected Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. I believe that these were most significant elections because with the election of those gentlemen to the high offices that they hold we will once again see some sense of dignity and decorum returned to this House. Over a period of 3 years we have seen that those traditions that we hold dear to our hearts and our Australian way of life have been undermined and ridiculed. But I believe that if we are to offer the sort of leadership that this nation is looking for at this time we must look to the Houses of Parliament as a way of offering the leadership that the people want. I believe that with the election of those 2 gentlemen to the high offices that they hold a start has been made and we can look to more rational debate coming from this House.
But I think that it goes further than just the election of those 2 gentlemen to their offices. There is little doubt in my mind that the Australian people were most frustrated and even scared in some cases of the trend the Australian nation was following under a Labor Government. This trend has now been reversed as a result of the December election and we are seeing a government which is accepting its responsibilities rather than trying to pass the buck. No one doubts that the major issue in Australia today is the state of the economy in which we are facing a $4.7 billion deficit in the Budget and also the massive rate of inflation that no society can live with. The Government is not passing the buck. I believe it is true to say that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) accepts that the buck stops on his desk, that he is accepting his responsibility. As the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in this place this morning there is a resurgence of confidence amongst the business community and amongst the general community that gives people hope for the future.
I think it is worth reminding all those who would aspire to high office in this country that bad morale and bad discipline are not qualities that start from the bottom and work up; they always start from the top and filter down. It is a pity that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has left this chamber. Perhaps he should remind himself of those things. The leadership that he gave this nation in my opinion was nothing more than deplorable. It is pleasing to see that now we are seeing strong, firm leadership in which the Australian nation can have confidence.
I should like to pay a tribute to my predecessor in this place, Mr Duthie, who served the people of Wilmot and the people of Tasmania with conscientious dedication. He was devoted to the people of his electorate. He worked hard on their behalf. I think that the standard of work that he set as a politician should be a guide to all those who would aspire to public office. However, I can well understand his frustration, having sat on the opposition benches for 23 years with all the hopes and aspirations of what his Party could do in government, and seeing the end result that it produced. He had great hopes for the rural community of Australia. He had great hopes for the country people- those people living in country towns. But the bungling ineptitude that resulted from his Party in office must surely be one of the highlights of his memoirs, which I understand he is about to write.
Since I have been in this place I have experienced in my mind both a sense of disgust and a sense of delight. The disgust has been brought about mainly by the actions of the honourable gentlemen opposite. It started right at the opening day of Parliament. They chose out of stupid, boyish actions to boycott the opening ceremonies. Quite frankly, as I left this chamber to walk over to the Senate I thought that their actions were very much the actions of a group of adolescent schoolboys who had lost their toffee apples. How can the ordinary people of Australia who are looking to the Parliament for leadership and guidance have any confidence in people who choose to act in such an immature way? Their actions confirm in my mind the wisdom that was shown on 13 December in putting them back on the Opposition benches.
My delight has been in observing in this place the quality of the new honourable members who have been elected to this House for the first time. I feel a great sense of pleasure and delight- and also a sense of relief- in looking around me and seeing my new found colleagues and the quality and the obvious ability that is contained within them. Not only I but also the Australian nation can have confidence that, if we have such talent rising in this House for the first time, we can look to sound, stable leadership in this Parliament and in Australia for many years to come. I am quite certain in my mind that those people who may not yet have carved a name for themselves in Australian politics will certainly leave themselves in the history books of Australia before they finish their political careers.
My own electorate is quite a mixed bag of tricks, containing within it very large sections of Tasmania’s agriculture, but at the same time having some quite large manufacturing plants and also some of the most magnificent tourist spots that could be imagined anywhere in Australia. The economy is diverse. It is also in dire straits. One of the problems that we have in the Wilmot electorate and in Tasmania concerns our dairy industry. I know that the Tasmanian dairy industry is not unique in this problem, which extends over the whole industry in Australia. But in my mind it is not feasible to expect the dairy farmer- the ordinary, average chap down on the farm milking old Strawberryto expect that he could receive 70c a pound for butter fat during last season, which just allowed him to remain solvent and then reduce his income back to 43c a pound for the current season, and expect him to remain outside the bankruptcy courts. If this situation is allowed to continue I believe we will be facing a catastrophic situation in the dairy industry, bringing with it immense social problems in Tasmania and Victoria particularly. I know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government are faced with very serious economic problems. The Minister has said already that he is sympathetic towards the problems of the dairy industry and that assistance through government agencies will be offered. So we seem to have a rather anomalous situation where an industry is crying out for help, a Minister and a government are saying: ‘We will help you’, yet no assistance is forthcoming.
Much of the blame for the situation in which the dairy industry now finds itself must be levelled at those people who call themselves leaders of the dairy industry. For at least 10 years the dairy industry has faced the situation of being phased out of markets in Britain and Europe. This inevitably must have suggested to those leaders in the dairy industry that restructuring of their marketing was essential; yet nothing happened. In my opinion, for years the dairy industry leaders have done nothing more than try to protect their own little castles without any due respect to the rank and file dairy farmers they represent. It seems most unreasonable to me to face that situation of parochial ineptitude within the industry, then expect governments to bail farmers out. If this industry is to get back on its feet, those people who choose to call themselves leaders in the industry must forget their parochialism, forget the States that they represent, think bigger, and think about the industry of Australia. I have been somewhat at a loss to see a most able man in the person of Mr Tony Webster come into the dairy industry as a leader, bringing with him a breath of fresh air and innovative ideas, and then be subjected to a program of vilification that would have done the members of the Australian Labor Party opposite proud. This industry will never get off the ground while those people who act in such a way as leaders of the industry maintain the parochialism that is current in the industry at the moment. I only hope that they will see the light of day and that they will come forward to the Minister with sound proposals that will give hope to the average dairy farmer back on his farm.
Another project of significance to the Wilmot electorate is that proposed by Associated Pulp and Paper Mills. That company has a $150m project on the drawing board, but unfortunately it cannot get off the ground at this stage because of the competition from imported papers, particularly from Finland. I impress on the Government the need to review the most unfortunate policies of our predecessors who cut tariffs across the board by 25 per cent, and to look at the problems of Australian industry in a more realistic light. It is not my nature to pick a fight with anyone, but I feel compelled to take issue with my jovial little colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), wherever he might be.
– Here he is.
-Well done. I quote from page 347 of the House of Representatives Hansard. The honourable member for Mackellar was speaking of New South Wales in this chamber last week and said:
We have carried Australia on our backs for long enough. It is time that some of the small States grew up and started to carry their own burdens. They are living on New South Wales.
I should like to point out to the honourable gentleman and to the House that many of the companies operating in the smaller States, particularly Tasmania and Western Australia have their headquarters based in Sydney or Melbourne. For this reason, any of the taxation revenue or other revenues that are attributable to those companies are accredited as having been raised in New South Wales or Victoria. I point out to the House that it is the larger, more populous States which in fact are living on the natural resources of the smaller States. I notice that I have brought a laugh from the honourable member for Mackellar. But Tasmania is not looking to be subsidised by Victoria or New South Wales. All we are asking for is to get our own money back from our own natural resources so that we can develop our own State. Look at the electorate of Kalgoorlie, which would contain some of the vast natural resources of the State of Western Australia and which must be injecting massive amounts of money into the Australian economy. I venture to suggest that if the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) chose to declare unilateral independence, he could set himself up as a sheik with the wealth that he has in his electorate and could even buy himself a harem.
I believe that during the election campaign the people of Wilmot very clearly recognised the issues that were being faced by Australia. A lot of publicity was given to policy issues by the Parties on both sides of this House, but I believe that those people living in country areas were able to identify with far greater clarity, much better than honourable gentleman opposite, the key issues of the election. I believe very firmly that the election of 13 December was fought on the basis of freedom. We hear a lot about other issues. We heard an awful lot about the Constitution too, but that was not the key issue on which the election was fought. It was fought on the basis of freedom, and people throughout Australia were genuinely concerned that their freedom was being impinged upon and undermined.
We in Wilmot ask no more of any government than that it simply leave us in peace without, as the former Premier of Tasmania said, having people from Canberra coming to Tasmania and treading over us with their hob-nailed boots. We reject the idea that people living on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin have more wisdom than the people of Tasmania. All wisdom is not here in Canberra; it is dispersed throughout Australia. We in Tasmania and in Wilmot want only to have the freedom to make our own decisions without being impinged on by big brother from Canberra. We want the freedom to take our own initiatives because we think we know what is best for Tasmania. We want the freedom to work hard and we want the freedom to profit as a result of hard work. I believe that those ambitions are not just restricted to Tasmanians, but are shared by people throughout the Australian nation. I think that our ambitions were summarised very well over 100 years ago by Abraham Lincoln. He said:
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
I recommend those words to the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes).
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
I note that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is not here.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Before calling on the honourable member for Grayndler I remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech and that the usual courtesies should be observed.
– I should like firstly to ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to convey my congratulations to the Speaker on his election and myself to congratulate the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his election as Chairman of Committees.
It is my great privilege to succeed the Honourable Frederick Michael Daly as the member for Grayndler. Mr Daly was in his thirty-third year of service in this House when Parliament was dissolved last year. He was first elected for the seat of Martin in 1943, at what was then regarded as the very young age for a parliamentarian of thirty. In 1949 he was elected to the newly created seat of Grayndler which he represented thereafter with very great distinction until his retirement. He was the Father of the House.
Single handedly almost, Mr Daly popularised the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. His quick wit and the sting of his speeches assured the pre-eminence of this House in the Parliament, at least in radio audience ratings. This modest man, born in a quiet country hamlet called Currabubula, derived the greatest satisfaction from his career in this Parliament from his service in the Whitlam Government. Mr Daly was a magnificent Leader of the House. Charged with managing a great program of legislative reform and faced with a recalcitrant and truculent Opposition, he never flinched from the demanding schedules of his task. Yet Mr Daly maintained his unfailing courtesy and, despite extreme provocation, never stifled the freest discussion in this House. The Liberal Party of Australia so admired Mr Daly that during the recent election it placed large printed advertisements lauding his popularity, an extraordinary if truly touching gesture. In his portfolio of Services and Property, Mr Daly fought hard for the reform of Australia’s electoral laws so as to ensure, as much as anything else, that every citizen might exercise his right and duty of voting without undue difficulty. He did not succeed. The conservative coalition in the Senate frustrated these attempts to bolster the basis of parliamentary democracy in this country.
In any event, after 6 years on the Government back benches during the Curtin and Chifley Governments, and after 23 long and frustrating years in Opposition, Mr Daly became a Minister. All the sacrifices of those years must have seemed worthwhile at the end of 1972. He had played the parliamentary game by the rules for 29 years. He knew them well. The men he had watched on the opposite side of this chamber knew those rules too. Mr Daly expected his opponents to observe the rules, now that they were in Opposition.
He was soon to be disabused of that notion. The unprincipled Opposition in the Senate did not wait long. The Government determined to go to the people in 1974 before its term had expired. Labor was returned again. Still the conservative coalition parties would not play by the rules. Amazing fictions were invented, amongst them a gloss upon the principle of responsible government about reprehensible circumstances. On 1 1 November 1975 our opponents struck. In the words of Mr Daly, ‘they tore up the rule book’. That, Mr Deputy Speaker, must be the start of any considered response to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The election of 13 December 1975 may have given the conservative coalition parties government, but the events of 1 1 November 1975 in which they participated and which procured that election deny any sense of legitimacy to this new regime in our eyes. This Thirtieth Parliament is premature and no one in the Australian Labor Party will ever let this new regime forget it. Governments formed in this House, not Governors-General, are supposed to decide whether Parliaments will be dissolved before the House’s term of 3 years has expired.
The reasoning of the statement issued at Yarralumla on 1 1 November 1975 is quite specious. The suggestion that the so-called deadlock last year between this House and the Senate on the issue of Supply necessitated ‘the dissolution of the Parliament and an election for both Houses’ is wrong. Reliance on section 57 of the Constitution to dissolve both Houses was possible only because of the Senate’s treatment of proposed laws other than the Appropriation Bills. Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not press you. Regrettably the rules of debate relating to the conduct of the Queen’s representative and standing order 74 preclude my stating the conclusion.
Members of the conservative coalition parties cannot have it both ways. They cannot state that the results of the election on 13 December 1975, which should never have been held, determine the propriety of the actions of 1 1 November 1975 and at the same time come in here, one after the other, spouting the most fantastically bad law and political theory in supposed justification and amplification of the GovernorGeneral’s statement and of the Chief Justice’s letter. Honourable members opposite will have to examine their consciences to determine how much and for what reasons they have had to modify over the past couple of years their previous understanding of accepted constitutional practice in Australia.
No member of the conservative coalition parties should think by my remarks on this question that I am engaging in some kind of ritual. It is not only my colleagues on this side of the House who were members of the Twenty-ninth Parliament and their defeated comrades who resent the dismissal of the Labor Government, every one of us in the Labor movement and every one of the electors who voted for us in times of great economic distress feels an immense rage and despair at the Tories’ fiddling with a parliamentary system that we as democratic socialists held dear and believed could provide a vehicle for social reform. Some honourable members opposite must realise this and understand how our attitude to their regime’s legitimacy will affect their ability to govern.
In these circumstances I cannot understand how the new Administration can pretend that the election results solved a problem. It will not just disappear. If Labor is returned to government in 1978 the problem will almost certainly occur again. Why must the conservative parties test the fabric of our already battered parliamentary system so? Constitutional amendment is an urgent necessity in Australia so that unwritten conventions are spelt out and dubious discretions removed from our Constitution. I invite the attention of honourable members to the quite frightening ramifications of section 58 of the Constitution. For the time being, then, the Constitution of our country remains a tyrant’s charter. The amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), addresses this deficiency in the Governor-General’s speech and is deserving of the support of this House.
Turning from the ignoble genesis of the elections that confirmed this imposed Administration in power and which gave it a majority in this House, I should like to look at the vision which inspires its Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Ministers. This is not an easy task, but it is one which must be undertaken so that I am able to discern the likely impact of the new regime on my constituents in Grayndler. It might be timely to remind honourable members that this is the reason why Parliament is supposed to exist- the representation of people, human beings and their needs. To hear the detailed topographical descriptions of their electorates in which certain honourable members indulge, one might be forgiven for thinking they were here to represent majestic mountain peaks or babbling brooks, or even sheep and goats.
Grayndler is small in area; the needs of its residents are not. Its residents comprise old people and young people, women in employment and women who work at home, people who were born here and people came to this country to build a new life, men and women who are employed pursuing courses to improve their skills and persons on the dole desperately seeking employment- all these people look to the Government to create an environment for greater opportunity and fulfilment. They are prepared to make sacrifices themselves for their children’s sake. They always have. But there must be a future. Cuts in real living standards now in order to contain inflation and promote employment can only be traded off against firm commitments to a greater future for all, young and old, in housing, education, health, job satisfaction and creative leisure. The Hayden Budget contained those guarantees and was based on those assumptions.
What does the Governor-General’s Speech hold for most of my constituents? Cutting through the cliches with which Ministers daily regale us here at question time about excessive government expenditure, excessive government intervention and the like, one sees that the new Administration has examined ‘all expenditures in terms of their priorities’. The Government’s priorities are there for everyone to see. They include the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty, the removal of meat export charges, the forgoing of massive amounts of taxation revenue involved in the granting of an investment allowance of extremely dubious economic value, and finally and pathetically the reintroduction of school cadet corps for reasons totally unrelated to defence requirements.
One does not have to look very far to see the immediate recipients of the new Administration’s generosity. Still, what of the rest of us? What comes after the achievement of economic stability. The Governor-General’s Speech promises the poor and the disadvantaged ‘adequate opportunities’. For the time being, however, there will be massive cuts in the childhood service program, discontinuation of vital migrant services, though some will be hastily revived for a while, a softening in the commitment to the real value of pensions, prevarication about the delivery of effective legal aid and obfuscation leading to the dismantling of the health care program. Not many persons in Grayndler will be exercising their new rights granted by this Government to own gold, but they will be adversely affected by those cuts in expenditure and the new directions of this regime.
In the Governor-General’s Speech mention is made of the critical importance of voluntary welfare organisations. One can have no quarrel with that sentiment. But it may just contain the kernel of the Prime Minister’s political strategy and of his attitude towards the disadvantaged in the community. The Prime Minister is an avowed admirer of a fairly well known Russian-born writer, Ayn Rand. Certain colleagues of mine on the Opposition side of the House have remarked upon this from time to time and accused him of pursuing her philosophy. While one cannot doubt the likelihood of the Prime Minister having a warm regard for someone who authors a work entitled The Virtue of Selfishness, I think it dignifies Miss Rand’s writings to call them a philosophy.
There is a group in the Australian community which is dedicated to attempting to structure a political program based on the principles of selfishness and egomania extolled by Ayn Rand. That is the so-called Workers Party. The views expounded by spokesmen for this group bear examination. They are quite open about their declared policy of phasing out all government welfare schemes. The Workers Party places large advertisements in newspapers which are directed towards a market of high income earners. Those advertisements tersely state its objective and urge support for what it calls voluntaryism and private welfare. The sentiments expressed attract great support in the salons frequented by the wealthy backers of the Liberal Party.
The Workers Party is the handmaiden of the Liberal Party, though not of the Country Party whose members have never seriously urged a pure free enterprise economy. The so-called right to property is central to the program of the Workers Party and its supporters characterise the rights of Australian citizens to education, health care and equal opportunity as privileges. They say that in no circumstances must one man’s need take precedence over what they characterise very narrowly as another’s rights.
Like the Government, its spokesmen attack the middle income groups as the main recipients of welfare benefits, the bureaucrats and welfare workers. Compare the similar deprecation of the
Prime Minister in his speech in this debate on 26 February. Creatively interpreting the Henderson report, he said:
The report of the Inquiry into Poverty conducted by Professor Henderson drew attention to the fact that very large sums are being spent by governments on the pretext that they are helping poor people when, in fact, the great bulk of the money goes to the middle class and poor people get little.
The Workers Party spokesmen are more frank than the Government in their attitude to the recipients of welfare. They, too, talk about persons being encouraged to remain dependent in language that is scattered recklessly throughout the Governor-General’s Speech and the Prime Minister’s speech in this debate. But they go on to talk about the ‘pain function’ and the value of the hard lesson, which expressions are still too blunt to be used by the Government in public. Nonetheless, in the narrow and somewhat atypical area of work tests for unemployment benefit recipients, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) thought it important to profile 70 per cent of such persons as unmarried, two-fifths as under 2 1 and threequarters as being in receipt of benefit for more than one month. The inference is that the unemployed must be out of work through their own fault. Choosing a single unfortunate group, it is sought to characterise all disadvantaged as bludgers and somehow unworthy of assistance.
Politicians, too, are identified by the Workers Party as persons having a vested interest in a burgeoning and inefficient welfare system. It is argued that new and elaborate welfare systems buy popularity and votes. Here the Workers Party people are clearly wrong. I suspect that the Prime Minister perceives as much.
