30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that milk substitutes be restored to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant, Mr Garrick and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray: that the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Katter.
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.
Petition to the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of electors of the Division of Leichhardt respectfully showeth that both the School Cadets and the Naval, Army and Air Cadets provide character building and disciplinary training for the future citizens of this Commonwealth.
The Cadets also provide some basic team training for our youngsters which must be considered to be valuable in these times of vandalism and drug taking. The estimated cost of the Cadets is only a fraction of the cost to our community ( i.e. the Australian community) from vandalism and drug problems.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will immediately rescind its intention to disband the Cadets.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members of community organisations respectfully showeth that:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community ‘s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Governments programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocation in these areas over that of 1975/76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr J. F. Cairns.
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 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 Haslem.
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 Australian Medical Association and its affiliate, the Australian Association of Surgeons, intends entering into negotiations with the Honourable the Minister of State for Health, to alter the Health Insurance Act and regulations.
That such alterations as proposed are purely the wishes of a minority group seeking privileges in relation to the billing of patients, and particularly pensioners and less well off members of the Australian Community, which are detrimental to the spirit of the Act and contrary to the whole intention of the legislation.
That the Association of Surgeons has demonstrated by its refusal to treat pensioner patients in designated community and other hospitals providing beds under section 34 of the said Act, that its agitation against medibank is purely the reaction of a selfish vested minority, and not in the best interests of the patients.
That the efforts by the Association of Surgeons to undermine medibank by seeking to negotiate changes is the thin edge of the wedge to dismantle the Health Insurance Act altogether, an action which will not be tolerated by the Australian community in general and the pensioners, less privileged and disadvantaged members of society in particular.
Your petitioners therefore ask that the Australian Parliament refuse to countenance any changes to the Health Insurance Act, and particularly those sought by influential minority interests who have demonstrated particularly by their actions in refusing to cooperate in the treatment of pensioner patients in hospital, that they do not have the interests and welfare of patients as their prime concern.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJacobi.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas from 1st October, 1974 the National Employment and Training System came into operation; and that at that time the then Government Agreed that widow pensioners and recipients of Supporting Mothers Benefit will be in no way disadvantaged . . . ‘ under the National Employment and Training System; and that ‘for all trainees over 2 1 years and Junior trainees with dependants a full-time training allowance equivalent to the average adult male award wage, which will be adjusted quarterly- at the present time approximately $90 per week ‘. is to be provided; and that there is strong objection to the reduction in training allowance to trainees under the National Employment and Training System, to be effective from 1st April, 1976, us this places these trainees at considerable financial disadvantage.
Your petitioners therefore humble pray that the Members in the House assembled will take the most urgent steps to readjust the payments under the National Employment and Training system so that they are equivalent to the average adult male award wage.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLean.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
Omega Station in Australia
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will reject any proposal to build an Omega station on Australian soil.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Young.
-Is the Prime Minister concerned that the Attorney-General refuses to act on the many reports of flagrant breaches of the Commonwealth Electoral Act? As the AttorneyGeneral has not undertaken his responsibilities in this regard, will the Prime Minister investigate the allegations regarding contravention of section 156 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act? Will he report to this Parliament about such matters in the electorates of Robertson and Banks and my electorate of Batman, or does he think that Liberal bribes to Independents in elections are fair play?
– I have complete confidence in the propriety and the manner in which the Attorney-General carries out the responsibilities and duties of his office. That is much more than I can say for some of his immediate predecessors.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Transport, is supplementary to a question I asked in February about the implementation of the equalisation formula. Has the Minister now received the Nimmo Report on this matter? Is the Government giving consideration to that report? Is that consideration likely in any way to interfere with the timetable laid down for the introduction of legislation into this Parliament to give Tasmania a proper freight equalisation formula?
– My colleague the Minister for Administrative Services has received the Nimmo Committee’s report, which will be tabled in the Senate and in this House tomorrow. When that report is tabled I think the honourable member will see that the findings are so important that the Government must give very serious consideration to them. Because of the consideration that will be given to the report I expect there will be some delay in the introduction of the freight equalisation scheme as proposed by members of the Liberal and National Country Parties prior to the election. Having said that, I am hopeful that the delay will not be an undue one.
– My question, which I address to the Prime Minister, relates to the question I asked him last week in respect of decentralisation. Is the Prime Minister aware of the report of the committee of Commonwealth and State officials on decentralisation which was tabled in the House by Prime Minister McMahon in October 1972? Is he aware that represented on that committee were the Prime Minister’s Department, Treasury, the Department of National Development and other Federal departments as well as State departments? If he is, how could he state as he did that decentralisation would be ‘balanced development across a wide spectrum of Australia’- in other words scattergun decentralisation? Is the Prime Minister aware that the report of the committee of Commonwealth and State officials discarded the approach he suggested as the worst possible because of its inherent waste of the limited resources available to Australia?
-The honourable gentleman continues to look to the past, but that is not a strange thing for people in his political Party to do. Their philosophies are as outdated as the ark. The basis of the honourable member’s question could well deserve to be brought up to date to some extent. I have some recollection of the report though I confess I still do not have an intimate recollection of all the aspects of the report. I believe the report was a fairly lengthy one.
I think the honourable gentleman does not understand that there have been significant increases in population in many towns throughout Australia because of the efforts of local people themselves to attract industries to those towns. If a town through local effort can expand its own population from 10 000 to 15 000 people and then move on to further expansion, the people of the town will receive a significant benefit in terms of the services which the town can provide. If the honourable gentleman is seeking to say that that kind of decentralisation is something that he does not support, I am not surprised.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health who will know of a report in today’s Australian concerning the Liverpool Women’s Clinic in New South Wales. How much money was granted to the Liverpool Women’s Clinic by the former Labor Government? Was any funding granted to this clinic for the payment of wages to doctors or others to carry out abortions? Is this or are other centres in New South Wales to continue receiving Commonwealth Government grants if such grants are used either directly or indirectly to finance abortions?
– I have seen the article to which the honourable member referred. Since I have been Minister I have received many letters of complaint about the Liverpool Women’s Clinic, as well as some letters of support. I intend to visit the centre in the future to make my own assessment. In reply to the second part of the question, the former Commonwealth Government in 2 successive Budgets appropriated $424,500 to the clinic. The amounts were made available in the form of a 100 per cent grant with the approval of the New South Wales Health Commission. The funds have been channelled via the New South Wales Health Commission, which has the primary responsibility for the activities of the clinic. The article referred also to a court action that is proceeding. Of course, the matter is sub judice; the action is being undertaken under New South Wales laws. In respect of some of the activities that are alleged to be taking place, particularly in relation to the allegations regarding abortion, there is no specific item in the medical benefits schedule covering abortion as such, but the schedule does include a number of gynaecological procedures carried out for medical reasons which may result in the termination of a pregnancy. In those circumstances, of course, Medibank would pay the fee indicated in the schedule of benefits. However, I intend to have discussions with the New South Wales Minister. As I said earlier, I also intend to visit the centre to make my own assessment of the value of its continued operation.
– I ask a question of the Treasurer about the allowance for orders of investment goods placed after 1 January this year. What precautions has the Government taken to ensure that companies had not previously placed an order for the same goods, then cancelled the order after the Government announced its intention to introduce the allowance, and finally placed the order again after 1 January?
– The Government’s position on this matter has been made perfectly clear. It is that in the circumstances referred to there should be no cancellation of orders placed prior to I January because that would be to distort the Government’s intention. I recognise the difficulties inherent in this situation. I hope that legislation will be introduced into the House during this parliamentary session, that is, during the next 2 to 3 weeks. I have it in mind to make further statements about the application of the investment allowance. In relation to the particular point about which the honourable gentleman is concerned, that has been drawn to the attention of senior officers of both Treasury and the Taxation Office who are working on the legislation. Such safeguards as can be put in the legislation of course will be included. The honourable gentleman will be very much aware that there is a limit to the extent to which one can provide precise safeguards to cover every eventuality, but the Taxation Office has the point very much in mind.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Did the scheme for subsidies for elderly nursing home patients, which was introduced by the McMahon Government, provide support so that the gap to be paid by patients was less than the single pension and left at least $6 in the hands of pensioners for their personal expenses? Was that scheme wrecked by the neglect and incompetence of the Labor Government? Is it now the situation that the cost of nursing home care takes not only the full pension but also requires pensioners’ relatives to pay up to $30 a week in addition? Can the Minister do anything to alleviate the hardship that is causing?
-The McMahon Liberal-Country Party Government provided financial support to nursing homes for elderly people so that the amount of pension kept by the patients was of the order of $6 a week, thus ensuring that they would have money for their own personal use. I believe that such a scheme ensured that the senior citizens in nursing homes were not deprived of their dignity and sense of independence. In the 3 years that the Labor Government was in office these aged people were robbed of the value of their savings through Labor’s tragic economic policies of inflation, and the amount they could retain for their own spending was reduced from $6 a week to $4 a week in spite of inflation. In some cases relatives are now paying, as the honourable member for Isaacs has suggested, $30 a week to maintain relatives in these nursing homes. I believe that this demonstrated a callous disregard for the dignity of the elderly people in these nursing homes. We have inherited a very difficult situation. We face a Budget deficit of $4, 700m but notwithstanding the economic situation I am reviewing the whole of the nursing homes scheme and its attendant problems- problems that we have inheritedwith a view to finding a solution which is more equitable and humane for our elderly people. In this respect I will be having discussions with the
Government Health and Welfare Committee about looking at a range of options that we can consider in trying to overcome the problems to which the honourable member for Isaacs has referred.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Will the Minister inform the House whether a committee has been set up to review the operations of the Trade Practices Act? If so, will he give the House the names of the people appointed to this committee. If not, will he assure the House that the people appointed to such a committee will be in the majority representatives of consumer organisations?
-The answer to the first part of the question is no. However, it is the intention of the Government to establish such a committee and when this is done and when the terms of reference have been settled the names of the persons who constitute the committee will be made public. I will not give an assurance that the majority of the persons on the committee will represent consumer interests. There will be some people on the committee representing consumer interests. There will also be people on the committee representing other interests as is appropriate having regard to the nature of the Trade Practices Act.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. I refer the Minister to a Social Security pamphlet dated November 1975 which states: ‘People over 70 years of age may receive the pension free of means test’. I also refer the Minister to statements appearing in the Melbourne newspapers of 20 March last and attributed to the Minister for Social Security. They say in part: ‘Pensioners over 69 years of age are not subject to a means test’. As this statement has created a lot of confusion amongst this age group, will the Minister for Health consult with the Minister for Social Security with a view to making a further statement and so clear the air on this all-important question as to whether a pension free of means test is available at 69 years or 70 years of age?
– I have already had discussions with the Minister for Social Security who reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the abolition of the means test for all people over the age of 65 years, but she indicated that the Government’s first priority is to the reduction of inflation and that it was not possible to indicate when the means test would be abolished. The article to which the honourable member has referred did not attribute to the Minister the statement that pensioners over 69 years are not subject to a means test. I am not sure what the person who wrote the article actually meant in using the term ‘over 69’; presumably he meant that persons who are 70 years and older would be free of the means test. I can appreciate, as indeed the Minister for Social Security appreciates, that this could well have caused some confusion in the minds of people. Clearly the means test does not apply to people 70 years and over. As I said earlier, the Government’s policy is, of course, to reduce this to 65 years when economic conditions allow us to do so.
– I address my question to the Minister for Consumer Affairs. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth has intervened in a current case before the South Australian Supreme Court involving an inquiry by the South Australian Credit Tribunal into the conduct of General Motors Acceptance Corporation Aust., I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the recent offer to the public of unsecured notes by the Corporation and to reports in the Financial Review of the possibility of the Corporation being liable to repay many millions of dollars to its South Australian customers because of its breaches of South Australian credit law? I further ask: Firstly, will he warn possible lenders, or intending lenders, to the Corporation of its heavy liabilities? Secondly, will he provide advice to customers of the Corporation about enforcing their legal rights to repayment of credit charges? Thirdly, will he warn these customers against doing anything at the Corporation’s request which might prejudice their claims against the Corporation? Finally, will he take up these issues with his counterpart in the South Australian Government?
-My attention has not been drawn to the article in the Financial Review although I am aware of litigation in the South Australian Supreme Court involving the company mentioned by the honourable gentleman. It is true that the Attorney-General has sought leave on behalf of the Commonwealth to intervene in that case because the case involves inter se questions, namely the operation of the Trade Practices Act and State consumer protection legislation in South Australia. It would clearly not be appropriate for me as a Commonwealth Minister to offer comment on the rights, liabilities or otherwise of individual parties involved in litigation in a State court. I can, however, assure the honourable gentleman that the question of the rationalisation of the operation of Part V of the Trade Practices Act and State consumer protection legislation was specifically covered in the coalition parties election policy statement on consumer protection. I have already raised the matter in correspondence with State consumer affairs ministers and it will be one of the principal items on the agenda for a meeting of Commonwealth and State consumer affairs ministers to be held, I think in Adelaide, at the beginning of next month.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. Recently, Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Walsh has made statements claiming that funds will be forthcoming from the Australian Government for the staging of the 1982 Commonwealth Games. Has the Lord Mayor been given a firm commitment by this Government? If so, can the Treasurer inform the House of details of the promised financial aid and whether a ceiling has been placed on the amount of this Government s financial assistance or whether there is to be an open-ended arrangement with the Government sharing an agreed percentage of the staging costs?