There may well be an electoral backlash against public servants, social workers and social welfare which is not wholly unjustified, but it extends also to the more vulnerable people who depend on welfare to survive, and that is wholly unjustified. It is not inconceivable that cuts in welfare spending could become extremely popular. The reason is that the lower paid who work for a living can often be as badly off as the sick, the unemployed or the old and yet they contribute to the public funds from which benefits are paid. A lot of poor, hard-working people resent the assistance provided by government to the disadvantaged. People fear inflation, as the Prime Minister knows to his great electoral advantage. That is how he gained his blank cheque mandate.
There will always be in the foreseeable future more people in employment than unemployed. There will always be fewer retired persons than persons who are not yet of retiring age. There will always be large numbers of migrants who do not yet have the vote and who are not yet citizens. To set these communities against one another and to set out cynically on an electoral strategy to destroy the welfare system because of short term political ends is an ignoble purpose.
There should be arguments in this House about the effective delivery of welfare services. My colleague the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) alluded to this problem in his address in this debate. He talked of the different views on providing welfare- whether it should be a universal or a selective basis. We can argue about this productively in this House during this session, but let us not debauch the debate. Let us have no more of this schoolboy rhetoric about people wanting to work hard and the kind of language which is strewn throughout the Governor-General’s Speech and the Prime Minister’s contribution to this debate. The suggestion that if people are unemployed it is because they do not want to work is nonsense, and every honourable member here ought to know that if he does his work properly in his constituency.
But the wheel will turn full circle. The ignoble genesis of this Government will come back to haunt it. My pleas will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears and in 3 years honourable members opposite will be dragged from the government benches. They will disappear. But in the meantime I urge those honourable members opposite who are going to go not to debauch this debate, to think of it seriously, not to seek narrow electoral advantage and to try to ensure that the disadvantaged in this country have much more than adequate opportunities.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! I call the honourable member for Higgins. I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech. I ask that he be extended the usual courtesies.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege to stand here today and to speak in this AddressinReply debate as the representative of the people of Higgins. I am well aware that I represent all the people of Higgins for I like other honourable members stand for and act for all the electors of my electorate in the work of governing and legislating in this Parliament. I, Sir, am their representative. I think that this House is most aptly named the House of Representatives and I as one representative of the people of Australia will remember this as I serve the people of Higgins.
May I ask you, Sir, to extend to the Speaker, the right honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden), my congratulations upon his election to that high office. May I record, Sir, that as I go through my electorate and as I speak to the people of Higgins I am told how pleased they are that Mr Speaker Snedden has been appointed to this high office. May I also congratulate the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his appointment to the position of Chairman of Committees. Since I have come to this place I have learned and seen for myself the respect in which he is held on all sides of the House.
It is my pleasure today to support the motion moved by the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury) in supporting the Governor-General’s Speech. His Excellency the Governor-General clearly stated the objectives of the Government. The role of government is to set national goals and to harness the nation’s resources in the public interest so that the standard of living of all Australians can increase. The former Government took the attitude that it could spend on what it considered desirable without realising that it was impossible to do so without cutting the private sector to minimum prosperity. Its attitude was like realising that a mortgage was needed for the purchase of a home but forgetting to arrange the mortgage. It is, of course, proper to determine spending priorities, but this debate can only take place after it is known how much one can spend. Governments will have more to spend with a healthy private sector. It is only with a recognition that a healthy industrial and commercial sector is necessary that we can have sufficient growth in the private sector. It is only in this way that a government can improve the standard and style of living of the whole community. Only with the harnessing of a strong and healthy private sector can we improve the standard of living and lifestyle of all Australians. With balanced growth of the private sector the Government can syphon off adequate taxes for desirable but not wasteful social programs. I welcome the objectives in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to bring under control the highest unemployment in 40 years and the worst prolonged inflation in the nation’s history.
I also welcome His Excellency’s statement that the Government’s aim is to encourage the development of an Australia in which the people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their goals in life in ways in which they decide and the recognition that the disadvantaged must be helped in ways which leave them the maximum independence.
The creation of national wealth is important in achieving these objectives. There needs to be more emphasis on creating wealth rather than arguing how it will be spent. With increased community wealth governments can spend more on pensions, schools, roads, health and other welfare programs and on government administration. To create wealth we need profit and capital. Both these concepts have been under constant attack by our friends opposite. In times of inflation the challenges to creating community wealth are doubled. Inflation threatens our whole system and our way of life. Profit is a word misunderstood by many and certainly by my friends opposite. It is vital to our survival. I do not defend excessive profits but I do defend reasonable ones. It is through profit that wages and salaries are generated. It is from profit that taxes are paid- the higher the profit the more tax paid and the more money that governments have to spend. It is from profit that cash is generated for further investment. Figures produced by the former Tariff Board show that after tax profits of manufacturing companies on average are only a little over 4c in every $ 1 worth of sales and out of that 4c dividends have to be paid. Of course, the largest portion of every dollar of sales goes firstly into the purchase of raw materials and in wages and salaries.
Australia is like a giant corporation and we are all shareholders in this great country of ours. The country needs capital to invest for the well being of all Australians. The accumulation of capital is denigrated by our socialist friends. The accumulation of capital is made almost impossible in times of high inflation. It is under attack on all fronts. Governments must respond to the challenges of erosion of capital. For instance, the value of one’s savings bank deposits decreases every year. This hurts most Australians. All governments must examine their tax structures, for just to put people back to where they stood 5 years ago in terms of value of their savings deposits will require massive action. The Government’s proposal to implement its tax indexation policy is a start in this direction. We must reduce the tax burden. Reduction of tax is vital in the fight against inflation. I welcome the Government’s immediate objective to bring inflation under control so that there can again be jobs for those who want to work. With three out of four jobs in Australia being in the private sector the importance of a healthy and vital private sector is a key to solving the unemployment problem.
Capital is not only national but also international in its character. That other much maligned institution, the multinational, the transnational or the international corporationall these words mean the same thing- has indeed been responsible for the international transfer of capital and technology around the world. Many things which are the product of the technological age that we all take for granted would not be enjoyed by us today but for this. This is not to condone the illegal activities of any corporation anywhere in the world, but we must realise that this ramification of bringing technology to all the world is important.
All corporations, like all individuals, must obey the laws. We must have rules to encourage Australian ownership and there must be certain and defined guidelines so that investors know the rules of the game. We must have appropriate laws and regulations defining the Australian national interest in relation to new and existing overseas investment. I have said that all companies must obey the law, as all citizens must obey the law. Similarly, corporations must not abuse power. All abuses of monopoly power must be curbed, whether they are abuses by companies or abuses of monopoly power by unions. We, the public, must be protected on the one hand from the potential abuses of monopoly power in the private sector, and on the other hand from the potential abuses of monopoly power by organised labour. Strong and effective trade practice and consumer protection laws are vital to the future of the private sector. All individuals, all companies and all firms must accept this.
However, I welcome the Government’s review of the Trade Practices Act. It is particularly disturbing that the abuse of monopoly power by unions does not seem to be subject to the provisions of this Act but that the activities of corporations and companies are. This is an unnecessary and an unfair discrimination. I draw attention to the report by the Trade Practices Commission that it is powerless to deal with unions which engage in illegal trading activities. The Commission is unable to proceed against the Transport Workers Union in Sydney whose actions have caused the price of petrol to be higher in Sydney than it would otherwise be. Consumers ought to be protected against the abuse of union power. The aim of the trade practices legislation must be to protect the public interest. The public interest must be defined and seen in terms of the Australian environment. Ours is a vast country, with the main manufacturing centres on the east coast far from each other, with the main mining centres in isolated parts of Australia. Geography and population and the need for investment have to be taken into account as well as the needs of the individual consumer.
I hope that the proposed review of the Trade Practices Act will resolve the conflict between the Industries Assistance Commission and the Trade Practices Commission. The Industries Assistance Commission on the one hand encourages firms to be efficient, to get together and to organise and rationalise their activities. To do this they may need to have an agreement between them, even to merge, or for one to take over the other, but in doing so they may in fact be committing an offence under the Trade Practices Act because their agreement, merger or understanding may be taken to be in restraint of trade. There are inconsistent objectives in these 2 statutes. The inconsistency inhibits and stops people from investing. I have referred previously to the importance of investment. A common form of investment today is by way of a joint venture where a number of companies join together, because today, with the large amount of capital required, it is often too expensive for one corportation or individual to spend the money alone. If a group of companies is to develop in this manner by way of a joint venture they are hardly likely to invest if their activities are likely to be an offence under the Trade Practices Act. Similarly, it is ridiculous for exporters in an industry to agree with each other on export prices if to do so is likely to commit an offence.
Another effect is the price discrimination section of the Act which was borrowed by the former Government from a similar United States statute. I was always amazed that the former Government was ready to criticise the United States at all times while in the Trade Practices Act it borrowed many sections from the United States legislation without paying any tribute whatever. Under this new provision of the Act it is, in effect, an offence to sell to different people at different prices if the difference in price is likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition. I believe that a review will show that in some cases the effect of this section is to keep prices higher than they might otherwise be. I consider that the consumers- the customers and the people of Australia- are suffering.
I welcome the Government’s emphasis on directing welfare assistance to those in real need. I am delighted that it is recognised that voluntary welfare agencies are a critically important part of the welfare system. In regard to voluntary agencies I quote the report of the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty. It states:
In order to provide what people want and will use, we recommend in general that generous subsidies be given to a wide variety of self-help groups . . .
The report points out that there are many groups, such as single mothers and Aborigines, who understand the needs of their members and can make a most valuable contribution towards meeting them. Voluntary organisationswhether they be in the field of child care, preschool education, health, the aged, the handicapped or whatever- play a vital role in the delivery of assistance to those in need. Voluntary agencies and the work they do must not be denigrated.
I conclude, Mr Deputy Speaker, by looking at Australia’s position in the world today. I am pleased to see that His Excellency’s Speech states: ‘Priority will be given to the protection of Australian interests in areas adjacent to our continent’. I am delighted that the Government supports the efforts of the United States of America to balance the Soviet presence which has built up in the Indian Ocean since 1968, while hoping that mutual restraint will keep the presence of forces at the lowest practicable level. I applaud the Government’s support of the United States development of modest communications and other facilities at Diego Garcia. Around the Indian Ocean a number of important African and Asian states, with which we have close and friendly relations which we value, exercise an increasing influence on regional affairs. Last week at the meeting of the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations in Bali, the meeting resolved that consideration be given towards securing recognition of and respect for a zone of peace. This is a valuable and understandable objective, for we must recognise and understand that not all countries wish to be involved in super power arguments.
However, let us clearly understand what is happening around us. There has been a gradual Russian build-up in the Indian Ocean since 1968. It includes submarines and all other crafts of war. Russia has logistics facilities at Somalia on the east coast of Africa. The fleet calls at Aden. Details of the base in Somalia became available only recently. The Suez Canal is now open and the Russian fleet can encircle the world from the Black Sea to Vladivostok. A belt of Marxism is spreading across Africa. Russian advisers and equipment are spread throughout that continent. The tragedy of Angola is complete. It is an international outrage. Events in Angola have added a regrettable new dimension to international politics. Every country with a Marxist independence movement must shiver in its boots. Where will the puppet Cubans, backed with Russian aid pulling the strings, strike again? Will it always be the Cubans, or will other players be found?
We must press on with the defence studies mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech and develop capabilities on our western seaboard. We must have more ships. I welcome the announcement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) of the purchase of 2 new destroyers. I welcome United States use of our facilities- not because I wish to be servile to the United States but because it is in Australia’s national interest and because our 2 countries have democratic and pioneering traditions in common. There is great goodwill between the people of our 2 lands. I believe that, by our concern for events in the Indian Ocean, by our support of the United States development of Diego Garcia and by our support of United States efforts to balance the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean, we can give reassurance and encouragement to the United States in its efforts to curb Soviet power and contribute to the defence of the free world. I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and honourable members for listening to me with courtesy.
-I am about to call the honourable member for Sydney. I would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech. I ask honourable members to extend the usual courtesies. I call the honourable member for Sydney.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I respectfully ask you to convey my congratulations to the Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees on their attainment of their high offices in this House. It is indeed a great honour and a privilege for me to succeed my friend, the honourable Jim Cope, a former Speaker of this House, a member for Sydney for the past 6 years of the 2 1 years he served in the national Parliament. Jim was respected and liked by all who served with him. I take this opportunity also to extend thanks to 3 former members of this House for their guidance and assistance. I refer to Dan Minogue, recognised as a prolific worker for the pensioners, Bill O’Connor, the former member for Dalley and also the late Eddie Ward, one-time member for East Sydney. They were prominent among many other friends and supporters. I feel it would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to Mrs Elizabeth Healey who is 97 years of age and has been a member of the Australian Labor Party for over 75 years. Despite being confined to a wheelchair she still works actively for the ALP as she has done most of her life. I thank this great old lady for her dedication to the ALP and her assistance to me.
In tracing the role of the Labor Party in making Australia a better place to live in, one cannot overlook the part played by the trade union movement in New South Wales. Half the Australian Council of Trade Union membership is in New South Wales. There are over 800 000 unionists affiliated with the Labor Council of New South Wales. The bulk of the Federal unions have their offices in New South Wales. The trade union movement in the mother colony- New South Wales- was responsible for the first moves to start a political Labor Party. In June 1891 the Labor Party in Australia commenced when in the elections of that year 36 Labor candidates were elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. The first branch of the Labor Party was formed on 4 April 1891- the Balmain branch- in what is now the electorate of Sydney.
We of the Labor Party have an enduring commitment to a view about society. It is this: In modern countries opportunities are for all citizens, opportunities for a complete education, opportunities for dignity in retirement, opportunities for proper medical treatment, opportunities to share in the nation’s wealth and resources, the opportunities for decent housing, the opportunities for civilized conditions in our cities and in our towns and the opportunities to preserve and promote the natural beauty of the land. These opportunities can be provided only if governments and the community itself acting through its elected representatives will provide them. The inequalities in our community now reflect not so much gross disparities in income but the failure of successive Liberal governments to create opportunities for the overwhelming majority of our people- the lower, the modest and the middle-income families- opportunities which only governments can make and increasingly in Australia the national Government must initiate those opportunities.
Despite a hostile Senate and a media partial to the Liberal-Country Party coalition, the Labor Government after assuming office on 2 December 1972 had a magnificent record of achievement particularly in regard to social welfare, child care, education, health, legal aid and direct monetary grants to local government. Let us examine some of these achievements. Firstly, I will mention social welfare which has top priority because many age and invalid pensioners reside in my electorate of Sydney. Despite a period of world-wide inflation and recession from which no country has escaped repercussions we find that the Labor Government, living up to its promises, increased the basic rate of pension 6 times in 3 years. The first increase was back-dated to the first payday in December 1972. This was the first time that a pension increase had been back-dated since federation. In 1973, 2 adjustments were made; 2 adjustments in 1974; and 2 adjustments in 1975. The single age, invalid and widow basic rate of pension is $77.50 a fortnight. If a pensioner qualifies for supplementary allowance he receives $87.50 a fortnight. The combined married rate is $ 129 a fortnight. The unemployment and sickness benefit rate is also $77.50 a fortnight. Recipients of long-term sickness benefits, if eligible for supplementary allowance, receive $87.50 a fortnight.
It will be recalled that previous LiberalNational Country Party coalition governments saw fit to discriminate against various recipients of social welfare benefit. Class B and class C widows received a lower rate of pension than an A class widow. That injustice was corrected and the B and C class widows now receive the same standard rate as an A class widow. In addition, unmarried mothers now qualify for pensions. Previous to the Labor Party assuming office in December 1972, unemployment and sickness benefit rates were much below that of the age pension rate. This injustice has also been rectified.
One of the finest achievements of the Labor Government- incidentally it is an achievement which received very little publicity from the antiLabor media- was the granting of $20 a fortnight to the parents or legal guardians of a retarded child. The legislation which made this possible is, I submit, one of the most humanitarian Acts ever introduced into a national Parliament. The Australian Labor Party, in 3 years of government, abolished the means test for all persons over 70 and, from 1 July this year, for those of more than 69 years of age. By a unique twist of fate, the person who promised in 1949 to abolish the means test now enjoys an age pension, free of the means test. This measure was introduced by a Labor Government.
I strongly urge the Government to maintain and even further develop the high priority given to education at the national level by the Whitlam Labor Government. In 3 years that administration increased Commonwealth expenditure on education from about $430m in 1972-73 to more than $ 1,900m in the current Budget. That was more than a 4-fold increase. Even allowing for inflation, it was an extremely significant rise. But the amount of money involved was not the only consideration. Other important factors include a new emphasis on equality of education opportunities, continuing research into the quality and direction of education and greater freedom and community involvement in the educational enterprise. Because of this historic first national commitment to education at all levels, new hopes have been created for hundreds of thousands of children and adults. Many of them live in my electorate of Sydney. For too many years they, or their counterparts, were condemned to being taught in dingy old schools that dated back almost to the early years of settlement. In such an unattractive educational environment a high turnover of teachers was not surprising.
In more recent years, many migrant adults and children have come to share their disadvantaged conditions. Consequently it is not surprising that there is great support in such communities for the Schools Commission which was created by the previous Government. As a result of that Commission’s recommendation, greatly increased general capital and recurrent grants have been made to both government and non-government schools throughout Australia. Those grants have made possible many new and well furnished schools, the remodelling and re-equipping of old schools and a supply of more and better qualified teachers and support staff. Of special significance are the capital and recurrent grants over and above the general grants which are being given to what are classified as disadvantaged schools. Electorates such as Sydney, a typical older and inner suburban electorate, have gained most from these grants. Educational disadvantage usually carries with it economic, social and cultural disadvantage. Much has been achieved in just a few years towards solving this problem, but much more effort is still required.
I urge the present Government to continue to develop with equal enthusiasm the initiatives of its predecessor. I refer to areas such as the unprecedented special education and financial assistance to the handicapped, the promotion of educational research particularly through the special projects program, and the provision of more opportunities for practising teachers and educational administrators to develop themselves professionally. In the field of tertiary education one of the most notable specific reforms made by the Whitlam Government was the abolition of all fees. It would be a retrograde and painful step if such fees were reintroduced. Many current students would be forced to abandon their studies. Wider access to all forms of tertiary education, both for school leavers and for those who left school some years earlier, should be encouraged in any genuinely democratic society.
Finally on the matter of education, I trust that economic circumstances will soon permit the resumption of longer term forward planning under the system of triennial programs. In many aspects of education, as in so many other fields of the economy, such programs do not lend themselves to efficient year to year planning and forecasting.
In the electorate of Sydney the projects implemented by the former Labor Government and carried on by this Government will be guidelines to the future for low income residents and pensioners in the inner city area. The family unit, the student, the single person and the old, will die in the street or suburb where they were born. This is why Sydney has a soul. The Wooloomooloo project is one of the proposals. Seven thousand people will be involved in living in the heart of Sydney. This agreement was between the Federal and New South Wales governments and the Council ok the City of Sydney. The Glebe Estate is another project. Land was acquired from the Church of England Trust. This $20m project will help people who made history in Australia. They worked close to their homes, reared their families and liked to live in the heart of a great city. In South Sydney another statement of intent was procured from the previous Government indicating that financial assistance would be granted to a non-profit housing trust. This trust was able to negotiate a possible sale from the owners at a purchase price of $450,000. We are awaiting a statement from the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) in regard to the outcome of this worthy plan.
I urge this Parliament to be mindful of the task performed for the community by local government. The previous Labor Government gave it a high priority in financial consideration, and it is most desirable that this practice continue. There are a few interesting points. The previous Labor Government gave $59m through the Australian Grants Commission in the last financial year. This amount goes on record as being by far the biggest allocation to assist local government in the history of Australian politics. I now pose the question: Where are we going? The Australian Grants Commission has suspended its hearing of applications from regional councils for financial assistance. The State Government has not set up its machinery to allow the State Grants Commission to deal with local governments. I should know, I have had experience in local government as an alderman of the Sydney City Council, as the Deputy Mayor of Leichhardt and now as a councillor of the electricity supply authority, the Sydney County Council.
Let me reflect on my association with the Sydney County Council. With all the talk we have heard from the Government about the need to subsidise private enterprise, it should not be forgotten that the largest and most successful industry in Australia is publicly owned and does not need any subsidy. I refer to the electricity supply industry, with which I am proud to be associated as a member of the Sydney County Council. That body still sells electricity at a lower price than it was sold for 20 years ago. If private enterprise had done as well we would have no problems in this country. Local government has continuous community involvement. It is closer to the needs of the people. Many people in the electorate of Sydney are ratepayers and are entitled to home help service, child care centres, playgrounds, recreational activities for older children, home nursing services, the services of social workers and many others. We do not want talk; we would like some action.
I think it is appropriate that I put on record my appreciation of my mother and father for their encouragement, both moral and financial, over the many years that I was with them. I also express my appreciation to my brothers and sisters for their help, and to my wife Pat and the children for the many times I should have been at home with the family. The goal has been achieved. I am representing the people of the electorate of Sydney in the Thirtieth National Parliament. I thank the House for listening to me. I appreciate being here. Again I would like to thank the people in the electorate of Sydney for electing me to this position.
– I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply so ably moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and seconded by the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). I take this opportunity to congratulate not only those 2 speakers but also a number of others. We have heard this afternoon from a number of new members who were making their maiden speeches. I do not wish to be over-critical of some of them, particularly those who sit on the opposite side of the chamber from the Government. I say that very deliberately because, with the numbers in the chamber, it upsets me to hear members of the Liberal Party criticising those who are sitting opposite when in fact members of the National Country Party are sitting opposite. As honourable members know, members of the National Country Party support Liberal Party members to the full. I would just remind those new members on the Government side of the House that we are with them and are not opposed to them.
We heard the only 2 new members of the Opposition deliver their maiden speeches this afternoon, and I congratulate both of them. I want to remind those 2 members, particularly the one who sits the closest to me, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam), of some of the criticisms they made. The honourable member for Grayndler referred to a few issues on which he believed the Government had let the people down. One of those issues related to the unemployment situation. I remind him that the bulk of unemployment was created during a time when his father was the Prime Minister of this nation. I think he should always remember that fact when making such comments.
The honourable member also went on to pay a tribute to his predecessor, Fred Daly. I certainly join with him in saying how much we appreciate the long service that that man gave to the Parliament of Australia. However, I could not altogether agree with him when he said that Mr Daly was deliberately endeavouring to ensure that democracy was working to the full, that every man and woman was entitled to a vote, and all these sorts of things. I just remind the honourable member that one of the very last actions carried out by Mr Daly as Minister for Services and Property in this chamber was to close down some 900 polling booths, which made it very difficult for many constituents throughout Australia to vote.
– Some people in South Australia had to travel 250 kilometres to get to a polling booth.
– Yes. I am reminded by my colleague the honourable member for Mallee that some people had to travel 250 kilometres to cast a vote. Not only was that the situation, but also postal facilities were such as a result of actions taken by the previous Government that the people who found themselves in that position were debarred from having a vote. That situation arose simply as a result of a decision taken by the then Minister for Services and Property. So again I say to new members in this House that when they are inclined to criticise the actions of the Government they should make sure of their facts before they start saying too much about the matter.
As I said at the outset, I rise tonight to support the motion moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. As well as offering my congratulations to many of the new members to the House, I want to congratulate also the new Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In doing so I want to thank him for his drive, his determination and his success in replacing a regime which almost ruined the Australian economy and our relations with many of our trading nations, to such a degree almost that no future government could retrieve the situation. A very serious situation has developed as a result of the actions of the previous Government. I thank the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony)- a wonderful combination- for presenting to the people of Australia an acceptable policy and for gaining the confidence of the people of Australia. The policy presented was overwhelmingly accepted. It has been said on a number of occasions in this House that the then Opposition was swept to office with an overwhelming majority which, until now, had been unknown in this Parliament. That in itself is worthy of the great appreciation that I express to both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was making reference to some of the reasons why a change in government had occurred. I said how I appreciated the great contribution made by the present Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. Let me refer now to some of the reasons why the policy put forward by the Government Parties was accepted. I believe that the Australian people realise what was happening to this country as a result of inflation, unemployment, lack of confidence on the part of industry, with business after business running down and primary producers experiencing the worst period since the depression in the early thirties. Despite all of those factors there are still some members of the Australian Labor Party who continue to ask that simple question: Why were we defeated? The threat of socialistic ideas bore heavily on the minds of many people, particularly the young who could see that their chance of purchasing and paying off homes was fast disappearing. These were some of the issues on the debit side for the ALP.
On the credit side for the coalition was a very sound working partnership between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. Both are men of strong character, determined to put Australia back on its feet. People certainly had confidence in them. I remind the House of the statement by the Prime Minister that all he could offer was sweat and hard times ahead for perhaps up to 3 years. He said again only recently that he could see a situation of unpopularity for the Government. But this is the price that we must pay for the removal of the regime that we have seen over recent years. In my mind the election result was an illustration that the people trust him fully.
Speakers after speakers on the Opposition side continue to refer to the sacking of the then Prime Minister by Sir John Kerr. Surely, Mr Deputy Speaker, these honourable members must realise that the Australian people have spoken. The sooner they forget this particular line, the sooner the Australian people will begin to regain their confidence in the Australian Labor Party. One thing that I believe Australians will not tolerate is squealers. Politics is like a sport; it is just as honourable to be defeated providing one knows how to accept defeat. I have vivid recollections of how in the election before last the defeated member for Riverina carried on. I am sure that his actions did not do his cause any good; nor did they do the cause of the Australian Labor Party any good.
– He was not game to stand again.
– That is true, he was not game to stand again. No doubt that experience proved the point. He probably realised how the people had spoken on the earlier occasion.
There are many decisions made by the new Government for which I commend it. I think of the decisions to tighten up conditions of eligibility for unemployment relief. I believe that this was an issue that should have been attended to long before it was. Too often we see cases where people in receipt of unemployment relief in actual fact could have been and should have been earning from employment. I believe that it would be well worth while if the Government looked at continuing some form of scheme, somewhat similar to the original drought relief scheme or the Regional Employment Development scheme. I believe that there are opportunities available for assistance to be given to certain organisations, such as municipal bodies to carry out worthwhile projects. Two purposes would be served. Firstly, those organisations which might be in financial difficulties would be helped. Further employment opportunities would be created for the individual. I trust, too, that the Government will consider at an early date the reintroduction of an immigration program somewhat similar to that of a few years ago.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to see the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs at the table. It has always been my belief that in the short term immigration may interfere with employment opportunities. But in the long term immigration creates employment. To achieve this end we must increase the level of immigration on a gradual basis. We must certainly not increase it suddenly. Such action, of course, would have great repercussions.
I commend the Government for other benefits that have been introduced in recent times. I think of the superphosphate bounty and the investment allowance. I want to criticise those critics of such things as the re-introduction of the superphosphate bounty. They seem to think that there is nothing wrong with primary industries. I have never seen a situation where primary industries in the broad have run down to the level they have reached today. The real purpose of the bounty is to create some incentive for people in the primary industry field to get back on their feet. It is a case of introducing a scheme of benefit to a lot of people. To those critics who say it is only going to help the big men and is of no advantage to the small men I address a simple question: If that is the case are they prepared to forget about removal of the means test for people over seventy years of age? Their ultimate aim relates to people over sixty-five. However, the same principle applies. If it is good enough to try to prevent an apparently big primary producer from receiving a superphosphate bounty it is good enough not to remove the means test on people who have a big income and do not depend on it. So I say to those people that they want to have second thoughts about opposing the bounty.
The next question I wish to raise is in relation to the all important Postal Commission. Honourable members will recall that some few years ago, under a Labor Government, many statements were made on the economics of the service to certain areas. The then Postmaster-General said that everything would have to be carried out on an economical basis. That former PostmasterGeneral, the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen), is sitting at the table now, not in Government but in Opposition. I challenge the Opposition to declare whether every new project to be carried out by the Postal Commission would have to be based on this issue of profit or loss.
– We may as well go back to the days of Cobb & Co
– That is true, we may as well go back to the days of Cobb & Co. After all, the Postal Commission is a service department. If we have to consider every move within the Commission on economical grounds then it will not be a service to the people. We do know that if we post a letter and it is sorted and does not move beyond that post office before it goes into the postal box for delivery the cost is very little. In other words there is a lot of profit from that letter. But if we post a letter to go from one side of Australia to the other that is costly. However, mail deliveries, to my mind, are a service to the community and we must not forget it.
I refer now to the upgrading of telephone services. Under previous Liberal and Country Party governments there were great strides being made in the development of these services, particularly in country areas. Today that development has almost reached a standstill. Upgrading or development is not keeping pace with the deterioration of such services with the effluxion of time. Few days or weeks would go by when I do not receive some request from an organisation or individual asking for assistance- asking that something done as far as the Telecommunications Commission is concerned. Since the Labor Party established the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commissions there has been a steady but sure dropping off in the service. We were proud of the service that we once had in this country. Today we look at the severe increases in the various costs that everyone has to pay for and a very definite slowing down in capital works programs. No doubt every honourable member in this House could refer to some particular project that was on the list to be upgraded, improved, rebuilt, or whatever, and which has been shelved or postponed. I think of a new post office that the present Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) was responsible for commencing before I took over part of his electorate some years ago. I refer to the Ararat post office. We virtually had plans and everything drawn up only to be told that because of lack of finance it had to be postponed; for how long we do not know. Consider the closing down of a lot of small unofficial post offices.
-At least they are efficient.
– They are most efficient. If it were not for the non-official post offices the cost of delivery of mails throughout Australia would be ever so much higher. In some areas we have seen the removal of pillar boxes because of cost. I do not want to point the finger at officers of the Department because they are only doing their duty, but I was informed the other day that they were removing a particular pillar box because they wanted it in some other position. We all know what pillar boxes are. They are only a little thing made of a bit of metal but I am told that they cost about $150. Yet the Post Office cannot afford to build new ones. It has to replace them or take them from somewhere else to fill a gap. To my mind this is a shocking state of affairs.
The delay in the decision to upgrade telephone exchanges in many rural areas, large and small, is certainly upsetting the people of Australia. I repeat that this is no fault of the office bearers within the Australian Postal Commission because they are doing their job. Mr Deputy Speaker, these are some of the issues which I shall point out to the House this evening. There are a lot of other problems. A lot of other work has to be done by members of this Government to try to undo the great damage that has been done in the last 3 years when a Labor Government was in office. It is a bit like throwing a match into the scrub. It does not take much to light a fire but it takes a mighty lot to put it out. The problem is that the present Government finds itself with a deficit of some $5,000m. Any responsible Government will take action to try to resolve this position.
This Government has to try to rectify a problem which was created by a Government which literally was prepared to buy votes wherever and whenever possible. If one wanted money all one had to do was to yell out for it. This, of course, was the ruination of the economy. The people of Australia could see what was developing in this country. They realised that sooner or later they would have to pay for these things. As I said earlier in my remarks, the young people were the ones who turned on the then Government. They were trying to establish themselves in their homes. The middle-aged person who was trying to develop a business realised too that this could not go on indefinitely.
The cost of keeping people employed was creating other problems and so the then Government went on and on until we got to a stage where people said: ‘No more’. That is why we saw a huge turn around in the membership of this chamber. It was an all-time record high majority for a government. No doubt, some of these faces that we have in the chamber today may not be with us beyond the next election, possibly in 3 years’ time. But if the present Opposition led by Mr Whitlam continues, as I said earlier, squealing and carrying on, I can see even more people on the Opposition side being replaced by members of the Government. So this is why I have great pleasure in supporting the original motion moved by the honourable member for EdenMonaro and seconded by the honourable member for Dawson. I certainly strongly oppose the amendment moved by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). It is rather interesting to note that on at least 2 occasions we have seen members of the Opposition speaking twice during the Address-in-Reply debate. This is a most unusual situation. Of course, they are quite at liberty to do so because they are speaking to the amendment. What does this mean? Does it mean that the Opposition has an insufficient number of speakers to back up its argument because of the large number of members on the Government side? These are the reasons why I support the motion before the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Ministerial Statement Mr STREET (Corangamite-Minister for Employment and Industrial relations)- by leave- Mr Deputy Speaker, honourable members will be aware that the entitlements of members of this Parliament, including Ministers and office holders, are presently determined by 3 authorities- the Presiding Officers, the Remuneration Tribunal and the Minister for Administrative Services. This has allowed a situation to develop whereby some entitlements are within the province of the Executive Government or an individual. As well, this has led to a situation whereby it is possible for the Executive Government to be in a position where it can compromise the independence and integrity of individual senators and members.
The Government believes that the independence of individual members of the Parliament is vital to democracy. No senator or member should be beholden to the Executive for his or her rights and entitlements. Senators and members are, and should be seen to be, responsible only to their electors. They should not be placed in a position where favours may or may not be provided or withdrawn at the will or the whim of the government of the day. Such a situation would be offensive to every concept of parliamentary democracy in Australia. It is the view of the Government that senators and members should be freed from day to day threat about how their capacity to serve their electors could be affected by the Government.
There is no intention or desire on the part of the Government to interfere with the integrity of individual senators and members or to apply pressure in any way on them. However, the Government believes there should be a fail-safe system which effectively prevents the Executive abusing its power and which effectively protects the integrity of senators and members in this Parliament. Honourable members will recall that shortly after the Government came to power certain entitlements such as life gold passes, overseas travel and similar matters, were altered. This was done because the Government felt the method by which these entitlements had been given, by Executive decision, was not appropriate. The Government felt that any such entitlements should not be a matter for the Executive Government to provide. The Government was not making any decision on the appropriateness of the entitlements themselves. Its action was based purely on the methods by which the entitlements were provided.
The Government, as I have already said, does not feel it proper that entitlements should be either concealed or be able to be provided or withdrawn at will. For this reason the Remuneration Tribunal will, except in exceptional circumstances which will be made public at the time, determine matters relating to the entitlements of senators and members. The Parliament will still retain the right of disapproval of any determinations made by the Tribunal. The Minister for Administrative Services has now written to the Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Justice W. B. Campbell, formally requesting him to make determinations on certain entitlements for members of the Parliament. He anticipates that the Remuneration Tribunal will make determinations and recommendations on the appropriateness of certain entitlements and the conditions which should apply to senators and members.
The Minister has asked the Tribunal to make determinations on the provision of travel within Australia for senators and members on parliamentary and electorate business, and the travel facilities to be provided to spouses and children. The Minister has also asked the Tribunal to make determinations on the use by senators and members of official car transport, in Canberra when on official business, when travelling to and from Canberra and in capital cities outside Canberra, and the provision of official car transport for spouses. The Tribunal has also been asked to consider the provisions currently provided for private vehicle allowances and for the use of drive-yourself and charter aircraft. In addition the Minister has requested the Tribunal to consider the qualifying period for provision of life gold passes, a provision which currently stands at one year’s service for a Prime Minister, 3 years’ service for Ministers, the Presiding Officers and Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, and 20 years or service in 7 Parliaments for private members.
The Minister has also asked the Tribunal to consider a number of matters relating to office and similar facilities for senators and members. These are the provision of home telephones, the Federal Members Authority telephone card, the extent of postal allowances, and the provision of staff. In addition, the Tribunal has been asked to look at overseas travel facilities for senators and members. Finally, the Minister has asked the Tribunal to bring down recommendations on certain aspects of the retiring allowance and superannuation provision provided to senators, members and Ministers. This relates to the present situation in which a person may be entitled to one or more Commonwealth pensions plus a parliamentary retiring allowance. The Government believes this is a further question on which the Tribunal should be asked to provide advice.
The Tribunal will now, for the first time, carry out a comprehensive study of exactly what entitlements should be provided to senators and members. The Government believes this will be of major importance to our democratic parliamentary system. No longer will senators and members be subject to the whim of the Executive; nor will their entitlements be capable of being hidden from the people- the taxpayers and the voters- to whom they are responsible. The Minister has asked the Tribunal to make its determinations by 31 March 1976. Honourable members will notice that the time limitation is somewhat short. No doubt there may be a number of senators and members who would wish to make submissions on these matters to the Tribunal. Should they wish to do so through the Minister, he will ensure they reach the Tribunal expeditously
I present the following paper:
Remuneration Tribunal- Ministerial statement, 4 March 1976.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I will be very brief because there is a number of other debates to take place this evening. Let me indicate that the Opposition supports the direction or request that has been made now by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). It could be made anyway in accordance with section 7 (4) (b) of the
Remuneration Tribunal Act. We thank the Minister for the courtesy of telling us, because obviously he could have made it without our knowledge. It is important that the rights of members of Parliament be determined by an independent tribunal. We have always favoured that. A rather unusual set of circumstances has existed whereby some of our facilities have been determined other than by the Tribunal. As has been said, we set up the Tribunal to take the matter away from what is deemed to be the difficulty of political judgment. If I may say so in passing, leaders of political parties, irrespective of their politics, never seem to assess the situation correctly when dealing with salaries or other such matters. Therefore, tribunals are the best way in which to deal with these matters.
I make the point that I have some legal doubt- I do not want to put any weight on it- as to whether retiring allowances really come under section 7, which talks about allowances for members in the Parliament and matters significantly related thereto. Obviously the Minister has checked the position and feels that he can deal with all these matters. We had some difficulties at one stage and were advised that the Act was not wide enough to encompass the retiring allowance position, which I think is a most important problem for members of Parliament who are here and, more importantly, members who have left.