-The Lord Mayor has corresponded with the Prime Minister concerning the matter referred to by the honourable member. The Prime Minister has replied to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane supporting the application by that city to host the 1982 Games. The question of assistance, financial or otherwise, was not canvassed in the Prime Minister’s response.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Three weeks ago he told the House that he would be seeking further information from the Premier of Queensland on the question of bauxite mining on the Aurukun Aboriginal reserve and that the Ministers for National Resources and Aboriginal Affairs would be taking up the matter with their Queensland counterparts. Were any discussions held on this question between the Government and the Queensland Premier during the Premier’s visit to Canberra last week? Will the Prime Minister tell the House the outcome of any such discussion he himself had with the Premier and the outcome of the negotiations which his and the Premier’s Ministers have so far had?
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. There were discussions about this matter involving the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and me. There are matters that are being followed up as a result of the discussions. As honourable gentlemen would be aware, the Commonwealth is concerned that there should have been adequate consultation with the Aborigines of the Aurukun community concerning the proposal and the arrangements between the Queensland Government and the consortium in question. The Queensland Premier is at the moment considering a proposal that there ought to be discussions in Queensland involving himself, the Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and the Aborigines from Aurukun. The Minister concerned will be taking up this question with the consortium. The Deputy Prime Minister will be taking up with the consortium concerned the question of foreign investment guidelines of this Government because the present arrangements involve 100 per cent overseas ownership, and that is not in conformity with the policies of this Government. I am advised that there was no proposal by the consortium actually to undertake activities for some little time. Therefore the negotiations might be protracted. This was not a matter in which it was envisaged that the consortium would be undertaking its activities within the next week or the next month or two.
-Has the Attorney-General seen recent Press articles to the effect that senior Federal Government officials have expressed concern over his decision to take no further action in the Garland case? Have senior Government officials, in fact, expressed such concern?
-Neither the SolicitorGeneral, the Secretary of my Department, the Crown Solicitor nor any other Federal Government official has expressed any concern to me over my decision in this matter. Before I took the decision not to file an ex officio indictment I discussed the matter with the Solicitor-General, the Secretary of my Department and the Crown Solicitor. Each of them agreed that in the circumstances it was a proper decision for me to take. Honourable members will be aware that the Solicitor-General is the second law officer of the Commonwealth. It could be part of his function to file an ex officio indictment. I discussed with him whether an ex officio indictment should be filed. He agrees with me that an ex officio indictment should not be filed. I have noticed discussions in the Press as to whether the magistrate erred. I have read the transcript. I notice that the magistrate accepted a submission by Mr Hughes and by other counsel, I think Mr Gallop, to the effect that he was entitled to take the step he did under section 91 of the Ordinance as distinct from section 94, 1 think, of the Ordinance. I have spoken to junior counsel for the prosecution in the case. He has told me that he regards the decision by the magistrate as one that the magistrate could properly take in the matter.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Phillip. Why has the Prime Minister not reappointed the honourable member for Curtin to the ministry, in view of the information now given to the House by the Attorney-General?
– Questions of that kind are not questions that ought to be answered in this House.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has yet considered the question of tobacco and cigarette advertising on television and whether the Government intends to continue the previous Government ‘s policy in this regard.
– Some things, although not too many, that the previous Government implemented will continue, and that is one of them. The matter has been considered and the ban on advertising certainly will apply from 1 September. The Minister for Health and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications will be making a statement about this matter, if it has not already been made, as a result of Cabinet discussion and decision this morning.
-When will the Minister for Primary Industry be able to announce the Government’s decision on short term aid for the depressed manufacturing sector of the dairy industry?
– As a result of the representations of the honourable member and a number of other honourable members of this House the Government has been looking very closely at the situation of the manufacturing sector of the industry. The Government has now an approach which it would wish to make from the Prime Minister to the State Premiers. After they have been consulted I hope to be in a position to make an announcement.
– I address a question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations regarding the downturn in the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd Employment Advertisement series for February, which downturn was the first for 5 months. As that decline in job advertisements confirms the February fall in registered job vacancies as published by his Department, can the Minister inform the House whether this deteriorating employment trend causes him any concern or whether it represents an objective of government economic policy at this stage? If the employment situation continues to decline, or if there is no marked improvement in the near future, can the Minister inform the House whether the Government will establish relief work projects, as promised in its employment and industrial relations policy, as a means of relieving unemployment, or is that another election promise that the Government does not intend to keep?
– Yes, the job vacancy situation does continue to cause me and the Government concern. The job vacancy decline in last month’s published employment figures was, if not substantial, at least large enough to cause some worry. The employment situation will not improve until business confidence, which was destroyed by 3 years of Labor Government, has been returned. That is a plain fact of life. The Government has already announced measures designed to stimulate investment in the private sector and to create the job opportunities that are so desperately needed in Australia. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, he will know that all the money budgeted by his Government for the Regional Employment Development scheme for the entire financial year was used before the end of 1975. In view of the constraints on government spending, this Government has decided to maintain the stand taken by its predecessor in relation to this financial year.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. In view of the Minister’s announcement that he wishes to see an increased level of migration from the United Kingdom, does he contemplate an early relaxation of the strict criteria of eligibility now preventing many who want to migrate to Australia from doing so? Without such a relaxation, how does the Minister hope to increase migration to Australia from the United Kingdom?
– In order to clear up what is perhaps a misapprehension, I should point out that I did not make an announcement that we were attempting to lure more British migrants to Australia. What I said in response to some questions from some journalists was that I was very concerned about the attitude which had been reported to me as being present in Britain among people who may be considering migrating from Britain. It is an attitude which suggested that they did not think Australia would welcome them if they applied to come here. I wish to reverse that attitude of thought amongst potential migrants from the United Kingdom to Australia. I believe this attitude has been developed as a result of the performance of the previous Government, particularly in relation to such issues as the changing of the anthem, the probable changing of the flag and the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. I believe an antiBritish feeling was developed and this was reflected in the attitude of potential migrants from the United Kingdom to Australia. I point out to the House that a high proportion of our skilled migrants come from the United Kingdom. Once the economic recovery gets under way in Australia we will be needing skilled migrants from all over the world. I would say to those who have seen this as a call for more British migrants that this is not the case. What I am seeking to do is to engender a positive attitude amongst potential migrants from the United Kingdom to Australia.
– Are you going to allow more in?
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Chifley has interjected in a loud voice 4 times during this answer and has interjected many times earlier during question time. I ask him to cease his interjections.
– I would point out that the selection criteria apply everywhere in the world. Anybody who has qualifications acceptable in Australia and required by Australia, no matter where he comes from, will be considered for migrant entry.
– I have not had my attention drawn to the media report to which the honourable member refers. If that report indicated that major movements of overseas capital from the United States of America to Australia are about to occur, this Government would certainly welcome that flow of funds. Shortly I will be making a detailed statement in this House about the Government’s overseas investment policy. That statement will welcome overseas capital for all that it can do for Australia’s future economic development. At the same time it will make perfectly clear that there will need to be guidelines to provide that sense of certainty which was so lamentably lacking in relation to the administration of overseas investment policies during the term of office of the former Administration. Those guidelines will make it perfectly clear, consistent with what we stated in Opposition, that we will be looking for Australian equity, particularly in the minerals area. I would draw to the attention of the honourable member the statement I made in detail on this question while we were in Opposition.
-I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. The Minister will recall that in the time of the last Government, Commonwealth funding for migrant children’s language training was relegated to a very low priority. What arrangements are being made now for the funding of child migrant language education, particularly for South East Asian migrant refugees who recently entered Australia?
– There has been quite a considerable increase in the provision of child migrant education since the scheme was first introduced in 1970. 1 could indicate this by referring to some statistics of the growth since then. At June 1970 246 special teachers were employed, 8800 children were receiving instruction and 200 schools were involved in the program. At December 1975 the number of special teachers had increased to 2197 the number of children in special classes was 92 600 and 1278 schools were involved in the program. There has been a development towards not treating child migrant education as a special matter. Rather it is regarded as a part of a total education program.
This has been the emerging pattern and is to be continued.
The honourable gentleman referred to refugees from Indo-China. Special arrangements are being made to cater not only for children but also for adults. So at the places where the families are now residing special provision is being made for English speaking classes for adults and the children are being placed in schools close to the hostels where special English language classes are available to them. So the honourable gentleman will see that special attention is being provided not only to child migrant education generally but also to the special needs of refugees from Indo-China.
(Mr Innes proceeding to address a question to the AttorneyGeneral)
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The honourable gentleman heard me call for order and he continued speaking above me, which is unparliamentary. The question is out of order. It should be placed on the notice paper.
– Why is it out of order?
– Because the persons are identifiable and the question should go on the notice paper. I call the honourable member for St George.
– I direct my question -
– I rise on a point of order Mr Speaker. My point of order is that my question contained reference to a case. I did not name anybody in the question. I referred to a case that came within the ambit of the New South Wales District Court. I indicated in my question that the case involved a New South Wales District Court judge and his wife. I did not make any mention of any names; I simply referred to the case.
– If the honourable gentleman did not refer to any names and believes that the names are not identifiable how can the AttorneyGeneral answer the question?
– I rise on a further point of order, Mr Speaker. The question makes direct reference to the fact that the Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly indicated clearly that he rejected a question in similar terms and said that it was out of order because it came within the province and the responsibility of the Federal Attorney-General. On what grounds am I ruled out of order when it is obvious that the Speaker in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly believes that the matter comes within the ambit of the Attorney-General? Therefore, the Attorney-General should be in a position to answer my question.
-The Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly will make rulings relating to that Parliament. They do not bind this Parliament.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled, in effect, that the question is out of order because, I presume, of the provisions of standing order 144 which states:
Questions should not contain-
statements of facts or names of person unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated; or the provisions of standing order 153 which states:
Questions shall not be asked which reflect on or are critical of the character or conduct of those persons whose conduct may only be challenged on a substantive motion - and so on. It would seem to me that in this instance neither of those standing orders is relevant to the question that has been asked by the honourable member for Melbourne. We are asking the Attorney-General for an answer on a matter which comes within his responsibilities. Nobody has been particularly identified in the way in which the question is stated. In the normal state of affairs. I should think that court cases of this sort are likely to be singular. Mr Speaker, if you continue to adopt that view in ruling questions such as that out of order you will stultify the whole of Question Time.
– I believe I will not do that.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The basis of the question asked is: Did the Attorney-General acknowledge his jurisdiction in the area? I think that when the question is boiled down, that is the only real basis. I do not think that there can be any objection to the question. It does not ask the Attorney-General to comment on the case in New South Wales, nor does it refer in a derogatory manner to any person in that case.
-The implication is clear. If the honourable gentleman’s question had merely been: Is the Attorney-General responsible to answer questions in this House relating to the matrimonial jurisdiction, the question would have been in order. But that was not the question.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that since December 1972 there has not been one day’s debate in the Parliament on the defence of Australia? Does the Government view this issue with a sense of urgency? To stimulate interest and debate within the Parliament and the community at large will the Minister give consideration to calling for a White Paper?
– It is a fact that there has not been one day’s debate on defence in this Parliament since December 1972. Honourable gentlemen who sat in the last Parliament will recall that those of us who sat in the then Opposition regarded this as a matter for complaint and as a matter for lament. It is clear, as is shown by the scars and the experience borne by honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House, that no political party represented in this Parliament has any monopoly of patriotism. The Government does take the view that it is wrong and immature that the country has been denied a sustained parliamentary debate on the question of defence. As a consequence of taking that view the Government will seek, at an appropriate time, to put down a White Paper on defence. When that White Paper would be put down of course would depend upon what arrangements could be made by the Leader of the House. That in turn would be governed by the legislative program. But I make it clear to the honourable gentleman and to the House that the Government does regard this as a matter of urgency. There are differences between the Government and Opposition members regarding defence. Some of those differences may be regarded as significant, but we believe that the proper way to seek to resolve them is to discuss those differences in this Parliament.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he will confirm that it falls within his ministerial responsibility to answer questions concerning proceedings under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959-1973, even if those proceedings came before a Supreme Court of a State.
– The question is probably out of order because it asks for an opinion. However -
-Order! The AttorneyGeneral will resume his seat. The statement by the Attorney-General was a reflection on the Chair. The fact is that if a question asks for an opinion it is a matter for the Minister to decide whether he will avoid- answering, or refuse to answer, the question because it does ask for an opinion. But it is not a matter for the Speaker to intercede in the first instance. If the AttorneyGeneral says that the question requires an opinion, then I shall excuse the Minister from answering it. I call the Attorney-General.
- Mr Speaker, I did not intend to reflect on the Chair. I do not hide behind the fact that the question seeks an opinion. The Family Law Act, of course, is under my administration. The Matrimonial Causes Act, so far as it remains in force, may be said to remain under my administration. So far as I am aware, the question whether particular matters should be heard before the court in New South Wales on particular days or at particular times is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I think the honourable gentleman will understand that. I do not control the law lists, nor do I control the practices and procedures of the court in dealing with the cases that come before it. Obviously, we all know the case honourable members are referring to. I take this opportunity to say that so far as I am able to discover from my inquiries this case was dealt with in exactly the same way as a case of Smith v. Smith would be dealt with. So far as my inquiries go there is no foundation whatsoever to the insinuations that have been made in relation to the matter. I have made inquiries of counsel in the case- of a person who is now a judge of the Family Court in New South Wales- and I am perfectly satisfied that in relation to this matter there was no extraordinary procedure.
– Unusual but not extraordinary.
– The fact that the matter may have been heard outside court hours- that is, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.- as the honourable member recalls, was due to a lengthy case which did not conclude until about 4.30 o’clock in the afternoon.
– Why was the matter not listed?
-So far as my inquiries go this matter was not listed in accordance with the continuous practice that a judge in this court who feels he may have extra time arranges with counsel to deal with undefended matters if the court has time. It so happens that this matter came before the court at 4.30 in the afternoon in accordance with the ordinary procedure and was dealt with in the ordinary way. I am quite happy to give to the honourable gentleman the name of the counsel in the case. I invite the honourable gentleman to ring counsel and ask whether there was anything untoward. I have little doubt that when the honourable gentleman rings him and speaks to him, the honourable member will undoubtedly accept his assurance, as I accepted it.
– For the information of honourable members I present copies of the directives that set out the responsibilities to me of senior service and civilian officers of the defence organisation and relationships between various areas of responsibilities of those officers. These directives came into force on 9 February 1976 with the implementation of major provisions of the Defence Force Re-Organisation Act.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act I present a statement of the payments made during the year ended 30 June 1975 in respect of all guarantees given under that Act.
– For the information of honourable members I present a summary record of proceedings of the third meeting of the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers held in Canberra on 1 August 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of the Capital Territory for 1974-75.
– by leave- The House will recall that during the election campaign last year the Government emphasised the importance it attached to the need to eliminate widespread abuse of the unemployment benefit system. The House will also be aware of the action to implement this promise in mid- January last when the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and I announced a number of measures designed to tighten the unemployment benefit work test. I now want to announce some further measures which the Government recently decided to adopt. However, before doing so, I should like to acquaint honourable members with some brief background details.
Currently, there are still nearly 200 000 persons receiving unemployment benefit in Australia, and the cost to the taxpayer of unemployment benefit payments is in the vicinity of $480m per annum. Furthermore, it should be noted that: In February 1972, about 30 per cent of unemployed registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service received unemployment benefit, and this had increased to 70 per cent in February 1976; about 70 per cent of male recipients at the latest analysis last year were unmarried; some two-fifths were under 21 years; and three-quarters of them had been on benefit for more than one month.
Between May 1975 and January 1976 some 112 000 beneficiaries were selected for field officer visits by the Department of Social Security. As a result of these visits 30 per cent of cases were terminated, though there is no suggestion of deception or fraud in every case. Often the beneficiaries have only recently obtained work and have had little time to notify the Department of Social Security; their domestic circumstances have altered in a way which disqualifies them from benefit; they may no longer satisfy the work test requirement; or they have left their normal address and have not notified the Department Of course, in some cases there is blatant misrepresentation. In these instances a prosecution is considered and in most cases appropriate action is taken.
A person shall be qualified to receive unemployment benefit who satisfies the DirectorGeneral of the Department of Social Security that he:
is unemployed and that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike;
The Department of Social Security is responsible for the determination of eligibility for, and the payment of, unemployment benefit. My Department, through the Commonwealth Employment Service, acts as agent for the Department of Social Security by reporting on whether or not suitable employment is available for individual claimants. The work test is the process of determining whether applicants for employment who claim, or are in receipt of unemployment benefits, are prepared to accept suitable employment. ‘Suitable employment’ is defined as work in the person’s usual occupation, or work of an equivalent kind. Work of an equivalent kind is work of a type or nature in which the person ‘s experience, qualification and training could be used. In the case of school leavers and others not previously engaged in employment, and those seeking to rejoin the work force, suitable employment is work which is in keeping with their personal preferences as far as is practicable, and their abilities, aptitudes or experience, qualification and training.
To assist CES officers to administer the work test in a consistent and fair manner, guidelines have been laid down to cover various situations which may arise in day-to-day dealings with applicants for employment.
Changes introduced in January 1976
The Government took early action aimed at eliminating abuses which had become all too common.
Applicants have not satisfied the work test if:
This applies particularly to persons who move to new locations where, in the opinion of the CES there are little or no employment prospects for the individual concerned. Persons who move for purposes other than to seek full-time employment, that is for holidays, tourism, environmental factors and the like, no longer meet the requirements of the work test.
This Government will not tolerate these devious devices to have the taxpayer support indolence. While seeking to avoid misuse of taxpayers’ funds we have, however, also sought to avoid hardship for the genuine job seeker. For example, guidelines also point out that it is not reasonable to expect a person to accept a position if no public or private transport is available, or if excessive time would be spent in travelling. We do not want to impose conditions which involve a person leaving home very early in the morning and returning home late at night, or where travelling costs are excessive in relation to wages received. Persons with their own means of travel, however, are expected to use it to travel to work if no other transport is available. One and a half hours travelling each way generally is not regarded as excessive. Nor are claimants required to accept employment where the cost of weekly return fares is in excess of 5 per cent of the basic salary offering for the position. Where, however, a number of people in one centre regularly commute to another centre, refusal of a claimant to do likewise could, of course, result in rejection of cancellation of benefit.
CES officers are required to inform clients that any refusal to accept a referral to employment or an offer of suitable employment will be reported to the Department of Social Security and that this could affect eligibility for unemployment benefit or, alternatively, result in benefit being postponed for a period. CES managers are required to provide Registrars of Social Security with comprehensive information concerning reasons why they consider claimants for unemployment benefit have failed to satisfy the work test. Appeal can be made to an independent tribunal for review of a decision to refuse unemployment benefit. CES officers seek to attempt, through counselling, to persuade long-term beneficiaries and others, as appropriate, to undertake retraining or rehabilitation or to consider alternative types of work. CES managers are also encouraged to be alert to the personal situations of individuals and to consult, as necessary, with such people as parents, welfare workers and ministers of religion in difficult cases. Where some other form of social security payments might be more appropriate, CES managers are required to report this to Registrars of Social Security for their attention.
In addition to revising the guidelines for the administration of the work test, the Government also introduced in January last: identity checks of claimants to overcome the problem of multiple claims from individuals; re-application of the postponement provisions of the Social Security Act under which benefit may be postponed where a person is voluntarily unemployed, or unemployment is due to misconduct or to refusal or failure to accept suitable employment; and re-emphasis of the longstanding policy that unemployment benefit will not generally be available to single persons over 18 who show unwillingness to move from an area where no employment exists to an area where employment is available. The Government considers that it should not be obliged to support indefinitely with taxpayers’ money any person who remains in an area of poor employment prospects and who could reasonably be expected to move to another area where suitable employment is available.
All of these measures were not aimed at the genuine work seeker; they were designed to remove what many saw as a Government financed incentive not to seek work actively and to keep other abuses of the system to a minimum.
It was apparent to the Government when conducting its initial review in January that further measures might be necessary. It therefore directed the Interdepartmental Working Party to continue to explore what additional action might be necessary to further reduce abuses. This Working Party, comprising officers of the Department of Social Security and my Department, had previously reported on other aspects of the administration of unemployment benefit. Following the report the Government has decided that: the definition of ‘suitable work’ be amended to allow the CES to extend the range of jobs to which beneficiaries may be referred after they have been in receipt of unemployment benefit for a reasonable period; persons receiving unemployment benefit be required to lodge their income statements personally with the CES each fortnight and that the Department of Social Security field officer selective review be stepped up; and unemployment benefit be not paid to school leavers during the long vacation but that benefit be paid from the commencement of the new school year if the students do not then return to school or proceed to university. This procedure will operate from the end of the 1976 school year.
As to the definition of ‘suitable work’, the Government has taken the view that while a skilled person should not be expected to accept an unskilled job for a reasonable period, this period should not be indefinite, as it can be now. In future, where after a reasonable period it has not been possible for a person to obtain employment in his usual occupation or work of an equivalent kind, the range of suitable jobs to which he or she may be referred will be extended to all which are within the person’s capacity and available to him or her even though a change in status or wages may be involved. The Government has decided that a period of 6 weeks after registration for employment will constitute a reasonable period. However, this period may be extended up to 3 months in total where to do otherwise would be detrimental to the person finding employment in his usual occupation.
In summary, all those receiving unemployment benefit will be free to prospect for employment in their usual occupation, or work of an equivalent kind, for a period of 6 weeks and the CES will also be working to this end on their behalf. Extension beyond this point, up to a total time of 3 months, will apply in those cases where a person’s efforts to find suitable employment in keeping with their qualifications or experience would be prejudiced if they had to accept prematurely less skilled work. A similar approach is adopted by a number of overseas countries. The re-introduction of personal lodgment of income statements with the CES on a fortnightly basis is considered necessary to overcome situations where people have, in fact, been working while lodging income statements by mail.
The situation with regard to school leavers is quite simply that in the past many school leaver claimants have said that they are not going back to school, have been paid unemployment benefit, and for one reason or another have returned to school. Some, of course, have claimed benefit without any intention of being dishonest, and have later gone back to school. It is apparent, however, that others have merely sought benefit for the holiday period, knowing that they would be returning to their studies. This has meant that they have received benefits to which they would not otherwise have been entitled. I would like to add that in relation to school leavers, if the applicant demonstrates hardship as a result of the non-payment of unemployment benefit during the periods mentioned, sympathetic consideration will be given to the case and the payment of special benefit will be made in appropriate cases. Section 124 of the Social Services Act allows the Director-General a discretion to make this payment where, because of age, physical or mental disability, or domestic circumstances, or for any other reason, a person is unable to earn sufficient livelihood for himself or his dependants, if any. The rate of special benefit is equivalent to the rate of unemployment benefit.
A further matter which is designed to improve the administration of unemployment benefit concerns the position of people who voluntarily leave work and immediately expect to receive unemployment benefit. The Government believes that in many cases these people are not without resources of their own, or, in the case of teenagers, from their parents, and that it should be made generally known to those people that if they voluntarily give up their jobs, particularly in these times of high unemployment, they cannot expect immediately to receive unemployment benefit. The Government has accordingly decided that people who voluntarily give up their jobs will be required to wait 6 weeks before being granted unemployment benefit. This will bring the Australian practice into line with that of Canada, where under the Canadian Unemployment Insurance Scheme there is a waiting period of 6 weeks where a person has voluntarily left his job. As with school leavers, the Department of Social Security will give sympathetic consideration to the payment of special benefit to a person becoming voluntarily unemployed, and who demonstrates hardship.
It will be evident from what I have said that the Government is not making changes to the unemployment benefits system to the disadvantage of genuine work seekers. Nor is its aim to compel people to work; that would be forced or compulsory labour, which is not acceptable in Australia or elsewhere, quite apart from the fact that it would be contrary to the International Labour Organisation conventions on forced labour which Australia has ratified. Equally, however, the Government has no intention of supporting at public expense those who are fit and able to work, who by registering for employment signify that they are seeking normal work, yet who by their actions make it evident that they do not wish to do so. The Government is no less concerned that these abuses of the system are kept to a minimum consistent with the cost involved. I am confident that these efforts will have the wholehearted support of the overwhelming majority of our community.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
– 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 threats to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and ethnic radio.
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)
– The Government’s current attack on the Australian Broadcasting Commission is wholly typical of the Fraser Government’s tactics and its assault on all other forms of public enterprise. It is stealthy, deceitful and politically motivated. There can be ho doubt that the Government has embarked on a vendetta against the national broadcasting service for which no warning was given before the election by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or by any shadow Minister or caretaker Minister with responsibility in this area. The campaign to cripple the ABC has taken 2 forms. First, there have been drastic cuts in the ABC’s budget, and, secondly, there has been calculated confusion and obscurity in the Government’s policies towards the ABC and a crude attempt to demoralise the Commission’s staff. Together with the Government’s continuing silence on the future of ethnic radio, its actions constitute an unprecedented threat to the independence and the integrity of public broadcasting in Australia.
On television last night the Prime Minister spoke vaguely of the problems of the ABC. They are problems of the Government’s own making. In the short term at least, they are the result of the Fraser Government’s obsessive and misguided cuts in public expenditure. The Government has already reduced the Hayden Budget’s allocation for the ABC by more than $ 1 m. In addition, the ABC has received none of the additional $7.3m sought in its mid-year supplementary estimates to cover additional costs, some of the costs, for instance, being for the election, which could not have been foretold at the time of the Budget. This shortfall of $8.4m in ABC revenues is imposing drastic restrictions on the Commission’s activities and causing the retrenchment and erosion of hundreds of ABC staff. According to the best estimates, the ABC will have at least 1,000 fewer staff at the end of this financial year than it had in 1975. This in turn will depress its standards further.
On top of this the Government has refused to appoint a new chairman of the ABC in succession to the late Professor Richard Downing. The absence of an independent chairman, able to speak for the Commission as a whole and to represent the interests of staff and management, has left the ABC dangerously vulnerable to Government intimidation and the pressures of the commercial broadcasting lobby. The delay in appointing a chairman is inexplicable. Professor Downing died 5 months ago. Does the Government suggest that there is no suitably eminent or qualified man or woman to take his place at the head of the Commission? If ever there was a need for a strong and capable chairman commanding the respect of the public and the loyalty of the staff it is now. A new chairman, acceptable to all sides in the present dispute, but above all, committed to the ideals and traditions of the ABC, must be appointed without delay.
We do not need to look very far for the reasons for the Government’s vendetta. Liberal Ministers have long feared and resented the ABC’s political independence. The impartiality of ABC current affairs programs has long been a sore point with conservative politicians. During the election campaign the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) publicly attacked the ABC. He called for the appointment of a censor to monitor its public affairs broadcasts. He was not the only Liberal or National Country Party spokesman to threaten the Commission and its staff. There is a long tradition of illiberality and paternalism towards the ABC by Liberal politicians. It goes back to the days of Sir Robert Menzies. It was Sir Robert who handed the control and management of commercial television in Australia to a handful of newspaper proprietors who already monopolised commercial radio and the Press. Under Country Party pressure in the early 1960s this monopoly was extended to rural newspaper publishers, and to grazing interests, and at the same time, of course- and on this there was unity between the Liberal Party and the Country Party- the remaining metropolitan television stations were handed to sympathetic interests, among them Sir Reginald Ansett.
The result has been that Australia now boasts one of the most cumbersome, politically restricted, financially unstable and culturally impoverished broadcasting services in the English-speaking world. That is the Liberal legacy in the field of public communication. The same newspaper interests who dominate the Australian media are now joyously fanning and publicising the Fraser Government’s campaign against the ABC. Nothing would better suit the interests of the Packers and Murdochs of this world than the destruction of the one news and entertainment outlet that challenges their present monopoly. It is not good enough for the Prime Minister to say that the ABC’s independence will be protected. By undermining the ABC’s financial stability the Government is exposing it to infiltration and attack by commercial broadcasting interests.