If one looks at the situation applying in particular in the State parliaments, one will find that the benefits here are very inferior to those in the State parliaments. I make the point- in doing so I am being non-political- that I am convinced that the members of this House irrespective of the side on which they serve, work very hard indeed, make extreme sacrifices and, from the point of view of rehabilitation if they should be defeated, have very little opportunity of getting any assistance. I do not want to make odious comparisons, but I would love to retire from the New South Wales Parliament with the same period of service as I hope to have here, because of the substantial cash benefits that would be available to me. Does it not follow that the members of this Parliament, who are contributing some 1 1 per cent or more of their salary, ought to receive some adequate recognition? If one looks at a similar situation that is applying under State superannuation schemes one will see that the benefits are really good indeed.
I know that Mr Justice Campbell will take notice of those matters. I know also that members and senators can make their own submissions. I urge them to do so. They can make them either directly to the Tribunal or through the Minister. That must be done, because the Tribunal cannot make any decisions unless it has the evidence on which to base those decisions. I make this comment just by way of a request to the Minister: I think it would be helpful if the members and senators who have retired also were invited to make some submissions, because they could readily indicate their particular circumstances. I do not think the invitation should be limited to just those of us here. There are many who are suffering on the basis that they would love to make a submission as to what they think should be done to assist them, having served here for a period of years and having to live on what is deemed to be, perhaps in their minds, an inadequate retiring allowance. I should like to think that they would be invited to make a submission. I have nothing further to add except to say that I note with interest that the report will be made available on or about 31 March, which I think is very satisfactory.
– I shall take as few minutes as did the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). I welcome the statement that has been made by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) on behalf of the Government. I am sure that it was made with a very sensitive sense of justice that the Government has concerning these matters. Whether or not it will be with the fulsome sense of bounty is to be seen. But there are just one or two points that should be made. I take up the last one that was referred to very quickly, in passing, by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, and that is the position of retired members. They ought not to be excluded from making representation, and as I indicated here in the House a fortnight ago, we hope that just because retired members are out of sight they are not out of mind so far as the deliberations of the Tribunal are concerned.
– Former Senator Branson is not.
-I hope that that is a word of support; I could not catch it. But nevertheless, looking at the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), I can see that he immediately nods assurance to that proposition. I make one other proposition to him, and that concerns the nature of the Tribunal’s deliberations. I presume that the Tribunal will be seen, as both Acts indicate, to be completely independent in its methods of assessments, and as to the kind of calculations it is able to make. It is not bound by what happens in respect of other tribunals. I ask the Minister whether that is correct. I presume that that would be the case.
– It is independent.
– The Tribunal is independent as to its methods of assessment and as to the investigations it should make. That is something that should be able to give assurance to quite a number of members in this place.
I mention one thing finally, because the minutes are ticking on, and that is that the setting up of this Tribunal does not act as a criticism of what was done by the previous Government, but merely acts as a referral of what was done by the previous Government in terms of executive action. That distinction ought to be known too, except in one or two instances. I request also that when the Tribunal meets it does consider, quite overwhelmingly, the position of private members of Parliament and that the Tribunal being completely independent, as the Minister has assured me it will be, will not be precluded from doing, for example, a work value study of the position of private members here both present and past, compared with the position of present and past members of like institutions in Australia, that is, the State Parliaments.
The last sentence of the Minister’s statementand I will end on this- indicates that submission may be made to the Tribunal through the Minister, that is, the Minister for Administrative Services. I presume that that submission does not have to be made to the Minister for Administrative Services. In other words, there is an option to approach the Tribunal directly oneself and not necessarily through the Minister for Administrative Services. The last sentence would indicate that it could be by either method. I welcome the Tribunal. Honourable members can look to it with some sense of hope and some sense of justice. I hope that within a short period it is able to consider quite a number of the matters to which I have referred.
-At first glance I would have believed that the Government was perhaps in some way shirking its administrative responsibilities in respect of members’ entitlements, inasmuch as they were administered by the Government and by a Minister. But perhaps in hindsight it was a wise decision to refer the matter to the Tribunal. But the Government takes upon itself, I believe, a certain amount of responsibility in referring this matter to the Remuneration Tribunal in the sense that all of the conditions of members of Parliamentnot only salary- are affected by the referral that it has given the Tribunal. They include matters which previously have not come within the ambit of the consideration of the Tribunal, matters such as travel, telephones and all of the other facilities which have been available. To that extent I believe that the referral by the Government should mean at least a prima facie commitment that it will abide by the decisions of the Tribunal.
Now I do not point the finger of scorn in this respect because all political parties here at some stage have run out upon this Tribunal. I believe that the members of the Tribunal took the job on in good faith to make an independent and intelligent assessment of what they believe should be the remuneration and conditions of members of Parliament and other office holders. For one reason or another the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal and National Country Parties have chosen to run out on the determinations that that Tribunal brought down. I believe that that brought very cold comfort to the members of the Tribunal who made a great effort to assist not only in relation to the conditions and salary of members of Parliament but also in relation to the conditions and salary of other officers. I want to raise a couple of other matters at this stage. The Clerk at the table and the Principal Parliamentary Reporter are in the invidious position, as indeed are other officers of the Parliament, of being paid less than are other members of his staff occupying positions below their administrative responsibility. I believe that this is an intolerable situation. Any government that cannot guarantee a career structure for its officers must look at its policies. This same position applies in the office of the Parliamentary Counsel and in a lot of the statutory bodies like Qantas Airways Ltd and the Exports Finance and Insurance Corporation. In all of these corporations you find that the top administrative officers are paid less than the officers at the third or fourth level below them. This has arisen from the fact that many of these Tribunal decisions have been disallowed by a vote of either House of the Parliament.
I believe this time there is an indication from the Government that when it refers all of these matters to the Tribunal it is at least endorsing the principle that the Tribunal is an independent body. I hope we never get to the stage where there is a private Government view put to the Tribunal or, indeed, that the Tribunal accepts it. There must be a situation in which the Tribunal makes an independent inquiry and that there is an independent adjudication upon the details of each particular report by the members of the Parliament. So a decision to refer all these matters to the Tribunal, I believe, carries with it the tacit understanding that we in the Opposition believe the Government will take the view that the Tribunal makes an independent decision and that all of these matters quite properly should rest with the Tribunal.
I agree with the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) in respect to superannuation. This has never been a matter which has been enunciated clearly so that the Tribunal understood it had the prerogative of deciding and recommending on matters in respect to superannuation. This was never made clear in the law and the Tribunal never understood what its complete ambit was. I believe that the members of the Tribunal have worked earnestly and consistently, not only in relation to matters concerning members of Parliament and office bearers but also on all the other ranges of salaries they have had to determine. They suffered the ignominy of having their reports disallowed by Parliament not because of the value of their reports, not because of the quality of their considerations or their recommendations but because of the politics at the time. We have reached the stage at which we have passed an Act of Parliament to establish the Tribunal. It is established and it ought to be independent. There should be no party decisions to disallow the reports in either House. It should be left to the votes of the members of Parliament to express any disagreement. But at the same time we should not forget that people other than members of Parliament are affected. They are the hundreds of statutory officers, including as I said earlier the officers of the Parliament, who have been seriously disadvantaged by earlier disallowances of determinations of the Tribunal. This has not guaranteed that a proper career structure exists within this part of the bureaucracy of the Commonwealth of Australia. That is a disgrace not only to the former Labor Government but also to this Government. The anomaly ought to be recognised and corrected very quickly.
– Very briefly, I support the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and say merely that in the 10 years I have been here I have seen both systems, the old system of selfdetermination and the tribunal system, in operation. I have seen political overtones introduced into both systems, and I have seen both parties, in Government and in Opposition, use this matter for political purposes. If we are going to set
Mr Justice Campbell and his tribunal the task of ascertaining what is reasonable and fair, I sincerely hope that we do not make a mockery of them and ourselves by saying, if it is a sugarcoated finding, that we reject it and, if it is one covered with acid, saying that we welcome it and accept it. That would be a hypocritical act for the benefit of the public. Every time we have rejected an increase, the public says ‘how wonderful’ and for a whole year everyone marches around whingeing because they made this great sacrifice. Let us not degrade the principle of tribunals. If we have a tribunal to take this matter out of the political arena, let us stop playing politics. If the tribunal recommends a decrease, which it should for some honourable members, or an increase, we should accept its recommendation.
– I will be fairly brief. I think that most honourable members will be in agreement with the words spoken tonight, but what is going to happen when those people in the Press gallery get stuck into members of Parliament in general and individuals in particular? Will there be on the part of honourable members the strength of character to stand out for a principle or will they go to water as they have done in the past? About 6 months ago when the Tribunal’s decision, which is totally out of our hands, was announced, there was a headline in the Daily Mirror- I do not have it with me at the moment- which said: ‘MPs Pay Grab’. I forget the amount which was mentioned but some outrageous amount was headlined, and there were editorials on the particular pay grab even before the recommendations had been discussed by the Government or by the Parliament. There was a big glaring headline saying we had already accepted $1,000 or whatever the amount was. Later that day the Government, reacting to the political pressure of the newspapers and frightened of the criticism, rejected that increase and the following day there was an editorial in the Daily Mirror which said, in effect, how sickening it was for the Government to show that it was being noble and self-sacrificing by rejecting the rise. So we were damned for taking it and we were damned for refusing it. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) indicates that he recalls that particular editorial. How can we win?
I find it humiliating and embarrassing that every time the question of a pay rise comes up, whatever is decided, I and my family are abused in the streets. The new members here will find that as soon as the question of a parliamentary salary rise comes up they will be harangued in the street by their friends and by their opponents saying how wrong it is. I really do not mind what salary the Tribunal finally determines. I just wish that it was taken out of our hands and decided, as it is in other States. I believe that in Queensland now an automatic adjustment is made to take up the cost of living and allow for any changes in expenses that may have occurred.
– Victoria is fixed at $500 behind us.
– The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) tells me that the salary of Victorian members is fixed at $500 behind ours. We have the situation now where State members are receiving as much as or more than Federal members, but they have about one-third of our workload and about a quarter of the representation. Frankly, I find it humiliating and embarrassing to be placed in this position every year when the question of salaries and electoral allowances arises. We had hoped when we set up this Tribunal that parliamentarians’ salaries would be taken out of the political arena and an assessment made so that we were not placed in this humiliating position. But nothing seems to have changed. The moment that wage increases are mentioned the Press will set up an enormous campaign, the Government will go to water and parliamentarians will be forced into this humiliating position once again.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
– I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House of Representatives of the appointment to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works of Senators Kilgariff, Melzer and Young.
– I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House of Representatives of the appointment to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings of Senators Sir Magnus Cormack and Douglas McClelland.
– I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House of Representatives of the appointment to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts of Senators Baume, Colston and Messner.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill 1976.
Air Navigation Charges Bill 1976.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Jenkins). In view of the previous debate that took place I must say that I so not believe any tribunal ought to be given power that should rest with the Parliament, whether it be the Remuneration Tribunal or the Industries Assistance Commission about which I shall be speaking. I think that Parliament must always retain the ultimate power. Otherwise we will give power away bit by bit and there will be no need for us to meet at all.
My concern in this debate is the uncertainty and confusion which has been generated in the business and consumer world by the seemingly unrelated statements of Ministers on how the Industries Assistance Commission Act will be administered, how the Commission will work and how its reports will be treated. The protection of Australian industry is fundamental to the policies of the 2 major parties, but there will be debate on just which industries are to be protected, for how long they will be protected and how much protection they should receive. The key feature of the Labor Party’s economic policy is to ensure the optimum use of the nation’s resources. That does not mean development merely for the sake of development. We must use our resources properly.
We must recognise that we are a trading nation with responsibilities to our trading partners. It follows they that there must be a decision- a political decision- on the priorities of industries in Australia. We cannot say: ‘Let us have industry X’, and then refuse to pay the cost of having that industry. It takes an act of political courage to determine the fate of industries in Australia. Governments cannot simply slavishly adopt the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. That Commission is a body established to make recommendations to the Government. I will remind honourable members opposite that it was Sir Robert Menzies who was the chief proponent of the view that the then Tariff Board advised and the government decided. This then must not become an era of advice and consent.
As I have said, I believe that a tariff decision is a political decision. First, I believe that a case exists for protection when national interests are at stake. I include in those national interests certain industries which are vital to the economic base of the country; industries vital to defence; industries which hold the future of technology -
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide has already spoken to the main issue. He is now speaking to the amendment. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of the amendment cannot be relative to what he is saying. Paragraph (c) reads: 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.
While talking about the Industries Assistance Commission, I would like the honourable member to relate it to the -
-Mr Speaker, the GovernorGeneral made specific reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. If I can dismantle that argument honourable members will vote for the amendment.
-You will have trouble persuading me of that, but please go ahead for another couple of paragraphs.
-The argument I will put forward, Mr Speaker, surrounds what the Governor-General said and statements that have been made by various Ministers. There is some confusion from the Governor-General’s Speech as to exactly what is going to happen to the Industries Assistance Commission, who is going to administer it and what is going to happen to its reports. I should have thought that left a fairly open field.
– It leaves an open field to the extent that you may speak about it, provided that what you are saying is related to paragraph (c), of the amendment which states:
The proposals outlined in the Speech are so framed as to cause a major transfer of resources from middle and low incomefamilies to those on higher income levels.
If you show the way in which IAC decisions are obstructing that or achieving it, or whatever may be your argument, it will be in order.
-I will do that as best I can, Mr Speaker.
– I hope you succeed.
-Actually, I should have thought you would be sympathetic because we discussed the salary tribunal of parliamentarians for a longer period than we have ever discussed a
Tariff Board report. My friend the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) would agree. I include in these national interests certain industries vital to the economic base of the countryindustries vital for defence, industries which would hold the future of technology and particularly those industries in which highly skilled labour is employed. I would include film making for reasons of national pride. So far as the defence aspect is concerned, I am not satisfied with the position whereby we have one of the most expensive and inefficient privately owned chemical industries in the world, yet fail to support a government owned aircraft industry or a shipbuilding industry.
-Order! I have asked the honourable gentleman to relate his comments to the amendment. I do not detect any relationship in what he has said in the last couple of paragraphs.
-Mr Speaker, I put it to you that my experience with industry is probably as -
-Nobody would deny your experience.
– The transfer of human resources is very relevant to what I am putting forward. If we can sustain an argument, relative to what was put forward by the GovernorGeneral, that the LAC final reports would go to the Government and the Government would then determine the policy of the LAC, that would shift greatly the human resources of this country. I am putting it to you that in supporting the amendment and talking about the shift of human resources my remarks are very relevant to that aspect of the Governor-General’s Speech and paragraph (c) of the amendment.
– You have not persuaded me, I am afraid, but carry on for another couple of paragraphs. I hope that by then you will have related your remarks to paragraph (c).
-Mr Speaker, I would have thought it very relevant to discuss this aspect of the Governor-General’s Speech. I cannot see why we should not discuss it when the IAC is mentioned and we are left wondering by a variety of Government proposals and statements made by Ministers. For instance, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in an interview with the Australian Financial Review, said it is no good the Industries Assistance Commission bringing back to the Government something which is unpalatable to the Government. This is in direct contradiction to what was said in the Governor-General’s Speech, and I think if you let me keep going you will find that it is relevant.
– I will not intervene again unless I have to. If I do it will be to ask the honourable gentleman to sit down. I do not want to do that, but I remind the honourable gentleman that the rules of debate are such that each honourable member may speak to the question once. You have already spoken to the question. Then an amendment came in. You may speak to that amendment. But up till now you have been speaking as though you were speaking to the principal question.
– No, I am trying to win support for the amendment, Mr Speaker. In that case, on the threat of being sat down because you do not agree that the LAC is relevant to the amendment and the shifting of resources from middle and low income families- I thought it would have been- I shall refer to the amendment. Honourable members opposite have said not one word about the role of the House of Representatives as it is related to the Senate. One would have noticed that since this Parliament has been in operation the House of Representatives has not received from the Senate the same type of messages as it did in 1973, 1974 and 1975. From the time when the Labor Government took over in 1972 we continually found amendments to legislation passed by the House of Representatives and rejected by the Senate until ultimately Supply was blocked in 1974 and the Budget was blocked in 1975, so now people are led to believe by honourable members opposite in this House that the Senate perhaps has a far more important role to play than the House of Representatives. No one on the other side has said anything to dismantle that view. Even the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon), who says a lot, has not said one thing about the Senate being less important or the Senate perhaps becoming the forum for the Government of Australia. Perhaps the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) would like to see IAC reports go only to the Senate. Perhaps he would like to see IAC reports received and adopted without debate. These things are relevant to the role that we play here in the House of Representatives. We talk about industries and resources in paragraph 3 of our amendment. I think one cannot talk about the adoption of IAC reports as stated in the Governor-General’s Speech without talking about the decision to be made by the Government on the motor car industry, a labour intensive industry. One hundred thousand people are dependent upon that industry. General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd has preempted that decision by announcing today that it will shift human resources by building its 4- cylinder engine plant at Fishermen’s Bend. The Labor Government and this Government have been involved in negotiations with the Nissan Motor Co.’ (Aust.) Pty Ltd and the Toyota company about the consortium to go ahead at Lonsdale in South Australia. It seems relevant to me that the House of Representatives look at that matter.
Perhaps the newer members, in particular those who have come to be called the identikit crowd by this side, should look at the role and responsibilities of a member of the House of Representatives. They should never allow their Party to con them again as to the respective roles of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. When people talk, as did the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), about offering a car to the Prime Minister and saying that General Motors will give it if the Government gives all the protection that the industry wants, there ought to be debate in this House on the question. If you are talking about resources -
– You are talking, I hope, about the major transfer of resources from middle and low-income families to those on higher income levels. If you relate your remarks to that you are in order; if you proceed on the line you are taking you are out of order and I shall have no option but to ask you to cease.
-I will go back to paragraph (b).
– You are on safe ground with paragraph (b); there is no doubt about that.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member stated that new members, of whom I am one, had been conned by our Party. I consider that to be a personal reflection on myself and other new members and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I will not ask the honourable member for Port Adelaide to withdraw. There is a convention in this House that if a person speaks in general terms this is taken to be. not a reflection on any particular member. I propose to rule in the future that if the wording is a reflection on all members it can be a reflection on each member and I will require it to be withdrawn. But I understood the honourable member for Port Adelaide not to be talking exclusively about all new members.
-I did not mean to offend the newer members. Actually I was trying to persuade them to a new line of thinking because those who analyse the circumstances which brought about the downfall of the Labor
Government will hold in disgrace the people who represented the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in the last Parliament. I do not want to see new members being held in disgrace because they share those views. I notice that in all the speeches that have been made by the new members and by the older members, no reference has been made to the constitutional crisis and the role of the Governor-General. No one has said that perhaps the Constitution ought to be changed to give the Senate some sort of monetary role so it can introduce money Bills. No one has put that forward. We are saying that it is about time honourable members opposite agreed with us that the House of Representatives is the forum for the Government of Australia. We did not wait to see what was going to be the outcome of the Senate elections. We said that the Government would be decided in the House of Representatives. Honourable members opposite make up the Government. The members of the Liberal and National Country Parties who form the majority in the House of Representatives are the Government of Australia as was the majority of Labor members who formed the Government between 2 December 1972 and 13 December 1975. 1 am trying to persuade honourable members opposite that they ought to respect that view. But obviously if they are too dull to understand it I can respect the political training that the Liberal and National Country Parties give. What I am saying is that honourable members opposite ought to look at some of those things when they vote on the amendment.
I draw the attention of honourable members to paragraph (a) of the amendment. The Governor-General’s Speech makes no acknowledgement of the role and importance of the House of Representatives in regard to the financial pre-eminence. We would want honourable members opposite to respect that in future. We have not broken the rules. We have not said that in future as a result of the actions that the present Government took in 1974 and 1975 and inherent in all the threats since January 1973 we in the Labor Party are going to change our approach to constitutional issues and say that both Houses are equal. We are not going to say the Senate is more important if perhaps someone happens to fluke a majority in that place. I have not heard any honourable member opposite in the great array of talent that has been up before us over the past 3 weeks talk about the Lewis appointment to the Senate. I have not heard anyone defend the appointment by Bjelke-Petersen to the Senate. They were people who were called upon to block the Budget.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. The honourable member for Evans has taken a point of order.
- Mr Speaker, being one of the those new members mentioned so often by the honourable member for Port Adelaide I am at a loss to find out where the honourable member is speaking on the amendment. I do not see in paragraph (c) any mention of the Lewis Government in New South Wales nor do I see any reference to the matters that the honourable member has been speaking about.
– I think that the honourable gentleman has ceased talking about paragraph (c) and is now talking about paragraphs (a) and (b) in respect of which he is on safer ground.
– My honourable friend will understand that the 2 appointments by Lewis and Bjelke-Petersen were sent down here to vote against money Bills that were sent by the House of Representatives to the Senate. Any simple mind will understand that. If the honourable member stays here past 3 years he will understand it. That was the intention of the 2 State governments and that is the way in which they used both the infrastructure of the State governments and the Constitution of Australia to try to thrust down the importance, the role and the influence of the House of Representatives. Seeing that there are so many new members here the honourable member ought to think about it. Perhaps someone one day will jump up in the Liberal and National Country Parties joint committee room and say: ‘I would like to move, Mr Prime Minister, that we never do that again, that we never use the Senate to override on the Budget or Supply, the House of Representatives; that we, Mr Prime Minister, respect the will of the people. If they elect a government in the House of Representatives, that is the Government, and we will not use this sort of concoction of getting numbers in the Senate to prevent the Budget from being passed ‘.
– You have not been here long enough to understand.
-If the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), one of our most distinguished ex Prime Ministers -
– Right honourable.
-Right honourable. If he had faced the situation of a Senate which was opposed to his policies he would have been Prime Minister for a week, not 18 months. He knows it. Notwithstanding all the arguments that have taken place in the Liberal Party, the right honourable member was not the most vocal in saying what the Senate ought to do because he considers his reputation politically important. It was the nong-nongs in the Liberal and National Country Parties who said: ‘Let us do anything at all. It does not matter what we do. But do not talk about the pre-eminence and financial matters of the House of Representatives. Let us just get rid of this Government the best way we can and hope people will forget about it’. What they were doing was leaving a scar on the parliamentary institution that is going to take a long time to heal. It is not all the Melbourne Grammar boys, the Sydney Grammar boys and all the elite on the other side of the House who are upholding the institution. The people over here whom honourable members opposite so often call the rabble are also concerned about this matter. We are the ones who are upholding the institution of Parliament. We are the ones who are exposing the deficiencies of the role that was played by the Liberal and National Country Parties between 1972 and 1975. Government supporters have played down the role of the House of Representatives and would hate anything to happen now that would bring about a similar situation where the Labor Party could use the Senate. They may say that will not happen for 6 years. One plane crash could bring it about. One plane crash could change the government.
– What would it do to your Party?
-I do not think the honourable member should say too much because the Liberal Party has been very tolerant with him. It is waiting for the honourable member to tear up his Democratic Labor Party card before it really trusts him. I would be very quiet if I were the honourable member because Frank McManus and those blokes have a few skeletons in the cupboard. The honourable member should have chat with the right honourable member for Lowe before he says too much about what is going on here. But one plane crash could turn this Government over, because by the rules the Government follows if all the senators from South Australia belonging to the Liberal Party happened to meet that misfortune, Don Dunstan would be entitled to appoint 6 more Labor senators. I suggest that Government supporters think about this aspect. That is how the Government could be changed by its own rules.
I know that Government supporters will not be allowed to vote for our amendment but in the period they are here they should think about the privileges, the rights, the role of the House of Representatives. Members opposite are the
Government because they sit in this chamber, and unless they are colour-blind they will recognise that this is the House of Representatives and not the Senate. We do not ever want a recurrence of those events which took place, Mr Speaker, as you well know, in 1974 and in 1975. This is where the Government lies. Members opposite are the government while they have a majority of members in this House but from the way they are acting it will not be long before we are the government.
-I call the honourable member for Perth and remind the House that this will be a maiden speech.
-Mr Speaker, before supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I should like to congratulate you, Sir, on your election to your high office. I know I speak for many thousands of Western Australians when I say that this is an honour well deserved by one who has served this Parliament and this nation for so long and in such a distinguished manner. I should also like to congratulate the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his re-election to the position of Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees.
The Division of Perth is one of very diverse economic and social elements. It encompasses the city of Perth and extends northwards through a typical variety of both inner and outer suburban areas. It is certainly a microcosm of Australian society and a significant proportion of its population is afflicted by a range of problems which might unfortunately be considered typical of capital city electorates. I shall mention the nature of these problems a little later. I consider that there is a certain prestige attached to representing a capital city electorate, and I hope that I am not being merely parochial when I suggest that it is a special privilege to represent the city of Perth. We Western Australians are very proud of our State and of our capital city, and I am sure that those honourable members who have visited Perth would agree that our pride is well justified. The nature and stage of the city’s development is such that it is not too late for us to learn from the problems and mistakes which have been encountered in the development of some of the larger cities in the eastern States.
One aspect in which I shall take a particular interest is the vexed question of finding a balance between what should be retained in a city for architectural and/or historic reasons and what projects should be proceeded with for more pragmatic developmental reasons. I have long been concerned at the steady rate of disappearance of some of Perth’s grand old buildings. A number are at present under threat. Although I lack technical competence both in town planning and in architectural appreciation I do have some sense of history. The seemingly inexorable process of destruction of buildings which provide us with a tangible sense of our own history has been occurring in a slow and ad hoc manner. But it does occur and, if we are not careful, residents of Western Australia will one day realise that they have left their descendents a city of tall, rectangular, concrete and glass edifices and large ugly car parks, rather than a capital city with could proudly bear the scrutiny of future generations. I hope that I might serve as a focal point for parties who are involved in and concerned with this delicate and sensitive aspect of our city’s development.
I am pleased that the Government made it clear in its pre-election policy speech that it supported the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission and that only last week the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Senator Greenwood) stated that consideration is now being given to the appointment of an adequate staff to enable the Commission to start its initial work. I am not suggesting that all old buildings in the city should be retained. That would be absurd. But I am aware that the very heart and soul of the city is changing before our very eyes and not, in my opinion, for the better. I urge caution, in both the nature and the scale of the city’s future development, and I hope, as the representative of Perth in this Parliament, to do whatever I can, no matter how limited my official role in such matters might be, to ensure that the future development of the city will be responsibly carried out.
I would now like to speak briefly about some of the problems confronting many of the very substantial number of migrants who live in the Perth electorate. We all know of the great contribution made by migrants to both the economic and social development of this country, particularly in the postwar period. They have worked hard and successfully to build a better life for themselves and for all the people of their adopted country. The question is, however: Are we doing enough for our migrants? I have countless numbers of migrants coming into my electorate office pleading a case for the re-uniting of their families in Australia. No one doubts their contribution to Australia’s development but why, then, have we not been more compassionate to them in the past on a personal level? Why should they have to bear the strain and the sorrow of having members of their closely knit families separated by thousands of miles due to inhumane and narrow immigration guidelines for family re-unification?
I applaud the amnesty this Government has granted for illegal immigrants, but what about those who wish now to come to this country by legal means? We must also look to them. Surely these people who have done so much for this country are entitled, if they so wish and if they can provide the appropriate maintenance and accommodation guarantees, to a more compassionate policy for family re-unification. I welcome, therefore, that section of this Government’s policy on immigration and ethnic affairs which states:
Secondly, the policy states:
I trust that this Government’s immigration policy will be implemented in a manner which is befitting such a worthwhile principle. I also welcome those aspects of the Governor-General’s Speech relating to immigrants as being essential to any successful and humane immigration program and I also urge the Government to give serious consideration to the suggestions in the Henderson report directed at eradicating some of the deficiencies and prejudices which our social welfare system presently contains regarding migrants. I look forward during my stay in this House to protecting and furthering the best interests of Australia’s migrants. They are deserving of such treatment by all members of all parties and at all levels of government.
I referred earlier to some of the problems which are apparent in my electorate and which are probably typical of inner suburban electorates throughout this country. These are problems of housing, poverty, unemployment, immigration, the aged, the sick and the poorly educated. Let us not fool ourselves; collectively, Australia might be regarded as a prosperous society, but assertions to this effect bring no comfort to the many thousands of Australians who live in abject poverty in and around our capital cities. The incidence and the extent of poverty in Australia is well documented in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, a Commission which, incidentally, was established under the McMahon Liberal Government. That report revealed that nearly one in five income units in Australian society is either very poor or close to it. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the inquiry was that it revealed that there were 250 000 dependent children in very poor families in this country. In a country with such natural potential as ours- we are always talking about this- that amounts to almost criminal negligence.
Because I live in and represent an electorate in which there is a great deal of poverty and personal hardship, particularly in the inner suburbs of Penh, I intend to devote much of my time in this House to welfare matters. As an economist by training and as a strong supporter of the private enterprise economic system, I shall also be taking a keen interest in the economic policy making area. I regard both these areas of specialisation as being totally compatible and, in fact, entirely interdependent. In making what I hope will be constructive suggestions for welfare management in this country, I must express my concern at the way in which honourable members opposite keep insisting that we are a businessman’s government. This is just not the case. We do not represent just the business community; if we did, I would not support this Government or belong to the Liberal Party. We represent the interests of all Australians. What we do represent is a government committed to the best ideals of a private enterprise system- the most productive economic system yet devised. But we do reject laissez-faire. I remind honourable members opposite that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated last year, when he was Leader of the Opposition:
No business corporation has any right to survival unless it can justify its existence by the contribution it makes to a better life for the average Australian.
Is that the voice of a Prime Minister whose Party is charged with representing only business interests? Certainly not. In supporting private enterprise, I must emphasise that we do not do it for sectional interests; we do it because we believe that it is the best system yet devised, if responsibly managed, to increase the standard of living for all Australians. That is why I see a mutual compatibility of interests between my support for a government which espouses the cause of free enterprise and my personal desire to become involved in both economic and welfare management matters.
I would like, therefore, to spend some time in suggesting what I consider to be a more reasonable, more effective and more humane method of assisting the deprived people of Australia than has hitherto been the case. My suggestions do not necessarily require an increase in government expenditure. I simply suggest that existing welfare payments be disbursed in a way which will not add to total expenditure but which, if done on a more selective basis, will ensure that more assistance will go to those whose needs are greatest. I hope that in the future, when circumstances permit, it will be possible to restrain total expenditure and still preserve the rights and privileges of the disadvantaged people in Australia by ensuring that the whole spectrum of welfare payments is applied more selectively and less universally. The application of universal welfare payments in place of selective benefits is an inhumane strategy in a country in which resources are limited and in which poverty still very obviously exists. I have never been able to understand why a millionaire should be entitled to receive a pension while there are still poor people in this country. I agree that when one’s working life has ended, one should be able to expect, in a country such as ours, that there will be no deterioration in one ‘s living standards.
I also agree that the means test may be too stringent, it may be abused and, if not properly administered, it may be unfair to the many middle income earners in the so-called grey area of eligibility. In certain circumstances there is much to commend the universal provision of such welfare benefits; it is in accord, in my opinion, with the best interests of a democratic society. I submit, however, in view of the findings of the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, that those happy circumstances do not yet exist in Australia. If the ability to pay is used as the basis of collecting revenue then the logical corollary is to support a criterion of need as the basis for welfare disbursement from that revenue within our present social welfare system. After all, progressive taxation has a much greater redistribution effect than either regressive levies or proportionate contributions in the funding of welfare schemes. I am therefore pleased that the Governor-General’s Speech indicated that the Government would be reviewing the concept of the income security system as a whole, including the effectiveness of guaranteed minimum income proposals in overcoming poverty. I sincerely hope that the spirit of the Henderson Commission’s recommendation on income security, which provides that money will be distributed where it is most needed, will be implemented.
Much has already been said by the Prime Minister regarding the failure of the Labor Government to provide for the poor and disadvantaged groups. These comments have been supported by the Henderson Committee when discussing the adverse effects of high inflation and unemployment rates on the poorer and weaker sections of the Australian community. I will not add to those comments. However, I would urge the Government to give urgent and close consideration to the many worthwhile recommendations of the Henderson report. I have studied the report in some detail and whilst I do have some reservations about the recommendations of that report I have no reservations at all about the need to act urgently to eradicate from this country the degree of poverty which has been so effectively and expertly disclosed by the Commission.
I would like to thank the electors of Perth for the confidence they have expressed in my Party and in my Party’s platform. I can assure them that I will tackle their problems assiduously as their problems, whether they be problems of immigration, social security or education, are all national problems. I would remind them that I am now a member of the House of Representatives. It is therefore my duty to represent their interests and I can best do this if they take every opportunity to avail themselves of my services. Might I say in conclusion that late on the first evening I spent in this Parliament House, when most honourable members had left, I ran into the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant)quite a formidable experience. At that stage he had not realised that most of the new faces in this place were Liberal faces. We introduced ourselves and he assured me that my stay in the Parliament would be only a temporary appointment. I remind the honourable member that when Mr Fred Chaney first won the seat of Perth in 1955 his predecessor said exactly the same thing and Mr Chaney remained the member for Perth for 1 5 years. I hope that my stay in Parliament will be at least as temporary as that of Mr Fred Chaney and that I will represent the electorate of Perth with the same degree of integrity and distinction. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and I reject the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins).
-Mr Speaker, in rising to speak in this debate may I first congratulate all those honourable members who have made their maiden speeches and particularly the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) and the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) whose sentiments were more satisfying to me than those that came from the other side of the House. I would also like to extend my congratulations to you, Sir, on the attainment of your office and also to the Chairman of Committees. But in saying so, Sir, I feel compelled to say that your accession to this high office is marred by the events which enabled the circumstances to arise in which you could become Speaker at this time. Indeed, these events likewise mar the attainment of government by the Liberal and National Country Parties. Other speakers on this side of the House have amply expounded on the events of 11 November so I do not intend to traverse that ground again. However, it is interesting to note the expressions of concern by many speakers on the Government side in this debate that we on this side of the House should be so ungracious as to remind everyone of what transpired last November. They show an especial sensitivity to any discussion of the actions of the GovernorGeneral. Clearly they want to forget their acts of constitutional violence and their action in discarding the conventional rules of political behaviour in this country and, more especially, they want the Australian people to forget them too. They want to be respectable and to be seen as a Government that achieved power in the normal course of events.
Let me assure honourable members opposite however, that there is no possibility of the Opposition’s forgiving and forgetting. Although we have only 28 per cent of the seats in this House we nevertheless represent 43 per cent of the voters at the last election. We represent 3 000 000 voters who were incensed and irate at the actions of the coalition parties and of the Governor-General and who now bear a deep sense of bitterness towards those who perpetrated those acts. There is no forgiveness in their hearts- only anger, disgust, disillusionment and fear. It will be a long time indeed before they or their representatives in this place- the parliamentary Labor Party- will be able to put these events out of their minds and behave as though they had never happened. Indeed this legacy of bitterness, which is the price of the coalition victory, has disturbing implications for the future of parliamentary democracy in this country. How many times do honourable members .opposite think they can frustrate, inhibit and hamstring Labor governments or breach the conventional rules of behaviour to the point where they force Labor governments to premature elections or oppose fair and reasonable electoral reform that puts the parties on an even footing without damaging the faith in the parliamentary system of those people in this country who want to achieve reform? The same could also be said of the Government’s action in using the Commonwealth Police for political purposes. If the conservative parties in this country continue in this vein they will hardly be in a position to complain if the struggle for reform moves increasingly out of the parliamentary arena into the less sedate world of on the job struggle and public protestation. Political strikes and demonstrations may well become more and more common if those millions who seek to re-organise society conclude that they are the only effective means at their disposal. This is more than likely to be the type of society we are headed for unless the coalition parties show to the people that they really do believe in parliamentary democracy, and are prepared to conduct themselves in a fair and principled fashion. That means, accepting electoral reform and allowing Labor governments to govern and then to be judged on their meritsnot to be ambushed at a time of the coalition ‘s choosing.
I am convinced that many members opposite have no idea what a dangerous game they have been playing during the last 3 years. They saw only the short run objective of getting rid of the Labor Government and they did not care what conventions they broke to do it. I say to them that if they wish to have a parliamentary democracy in this country then the means of achieving power is important. If they play a ruthless game of achieving and keeping power at any price, there is no doubt that democracy will not survive in this country. Such action is itself a repudiation of democracy. Futhermore, the process of alienation of a significant section of society is already under way. If this process is not arrested, then some of that section of society may eventually express their resentment and frustration by direct action. If the Government’s answer to that is not concession but more repression, then the vicious circle of repression, reaction and further repression will quickly demolish any semblance of democracy in this country. It has happened in other countries. There is no reason to believe that we are immune. Of course, it may be that some honourable members opposite do not particularly mind if that is the end result, so long as it succeeds in keeping the left wing elements in the political spectrum from gaining power. To them I would say: ‘As ye sow, so may ye reap’. They should bear in mind that it is at least possible that if our society degenerates into a repressive Fascist style State then it may eventually induce a strong leftist reaction as in Portugal, for instance.
I would ask all honourable members opposite therefore to think long and hard about their role in this society and the role that their Party has played in the last 3 years. If they really want to preserve democracy then they may well have to revise their ideas of acceptable political behaviour in the very near future. It may mean that they will have to tolerate from time to time a government that they loathe and tolerate changes to society which they abhor. But the alternative is likely to be the eventual destruction of any semblance of democracy and to risk losing in one severe and sudden transfer of power everything that they tried so desperately to retain. One is reminded of European colonists in so many parts of the world. By trying to keep everything they had, the white colonists eventually lost the lot. So it may well be eventually in this country that if the conservative parties and the interests that they represent refuse the Opposition a fair chance to govern or to govern effectively then they may eventually find themselves witnessing, not reform, but revolution.