– Should it be a blank cheque?
-No, and it never has been, but the cheque which it had from the last August Budget is being dishonoured, and the cheques it needs to pay commitments which were foisted on it in November and December are not being issued. It is not a question of giving blank cheques. It is a question of honouring commitments. The federal director of the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters, Mr Foster -
Mr Scholes- I raise a point of order. Are the honourable members for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), who are interjecting, entitled to try to talk down the honourable member for Werriwa when he is on his feet?
-I did not think they were very successful in their attempts. I did not take much notice.
-Nor did I, really.
– I would ask the House to come to order.
-They might not be any more civil than a lot of interviewers that one meets from the media but they are certainly less effective. The federal director of the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters, Mr Foster, made no secret of his industry’s intentions in a speech reported in this morning’s Press. Mr Foster called for the immediate closure of 2JJ and the appointment of a new authority to supervise the ABC and other broadcasting services. If the ABC is forced to take advertising to pay its way, its independence will disappear. It will be subjected to the same pressures from advertisers and commercial interests as every other commercial station, newspaper company or television channel. The Acting Chairman of the Commission said that he was speaking for all members of the ABC in condemning the proposal that the ABC should be compelled to take commercial advertisements, and the members of the ABC come from all political Parties represented in the Parliament. They are unanimous in resisting the idea that the ABC should be commercialised.
We have seen the pernicious effects on program standards of excessive commercial pressure, especially when television and radio stations are run by newspaper companies- the incestuous self-promotion, the plugs for associated stations and channels, the drumming up of spurious personalities, the stage-managed rivalries between disc jockeys and announcers, the grovelling to every mindless fad, the systematic debasement of public taste. The Prime Minister went on record earlier this year with the gratuitous observation that commercial stations do many things a good deal less expensively than the ABC. They also do many things a good deal worse.
The threat to the ABC is paralleled by the threat to ethnic radio. For a paltry sum of less than $500,000 a year the Government is selling out the whole concept of ethnic broadcasting. The Government must make its intentions clear. Ethnic broadcasting has been one of the most popular and successful innovations in radio. No radio station has a larger listening public or a more devoted listening public than the ethnic radio stations in Sydney and Melbourne established by the Labor Government. The purpose of ethnic radio will be destroyed - ( Government supporters interjecting) -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, some of the interjectors would not understand ethnic radio. They do not even speak English very well. The purpose of ethnic radio will be destroyed and its survival endangered if it is forced to pay for itself by accepting advertisements. The Government must ensure that ethnic radio remains completely independent of commercial pressures and competing private interests. The familiar pattern of monopoly control must be avoided. Every significant English speaking daily newspaper in Australia is produced by one of three companies. All of them are heavily involved in commercial radio and television. Recently some foreign language newspapers have changed hands. They have changed hands because money came in from overseas interests to acquire controlling interests in those stations.
Many years ago, in fact in 1951, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), in regard to a takeover by British newspaper interests of Australian newspapers and Australian broadcasting stations, stated that Parliament should establish the principle that organs of public opinion in Australia cannot be permitted to fall into the hands of other than Australians. That is a principle we have always accepted since then. It is not being carried out in respect of the ownership of foreign language newspapers in Australia. Some of them, in fact, are passing into the hands of people other than Australians. Their editors have been sacked. Their policies have been changed. There are fewer owners of foreign language newspapers in Australia now than there were a few years ago. If ethnic radio becomes a commercial enterprise it will inevitably come to cater for only the largest ethnic groups and to reflect the interests of only the largest advertisers.
A letter was published in this morning’s Press from 10 prominent Australians defending the financial and political independence of the ABC. In part the letter stated:
We accept that performance sometimes falls short of the aim, but believe the existence of a healthy and independent ABC is of central importance to maintaining and building an Australian democracy.
We express concern that, through budgetary controls and other means, the ABC ‘s functions may be severely curtailed.
Closing overseas bureaus, curtailing programs and increased charges for services are only some immediate issues which suggest that the Commission may be put in the position of taking a less active function in Australian community and cultural life . . . We ask the Federal Government to ensure that the ABC not only maintains but extends and improves its services to the Australian community, including the propagation of information, culture and criticism at the highest possible level.
I list the signatories: Christina Stead, author; Ray Lawler, playwright; Dr Stephen MurraySmith of Melbourne University, author and editor; Mary Durack Miller, author; Archbishop Sir Frank Woods, the primate; Judith Wright, poet; Justice Sir Richard Eggleston, Chancellor of Monash University; Hugh Stretton of Adelaide University and Professor Passmore of the Australian National University. I believe that these Australians speak for millions of fellow listeners and fellow viewers who value the ABC as a prime guardian of our civil liberties and cultural standards. No one suggests that the ABC is perfect. No one suggests that it can never be changed or improved. No one suggests that it should enjoy unlimited access to the public purse. The Australian Labor Party believes there is a role in Australia for commercial radio and television alongside the non-commercial network.
The Labor Government did much in 3 years to extend and enrich the broadcasting services in this country. I mention ethnic radio, the new ABC music stations, the licensing of additional
AM stations, the introduction of FM broadcasting and the introduction of colour television. We are determined to defend the ABC and all it stands for from the threats of the Fraser Government and its commercial backers. A strong and healthy national broadcasting service is essential to our political liberty and our cultural maturity. The Opposition commends the efforts of the ABC’s staff and its acting chairman in resisting the latest attacks on the ABC. We stand with the millions of loyal ABC viewers and listeners in every State who value the independence, fairness, integrity and efficiency of one of the great public enterprises in Australian life.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence on a point of misrepresentation.
-Does the honourable member claim he has been misrepresented?
-Yes. The Leader of the Opposition was good enough to refer, quite correctly, to the view I took in the House in 1951 that Australian broadcasting should be under Australian control. However, he went on to state incorrectly that the Labor Party supported this view. It opposed it in the House at the time for its own purposes.
– In the 3 years that I have been in this House I have heard the former Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) make a number of speeches. I have never heard one so lacking in justification as the one he has made this afternoon. We all know that he is going through a difficult period in his career. We all know that the nation has placed a question mark over his credibility and the credibility of his Party. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition can afford the luxury of the extravagant charges that he has made this afternoon. The Leader of the Opposition talks about vendettas. Of course, he has a lot of figments of imagination about vendettas against him and his Party. I am surprised that he would allow himself to be drawn into a debate on this subject. What evidence does the Leader of the Opposition have that the Government is threatening the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? The only ‘evidence’ that can be found is that of continuing and growing Press speculation over the past few weeks. In view of the Leader of the Opposition’s attitude and, indeed, comments about the proprietors of some of the leading Australian newspapers I find it difficult to understand how he of all people now accepts their word as credible evidence of Government intention.
It should be clear to members of this House and the Australian public that the fears expressed regarding possible threats to the autonomous nature of the operations of the ABC are without foundation. The Liberal Party platform sets out quite clearly that freedom of expression in the Press, radio and television and freedom from governmental and political interference are fundamental to Liberal beliefs and essential to democratic government. It is further stated that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be independent of political control. The National Country Party media policy is similar to that statement. Honourable members will be aware of the Prime Minister’s statement reported in this morning’s Australian in which he says:
I would say that whatever changes could be made, if any are made, to the organisation and structure of the ABC insofar as I am concerned, the absolute independence of the ABC in reporting particularly political events will remain.
I believe that these statements demonstrate quite clearly that the Commission will not be prejudiced in its freedom of expression which it currently enjoys or the active role it now plays in the Australian community.
There has also been comment by the Leader of the Opposition on the budgetary cuts applied recently to the ABC. The Australian Broadcasting Commission sought an increase of $7.3m over its approved allocation for this financial year. After consideration of our need to reduce public expenditure- that was an announced policy and a known government policy- it was decided that the ABC would receive a cut of $ 1.1m on its approved budget and that its request for additional funds would not be granted. These are the figures which apply, based upon a budget of $130m, when the Leader of the Opposition uses words such as ‘crippling’. It is not a question of being crippling; it is a question of being responsible and operating within the policy of this Government. In a period when the Government is endeavouring to rectify the mistakes of the previous Labor administration and to place our economy on a sounder basis, I believe it is reasonable that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be placed in the same position as other government activities, many of which have been curtailed. However, I point out to honourable members that in making this cut the implementation of the financial programs and the way that the Commission would meet its new financial goals were left entirely to the discretion of the ABC itself and there was no Government interference in that area.
As the responsible Minister, I have given no indication at all that there is any desire on the Government’s part to threaten the independence of the ABC. Indeed, as evidence of our attitude to protect its independence, I cite the specific example of recent industrial disputes which the Commission has been undergoing. On these occasions I have been approached by various staff and trade union associations in an effort to embroil me in what I have regarded as purely internal ABC management decisions. The Government has repeatedly stated that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent statutory corporation vested with the power of making its own managerial decisions.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, there has also been conjecture on the use of advertising on the ABC as a means of obtaining revenue to reduce the cost of the Commission on the public purse. This issue is a most complex one. Certainly at present the Broadcasting and Television Act specifically prohibits the Australian Broadcasting Commission from advertising. Is it not natural for views concerning the funding of the ABC to be expressed? After all, we are talking about a national expenditure of about $ 130m. If we add to that the cost of ancillary services we are talking of an all-up expenditure of $170m. It is not an inconsiderable sum. I have received letters recently advocating the use of advertising as a means of obtaining revenue and letters deploring the possibility of such an action. We would not contemplate the use of advertising if it would threaten in any way the ability of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to act independently in presenting its wide coverage of subjects which are currently handled.
The Liberal-National Country Party Government has committed itself to further the potential of ethnic broadcasting, both as a means of language instruction and cultural dissemination. It will encourage ethnic involvement in the running and programming of these stations. Care will be taken to ensure a balanced and representative utilisation of the medium. Our policies in this area of broadcasting are aimed at improving the information services to migrants as well as ensuring an equitable use of the radio frequency spectrum. Senior officers of 5 Commonwealth departments with a direct interest in ethnic broadcasting are currently considering the various options available to the Government in planning a long term structure for this important form of broadcasting in Australia. Their report will be completed this week, and it is anticipated that the recommendations of the Ministers concerned will be considered by the Government before the end of this month. Until that discussion and consideration have taken place there can be only speculation as to the Government’s policy. I said that to the Leader of the Opposition in answer to a question last week. It is pure speculation. The Government is considering the matter. It will be discussed. A decision will be reached, bearing in mind our commitment to ethnic radio, and an announcement will be made.
It has been many years since there has been a complete look at the broadcasting and television industry. In that time we have seen the introduction of colour television and the growing pressure for public broadcasting. I propose to recommend to the Government that it institute an inquiry into the industry. The inquiry will seek the views of interested bodies and authorities. I note in a recent statement the Acting Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Dr Earle Hackett, supports such an investigation. I put to honourable members: What is the harm in having a look at a growingly significant industry? It has been some years since we had a look. The former Prime Minister talked about his administration extending and enriching radio during its term. In the 6 weeks or so that I have had this responsibility, all I can say is that there has been substantial mismanagement, as there has been in a number of other departments. The mismanagement, the looseness, the quite irresponsible attitude and the spending of taxpayers’ funds in this area add extra weight to the need for a thoroughly on-going inquiry. Such an inquiry will be beneficial not only to the industry generally but also to the Government, the Parliament and the nation as a whole. We will not be hurried into decisions simply because of some imagination, some speculation of the Press and irresponsible matters of public importance initiated by the Leader of the Opposition.
I say in clear terms that the Government’s attitude on the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is quite clear. The ABC must be independent of political control or interference. We believe it is essential that the Commission maintain high technical standards, objectivity and integrity in the presentation of its services. We recognise the valuable work performed by the Commission, particularly in providing services to remote areas and to minority groups. In government we will continue to ensure that the ABC is equipped to service these needs. We will complement those needs with other essential local services such as public broadcasting, so that the ABC can continue as an independent authority serving the Australian nation.
-The speech of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) only confirms fears that the Government intends to emasculate the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There are many ways in which one can state quite clearly, as the Minister did, that the Government intends to uphold the independence of the ABC. It can appear to be doing so. There are many backdoor ways by which that independence can be destroyed, as I will outline further as I speak this afternoon. For example, the Minister said:
We would not contemplate the use of advertising if it would threaten in any way the ability of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to act independently.
That appears to mean that in no circumstances will the Government permit the use of advertising by the ABC. If one studies the small print in that statement one sees that it contains an inference that if the Minister is satisfied or if he can convince the public that advertising will not destroy the independence of the ABC perhaps he will introduce advertising on the ABC. Once again, as with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), at all times one must read the small print. It is very important to do so.
There have been reports of clandestine con.sulations between the Prime Minister, Rupert Murdoch and Mr Packer about the future of the ABC. The three have a common interest, namely, a strongly held view that the ABC is becoming dangerously independent and is becoming, as a result of the high quality of its programs, serious competition to the commercial television and radio interests. The Prime Minister has a further interest in the matter, that is, his conviction that television and radio licence fees,’ an iniquitious poll tax which is levied on the rich and poor alike, should be introduced. As proof 0 this statement, look at the articles in both yesterday’s and today’s Australian. Keep in mind that this is the Australian, the Murdoch Press. Without a doubt it is a softening up process to create a climate of public acceptability of change in the structure of the ABC. It comes from the Murdoch Press. Surely that is an extraordinary coincidence. The proposals which are reported to have been canvassed are as follows: Firstly, a requirement of ABC radio and television to carry advertising, ostensibly to boost revenue but in reality to reduce the quality of its programs. This was denied by the Prime Minister in the Press this morning. As I said about the Minister’s statement, the denial is worth very little. One must read the small print. It could quite easily be a smokescreen to hide his real intentions. One must always read the small print.