So far I have addressed my thoughts to the role of the Government Parties. I would hope the Governor-General too would give these matters some thought. His actions are just as important in this context as those of the Liberal and Country Parties. Whatever his motivation for doing what he did on 11 November last, there can be no doubt that he struck an enormous blow at the faith of many Australians in the parliamentary system. While on this point I would like to comment briefly on the touchiness of members opposite to criticism of the Governor-General. It seems to me that if the Governor-General decides to come into the kitchen he should be prepared to put up with the heat, to coin a phrase. An apolitical Governor-General is properly excluded from political comment, but once he enters the political fray his actions surely must be legitimately subject to political criticism. .
To stifle criticism of the political actions of the Governor-General would be to stifle freedom of speech in this country. Yet we understand that the Government is investigating the possibility of invoking the Crimes Act against those who have made such criticisms. If such action were to be taken it would be a major step towards the destruction of the freedom of speech in this country. The next step would be to use the Crimes Act to prevent or restrict criticism of the Government. The Act already makes provision for it. The mere contemplation of using the Crimes Act to silence the Opposition is colossal hypocrisy from a government that gained power by making outlandish accusations of dictatorship against the Labor Government in general, and Prime Minister Whitlam in particular and is even now pontificating about how it stands basically for the freedom of the individual.
This leads me to discuss an interesting development in this debate, namely, the concern of the coalition parties to develop a philosophy to rationalise their conservatism. This process began some time ago but it has reached a degree of assertiveness in this debate that was not previously apparent. Speaker after speaker on the Government side has referred to it, but none more than the Prime Minister (Mr Fraser) who started this development when he first became leader of bis Party. In addressing the National Press Club on 3 1 July last year he said:
A fundamental freedom that must be expanded is control by individuals of the income they earn. Freedom to spend one’s own income is just as important as freedom of speech, of religion and of association.
This rather remarkable statement, which looks like a prescription for the complete abolition of income tax, is perhaps not so surprising when one considers that the Prime Minister confessed when he became leader of his Party that he obtained his philosophical inspiration from the ultraconservative writer Ayn Rand, one of whose books is entitled as the member for Grayndler mentioned previously today, The Virtue of Selfishness. With such a Christian ethic as his guiding light it was no wonder that the now Prime Minister could portray blatant self-interest as worthy principle.
Since then this curious concept of fundamental freedom has been further developed, and its fullest expression is to be found in the speech of the Prime Minister in this debate. The message now is that true freedom is to be found only in a society with a small public or government sector. An increasing public sector is seen as reducing the freedom of individuals and as an attempt to ‘determine people’s lives for them’. We are told that a government that increases the public sector is elitist because the Government presumes to know better than individuals how money should be spent. Such a government is said to operate on the basis that it has the right to determine the fate of every person in the country and to take away from people responsibility for decisions concerning the manner in which they live.
On the other hand, we are told by the Prime Minister that a government that wishes to reduce the size of the public sector stands for a society in which people are free, in which different life styles and the pursuit of happiness are toleratedhis word- in which governments do not presume to live other people’s lives but in which there is a real concern to help the disadvantaged. Rarely, if ever, can a Party leader in this Parliament have parroted such a farrago of philosophical platitudes. This pseudophilosophy is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to provide principle where none exists, to disguise blind and selfish reaction to the redistribution of income and resources as the defence of freedom. The fact is that before Labor came to office the proportion of gross domestic product taken up by government expenditure was extremely low by international standards. Figures published in the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development Observer of April 1975 show that in 1972- the latest year for which figures were available- only six of the 24 OECD countries, the 24 most developed Western capitalist countries in the world, had a level of current government expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product that was lower than Australia’s. The level of most countries was much higher than that of Australia. Our figure was 23.7 per cent, but 12 countries had a figure of over 30 per cent. Of those 12, 3 were over 40 per cent. Even the United States figure, at 29.6 per cent was well above that for Australia, while below us were such countries as Spain, Portugal and Greece, countries which have not been exactly noted for zealously safeguarding the freedom of the individual. Since then our public sector has increased. Even so, it is still way below that of most other developed countries in the socalled free world.
If Labor was guilty of inhibiting freedom by raising the proportion of government expenditure in this country, how much more guilty are the governments of the other capitalist countries in the world, many of which are anything but socialist? Furthermore, it is grossly hypocritical for the coalition parties to accuse a government that increases the size of the public sector and increases the burden of taxation of destroying freedom., When the Liberal and Country Parties were in office, they did precisely that. When Labor went out of office in 1949 a man on average weekly earnings with a wife and 2 children paid 3 per cent of his income in income tax. By the time Labor came back to office in 1972 such a worker paid 1 5 per cent of his income in income tax. Let there be no doubt that if increasing the size of the public sector and so increasing taxation inhibits freedom, then the Liberal and National Country Parties have much to answer for. Clearly, by comparison with what happens in other countries or what has happened previously in this country, Labor was not doing anything extraordinary in increasing the size of the public sector.
Leaving that aside and leaving aside the Prime Minister’s more inane accusations, such as the one that Labor was trying to determine the fate of every person in this country, what case is there for arguing that increasing the public sector reduces the level of freedom? It seems to me that one can argue that way only if one ignores the expansion of freedom that comes from government expenditure and concentrates on the reduced freedom of individuals to spend their income as a result of paying more tax. But to ignore the expansion of freedom that comes from increased government expenditure is to ignore the point of the whole exercise. One way in which Labor increased the size of the public sector was by substantially increasing the real value of pensions and other social security benefits. Can anyone deny that those increased welfare benefits did other than increase the freedom of the recipients to live a normal life rather than the poverty stricken existence that was their lot under previous coalition governments? The same thing is true of education. By greatly increasing government expenditure on education we enhanced the freedom of students to gain knowledge and understanding and the freedom to have a more equal opportunity in life than would otherwise have been the case. So one could go on to the various other items of government expenditure which were increased by Labor. It is clearly absurd to argue that increasing the size of the public sector necessarily involves a diminution in the total sum of freedom, particularly when it was already at a level well below the average for comparable countries.
The sheer absurdity of Fraserism, if I may use that term to encompass the new philosophy, is probably best shown by comparing Australia with a country such as Sweden, where the size of the public sector in 1972 was one and three quarter times the size of Australia ‘s. In what way are the Swedes less free than us? Certainly they pay more tax. A man on average weekly earnings has a marginal tax rate near 60 per cent compared with 35 per cent in this country. But there seems to be no lack of drive and enterprise. The living standard of the Swedes is the second highest in the world, their industries are modern and efficient, and their tariff barriers are among the lowest in the Western world. So surely it cannot be said that there is any lack of enterprise, and allied with that there is a lack of repressive legislation on the freedom of the individual in such areas as censorship, for instance, which puts Australia and especially Queensland to shame. Nor do the Swedes want to change that state of affairs. A recent survey in Sweden, quoted in the United States magazine Business Week of December 22 last year, showed that many Swedes thought there should be more expenditure on health, care of the aged, education and the environment. It should also be mentioned in this context that there is no correlation whatever between the size of the public sector in particular countries and their rate of inflation and unemployment.
The Prime Minister and many other government speakers in this debate asserted that there is a direct relationship between economic instability and the size of the public sector. They produced no evidence whatever to support their allegations, because none exists. The fact is that some countries such as West Germany and Sweden- but there are others- which have a large public sector also have relatively low rates of inflation in the whole spectrum of inflation rates in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Thus there is no doubt that to assert that a larger public sector necessarily leads to higher inflation simply does not stand up to analysis. Indeed, of the 6 countries which had a smaller public sector than we do, five had much greater rates of inflation at their peak in the period of inflation over the last couple of years.
Finally on this aspect of the Government’s pseudo-philosophy, I come to its ultimate piece of cynicism- its supposed concern with the needs of the disadvantaged, with those in real need. This has been adverted to in quite strong terms in the Governor-General’s Speech and also in the Prime Minister’s speech in this debate. But by the time the Governor-General had expressed these sentiments the Government had already by its actions shown that it was quite insincere. It had already announced before Parliament was convened that it intended to wipe out funeral benefits for pensioners, to delay pension increases by a month, to eliminate subsidised pharmaceutical . benefits for various disadvantaged groups, and to reduce expenditure on Aborigines by $7m this year. On the other hand, it had acted to distribute largesse on such items as the superphosphate bounty without any regard to need whatever. So much for its concern with real need.
These actions have quickly made it clear that there has been no fundamental change from previous coalition governments that displayed a callous disregard of the needs of disadvantaged groups. Even in Opposition the coalition parties demonstrated by their attitude to the Schools Commission Bill that their concern was not so much with those in need as those in no need at all. The coalition parties bitterly opposed that Bill which brought in substantial increases in education expenditure on the basis of need, but it was obstructed by the Liberal and National Country Parties because it gave nothing to the wealthier schools. Although the National Country Party eventually adopted the pragmatic approach and voted to pass it, the Liberal Party maintained its opposition to the bitter end. Yet now members of that Party deliver bleeding heart lectures on the need to look after the disadvantaged.
Their actions speak louder than words. Their actions when previously in government, when in Opposition, and now as the Government again, prove conclusively that their professed concern for those in real need is nothing more than lip service. There can be no doubt that the newfound conservative philosophy expounded by the Prime Minister and his underlings is a complete fraud. When one analyses the highsounding rhetoric, it is revealed as nothing more than the sound of an empty drum.
– I call the honourable member for Phillip. I remind the House that the honourable member for Phillip is making his maiden speech.
-Mr Speaker, I would like, to add my name to the long list of congratulations you have received on your election to the office of Speaker. You come to that position with a distinguished parliamentary career behind you, and I am sure that the future conduct of business here has been placed in the most capable and dignified hands. I understand that it is customary to make mention of one’s predecessors in a speech of this nature. That is no difficult task, for having spent my boyhood and grown to manhood in the electorate of Phillip I came to know them all. The people of Phillip have been fortunate in their choice of political representatives over. the years, and I hope to carry on their tradition of service and dedication. It is with great pride, yet with a feeling of deep humility, that I accept the trust reposed in me.
Mr Speaker, I believe the theme of the GovernorGeneral’s address and the Government’s overall philosophical concept was summed up in the statement that the Government’s long term objective was to encourage a development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their own goals in life. I am reminded of the words of Sir Robert Menzies as long ago as 1944 when he echoed similar sentiments. He said:
We have learned that the right answer is to set the individual free to aim at equality of opportunity, to create a society in which rights and duties are recognised and made effective. In this free society the tyrannical notion of an all powerful state is rejected and dogmatic socialism with it.
Sir Robert’s words should be a reminder to all Australians that the philosophy of the Government cannot be reduced to embrace a glib phrase only. For example, the words ‘free enterprise’ are often used. This phrase is too narrow because too many people, and particularly those on the Opposition benches, exclusively seem to interpret the words ‘free enterprise’ as ‘business enterprise’ or, even more facetiously, ‘big business’. The Government certainly believes in free enterprise, not only because it believes in restricting governments to areas which concern governments. More importantly, the free enterprise system is Australia’s life blood. Tamper unnecessarily with that system and one tampers with the security of ordinary Australians. I say that advisedly because the free enterprise system is the major employment avenue for us all. That avenue is an avenue lined not with multinationals but with businesses of all sizes run by average Australians with the unique brand of Australian determination and initiative. The great guiding principles of the Government that men and women can grow to their full moral stature only when they control their own lives will be a source of untold comfort and inspiration and a solid base of confidence to all Australians in whatever fields of endeavour they may pursue. When government takes important decisions unnecessarily out of their hands, whatever its intentions it gradually destroys the very condition in which people can gain a sense of their own worth.
Mr Speaker, I note also with interest, in the Governor-General’s Speech reference to the need to protect and improve the environment. This is a matter close to the heart of my own electorate of Phillip. Phillip is unique not only in the sense that it is the smallest electorate in Australia but also as one of Australia’s most famous areas. Contained within its borders are a number of famous beaches. I need to refer honourable members to only one of these, and that is on the subject of preservation of our environment. I refer, of course, to that international symbol, Bondi Beach, depicted in glossy terms on many a postcard overseas. But those postcards do not tell the real story. Like so many famous tourist attractions of our nation much needs to be done to preserve its natural beauty and inherent attraction. The money is simply not available at community and municipal levels to undertake these tasks adequately. The job is a national one. I shall be working in the life of this Parliament to see its beauty restored and preserved by strongly advocating proposals such as the landscaping of its immediate foreshore and the building of an
Olympic pool in the area. It is to be hoped that this shall be regarded by the Parliament as a national heritage of the Australian people and will be funded accordingly.
My electorate is also famous for its great sporting reputation, from its surf life saving clubs to its professional football teams. The Surf Life Saving Association of Australia is not a sporting body in the generally accepted sense of that term and it should never be confused in that manner. It is at present playing a more practical and recognisable role in Australia’s well being than many other government funded agencies that receive millions of dollars annually. The Government, I trust, will recognise this by way of substantial grants. I will work to see that recognition maintained and expanded. For too long has their service to millions of Australians been largely ignored. They deserve a high expenditure priority. Honourable members will be aware of the freezing of funds to many amateur sporting organisations which has occurred as a result of the Government’s attempts to mop up the economic mess remaining after 3 years of the previous Government’s incompetence. I sincerely hope that this freeze is only a short term measure. The achievements of Australian sportsmen and sportswomen have done a great deal to enhance the international reputation of our nation. Their contribution, and government assistance to further their achievements, should not be ignored.
Mr Speaker, my colleagues have admirably commented on the twin cancers of inflation and unemployment that were the products of the worst government since Federation. I say no more about them except to add that the policies outlined by the Governor-General will succeed in excising these festering economic sores.
I will now turn to 2 matters which are of great concern to a large number of my constituents in Phillip. First I mention the present plight of thousands of Jewish people trapped in the Soviet Union. I recently lodged with the Consul at the Russian Embassy a petition containing 2500 signatures protesting at the harsh treatment meted out to Soviet Jewry, decrying the discrimination against them and highlighting the consistent refusal of the Russian authorities to grant exit visas to them. I was informed by the Russian Consul that there were 2.4 million Jews in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of which only 2 per cent were being detained, the reason stated being that these people were in possession of secrets of a military or state nature. All others were free to leave. This certainly does not agree with documentary evidence in my possession. In 1974 the average monthly migration was 2500. In 1975 there was a marked downturn in these figures, an alarming proportion, which lends credence to the voices that cry out from all over the world saying that the Soviets have choked off the migration of Soviet Jews. I pledge myself to work tirelessly in an endeavour to do whatever I can to right this terrible injustice which is abhorrent to the minds of all men of peace and goodwill.
Secondly, fears were held last year that the Palestine Liberation Organisation would not only be allowed into Australia but that the Labor Party’s love affair with a foreign power would blossom and that PLO offices would open here under the auspices of a Labor Government. In the light of current events, Mr Speaker, I have not the slightest doubt that those fears would have become a reality, leading to pressure on the Government to denounce the free and independent state of Israel. The annihilation of the Labor Government in 1975 will allay any further fears on this score. It would be a black day indeed for this country if the PLO ever darkened our doors.
I also would like to comment on the question of our Indian Ocean strategy which was raised in the Governor-General’s Address. I stress that it is vitally important to put this question in the overall context of global naval strategy between the super powers. Many naval experts now rate the Russian naval capabilities far superior to that of the United States of America, the unchallenged king of only a decade ago. There is a valid argument for the belief that the Soviets are intent upon developing a power monopoly across the oceans of the world. The Indian Ocean, the world’s third largest, has witnessed a steady build-up of Russian naval presence. The Russians also have an undoubted ability vastly to increase their Indian Ocean forces. This, of course, comes as a result of the re-opening of the Suez Canal, which enhances the possibility of the movement of vessels from the vast Mediterranean fleet through to the Indian Ocean in quick time. They already have operational bases in areas such as Iraq, Aden, Mauritius and Somalia which could provide the back-up facilities for such a manoeuvre. In contrast the Americans have as yet no fully operational bases- I stress the word ‘fully’- in the Indian Ocean. In such a context vague talks on zones of peace have become not only highly improbable and impractical but also downright dangerous in the context of the security of Australia’s vulnerable western coastline. I commend the Government’s support of the United States’ development of a base at
Diego Garcia, in addition to the expansion of the Cockburn Sound facilities.
I draw the attention of the House to a very important issue, namely the mining and export of uranium. This is a policy area tragically stifled by the do-nothing policies of the previous Government. It is incredible that this should have been the state of affairs. Not only is uranium a unique and a valuable energy source but also the immediate wealth it will bring to Australia should be closely noted. Present indications are that the extent of Australia’s uranium resources are as yet unknown. However, we have a present known reserve of some 300 000 tonnes, this being worth an estimated $ 18,000m. The return contained in that figure alone to the prosperity of the nation should not be overlooked. I think it is important that we develop uranium markets as soon as possible. Let there be no mistake, the world wants Australia’s uranium and it is prepared to pay vast amounts for it. But it is no good sitting on this huge wealth as the previous Government did.
I raise 3 arguments in support of that statement. Firstly, any economic advantage to be gained from future price rises can easily be obtained now. Long term contracts containing price escalation clauses can be clinched at this very moment. Secondly, there is every possibility that the boom in uranium prices is only short term. The development of advanced conversion and enrichment processes, as well as fast breeder reactors, could produce a uranium glut by the 1980s. Thirdly, we must recognise that the production of energy by a nuclear fission process is only a short term alternative in the supply of the world’s energy. A great deal of research is going into the development of fusion processes which will not require uranium as the base product and that is to say nothing of the long term development of solar energy. Unless we act now to utilise our uranium resources to the maximum it could well be that a valuable national resource will eventually become worthless and the monetary return to Australia will be lost forever. I commend the quick recognition of this fact by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) on his recent visit to Japan.
I now turn to the subject of the GovernorGeneral. The second last speaker from the Opposition mentioned the fact that none of the new members on this side of the House when making a maiden speech had alluded to that topic at all. 1 have been sitting in this Parliament since 17 February and I have been hit by Opposition members with more wind about the GovernorGeneral and his action last November than that which is currently blowing off the coast of Queensland. The denunciations of the Governor-General have as much impact on the people of Australia as a scratched long-playing record would have on a conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Suffice to say that in the Constitution there is an in-built safety valve giving the Governor-General absolute discretion to dissolve the Parliament. It is history now that he pulled the political plug on the worst government since federation. Will members of the Opposition never learn that they are here in this place not as an official Opposition to the Governor-General but as duly elected representatives of the people, to make some significant contribution to their welfare and prosperity? It is my earnest hope, Mr Speaker, that my deliberations and labours in this House will in some way make such a contribution. The people of this great nation recently reposed confidence in the coalition. I say with all the sincerity that I can muster that the future years will clearly indicate that that confidence was not misplaced.
- Mr Speaker, as it is customary that I should congratulate you on your election and appointment to the position of Speaker of this House, I do so with some pleasure because of the fact that I believe it must be a bitter pill for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to swallow to realise that after having defeated you as the Leader of the Opposition after 2 attempts he now has to accept you as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I think in that case, Mr Speaker, it is a matter that is well worth feeling pleased about. Also we realise that one of the members on our side of the House, the former Speaker, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), received an additional vote -
-Order! The honourable member for Phillip made a great maiden speech but I must remind the House that another speaker is on his feet and I want him to be heard. The honourable member for Newcastle.
-There are no worries, Mr Speaker. I will overcome the interruptions. ( Government supporters interjecting)
-Do not tease me. Mr Speaker, I repeat and draw to the attention of honourable members that the former Speaker, the honourable member for Corio, received one vote more than the number of honourable members who sit on this side of the House. This is quite interesting when one realises that in the Senate in 1974 Senator Justin O’Byrne, the Labor nominee for President of the Senate, was likewise able to pull on side a Liberal or Country Party rat so that he could become the President of that chamber. So we had the self-same situation here, where someone in the Liberal or Country Parties was not prepared to accept the decision of those Parties and used the secret ballot to record a vote in opposition to one of the Government’s own members. I think that is well worth drawing attention to. As you were one of the candidates, Mr Deputy Speaker, I just wonder where that vote came from, or whether the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) was getting square again.
-Order! I think the honourable member should take care not to reflect on the Chair. I advise him to go on with his speech.
-Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I just wonder whether the Minister for the Capital Territory had another swipe at the honourable member for Bruce (Mr Snedden). Some mention has been made in this place about the actions of the Governor-General on 11 November. I do not propose to deal with that subject at length because I do not think it is worth wasting my time dealing with it. I join all the other members of the Opposition in saying that as far as I am concerned the sooner he resigns the better for this country. I look forward to saying the same thing about the Chief Justice because of the part that he obviously played in those events. I would like to quote a part of the speech by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which was delivered at Croydon Park on 30 November 1975 in the period leading up to the election on 13 December. He said:
Australia needs a government of integrity and responsibility. Australia needs a government that really cares about people.
What an excellent record the Government has already, with one Minister having resigned and awaiting a charge to be heard as to alleged malpractice in the election campaign! Do not talk to me about corrupt governments. Honourable members opposite should have a look in the mirror and have a look at themselves. Already in a very short period one Minister has resigned. No member of the Labor Party was ever charged and no wife of a member of the Labor Party got a $10,000 gift either. So, honourable members opposite should not talk about what went on.
-Order! 1 think that the House -
-I do not need your help. I come back to the point -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. Whether the honourable member needs my help or not, I think that the House is getting a trifle disorderly. I realise that the honourable member is enjoying the provocation.
-At least I have livened up the place a bit tonight, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was referring to the Prime Minister’s statement about Australia needing a government of integrity and responsibility. I have already given the examples of the Minister who has been displaced and the one who has been paid off for the stab in the back that he gave on 2 occasions to the right honourable member for Bruce when he was the Leader of the Opposition. I am referring, in the second case, to the Minister for the Capital Territory, who I am delighted to see here, because I hate like hell talking about people who are not present.
-Order! Now that the honourable member has mentioned that, I remind him that he must not reflect upon individuals or make imputations against the reputation of individual members of the House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a well known fact, and you, as a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, would know of the role that he played in organising the coup that brought the right honourable member for Bruce unstuck when he was the Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! That is a little better than the honourable member’s last remark. I just warn him that he will be made to withdraw if he does not keep within the bounds of the Standing Orders.
-That brings me to the point of the promises of the Government and the way in which it has broken some of them already in such a very short period of time. Only 2 things have saved the people of this country from again being loaded with television and radio licences by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). It is a well known fact, as a result of the many leaks that are now starting to occur, that those 2 honourable gentlemen were great supporters in the Cabinet of the reintroduction of television and radio licences. Only 2 things prevented them from being introduced. One is the Victorian election and the other is the
New South Wales election this year. As soon as they are over, the people of Australia once again will be loaded with television and radio licences.
The Government already has made a start on breaking down its promise on wage indexation. The trade union movement has not forgotten the performance of the Liberal-Country Party governments over the years. In 1953, as a result of the conniving of the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, Mr Justice Kelly, the then Government was able to dispense completely for many years with the basic wage, which to some degree was related to wage indexation as we know it today. It was a much better proposition because it did not give money to people who did not need it, as happens today in that the people on the top of the salary scale are getting three and four times as much as the people in the lower income bracket. That is one of the bad points that I see in wage indexation. But, at the same time, in my opinion what the Government set out to do is unforgivable.
I can go on to talk about the deferment of pension increases for one month. The Government is prepared to do the pensioners out of some $29m. It could have received an additional $30m from increased air navigation charges, to cover the increased expenditure on pensions; but it was not prepared to accept that avenue of funding the provision of that sort of benefit to the people who need it. The abolition of the funeral benefit and the increase in pharmaceutical costs are two further examples. Just recently we have seen changes made in respect of the investment allowance. Previously people investing less than $1,000 on capital improvements were not entitled to any allowance. We have now seen the Treasurer come out with a phasing-in of the allowance. How generous it is! Anyone who is involved in an expenditure of $600 gets an 8 per cent allowance; $700, 16 per cent; $800, 24 per cent; and $900, 32 per cent. It is a great phasingin. It is peanuts as far as the people in the lower income group are concerned. That is typical of the whole philosophy of this Government. It is not prepared to do anything to assist the people in the low income bracket- the low income earners.
Who are the great beneficiaries of the superphosphate bounty? Millionaire Mai is one. What does he get out of it? Some large companies draw great benefit from it.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat for a minute. There is a method of referring to honourable members in this House, and it is not usually by their christian names. I ask the honourable member if he would give people their correct title, for example, the honourable member for Hunter, or whoever the honourable member might be.
-I referred to Millionaire Mai, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Perhaps I was reading more than I should into the honourable member’s remarks.
-You probably read something into it.
– I have my doubts.
-If you know who Millionaire Mai is, then good luck to you. So much for the misdoings of the Government so far as this field is concerned. What I want to devote my time to at this stage is the perilous position of shipbuilding in Australia today and the fact that at the present time we have had numerous statements from the management of the 2 major shipyards in Australia, namely the Whyalla engineering shipyard- that is the Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd yard- and the State dockyard in Newcastle. The management of both of these places have made representations to the Government drawing its attention to the fact that, in the case of Whyalla, some 1900 men’s jobs are in peril, the jobs of 2200 men in the State dockyard in Newcastle are in peril and about 5000 people are directly and indirectly involved as far as that industry is concerned. At the moment both these shipyards have orders, but they are both rapidly running out. For example, at Whyalla shipbuilding and engineering works they have 2 bulk carriers. The first will be completed in May 1977 and the second in November 1977. They have 2 trans-Tasman roll on-roll off vessels. The first of these is to be completed in June 1976 and the second in February 1977. The State dockyard is in a similar position with one vehicle deck container to be completed in June 1976, and two 25 000-ton bulk carriers to be completed in September 1976 and May 1977. Both of these yards are in need of an order. It is not a case of no orders being available and there being no need to build ships.
Before I go any further with this matter, let us see where the sincerity of this Government lies. When one reads, for example, a statement on policy that was put out by the then Opposition spokesman on transport, the honourable member for Gippsland, Mr Nixon.
– You were a Minister for the last 3 years, why did you not do something?
-That is all right; the orders are there. I will give the honourable member the details in a minute if he will only be patient. The Government’s policy on shipbuilding is:
An Australian shipbuilding and repair industry is essential to the national interest. The Liberal and Country Parties believe Australia must maintain an independent capacity to provide and service the relevant requirements of our commercial shipping and our defence forces.
A Federal Liberal and Country Parry Government will pursue policies which ensure the shipbuilding and repair industry operates as competitively and efficiently as possible. In this we will provide a building subsidy to protect our relatively small but vital industry.
– Where did that come from?
-That came from the honourable member for Gippsland. All I am wanting him to do is to honour that policy, which he circulated in September 1975, with great pride on the eve of the last election. If he carries out that policy the yards will be in a much better position. With regard to the needs for building, let us just take the 2 largest shipping operators in Australia today. I refer to the Australian National Line. It has already called tenders for four 15 000-ton bulk ships. Tenders were called and closed last year. There is a need for those ships to replace the late class ship, but unless an order is placed almost immediately it will mean that when they would normally have been completed it would have been possible for ANL to phase out its late class ships. If ANL does not get on with the job of building these ships now, then it will be necessary for it either to go in for a very expensive survey- a 20 year survey- which is a most uneconomical operation in Australia, or send them off the coast, which could well result in there being a serious shortage of ships of that type. There is a need for those ships; there is a requirement for them. Let us see the Minister get on with the job of allowing the ANL to place these orders. I will deal with the matter a bit more in detail but I want to go through the points of what ships are required. ANL has an understanding with John Lysaght (Aust) Ltd that it is prepared to sign a 16-year agreement for the building of a 20 000-ton slab carrier for slabs which cannot be carried by road or rail. That company prepared to enter into this agreement for the building of this ship to be operated completely by ANL.
There is a need for that 20 000 ton ship. The Bureau of Transport Economics carried out a study a short time ago which disclosed that by about 1980 there would be a need for another product carrier of somewhere between 20 000 and 25 000 tons for use along the Australian coast. There are 6 ships that can be built and should be built. The Broken Hill Proprietory Co. Ltd called tenders for two 13 000 ton general purpose ships on 18 August 1975. Tenders closed on 28 November 1975. I will give the present position by quoting from a Press release which states:
BHP’s Whyalla dockyard, which has about 1900 employees, has told Senator Cotton: ‘The present state of the Government subsidy is such that we don ‘t know what to do.
Even if the subsidy continued at its present level, we do not know if we could get another order’.
The company does not need another order. It needs to build 2 ships for itself. The company has already called tenders and closed those tenders for two 1 3 000 ton general purpose ships.
As far as the Australian National Line is concerned, there is a need for the ships I have mentioned already. There is a need also to replace the Tolgo or the Tagasago which has now been renamed the Tambo River by a 70 000 ton ore or coal carrier. BHP has had the Iron Endeavour operating off the Australian coast for some considerable time. It was built in 1969. That company has been operating the ship part time along the Australian coast. At times it has operated on rotation- one trip along the coast, one trip overseasand sometimes it has been occupied fully overseas. Why does not BHP do the right thing, and build a 70 000 ton replacement ship for the Iron Endeavour? Why does not the Australian National Line get on with the job of replacing the Tagasago with a 70 000 ton bulk carrier? There is enough work just in what I have mentioned tonight to provide sufficient employment for the 2 shipbuilding yards and most important of all as far as shipbuilding is concerned, to provide a continuity of employment, so that workers are not faced with the position with which they are today in these 2 major shipbuilding yards, that is, closing down. Unless an order is placed immediately with the State Dockyard, it will have to start laying off people in the drawing office. All their drawings for the 15 000 ton ships have been completed. Most of the preparatory work has been completed. I understand they have even got to the point of starting some of the steel work. Unless that order is placed, those men who normally would be employed on the work will have to be laid off by both the State Dockyards. A similar situation applies in regard to BHP.
I just want to make a few other points for the benefit of honourable members. I wish to give a summary of tonnage engaged on BHP trades at the moment. A total of 271 973 tons is carried by ships built in Australia. A total of 932 692 tons of that trade is carried by shipping built in overseas shipyards. It is about time that Australian industries supported Australian shipyards. I was disappointed to read a statement in the Press this morning attributed to Mr Jenner, the Chairman of the Australian Shipping Commission. I know that he has been to Japan where he had discussions with Japanese shipyards for the supply of ships for the Australian trade. I will be quite frank about the matter. I believe that it is better to employ Australian workers in shipyards than it is to employ Japanese, German or British workers in their shipyards building ships for Australia. There have been some orders for ships placed overseas. This was brought about because it was not possible to obtain delivery of those ships in time to take up the gap that it was necessary to take up at that time. For example, we are to obtain a 29 000 ton container ship built in Germany, for one simple reason: There was not one shipyard in Australia that was capable of delivering that ship on time so that the Australian National Line could pick up its responsibilities and its tonnages in the Australia to Europe trade. The same can be said about other orders for ships that have been placed.
At the moment, there is a serious lull in shipbuilding orders in overseas yards. The result is that those shipyards, so as to get work, are prepared to quote almost any price to get the jobs that may be available to them. The State Dockyard has submitted the lowest Australian tender for the four 15 000 ton bulk ships that I am talking about the orders for which ANL should place with an Australian yard. There are Japanese tenders which are much lower. Once again I come back to this point: Japanese yards are prepared to quote any price to get those jobs. We should not be prepared to stand idly by and see Australian shipyards closed while work is given to overseas yards. This is crazy. I know that honourable members will have comments to make about it. The policies on this matter adopted by former governments have likewise been crazy. We should be working to assist and develop Australian industries.
-Before I call the honourable member for Kingston I remind the House that this is his maiden speech.
-In rising to address this House for the first time since my election to the Parliament I add my congratulations to those already offered to you by many honourable members who have spoken in this
Address-in-Reply debate. I believe the experience over the last 3 weeks since your election to the Chair indicates that the deliberations of this chamber will be enhanced by your occupancy of it. I would also like to thank the electors of Kingston for the confidence which they showed in me at the election on 13 December. I am fully aware of the responsibility with which they have entrusted me and I will endeavour to fulfill that trust as their member. The electorate of Kingston is geographically large by comparison with most metropolitan electorates. It contains a diversity both of people and of industries. There are small pockets of primary industry remaining in the electorate despite the encroaching urban sprawl, and industries range through grape and wine production to heavy manufacturing. Kingston contains South Australia’s only oil refinery located at Port Stanvac, and Sola International Pty Ltd a firm which leads the world in lens making technology.
However, perhaps the industry of most significance not only to the people of Kingston but also to the people of South Australia is that related to the manufacture of motor vehicles. Chrysler Australia Ltd has both its foundry and engine shop located in the heart of the electorate at Lonsdale, Chrysler’s assembly and panel shops are located just outside the electorate but they provide significant employment for many people living within it. There are also significant automotive component manufacturers located within Kingston such as Rainsfords Metal Products Pty Ltd and Hills Industries Ltd, while other component manufacturers are on the fringe of the electorate, once again providing employment for people living within the electorate. Therefore a healthy automotive industry is important to the people of Kingston and to the people of South Australia.
Motor vehicle manufacturing in Australia at the moment is in a state of crisis. If we look at the figures we will see that in July and August 1974 some 95 200 units were produced but by July and August 1975 this had fallen to 81 100 units. Concurrently between October 1974 and October 1975 employment fell at Chrysler by some 32.4 per cent. I think this indicates the magnitude of the problem facing the automotive industry. I was therefore pleased to hear in the Speech that the Governor-General delivered that as part of its policy to restore private enterprise, particular attention will be devoted to manufacturing industry by the new LiberalNational Country Party Government.
Manufacturers of motor vehicles and automotive components are the largest employers of labour in any one industry in Australia today. The vehicle makers employ some 55 000 people while automotive component manufacturers employ a further 30 000. This represents 6 per cent of the jobs available in manufacturing industry. The great significance of the car industry to South Australia is indicated by the fact that it provides some 17 per cent of jobs in manufacturing industry in that State, and 20 per cent of employment opportunities in manufacturing industry within the Adelaide metropolitan area. Of course, to this must be added the multiplier effect which the industry has on employment in service and other related industries. Motor vehicle manufacture is labour intensive and employs a high proportion of semi-skilled labour. Therefore, if the industry can regain its former level of production it will make a major contribution to reducing unemployment -an important goal of this Government.
While governments prior to 1972 must share some of the blame for the current parlous state of the industry through their continual modification of content plans which prevented stability and long term planning within the industry, the major blame must lie fairly and squarely at the feet of the recently defeated Labor Government. High inflation which resulted from its economic mismanagement caused massive increases in the cost of production. This made it extremely difficult for local manufacturers to compete with imported vehicles. Coupled with the abolition of the export incentive it destroyed the expanding export markets which Australian manufacturers were establishing with the encouragement of previous Liberal governments. Australian manufacturers now hold only one-third of the export business which they held in 1 973.
The indiscriminate 25 per cent across the board tariff cut showed a complete lack of sophistication in economic management by the Labor Government. Combined with the cost disadvantages already mentioned, this made competition with imported vehicles extremely difficult and, introduced without warning, it made planning impossible. Later devaluations did not compensate for this tariff reduction but only balanced previous revaluations. Perhaps the greatest cross which the industry had to bear under Labor was its stop-start attitude to local manufacturers. There was indecision and a lack of firm guidelines. The Government relied on varying and conflicting advice from so-called experts. This indecision prevented long term planning and destroyed the incentive for investment and expansion of the industry. This prevented the stability which is so necessary to motor vehicle manufacture.
The industry was particularly threatened by the Industries Assistance Commission report on passenger motor vehicles, etc., released on 10 July 1974. This report recommended the abolition of local content plans and a lowering of tariff protection to 25 per cent. Had this report been adopted, the industry would have been destroyed. Perhaps we should not blame the IAC for the conclusions which it reached, considering the conflicting terms of reference which it was given by the Government. However, the seemingly inaccurate projections concerning market share and the effect of its recommendations on employment are indefensible. Fortunately a sufficient level of protest was raised to prevent these recommendations being implemented. These protests must have also had some influence on IAC thinking because we find in the first week of November 1975 that the IAC made a significant turn-around. It then tacitly agreed that its recommendations of 16 months earlier were not appropriate. In November 1975 it recommended that quotas of 90 000 units be introduced for a period of 12 months at a tariff rate of 45 per cent obtained and that the local content plans should continue in existence but with some change of detail.
Since the election of 13 December Senator Cotton and officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce have been examining the industry and its problems in some detail. It is essential that the policy guidelines which they announce later this month establish firm and clear guidelines for the future of the industry. This, of course, will engender stability over the next decade, which is so essential
Now some believe that Australia would be better off if it did not protect the local manufacturer of motor vehicles. They believe that cars could be imported and sold at cheaper prices to the consumer than they could be produced locally. According to this theory, local content plans supported by tariffs to protect local manufacturers using components sourced from local manufacturers cause Australians to pay more for cars than they need if there was a free import. In terms of economic theory this is a misallocation of resources and Australia would be better off concentrating its resources in areas where it has a comparative cost advantage- such as agricultureand adopting a free trade policy to imports.
There are several weaknesses in this argument. Firstly, pricing is generally based on what the market will bear. Therefore there is no guarantee that once an overseas monopoly was established on the car market under free trade policies prices would not rise. In fact experience bears this out. There was no drop in the price of cars following the tariff cuts of July 1973.