Another proposal is to combine the ABC and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into one organisation which would control the activities of the existing ABC and which would be responsible for recommending the issue of new broadcasting and television licences. It would also be responsible for recommending radio and television licence fees payable by the public, and funds from Consolidated Revenue would be stopped or drastically reduced. That is one of the reports which is circulating , freely today. The Government would then each year make itself the people’s friend by reducing the amount recommended for radio and television licence fees by the new Board, with a resultant reduction in its financial capacity and a consequent resultant reduction in its program standards and a transfer of viewers and listeners to commercial stations.
Another proposal which is being canvassed at the present time is the complete abolition of radio station 2JJ. I refer here to the reasons and the motives for that proposal. This morning’s Australian Financial Review reports that the latest McNair-Anderson survey shows that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s 3 radio stations now attract an audience of 18.1 per cent of the listening public. Up to the present time it has not been a serious competitor with commercial interests, but in recent times, with the advent of radio station 2JJ, it has become a very serious competitor indeed with commercial stations. Also in this morning’s Australian Financial Review Mr Des Foster, the Federal Director of the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters, is reported as saying this:
There is a stench about the whole of the 2JJ episode.
It reeks of secret deals, patronage and partisanship.
It was presented as an experiment.
The experiment should now be terminated and the station closed down while some sensible overall plan for broadcasting is worked out.
He is calling for the closing down of 2 J J. Is it any wonder that he should do that; he represents the commercial radio interests and obviously fears the success of 2JJ which can attract such a large slice of the 15 to 25-year old listening audiencea very lucrative listening audience from the point of view of advertising- because, of the appeal of its programs to our young people. Sometimes one wonders whether perhaps the young people of today should boycott the commercial stations in protest against these moves to abolish 2JJ altogether.
The same situation applies to ethnic radio. Once again a large section of the migrant population today is listening to ethnic radio. Accordingly there is a fear of the competition of that radio and a desire once again to close it down because of the listening audience which it attracts. These so-called advocates of free enterprise are not very enterprising when it comes to competition. The same situation applies in relation to the regional news services. They also have been abolished by government action, once again because they are in competition with private news services.
What is the motivation behind all of this? It is, firstly, to impair drastically the quality of the ABC’s programs and therefore to reduce its listening audience, with a consequent transfer of that audience to commercial stations which arc more susceptible to giving a biased reporting favourable to the conservative forces in this country; secondly, to create an atmosphere of insecurity amongst the staff and management of the ABC, to force them to impose a selfcensorship. In other words, it is an overt way of destroying the independence of the ABC. Thirdly, the motivation is to repay commercial radio and television interests- the Murdochs, the Packers and the Fairfaxes- for their support prior to, at the time of and since the last election campaign. These are the motives of the Government; these are the motives of the Murdochs and the Packers. These are the motives of people who today wish to emasculate the ABC and to destroy its independence. It is no use the Minister saying that he will not destroy the independence of the ABC if the introduction of the types of measures I have mentioned means that the ABC will be forced to impose censorship on its own activities for fear of further reaction against it by the Government, by the Minister himself, and particularly by the Prime Minister.
– The speech just delivered by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) is one of the most extraordinary speeches that I have heard in this House for quite some while. We all know that the Australian Labor Party is imbued with the conspiracy theory to an extent which must worry quite considerably the medical members of the Party. I have not heard for quite some time the conspiracy theory expounded at such length and in such a way as would cause more worry.
Let me just reiterate what the honourable member for Chifley put forward. The whole reason for the reports which he said are circulating today is that we are going to impair the quality of Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programs and thereby force people to listen to commercial stations. That is an interesting concept, but I wonder whether he can base his assertions on fact at all. Secondly, he said- this is a fascinating suggestion- that we are going to create insecurity amongst the ABC staff and thereby force them to self criticism, and that that self criticism will result in their entering into a situation in which they are not as critical of the Government as they otherwise would be, and that as a result of that, of course, people will go back once again to the commercial stations. Finally he said that all this is going to come about because we want to repay the commercial radio interests for the support given to the present government during the last election campaign.
That is a fascinating conspiracy theory, because I did not hear any of these sorts of statements being made following the 1972 election campaign during which a great proportion of public affairs commentators taking part in sessions on commercial radio in fact supported the Labor Party. They were all jolly good fellows during the 1972 election campaign! Suddenly, as a result of the Australian Labor Party’s being defeated, and defeated so decisively at the last election, they have all become wicked, and we are the most wicked of all; we are trying to muzzle the ABC. The honourable member for Chifley, of course, is giving as the basis for his comments rumours circulating amongst Press men. It really is not good enough in terms of a debate on possible government attitudes towards the ABC or ethnic radio. It is based on a tissue of rumours circulating around the place, and obviously it has no basis in truth.
I was interested in the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) who suggested, virtually by innuendo, that Dr Hackett, who is Acting Chairman of the ABC, is not quite up to the job. He said that it was a bad thing that Professor Downing had died some S months ago, I believe it was, and that no appointment had been made subsequent to that. In a way this is a criticism of the job that Dr Hackett is carrying out. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that Dr Hackett was in fact appointed a commissioner by the previous Labor Government and I believe he has been doing a very good job since he has been appointed Acting Chairman.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to talk at some length about the suggested attitudes of the Liberal Party towards the independence of the ABC. I have been in this Parliament for 7 years now and I remember very clearly suggestions being made during my first period here between 1969 and 1972 when we were in government that we intended somehow to interfere with the independence of the ABC. I remember the then Postmaster-General getting up in this Parliament time after time and defending absolutely the independence of the ABC. The independence of the ABC was guaranteed by previous LiberalNational Country Party governments and it will be guaranteed by the present Liberal-National Country Party Government. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr EricRobinson) who spoke previously made it very clear that- I quote him- there is no threat to the independence of the ABC. That is what he said, and an assurance to that effect was given today by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I do not think any evidence can be adduced to suggest that the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is under threat at the moment.
This afternoon I want to speak about that part of the matter proposed for discussion which relates to ethnic radio. The matter was stated in these terms:
The threats to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and ethnic radio.
A threat to ethnic radio is implicit in those terms, but the implied threat has not been made clear. Let me briefly go over the history of ethnic radio. It was started in about the middle of last year as an experiment. After some time, when the experimental period came to an end, it was extended by the then Labor Government. That experimental period has been extended again by the present Government. So no real threat to the continuance of ethnic radio can be deduced from the evidence. In fact this Government has a direct commitment to the continuation of ethnic radio.
I will quote that commitment:
A Liberal-National Country Party government will further the potential of ethnic community access radio stations as both a means of language instruction and cultural dissemination. Ethnic involvement in the running and programming of these stations will be encouraged to the fullest and care will be taken to ensure a balanced and representative utilisation of the medium.
This means that we have a firm commitment to the continuation of ethnic radio. As I have already pointed out, the ethnic radio broadcasts conducted so far have been on an experimental basis only. Let me hasten to add that the experiment has been extremely successful. If one looks at the sizes of the audiences of various radio stations, whether conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or by commercial companies, one must appreciate that both the ABC and the commercial operators are envious of the audiences commanded by the ethnic radio stations. There is a potential audience of over 400 000 people in both Melbourne and Sydney. A high proportion of those people listen to ethnic radio. I commend the initiative; the experiment has been a success.
Now we come to the difficult part, the form in which ethnic radio will be put on a permanent basis. It is all very well for the Labor Party to say that we should be doing this or that. It did not make the decision when in power and when it had the opportunity to do so. We must remember that the Labor Government extended the experimental period rather than make a decision as to the final form that permanent ethnic radio should take. Obviously this Govenment has the same difficulty. We have to make a decision as to the form permanent ethnic radio will take.
There are a number of ways in which this can be done. It can be fully funded by the Government or partly funded by the Government. It can be done strictly with commercial funding. Any responsible government must look at all the options, particularly when making a decision that will have a far reaching effect bo.th now and in the future. It is not something which should be decided without a great degree of consideration, particularly as the interests of minority groups are very important in making the final decision. I acknowledge that in any consideration of the future of ethnic radio it is absolutely imperative that the rights and privileges of minor ethnic groups within the community be taken into consideration. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has already said that an interdepartmental committee has been meeting to discuss these problems. That is no secret. He has already suggested to the House that the report of that committee should be finalised this week and that the Government will be making a decision as to the future permanent structure of ethnic radio within a short time.
There is absolutely no threat to ethnic radio contained in anything that I have said. In fact there is a continuing commitment to a permanent form of ethnic broadcasting. I certainly support a permanent form of ethnic broadcasting. The exact structure and organisation of that ethnic broadcasting remains a decision for the Government to take and it will be taking it in the very near future.
– It is interesting that a lot of the anxiety in the community over the future of ethnic radio stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission stems largely from a large measure of anxiety, or paranoia one might say, on the part of the commercial broadcasters. When I was Minister for the Media I noticed that when we tried to encourage the development of a broader service by the ABC, catering to a wider range of minority interests than it had been able to cater to previously, and opened radio station 2JJ to appeal to a certain age group, the major broadcasters became panic stricken when they perceived the success of 2 JJ.
There was nothing in what we said while in government which prevented the commercial broadcasters providing the type of program provided by the ABC over station 2JJ. So far as I am aware, neither has this Government forbidden them to develop this type of program. They did not do it in all the years when the Liberal and National Country Parties were in power before we thought of the experiment after becoming the Government and established station 2JJ. No one told the commercial broadcasters that they had to ignore this significant section of the Australian community.
Station 2JJ has proved extremely successful. Its ratings are keenly felt by the commercial broadcasters; so much so that I was told when I was the responsible Minister that the commercial broadcasters- perhaps they are still doing this - were very carefully tape recording everything broadcast by station 2JJ. If they came across anything that they thought was slightly controversial or a little naughty- they concentrated on the naughty bits because they tended to view these as the most susceptible avenue for exerting pressure on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board- they would hasten to submit their little snippets of tape recordings to show that someone had used a four letter word over station 2JJ. They hoped that the Control Board would do something about 2JJ. It was reported to me by the ABC people that the commercial broadcasterswho also had given other hints- were very upset about the type of programming. The commercial broadcasters said that they could not do that sort of thing because they were controlled by the Broadcasting Control Board and its standards. My rejoinder was that if action against them by the Broadcasting Control Board depended upon my approval- and I understood that it did, that the Control Board could only make recommendations to the Minister- then I promised publicly, and I said it on a number of occasions, that I would not approve any action against them if they were imitating and trying to compete with the ABC. I approved of what the ABC was doing. I said that the success of the station proved that it was of value to a significant section of the community. I told them to go ahead and compete if they wished to do so. At least I was paid a compliment by the talk back group of one commercial station which said that it was very glad that I took that attitude because it enabled them to be more adventurous in the discussion of issues on its radio program.
I view with quite a lot of scepticism the concern by commercial broadcasters when they say that station 2JJ is only an experiment and now must be stopped, that the whole thing must be handed over to the commercial broadcasters. What has happened to this great thing called free enterprise? We are not stopping them from providing a competitive program. If they do not choose to do so I presume it is because they are afraid of the requirements. It takes a bit of guts to put on a program such as a 2JJ program.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) commented that the request by the ABC for additional funds of something over $7m, I think, above the Budget allocation, was unreasonable and that in keeping with the warning given by the Government the Government had cut back. He said the Government also expected the ABC to cut its expenditure by a further $lm-odd. I understood that the increased funds sought by the ABC related to 2 factors beyond its control. One was the increase in wages which are not budgeted for but which have to be included in supplementary estimates when the time comes. That is where a considerable portion of that $7m arose. It was not the fault of the ABC that in the time between the Budget allocation and the time it put in its supplementary estimates there had been wage increases in the community nationally, and it was clearly expected to keep up with them.
– And staff increases.
– Thank you. That was the second factor. I said there were two. One was the increases in salaries and the second one was the increase in staffing due, again, not to the fault of the ABC but of the last Government because we had expected the ABC to provide more services after the Budget. I assumed the portfolio of Minister for the Media after the Budget Estimates had been prepared and so on. I quite unashamedly admit that in the short time I held that portfolio I sought to encourage an extension of ABC services. For example, we talked about- I thought we had agreed about it before we were removed from office- the broadcasting of fine music 24 hours a day. The Government attempted to curtail that but the ABC insisted upon sticking to what it considered had been the agreement in the first place. I had also discussed with the ABC the possibility- I thought I had agreed to the proposition- that the 2JJ program should be broadcast from Melbourne as well as Sydney 24 hours a day and moved to FM. To do that would have required extra staff. I had understood that the transmitting facilities were available.
In fact to my knowledge there are 2 FM transmitters in Sydney and Melbourne. The ABC had been broadcasting for some time using the old equipment which had been used in the 1960s. I think it is referred to as the Marconi equipment. When we decided to establish the fine music station network centred on Adelaide we ordered a set of new transmitters from Japan. Those transmitters have subsequently arrived. So in Sydney and Melbourne we have new transmitters plus the old ones. We had agreed to try to extend 2JJ to FM broadcasting. That was going to take extra facilities, staff and so on. That was the reason for some of the proposed funding.
Once 2JJ had moved from AM in Sydney to FM we had hoped- there had been some preliminary discussions- that the standby 2JJ transmitter could continue to be used in Sydney in another type of program even. The thought was that it might be specific broadcasting for women or a women’s broadcast station. These standby transmitters have been standing around doing practically nothing for many years. In fact it is very difficult to find out when they have ever been used by the major stations. Part of the agreement establishing 2JJ and 3ZZ was that if one of the major stations broke down a button would be pushed and 2JJ would go off the air and the standby transmitter would be used for its legitimate purpose. But there has been no need ever for that in the time we have been having 2 JJ broadcasts. It is difficult to see that it will he likely to be the case in the future. If so, people could accept it. We sought to prove by experimentation the need for stations like 2JJ and 3ZZ.