Other factors favouring the maintenance of the local industry are the job opportunities which it creates and the capital investment generated. Whilst it may be argued that this could be done more economically in other areas, we must face the fact that there is an existing level of employment and capital investment in vehicle manufacture and therefore Government policy has to cater for this existing capacity and employment. Nobody has yet specified to what alternative use resources currently applied to the motor vehicle industry would be applied if that industry were destroyed as a result of a free trade policy. Perhaps the most important aspect of maintaining the manufacturing industry is the fact that it generates engineering skills and management expertise. This of course reduces our dependence on overseas countries. To this must be added its contribution to our defence capacity, an important factor in a world of fluid and unstable relationships in the international sphere.
The problem with the previous protection plans was that, although they were mildly successful in increasing the proportion of local value added to the total value of cars sold, they put the industry in a s traitjacket and made it increasingly uncompetitive. Under existing plans cost inflation has pushed up the price of local products faster than overseas products. The plans have also encouraged small scale inefficient production at the expense of large scale production. This has discouraged the application of economies of scale. Despite the high protection involved in previous plans there has been a rapid increase in the sale of imported vehicles. In 1971 and 1972 local manufacturers held 65 per cent of the market, but by 1975 this share had declined to 54 per cent.
Australia has a worthwhile base for a viable industry, but it is essential that that industry become more competitive. One the one hand we need economic efficiency in the utilisation of our resources and need to serve the interests of consumers through lower prices, while on the other hand it is necessary to maintain a viable motor vehicle manufacturing industry. Therefore future plans must strike a balance between these 2 sides. I believe that the balance is best provided by the proposed 85 per cent local content plan. This plan gives local manufacturers greater flexibility in the sourcing of components. This of course will make them more competitive with imports of completely built up and completely knocked down units.
The largest cost penalties in the production of motor vehicles are in low volume production of engines and body panels. Manufacturers can achieve 85 per cent local content without sourcing either of these components locally. Manufacturers of other components have claimed that under the 85 per cent plan other components also would be sourced overseas. They claim that this would lead to the destruction of component manufacturing. But I am informed that this is not a valid claim and that in fact a choice in sourcing of components would be between sourcing engines and sourcing the body panels overseas. In fact if engines are produced locally there is every likelihood that under-body panels and inner-body panels will continue to be sourced locally also. Therefore the only components sourced overseas would be the outer skins. The outer skin, with frequent model changes, is the most costly part of the motor vehicle, Tremendous capital investment is required to tool up for model changes. Therefore, to achieve the essential goal of cost competitiveness, it would be best to source outer skins from overseas. It has been claimed that this would cause unemployment in the panel pressing industry in Adelaide. I am reliably informed that under the proposed consortium with Japanese involvement there would be in fact twice as many under-body and innerbody panels produced locally as are produced in the present situation. This in turn would provide almost the same level of employment as the current production of all body panels provides.
Therefore, for the effective and efficient utilisation of present resources it is best to build local content around mechanical components. The proposed 4 cylinder engine plant at Lonsdale under the Chrysler-Nissan Toyota consortium is an essential part of the 85 per cent local content plan. Engines may be produced more economically because they involve less tooling changes. This will ensure the long term competitiveness competitiveness the Australian manufacturers. It will also cater for the increasing market share of smaller cars which are projected to hold 80 per cent of the market by 1980. It will ensure that Australian manufacturers in the long term will increase their market share.
– It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February last, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I thank honourable members for their indulgence. The engines produced locally will ensure that Australian manufacturers in the long term increase their market share compared with overseas manufacturers and also that they will increase their sales in absolute terms. Improved efficiency and competitiveness in the local industry will also once again make Australian manufacturers an effective force in export markets. There will be far greater employment opportunities under the 85 per cent content plan with the 4-cylinder engine plant located at Lonsdale than there would be if the production of outer panels continued as an alternative. Research indicates that the Lonsdale consortium has the capacity to produce the cheapest 4- cylinder engines in Australia. The existing foundry and machine shop at Lonsdale have never been utilised to full capacity and the addition of the 4-cylinder plant will ensure that in future that capacity is fully utilised.
So there are short term benefits and long term benefits in the 85 per cent content plan and the 4- cylinder engine plant being located at Lonsdale. The plant will involve an investment expenditure of about $100m. There will be several hundred workers involved in the construction of the plant and in providing services for that construction. Therefore there are immediate advantages in relation to unemployment. The result both in the short term and in the long term will be increased employment opportunities for people living in the Christie’s Beach and Reynella areas south of Adelaide. This is, of course, the region of most rapid population growth in South Australia.
It is essential as part of the program of the restoration of manufacturing industry that the Government establish firm guidelines for the motor industry. It will be advantageous if these guidelines include the 85 per cent content plan and acceptance of the 4-cylinder engine plant at Lonsdale. It is also essential that this plan last for at least a decade, because a decade at least is required by corporations to engage in effective corporate planning and to establish viability and stability.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, I should like to congratulate other new honourable members who have contributed their maiden speeches during this Address-in-Reply debate. As the second youngest member of this Parliament I should also like to thank the older members of longer standing for the assistance and advice they have given me since I joined them in this place. Contrary to popular opinion I have found them to be dedicated and hardworking in the interests of their constituents. I find no evidence to support the proposition put some years ago by a young predecessor in this place, also from South Australia, that members are half drunk half the time. I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and oppose the amendment.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
Motor Industry in South Australia -Australian Assistance Plan- Natural Disasters
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to take this opportunity of congratulating the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) on his maiden speech. It will be 10 days before anybody else speaking in the Address-in-Reply debate will have the opportunity of doing so. I want to congratulate the honourable member also for choosing one subject such as he did and showing such knowledge of it. He showed that he has carried out quite an extensive study of the motor industry.
I am bound to point out, I hope generously, that the honourable member was supporting the decisions that have recently been taken on the motor industry. When I say recently, I am talking in terms of the last 12 months. He is quite correct in doing so. I believe this is also the view of the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), although he was making somewhat different noises in ignorance on the subject about a year or more ago. In fact the Minister who even more recently has made ignorant noises on the subject has also come around to the same conclusions. I hope that nothing will be taken away from my sincerity in congratulating the honourable member for Kingston when I point out that the first requirement that he and his colleagues on the other side of the House have is to place a copy of his speech in the hands of his own Leader and Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), because only yesterday during question time the Prime Minister when answering a question I put to him displayed extraordinary ignorance, the sort of ignorance that was being displayed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the subject of the motor industry in this country.
It is bad for South Australia and bad for this country that the leading person in the Government at this time is displaying such ignorance. I repeat that that ignorance was not displayed by the honourable member for Kingston who made a thoughtful, well researched, good speech. I also repeat that the first requirement is that his speech be put in the hands of the Prime Minister. I commend to government supporters who listened to the honourable member for Kingston not only to take what he had to say as authoritative but also to research the contents of his speech when they get a copy of Hansard so that they will be all well informed on the problems of the motor industry and realise its importance to South Australia.
The Lonsdale 4-cylinder engine plant must go ahead. It can go ahead without in any way jeopardising employment in the panel industry in South Australia. These things were said by the honourable member for Kingston. They are of necessity to be said by him if he is to survive in this Parliament, but I believe that is not the reason why he said them. He said them because he has researched the subject properly. I do not want to take up any more of the time of the House. I have spoken because I wanted to congratulate the honourable member and to thank him for the research he has done and to commend his speech to all honourable members.
– I rise tonight to make some preliminary comments on the Green Paper on the Australian Assistance Plan brought down today. It is my understanding that no specific motion was moved in relation to this report and therefore it will not necessarily be debated in the Parliament. I have for some time had views on the Australian Assistance Plan, particularly in the light of the Government’s expenditure restraints. I want to make some early comments on this subject, although I must admit that at this stage I have not read the report as thoroughly as I would like to have done.
I think it is necessary to put the Australian Assistance Plan into some sort of perspective and to point out the extent of government outlays that are involved in social security and welfare as functional groupings in the Budget. It is interesting to note that in 1972-73 the Government allocated $2, 102m to social security and welfare and that in 1975-76 this amount had risen to an estimated $4,772m, which is an increase of over 100 per cent. The estimated total government outlay in 1 975-76 is $22 billion. This amount of course will be significantly higher because our allocations for social security and welfare are running at a rate of about 20 per cent of our total Budget. That is not necessarily a bad thing and I make no comment about it, but I think it is worth putting the overall social security system into that context.
It is also interesting to note that the Budget Papers reveal that about $87m of the almost $5 billion allocated for social security and welfare is to go towards the cost of salaries and administration of the Department of Social Security. In that respect the administration of the social security system is not inordinately high.
When one turns to the area of the Australian Assistance Plan one notes from the Budget papers that an amount of $4.2m was provided in 1974-75 and $7.4m in 1975-76. When compared with the amount that has been spent on social security, this is a minimal figure of $1 1.6m since the introduction of the Plan, admittedly on a pilot basis. Of the $ 11.6m which has been allocated for expenditure under the Australian Assistance Plan, according to the Green Paper, by taking a summation of the figures provided in the tables at page 154 and following pages, approximately $4.7m had been allocated up to October 1975. 1 am concerned about the necessity for an Australian Assistance Plan, its position in relation to priorities in terms of the expenditure problems which the government of the day has and also the significant costs of administering it. According to the report the cost of administration and salaries of each region within the Australian Assistance Plan is based on a figure of about $66,000 in a full year. It appears that community development offices which cost about $ 12,000 a year are extra. It seems from the report that at the moment there are about 34 regions. This means that about $2.2m is being spent in the administrative and salary structure of the Plan. In a Budget allocation this year of $7.4m we are spending $2.2m on salaries and administration, or 40 per cent of the allocation. In other words it is costing something like $2.2m to hand out $5.2m. The conclusion at paragraph 10.2 of the document shows that there are 61 regions which have been or are being established. At a cost of $66,000 each that will total $4m. Ultimately 76 regions will be funded. That will cost $5m on the basis of $66,000 although recommendation 20 says it will cost about $6m in administration. There are significant administrative costs in implementing the Australian Assistance Plan.
I want briefly to refer to the administrative structure. It is interesting to read pages 138 and 139 of the report because those pages contain details relating to the Western Australian situation. Admittedly it reveals an incredibly complicated system of communication running from the
Commonwealth Government to the State Minister for Community Welfare, to the State committee for the implementation of the Plan, to the social planning secretariat thence to advisory committees and regional councils which in turn deal with local committees or projects. That is the line of communication. Funds go from the Commonwealth Government through to the State Treasury, then to the State committee for the implementation of the Australian Assistance Plan and finally to local committees or projects. Significant costs must be hidden in the system as a result of all those bureaucratic factors.
I intend to refer to recommendations in this report but first I should perhaps mention the breakdown of some of these administrative costs. For each region there is an executive officer costing about $15,500, a project officer costing $11,000, an administrative officer costing about $ 1 1 ,000 and a secretary-receptionist costing $7,500. There are on-costs of $5,680 and administration costs, which include a car and all sorts of things amounting to $15,000 plus, making up the $66,000. I point out further that another $12,000 is allocated for community development officers who are not incorporated in this.
The recommendations in the report ask the Government to commit in the 1976-77 Budget $ 13.5m, rising to $39m for the full implementation of the program in 1980-81. This is a significant amount of money. I should point out that the $13.5m which is recommended would include administrative costs of $6m, according to the report. So it would cost $6m to hand out $7. 5m. On those figures I think that we seriously question whether the plan is worth continuing.
I direct attention to the minority report of Professor Harris. He disagrees with the two basic principles on which the Australian Assistance Plan is founded. The first was the need for regional social planning and the regionalisation of welfare services. He says that he now supports the approach based on the localisation of welfare services and social planning. In his very well argued minority report he also disagrees with the second principle underlying the Australian Assistance Plan- that is, to establish what is in reality a new statutory regional advisory organisation. A lot of areas need to be looked at in terms of social security and welfare in Australia.
I do not want to deprive Australians of an adequate social security system. I believe that we ought to be looking at it in the terms which have been laid down by the Liberal and National Country Parties in their campaign policy. This covers areas such as a uniform income benefit, inquiring into proposals for a minimum family income, looking at ways and means of wiping out the multitude of individual programs which now exist in the social welfare system and implementing a single program for which people could qualify in a multitude of different ways.
Today the Government is faced with a massive problem brought about by the mis-management of the former Government. We have to do something about the enormous deficit, in the interests of bringing down the inflation rate and doing something about unemployment. I am suggesting tonight that the Government should look seriously at the recommendations in the report of the Social Welfare Commission on the Australian Assistance Plan. It recommends the provision of $ 13.5m in the next Budget. That amount will rise to nearly $40m in the next few years. Whilst not significant in the total context of government expenditure, these amounts are significant when compared with the other cuts which are being made. If we are looking at fairly small cuts in the light of the Government’s financial activities then I think that these amounts should be looked at seriously, because I do not believe that any government could accept the recommendation in a report which asks for administrative expenses of $6m in order to hand out to people an amount of $7. 5m.
– I want to rise for a few brief minutes in this adjournment debate to support my colleague the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and to congratulate him on his sense of responsibility and his obvious desire to overcome the very serious problem of inflation. The Parliament should be deeply indebted to him for going to the trouble to which he has gone in his very deep research of this problem and for the positive suggestions that he has put before the House which he believes and which we all believe will help the present Government to overcome the problem of inflation and also the serious financial position which was a legacy of the previous Labor administration.
It is quite pertinent in this debate to reinforce the argument that was advanced in a question asked of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) a few weeks ago. I think that what was contained in that question and the answer that was given to it on that occasion is food for thought. It is something which should exercise the minds of all members of Parliament during the ensuing week until our return to this national forum. I remind honourable members of the question that the honourable member for Riverina asked on that occasion. He expressed concern- quite rightly so- at the mammoth payments of unemployment benefits that were being made to people who simply will not work. He suggested- I entirely support his suggestion- that these people should be made, not asked, to work a number of hours each week so that the value of their work is equal to the payments that they are receiving at present for doing nothing.
In furtherance of the argument advanced by the honourable member for Riverina I wish to offer the suggestion that many of these perpetual bludgers on the Gold Coast could be transported to the badly flooded areas of southern Queensland and northern and western New South Wales to help clean up those areas that have been subjected to savage destruction and the debris that has been left from swirling floodwaters. The floodwaters have swept away many miles of fencing, destroyed contour banks and, in many instances, destroyed homesteads. It will cost many dollars to restore those homesteads to their original condition. I wish to develop the point about natural disasters and to request the Government to consider setting up a natural disaster fund.
– The Opposition has all gone home.
– The honourable member for Wimmera says that the Opposition has gone home. Quite obviously the members of the Opposition are not concerned about the people in rural areas who have been the victims of floods and hailstorms.
– And cyclones.
– And cyclones, as the honourable member for Leichhardt says. I am indebted to him for his interjection. People also have been the victims of bushfires and locust plagues. When these disasters strike, people are left in desperate situations. Quite often they are faced with great financial hardships. I believe that now is the time to consider setting up a natural disaster fund because there has been a series of serious natural disasters and people are attuned to helping in a desperate situation.
I suggest that the first step to take in attacking this problem would be to review the formula under which the States and the Commonwealth operate. In the State of Queensland, after the State Government has spent $2m in repairing damage caused by natural disasters any disaster which occurs and which causes damage totalling 10 per cent of that base figure of $2m is recognised as a major disaster and consequently attracts a payment from the Commonwealth Government to help the State repair government and semi-government buildings. In many instances a natural disaster can cause great damage to the property of private individuals, to businesses, to public utilities such as sporting areas, to homes, to Salvation Army homes and to nursing homes, but these institutions do not receive assistance from the Commonwealth or the State. In some cases those largely benevolent institutions do not carry sufficient insurance to allow them to replace their buildings to the standards which are necessary in a modern society.
Time has passed many age pensioners by. They are not aware of the current costs of repairing damage to their roofs, windows or fibro ceilings. I suggest that governments should help aged people in this situation. I believe that this problem has come to the forefront particularly in the very rich farming areas of the Darling Downs in Queensland.
– As the honourable member for Hume says, it is magnificent country. How true. Someone once said that a little bit of heaven fell out of the sky one day, and that was the Darling Downs. This area suffers from erosion particularly in the hilly country with older cultivations. We find that in areas of heavy rainfall where there is a quick fall of several inches in a short period of time the fertile topsoil is washed down the hills and this causes problems by silting up the streams, roadways and other public facilities. I am concerned that people do not fully realise the great cost to the nation. There is the loss of fertile soil on the one hand, which is a positive loss, but there is also the negative loss, as it were, and that is the huge cost to shire councils and other authorities which are forced to remove many tons of silt from roads and bridges. This is a national problem.
People get quite emotional about the preservation of coloured sands, the preservation of timber in certain areas, certain tribal lands and so on. Of course we of the National Country Party fully support those environmental issues but the fundamental conservation procedure in Australia should be the preservation of our greatest asset- our soil. I hope that this Parliament will be aware of the feeling in the Country Party and the Liberal Party on this vitally important matter. I hope that we will be able to instil in the hearts and minds of the Labor Parry a realisation of this great problem so that together forward we may march in an endeavour to control this great problem. I thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, my second contribution in this debate -
– I raise a point of order.
That is quite right. The honourable member has already spoken during this debate. I am afraid he can speak only once.
– I am indebted to the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) for covering such a large scope but he has left me with so little time in which to introduce my own subject. I would like to make a few comments in connection with Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Earlier this week mention was made of certain investigations that will be made in connection with changes in this area. I am afraid that I feel that the changes will not go sufficiently far to be a real incentive to private companies which are now operating under some difficulty within the nation. For instance, increased retention allowance is proposed to be allowed but only for such things as an expansion of a capital nature. The flow-on of the recent increase of 6.4 per cent in the national wage has brought with it a particular problem for private companies in that they will require additional retentions and reserves to cover such things as increased inventories and the financing of debtors. I would hope that when the commission of inquiry looks at this aspect it will look further than leaving retentions only for an expansion of a capital nature. I hope it will look into other areas.
I also suggest in relation to the Income Tax Assessment Act that we might look at the problem of the one-income family. It was mentioned that an option would be granted to shareholders of private companies to be assessed on a partnership basis. I think we should go further and look at the incidence of taxation on families themselves. A social problem is created where there is only one income earner. If extra money is required someone from the family is sent out to work. This is usually the wife and the mother, and this does create a social problem. I would hope that we would have a complete review of these matters. I hope that we can give some relief to these families which now suffer and also bring about the end of that social disease known as latch-key children.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 16 March 1976 at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The- answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is expected that payment to the Wheat Board in respect of interest would be made in 2 or 3 months time while payment to the Board as the result of the expected contribution for the 1 975-76 pool would be about this time next year.
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
How many electors were enrolled in each Division at the elections on 13 December 1975 and at each previous election held on the present boundaries.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The number of electors in each electoral Division as at 13 December 1975 and at each previous election held on the present boundaries is set out in the following table compiled by the Australian Electoral Office.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760304_reps_30_hor98/>.