I think 2JJ proved its point. We had agreed to establish it in the FM band which meant that initially we would have simultaneous broadcasting from Sydney and Melbourne but hopefully we would establish a separate 2JJ programming complex in Melbourne because the essence of the 2JJ format is that it should have a fair measure of topicality and local interest. That again would be another reason for the increased costs the ABC was seeking to offset by its submission for additional funds.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications also mentioned that the Government is contemplating establishing an inquiry into the whole industry. I would welcome that. I think it is certainly a good idea. I was toying with the idea myself. I still felt that the things I was trying to do with the ABC and with community broadcasting were worth doing even before there was an inquiry. I think it is quite clear that there is a good case for community access stations, certainly centred on tertiary colleges, colleges of advanced education and universities. I think there is a good case for extending the ABC network in the country areas anyway and allowing the ABC to establish better local radio servicing for country areas. At the moment it is on a regional basis and that really satisfies no one. I certainly would agree that there is a good case for having an open inquiry into the whole radio industry. In my view the tragedy is that the commercial networks appeal to a very narrow segment and within that narrow segment they provide very little real alternative, one to the other. That is the tragedy of commercial radio. The danger the commercial stations see is that the ABC may become adventurous and try to provide an alternative, and they feel threatened.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-If the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) trunks that the commercial stations have nothing better to do with their time than to run a tape recorder listening to the program of 2JJ he does not know very much about commercial radio. They have a lot more important things to do than merely that. I received a very biting criticism of 2JJ, in the early stages of its transmissions, not from commercial radio but from a rather dynamic youth group that was disgusted with some of the things that came over 2JJ. This youth group said that it was not a good advertisement for Australia to have a station that had been sponsored by the Government in such a way putting over the type of program to which the youth group objected.
Normally, an honourable member who speaks third from his side in a debate on a matter of public importance spends a great deal of time answering some of the comments and criticisms that have been made by honourable members who led in the debate and who presented it to the Parliament because it was of public importance. The speeches of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) have put forward positively the Government’s policy. I am afraid I feel that the speeches of the 3 honourable gentlemen from the Opposition who have spoken in this debate have not given us any real reason why this matter should have been presented for debate as a matter of public importance. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) on occasions gave economic advice to the previous Government, of which he was a supporter. That advice got his Government into difficulties. If it is any criterion, the speech that he made on this subject shows that he knows less about radio and broadcasting than he does about the economics of the country.
After listening to the speeches that were made by the 3 members of the Opposition who spoke on this matter of public importance I frankly feel that they completely failed to present any reason why this matter should have been presented to the House today. Everything they said was on the basis that something might happen or that the Government is taking an action which the Opposition believes will do something. No concrete evidence was presented of the very thing put forward for discussion, namely:
The threats to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and ethnic radio.
Not one of the speeches made justified the words contained in the matter raised for discussion in this chamber this afternoon. I want to make one or two comments in regard to radio and television. There is a need in Australia for our dual system of broadcasting and television. Over many years I have said that commercial radio and commercial television can make a contribution in this sphere in which the ABC sometimes cannot, and in exactly the same way the ABC can make a contribution and is valuable and can do things that commercial radio cannot. I believe that in Australia at the moment we have an ideal situation with our dual broadcasting. There is a place for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and there is a place for commercial radio and television. Surely if one criticises the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as one is entitled to, or criticises commercial radio, that docs not mean to say that it is an endeavour to destroy either one or the other.
I believe a re-assessment is needed. I think there should be an inquiry. I was delighted to hear the speech of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications this afternoon. I believe there is a need for a re-assessment of the situation. There have been many advances over recent years. There have been many new developments over recent years. There has been an advance in the sphere of technology. Because of this I believe that there is a need for an assessment. Commercial radio and television are facing problems at the present stage. I believe that they need new guidelines from the Government; not an overmuch control by the Government. They need to know what the attitude of the Government is in this particular sphere. Commercial radio and television cannot plan until they know what the Government’s policy and attitude are.
One of the factors in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission- this has been mentioned, of course- is the possibility of advertising on the ABC. I should be opposed to that; I think it would be a retrograde step. I feel that if we are to have the value of the ABC in the sphere of television and broadcasting, to retain its independence it should be funded from the Government. But because it is funded from the Government, and because it is taxpayers’ money, I believe that the Government should have an oversight of the ABC in the sense that there should be supervision of its expenditure. I believe that in a program the other day, this comment was made: ‘This program comes to you by the courtesy of- ‘ and a certain magazine ‘s name was mentioned. Does that give an obligation to the ABC to support in some way some of the ideas and thoughts of this magazine? One time when we were in government, if I remember correctly, an item in one of the current affairs programs carried what was a tacit advertisement for an overseas airline. As I say, I think these are things which should be given consideration.
I think an assessment should also be made of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The Control Board was set up many years ago and there has been no alteration in its standing and set-up since it was established. As I have said, I believe that there should also be this assessment there. So I content myself with saying that the case put forward by the Opposition has failed lamentably to present any justification for debating the matter of what it calls ‘public importance’. I agree with the comments of the two Ministers that this is a further step in the paranoia one might say, of the Opposition- the honourable member for Maribyrnong used the word. We must continue to criticise the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Is it above criticism? Yet we do criticise the Commission, it surely does not mean that that is evidence of the fact that this Government desires to destroy the
ABC. The ABC has a place in the spheres of television and radio. I for one would be sorry to see anything happen that would reduce the contribution that that organisation makes.
Briefly I should like to congratulate very sincerely those who have the task of televising church services. This is an extremely difficult program to televise. I do not mean the sermon that is preached by the minister at the time. But it is a difficult program to televise. I believe that the technicians and the staff who officiate on the program do a particularly good job. I should just like to congratulate them on the manner in which they do this task. I reject completely the arguments of the Opposition. I think it is obvious that the Opposition failed to justify in any way the bringing forward of this matter as a matter of public importance this afternoon.
-The discussion on the matter of public importance has concluded.
Debate resumed from 16 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 us to cause a major transfer of resources from middle and low income families to those on higher income levels’.
. My remarks will generally deal with the second and third parts of the amendment. I should like to start first on the second part of the amendment, paragraph (b), which states:
The Speech makes no reference to the need for action to ensure there cannot be a recurrence of the Constitutional crisis which threatens the continuation of the Australian Parliamentary system, . . .
I do not want to get too far into the whole question of the constitutional crisis but what I should like to deal with is the question as to whether there ought to be a threat against persons who wish to discuss the need for action. I shall limit my own remarks to that particular aspect of the matter. I am concerned about the civil liberties aspect involved in this question. I refer the House to a remark made by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) as recorded at page 544 of Hansard of 4 March when admittedly he felt that he had been provoked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The Attorney-General said:
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 -
I repeat the words ‘ for the moment ‘- from that crime of seditious libel which I believe he has committed. He goes on making these statements.
The view I should like to put before this House does not relate to the accuracy or otherwise of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition. The argument I put- I hope it would be supported by members on both sides of the House- is that there should be no legislative prohibition on people making those sorts of statements. If people feel strongly along the lines on which the Leader of the Opposition has been speaking in dealing with the Governor-General, there should be no threat over them of some action being taken in the courts of this country to prevent those sorts of statements. I believe it is a ludicrous law which would prevent political discussion of that type of issue. I am not sure that in fact a prima facie case has been made out, as the Attorney-General has said. But certainly the Attorney-General ought to know a hell of a lot more law than I do. I have a feeling that in section 24F. of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, there is reference to ‘Certain acts done in good faith not unlawful’, such acts not involving prosecution. But is is not terribly relevant, because if the Attorney-General, who is, after all, the adviser on law to this Government, feels that a person could be prosecuted for this, then I feel it is a great pity that the same Attorney-General does not in fact indicate that he would like to change the law so that the kind of statement by the Leader of the Opposition will be protected.
I should like to read to honourable members parts of a letter from John Bennett, who is the
Secretary of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties. He is certainly not a supporter of the Labor Party; he stood for Parliament against the Labor Party. In the Australian of 5 March he said:
The recent seizure of the diaries of police guarding Mr Whitlam during last year’s election, and officially inspired speculation that he could be charged with sedition for his criticism of the Governor-General, both seem to be dangerous precedents incompatible with free political debate.
I would make that important point also. The letter went on:
Taken together with police interrogation of the ALP’s advertising agency, Labor supporters- whether or not prone to mild paranoia- could be excused for thinking this amounts to gratuitous political intimidation.
The speculation that Mr Whitlam could face sedition charges calls attention to the ludicrously broad definition of sedition in the Commonwealth Crimes Act and the need to amend it.
This letter was published on 5 March and was obviously written before the statement by the Attorney-General that the Leader of the Opposition could have been prosecuted. It went on:
Under the Act it is an offence punishable by gaol sentence to promote feelings of ill-will or hostilities between different classes of Her Majesty’s subjects or to incite dissatisfaction with the governments of Australia and- incredible as it may seem- of the United Kingdom!
May I add that I think the Dominions are also included. The letter continued:
These offences are often seemingly committed, even by newspapers.
The Act is a potential danger to freedom of expression, and the offence of sedition should be amended to require an intent to incite riotous or disorderly conduct.
The fact that the law of sedition has not been invoked since the early 1930s, and is unlikely to be invoked against Mr Whitlam and others who canvass the issues involved in the events leading up to the dismissal of Mr Whitlam in November 1975, is no argument against the amendment of the Crimes Act.
The Council for Civil Liberties does not support any particular view about the events, but believes the issues involved should be freely canvassed.
Obsolete laws which do not accord with community standards, or which are kept as a veiled threat to inhibit freedom of expression, have no place on the statute books.
I repeat: . . . which are kept as a veiled threat to inhibit freedom of expression, have no place on the statute books.
I refer to the Attorney-General’s statement that for the moment he will not prosecute. Mr Bennett finished his letter by saying:
It is to be hoped that in this limited and inexpensive area of law reform the present Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, will be more effective.
He was referring to the fact that previous governments have not altered this legislation. I completely agree with the proposition of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties. I think it is important that if there is to be discussion of the constitutional crisis which occurred last year, that discussion ought to be allowed to range as widely as possible. It is quite ridiculous that the Government can threaten to use the Crimes Act to prevent further discussion of certain sensitive subjects.
I now address myself to the third part of the Opposition amendment, which deals basically with the allocation of resources and the financial problems facing this Government. The Opposition claims that the Government is transferring resources from middle and low income families to those on higher incomes. Let me mention increases in social security benefits or what the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) calls autumn pension increases. Whilst the Government undertook to increase pensions according to the consumer price index, 2 points are relevant. The first is that the Government decided not to increase the dependants’ allowance. As all honourable members probably know the social security beneficiary- the widow, the would be breadwinner who is an invalid, the unemployed and the sick- who have dependants in their families are worst off. Whilst pensions will be increased by 6.4 per cent from the first pay period in May there will be no increase in the allowance for dependants. By contrast, when the Australian Labor Party was in government between 1972 and the end of 1975 it increased the dependants’ allowance from $4 a week to $7.50 a week, an increase of 87.5 per cent. During this time the consumer price index increased approximately 44.7 per cent. So the increase in the allowance for dependants was nearly twice the increase in the CPI. Apparently the position is to be completely different now. Pensions have been increased by 6.4 per cent but there is to be no increase in the dependants’ allowance.
The second important point is that the 6.4 per cent increase was granted only after the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission rejected the claim by the Government that award wages should not be increased by 6.4 per cent. I am quite sure that if the Commission had accepted the Government’s argument that the increase should be 3.2 per cent the Government would have granted only a 3.2 per cent increase to pensioners and other social security beneficiaries. I ask leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard, a table prepared by the Parliamentary Research Service setting out social security benefits between October 1972 and November 1975.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-
– One of my worries about the Government may appear to be almost a joke on my part,, but I do not mean it as such. We had seen the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in action as the shadow Treasurer last year and we knew that he certainly had the ability to use cliches and platitudes. I think his own supporters would admit that. It seemed amusing. The reason may have been his debating experience or his close relationship with the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is able to use cliches and platitudes and continues to use them more than even the Treasurer. I asked the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library to extract some of them from the Prime Minister’s speeches during the last couple of months. I received probably 150 pages. I shall quote some of them in a minute because they are relevant to this argument on what to do about the economy and what is proposed to be done about it. My own view is that when the Treasurer uses platitudes in this House he is fully aware that they are platitudes. They are used possibly to impress people outside the Parliament or those sitting behind him. It is quite obvious to all who face him that he does not believe what he is saying. I am afraid that this is not true of the Prime Minister. He seems to be fairly sincere in that when he says certain things he certainly believes them. I suppose that is sincerity. I certainly believe that when he says these things he really believes them.
– Do you not believe what you say?
– I believe what I am saying. I am saying that the Prime Minister is sincere in what he says. It is more depressing when people say ridiculous things and believe them. It would be better for the future of this country if people did not believe some things that they said. The
Prime Minister, speaking in February at the Brisbane Press Club, said:
Let me emphasise that restraint on the pan of Government does not mean doing less than we can in the present. It means maximising our present gains, without jeopardising our potential for the future. It means balancing the present against the future.
I am sure he felt that he had made a great revelation for the people at the Brisbane Press Club. But he said nothing- absolutely nothing.
– That is a fact.
– I am not surprised that the honourable member has left the Bar in New South Wales and come to this place if he thinks this is a fact. I would like to quote another statement made by the Prime Minister, this time at the National Press Club on 8 December. He said:
And finally, among these crucial issues, is the question of whether we, as a people, can find a renewed faith and commitment to our capacity to provide a decent life for every person while- at the same time- encouraging the very best that the Australian people can offer. Australia is changing. The world is changing.
– That is the best speech you ever made.
– Having served on some committees with the honourable member for Isaacs I am surprised that he should make such a statement. I think it is a depressing thought that the Prime Minister should make these sort of statements and think that they are meaningful and say anything about the future of Australia. I would argue that what the Government has done has been to move or to attempt to move money- it is only early in the piece- from the people in the community who are worse off to the people who are better off.
Mr Claude Forell, a columnist, I do not know him- made the following comments in respect of Fraser in the Melbourne Age;
But I cannot conceive anything less likely to inspire the Australian people to ‘a new idealism’ than . . . exhortation by the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser.
Fraser the politician with a taste for power and the touch Of privilege we have come to know full well, but Fraser in the guise of ‘a true idealist’ is rather hard to take.
I completely agree with that. Mr Forell went on to state:
Even if we disregard the . . . question of political morality, Mr Fraser’s appeal for restraint and self-sacrifice sounds more than a little incongruous.
What financial hardships, what personal handicaps, what social injustices has this man of property and position ever had to endure or overcome in his comfortable life?
Claude Forell who was critical of the last Labor Government makes reference to statements by Fraser about the need for the people of Australia to contribute to the cost of ideals, to make sacrifices, to put their shoulders to the wheel, to tighten their belts and similar platitudes. The article concludes:
Are the aged, the poor, the jobless, the ill, the abandoned, the deprived and the handicapped to stand aside so that the smart, the ambitious, the influential and the well endowed may flourish in the land?
For all the faults of the Whitlam Government, two vital threads ran, albeit imperfectly and inconsistently, through the fabric of its policy program: that welfare spending Should be based on need and that the nation’s resources should be used as efficiently and beneficially as possible in the community’s interest.
These themes are barely perceptible in the Fraser Government’s social philosophy and economic strategy. We are not witnessing the end of a ‘ handout mentality’; only the class of recipients is about to change.
That is the important point. The class of recipients is about to change as far as the handout mentality is concerned. The article continues:
We have not been told what the new Government regards as ‘essential’ public spending. We have seen no plan to eliminate ‘genuine’ poverty. We have no assurances that the Government even recognises the necessity to restructure Australian primary and secondary industries.
All we have had this New Year is the promised satisfaction of the costly demands of some powerful vested interests and a couple of lectures on the virtues of austerity and idealism for the rest of us.
Until we have evidence to the contrary, the theme of Fraserism would seem to be: ‘Unto those who have shall be given more; those who have not shall be driven to toil or want.’
- Mr Deputy Speaker if Mr Speaker had been in the Chair I would have congratulated him on his victory over you for the speakership of this House. Sir, I go a stage further: Not only am I glad that he has been elected to that position but I also appreciate the clarity with which he expresses himself when he is speaking to the House. His voice is clear and his opinions are unmistakable. This is a wonderful change from what we had to endure over the last two or three years. I would also like to extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) on his election to the position of Chairman of Committees. We all know of his ability. Over the years the honourable member developed a capacity for chairmanship that I think has been unequalled in all the time I have been here or during my political life.
But this is not my reason for speaking today. I am taking part in the debate not to deal with the amendment to the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech moved by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) but to support those parts of the Speech which relate to the state of the economy. Firstly I would like to put the internal position of Australia into perspective. Australia must be concerned with the growth and development of the economies of the countries with which we trade. We must ask ourselves the question: What will be the impact internationally of these economies on Australia ‘s commodity prices and on our standard of living?
It is not so very long ago that views were expressed that there would be substantial changes this year that would have meant that the growth overseas would have been a positive one instead of a negative one. It was predicted that growth in the United States of America would rise from minus 3 per cent to plus 5.75 per Gent, Japan from 1.25 per cent to plus 4.25 per cent and Germany from minus 3.75 per cent to plus 3.25 per cent. We have heard only in the last few days that as a result of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade discussions these expectations can no longer be realised because it is believed there has been a block and that that block will mean, of course, that international trade will not be generated at the predicted figure of 7.5 per cent but will fall to an ever much lower figure with a consequent impact on commodity prices and the welfare of the people of this country.
Having said that, I turn to the internal financial position. I ask the question which I do not think has been asked quite enough: What in total are the objectives of the Fraser Government? I believe that I can express them in this way. First we have the major task of ensuring that our growth is continued and that our national development increases so that we can develop a prosperous and successful economy. By doing this we will not only be able to produce more resources and provide more services to the community but also we will be able to provide for the welfare of pensioners and those who might be regarded as being in the disadvantaged sections of the community. The approach of the Government is therefore both utilitarian and humanitarian at the same time. We must remember that we are trying to solve our problems against the background that last year this endowed country, this wonderful country that only a politician can muck up, had a growth rate of minus 1.7 per cent. If the previous Government had stayed in office much longer we would not have been able to count the size of the negative growth rate. Certainly people like me who cannot count more than 10 fingers on my 2 hands could not do so. This is the muck up we got into by the consistent approach of a series of Treasurers who went like sheep through the gate into the dip and came out at the other end not drenched but certainly bewildered. That is the position we got into; it is the position that had to be cured.
What are the great problems that face us today? Unmistakably as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has so consistently pointed out, those problems are inflation, the money supply, unemployment and the transfer of real resources from the public to the private sector of the economy. These are the problems. The Government has stated its objectives. But I want to state on my own without any prompting or assistance from anyone else that the policies that have been developed by the Fraser Government are not only comprehensive but also are consistent with the achievement of that Government’s objectives. I believe that they are, but I do not want to pass over that without giving this warning: Do not think that the same policies will continue ad infinitum. They could change in a moment, and I want to look later on at one or two of those problems and make some suggestions.
Let us now consider what is happening in the economy. Let us consider what are the dynamics of movement, the dynamics of progress. There has been little or no progress in retail sales in recent months, certainly little over the course of the last 12 months. The figures are there for everyone to see. It could be said that there has been a money increase, but the money increase is not enough because it must be discounted by the amount of inflation. So while we are selling more in money terms we are jumping up and down in the same place so far as real sales are concerned. Housing construction was down from 12 400 in November to 1 1 000 in January, and a fall is likely in the months immediately ahead because of the offering of Australian savings bonds. Motor vehicle sales were 63 000 a month a little over a year ago. In January they were down to 38 000, and General Motors-Holden’s is jumping through hoops because the figure went up to 42 000 in February. According to figures I received today, the position of the building and construction industry, in relation to non-housing construction, is at an almost disastrous level. The Master Builders Federation of Australia has stated that in 1970 the value of all work of a nondwelling kind was $ 1,131m. Now it is about $1,1 10m, which is a pretty drastic fall.
We have to consider these problems and we have to accept the fact- and it is accepted today by most commentators- that the economy is in a state of stagflation. I will explain the reasons for that in a few moments, but first let me quote Alan Wood of the Sydney Morning Herald. He has stated that there is currently no sign of an upturn from the official indications and no real reason to expect an upturn. One of Sydney’s leading business consultants has stated that anyone who says the Australian economy is in a process of recovery will be at a loss to back up his claim with facts. A paper issued only today by the Chamber of Manufactures and the Bank of New South Wales indicates that the future may be good but it states that there is surplus capacity, orders are bad, and similar considerations of that kind point to the view that conditions are slack.
Who is to blame for all of this? I do not think it can be said that it is only a question of having most unfortunate Treasurers, although certainly they have to take a major share of the blame. One Treasurer about whom I would have to comment is the last Treasurer of the Labor Government, Mr Hayden. He was given credit for being a bit of a genius in economic affairs. I could never see that in all the time that I sat here. I thought he had a strange capacity to con the Australian people into believing that it was the second political coming. But I never saw any other evidence of it, certainly as far as his economic and financial attitudes and knowledge of life were concerned. He claimed: ‘We will be out of our troubles soon. We have got the money supply under control’. He also said that from January onwards he would be putting $350m into circulation by taxation reductions and this would increase demand. As I have just said, everyone knows that he failed and he has to be treated as a failure, in the same way as Crean and Cairns and the advisers who tried to assist them, and helped to make bad decisions, have to be treated as failures. Those people in the Labor Caucus and cabinet have to take responsibility.
I believe that today there may be a need for stimulus in the private sector and there may be a need to have a selective Keynesian approach to special assistance in some areas of the public sector of the economy and probably for some temporary personal taxation relief even if it means a reduction in expenditure somewhere else in the Budget. I put that to the Government only because I believe that the facts I have stated are eloquent and that something must be done. It is true that the Government has done a lot with regard to income tax on corporations, including private corporations. It has also given an investment allowance of 40 per cent, tapering off over time, and double depreciation to end this financial year. There can be no doubt where the Government wants to go. But I have to state also that it seems to me that over the period between now and when the Budget is introduced in the middle of August something must be done, and I recommend to the Government that it consider the problem as quickly as it can.
Let me turn now to the real problems that we face today and let me analyse them. I have mentioned inflation, and without any doubt one of the basic causes of inflation is the fact that wages today are rising in excess of productivity. It is a mathematical certainty that if that happens there has to be an inflationary pressure. If there is no productivity, as there was none when we inherited government from the Labor Party, and wages were rising at the rate of 27.7 per cent per annum, or now at about 1 1 per cent per annum, then necessarily there is an inbuilt or stabilised inflationary pressure to the extent of the difference between the two. As I said, wage rates are rising currently at the rate of 1 1 per cent, but the 6.4 per cent increase in the indexed wage has to be considered. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) rightly tried to restrict that increase, although I did not think that there was much chance of his succeeding. Certainly the attempt was correctly made in the best interests of the Australian people. When those problems are considered, the inevitable conclusion is drawn that the 6.4 per cent increase, together with recent increases in the price of foodstuffs, is going to bring about an increase in the March quarter of something between 3 per cent and 3.5 per cent. That is an increase of close to 10 per cent for the 2 periods, and only half of the year has gone. The Government will have to be remarkably lucky to keep inflation at between 1 5 per cent and 20 per cent, and I think it will take all the skill, all the ability and all the efforts of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to achieve the Government’s efforts to keep inflation to within 10 per cent over the course of the next financial year.
I turn now to the question of indexation. Fundamentally, when indexation is pan of the wage fixing procedures, it automatically institutionalises inflation What does indexation mean? It can mean only that an effort is being made to conceal the facts from the producers and from other members of the community. Indexation does not touch causes. It merely protects those benefiting from indexation. Somebody has to pay for the advantage that is given to one section of the community, tinder indexation today, not only is inflation institutionalised but it is the poorer sections of the community, the people who cannot look after themselves without government assistance, who have to pay. I do not know of any person of any great degree of intelligence who would not support that thesis. I am prepared to say that the Arbitration Commission was successful for a time with indexation, but that period of success passed with the 6.4 per cent indexed wage increase. Indexation has never been successful anywhere. Brazil was the No. 1 model, and that country reached 46 per cent, and only because the wage earning classes were suppressed and they were controlled by a military dictatorship. Chile, with the Friedmanites running the show and telling it what to do, is in nearly as big a mess as Brazil. We do not want that sort of thing to happen here.
What should be done on the wage front? I believe that the time has come when the House should be debating what sort of proposal should be put to the Arbitration Commission. I have had the advantage of talking to Mr Cameron, whom I blame in large part for sooling on the PublicService to put in excess wage demands and sooling on other trade unions too. But at least it has to be conceded that he has a very good knowledge of the workings of the Arbitration Commission. What can be done? We could do what the British have done and put a maximum increase on wages of £6 per week. We could seek refinements of the consumer price index, particularly so far as potatoes and onions and indirect taxes are concerned. I believe that their weighting within the index should be changed, and changed dramatically. We could introduce a system associated with minimum award rates or average rate or average weekly earnings, or we could use a percentage of the consumer price index. These are my own ideas, although other people have expressed the last two that I have mentioned. I believe that we must have a debate on this matter. I think that what I have suggested is the essential condition of success, and we should do it quickly.
I had intended to speak about the private sector of the economy because I believe that the facts about how drastically this section of the community has been treated are not quite known. When one looks at the position regarding investment in private industry, one sees that last year investment in the mining industry fell by 6 per cent. Investment in manufacturing industry fell by 18 per cent. I invite honourable members to listen to these more dramatic figures relating to investment. I have taken out figures based upon the New South Wales Stock Exchange figures- they are contained in the publication entitled Syntec- which show that consistently, over 5 quarters, there has been a loss of $358m of investment in plant and equipment compared with what could be regarded as normal replacement cost for the plant and equipment that is necessary in industry if efficiency is to be sustained. This fall in real investment must mean, of course, that productivity will go down. As I have said, already the Government has taken action to provide for double depreciation as well as for investment allowance.
I come now to the second great problem of government extravagance and expenditure and its relationship to the money supply. We find already that government expenditure is now taking 32 per cent of our gross domestic production, as opposed to 24 per cent when we left office in 1972. The government deficit has been increasing. When we left office we had an internal deficit of $2 15m. Under the Labor Government, in 1974-75 the total deficit rose to $2,600m, an increase of $2,200m on the previous year. Despite the fact that the Labor Government said that it could keep the deficit at $2,680m this year, all honourable members know that this year the figure will probably have gone, not through this roof, but through the skies unless the Fraser Government had taken unpalatable action. The Treasurer immediately preceding the existing incumbent conceded that he had lost control of expenditure and therefore had lost control of the money supply. It is this matter of the money supply about which I wish to speak now. It is a well known theory that if you have money supply that is growing extravagantly in excess of the increase in gross domestic production, then you have an element that will create the conditions under which inflation can flourish. I believe that the money supply is increasing now at a rate of 1 5 per cent. I have this information on very good authority. The figures can be checked. This was a real achievement. I also believe that it is the Government’s goal during the period of either this or the next financial year to reduce the rate of the money supply to 1 1 per cent. In this context I want to emphasise that one of the 2 prongs of our approach to the economy is that we must stimulate the private sector of the economy- Mr Fraser’s words. I am somewhat worried that if in the period between now and the presentation of the Budget, the drying up of the money supply occurs to too great an extent it will be an impediment to private capital expenditure and demand. I therefore believe that the time has come when the Government ought to be considering suspending the second series of Australian savings bonds until after the September quarter, because in that period more than $ 1,200m will be payable by corporations to the Federal Treasury. A new issue could be floated after September if the deficit is too high. I conclude by saying that I know of no country that, per head of population, has the opportunities, the prospects and the resources that we havewhether real resources or the vitality of our people. Above all, I believe that we have now in this country a Leader and a Cabinet that are capable of providing administrative efficiency and guidance of a kind that has not been known for the last 3 years. I believe that during the last few years of the previous government private business performed miracles in being able to sustain itself against the hostility and the business bashing operations of the Whitlam Government. I think that if there had not been a change of government this hostility would have continued. I have enormous confidence in this country. I know that with sensible administration it will succeed. I am sure that there is only one government which can give that sensible administration and leadership and that is the Government led by our present Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser.
– I am delighted to have the opportunity to support the amendment for 2 reasons. Firstly, it highlights some of the gross omissions in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and therefore the terribly elitist nature of this Government and its program. Secondly, it allows me to expand and reiterate some of the things my colleagues and I have been saying in this House in the last fortnight. This second element is of great relevance to this amendment insofar as it highlights the arrogance which is the base of the omissions referred to in paragraph (c) of the amendment. I will begin by talking about this part of the amendment.
The fact that the Speech by the GovernorGeneral was a vague exercise in the juxtaposition of cliches and generous but hollow sentiments is an indication of this Government’s deception and arrogance, but when one looks at what is not mentioned the really repellent nature of the document becomes clear. The elitism and reactionary style of this Government cannot be better evidenced than by the fact that- and I quote from the amendment- ‘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 therefore have no hesitation in supporting this amendment and condemning the arrogance of this ‘make-the-people-pay’ Government.
The Robin Hood in reverse style of this Government sticks in my gullet. Social and economic giants and exploiters get the lot and the helpless, the weak and the poorly organised have to tighten their belts accordingly. How the tools of capital opposite can bear themselves in the knowledge that it is the pensioners, the Aborigines, the people in need of health care and pharmaceutical benefits, the migrants, those needing legal aid and others in depressed sectors who are affected by this program, is absolutely beyond me. I have always known that the gentlemen opposite were stooges for big business, but I was deluded enough to believe that some had a modicum of humanity and even social conscience. Where are the much applauded and grossly overrated small ‘1’ liberals? How can they tolerate the knowledge that their Government has taken from pensioners their funeral benefit? How can they tolerate the knowledge that $7m has been sliced from Aboriginal Affairs spending, $34m from health care, $9m from child care and $30m from environment, housing and consumer affairs? They can tolerate it because they are not small ‘1’ liberals at all. They are purely and totally reactionaries with no social conscience, stooges and rubber stamps for the neofascist leadership of their Party and malleable clay in the hands of exploitative and immoral representatives of capital and privilege in this society. If they were anything different they would have spoken up by now. They would have shown the moral fibre which some deluded people have credited them with. They have not and they will not. They accept these drastic and hurtful parts of the Government’s program because the people they care about are not those who need help but those who, if left to their own devices, will be able to strangle this economy in their own interests and to the advantage of the terribly few. They have been bought off by a farcical committee system and they have turned their backs on the transfer of resources from the poor, as outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech and as clearly identified in this amendment.
Let me now turn to the second element of the amendment which my colleague, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), moved with such perception and compassion. Paragraph (b) reads: 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.
This omission is of vital importance for two very obvious reasons. Firstly, inherent in the whole of the Governor-General’s Speech is the danger that the vile and anti-democratic occurrences of November 1975 could be repeated at any time in the future should the situation that existed in the Senate at that time exist again. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech, in making no reference to this, points to the fact that he and his Government do not find this possibility repugnant. Well, a vast number of Australians do. Some of them are even Liberals. The dangers of such a recurrence are quite clear and even the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his more rational and less dishonourable moments, has acknowledged them. Hollow as his words are, they are worth quoting because he hits a nerve and simultaneously exposes his own connivance and dishonesty. On 2 March 1975, in a radio broadcast to his electorate over station 3HA he said:
If the Parliament becomes unworkable by destruction of convention, democracy itself becomes unworkable because democracy rests much more on adherence to convention than to the rigid application of rules and laws . . .
There are many challenges to the preservation of Parliament . . .
These problems alone would be daunting for present legislators and Ministers.
If we add to that list the problems created by the behaviour of Parliament itself- the destruction of convention, the defiance of reason, the pursuit of power without concern for the rights and privileges of minorities- Australians will have little faith in the future of Australian democracy.
I cannot say how delighted I am to be able to quote the right honourable gentleman’s own words and to agree with them. I am, however, a good deal less pleased that he does not mean them. I doubt that he meant them then. If he still does, or ever did, think there was a shade of truth in them, why did he not incorporate such sentiments in the address to the Parliament by His Excellency the Governor-General? The lack of such sentiments is precisely what the amendment is referring to. We on this side of the House are terribly concerned that the absence of such a comment in this matter means an absence of regard for the very fabric of our democratic forms. I personally am concerned because it seems that such an oversight is deliberate and, furthermore, is consistent with the attitudes of this arrogant Government.
In the same way as this Government has passed over any formal indication of concern for the dismantling of democracy over which it presided last year, it is now overlooking and disregarding issues which my colleagues and I have raised as democrats and as people very concerned about proper representation in this House and responsiveness to this representation. There are many examples of warnings, questions and allegations of incredible seriousness and widespread concern which this Government has hedged on, disregarded and ignored. It is this sort of arrogance to which the amendment is pointing and about which I am greatly concerned. Surely, if nearly 50 per cent of the people in a democratic country are not only hopeful but also adamant that another constitutional crisis will not occur, then it is reasonable that a government should acknowledge and dispel such fears. The voters of this country and specifically their representatives on this side of the House have been trampled on and treated with the tactics of the blind eye and the deaf ear on all sorts of matters. Surely, the issue alluded to in the amendment should not be added to this list. This Government cannot and must not be allowed to ride roughshod over people of any political colour. Let me restate to the House paragraphs (b) and (c) of the amendment:
Taken together, do these sections point to grave omissions? Do they highlight a certain arrogance and disregard for ordinary people? Of course they do. This Government has been elected with a very great majority; yet it does not regard as important the need to represent a very great majority of people in this House. To me, that is not only frightening but also frightful. Time and time again the Government has shown that it does not care for people, despite its duty to represent and heed all whom it governs. This selectiveness must be reversed. In fact, though, I guess that the document which the Governor-General presented to this Parliament is a fair representation of the Government’s views. It does indicate that this country will not be lorded over with any regard to the Opposition or the many substantial groups in society who do not totally agree with the conservative political philosophy.
For this reason, the Address-in-Reply should be passed without amendment, as a testimony to this Government’s total elitism. However, we on this side of the House cannot let that happen. We have to try to imbue honourable members opposite with a little compassion and try to convince them of the need to be truly representative. In supporting this amendment, this is what I am attempting to do. Dealing with such men, though, is a Herculean task and one must, at the outset, hold out little hope. In attempting to make honourable members opposite see the need for acknowledgment of the shortcomings of His Excellency’s Speech, we have been confronted with the all-too-common brick wall of Liberal and National Country Party intransigence. It is the same brick wall as the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) and I encountered when we made allegations of real substance about electoral dishonesty and malpractice. It is the brick wall that said: ‘We don’t care about death threats or bribes in elections as long as they help us’. It is the same brick wall that says: ‘Who cares about Central Intelligence Agency involvement in the last Federal elections? We won didn’t we?’
This is the same arrogance which led to the grave omissions in the original motion to accept the Governor-General’s opening speech. Well, let the Government leave its motion unchanged. Let it ride roughshod over what honourable members in this place have said. All will be incorporated in Hansard and people will judge this sinister and elitist group of men charged with responsibility for our nation. However, one cannot help but ask: ‘What will it take for this Government to act responsibly and responsively?’ I am afraid that its members are completely devoid of conscience. Its program obviously and unashamedly discriminates against the weak and the poor- in fact, the majority of people. That its actions in day-to-day government disregard pleas in the interests of such people indicates that we are in for a torrid, in fact horrid, 3 years of Liberal-National Party Government.
Finally, I turn to the first section of the amendment. It states: . . . but note that (a) the Speech makes no acknowledgment of the financial pre-eminence of the House of Representatives.
Initially, I must say that whatever the state of the numbers in the Senate may now be this is an issue of paramount importance. At this time the Liberal Party and the National Country Party are not under any threat- there is no likelihood of the Senate obstructing money Bills- but they should not therefore conclude that they have no reason to worry about such matters. Such shortsightedness, characteristic as it is, will not be anything but harmful in the long run. Honourable gentlemen opposite would do well to consider the problems of government given a hostile Senate. Although they may gain some pleasure from the memories of this in the last 3 years they should attempt to put themselves in a similar situation. As pragmatists they should be able to understand the problems. I do not expect them to take up, as democrats, the suggestions in the amendment. They have already proven beyond doubt that they are not such people. Nevertheless, for the good of future governments and in accord with the spirit of paragraph (b) of the amendment they should have no hesitation in accepting the judgment of my learned friend the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). Whether they now believe that the Senate has treated them well because such powers reside in that chamber and consequently those powers should remain, they must see the wisdom of preventing this situation continuing.
The same thing as happened to the former Labor Government could happen to the present Government and although it would be its just desserts it would be incredibly harmful to our political system. The Government has already harmed it irreparably- it has got what it wantsbut now, for goodness sake, it must see that it will not happen again. In closing, I repeat that I cannot recommend the amendment too strongly because it at least identifies the substantial and vile holes in the Governor-General’s Speech. In doing so I urge the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to show a little compassion to those with whom he is saddling the hardships. I think it is probably a waste of breath but at least people should understand what sort of amoral men are running this country.
-Mr Speaker, it is an honour to be back in this House again representing the constituents of Cook. I should like to thank the many folk who campaigned so resolutely to have the seat of Cook returned to the Liberal Party, not merely as part of the Fraser coalition team, but to support the principles, platform and policies of the Liberal Party of Australia which we have seen from the elections in December are clearly regarded by the vast majority of Australians as the only way to safeguard the future welfare of all Australians. But as the honourable member for Cook to what have I come back? The Governor-General’s
Speech referred to the fact that Australia now has the highest unemployment for over 40 years. In Cook, the Whitlam socialist policies and actions brought about unemployment for more than 3000 of my constituents at the end of last year. Half of those were aged under 2 1 years. Unemployment in Cook was not just the worst for over 40 years as a result of Labor’s actions; unemployment of serious proportions was brought into the area for the first time ever.
The socialist Governments of 1972 to 1975 stand condemned, not just for the record number of unemployed or the total economic uncertainty and chaos that Australia found itself in at the end of their rule, but also for the monstrous sense of hopelessness that has been engendered in the community, especially among the young. The false notion of a socialist Utopia that was so thoroughly propagated at the start of the 1970s by members opposite and their brethren who are no longer in the Parliament has been replaced by the harsh realisation that the socialist Utopia offered no career opportunities, no apprenticeships, no home finance and no real encouragement for doing one ‘s own thing; in fact, it offered no hope- no hope whatsoever.
The Labor Government brought with it the despair and hopelessness of the early 1930s. It did its best to undermine the egalitarianism of Australian society. It strove to reintroduce class distinctions, an industrial and political elite, a racial background for social division. Its rush into an allegedly idealistic international Third World of socialism was further marred by the obvious personal ambitions of its individual members to achieve economic and social revolution while leaving their mark on the pages of Australian history. I mention these points for it is well to recall again and again why the Labor Party was beaten at the last election. The Australian community rejected the Labor Party for its actions and for its rush into revolution. It rejected the Labor Party for its divisiveness and for its disregard for traditional Australian values. The Australian community rejected the Labor Party for its inability to govern intelligently. The Labor Party stands condemned and shall remain condemned.
With this background and with an unbelievable heritage of disarray after only 3 years of Labor Government, the responsibilities and tasks required of this Fraser coalition Government are awesome indeed. Many speakers on this side of the House have described and commented upon the policies that shall need to be followed for us to return to even a semblance of economic sanity. It is not my intention in this debate to discuss economic policy apart from strongly endorsing the contention of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the control of inflation must have the No. 1 priority in all government action. For those of us in this House with a background in economic and or financial matters, the task quite obviously will be without much cheer in 1976. It will be an intolerable task unless we have the co-operation and the understanding of the whole Australian community in order to bring back confidence, not just in economic terms, but a confidence in Australia itself.
One of the most obvious aspects of the Australian way of life has been the degree to which the average Australian gets involved in voluntary organisations. Who among us hi this Parliament has not been exposed as a daily event to the work and interests of community groups concerned with the welfare of the less fortunate or the less able? We take it as basic whenever we are considering the quality of life in our nation. In his Speech, the Governor-General on 17 February said:
It is believed by the Government that voluntary welfare organisations are a critically important part of the Australian welfare system.
And so they are. Whether the organisation is Meals on Wheels, the surf life saving movement, handicapped children’s centres or whatever, the Government must not only accept its proper financial responsibility to those in need and unable to cope or care for themselves, but also it must encourage the voluntary organisations in our communities.
One of the lamentable actions of the Whitlam regime was the way in which voluntary nongovernmental agencies were set back and downgraded. Perhaps the effect of the Labor Party was summed up very properly in the editorial in the October 1975 issue of Rehabilitation in Australia. This is the official publication of the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled, ACROD. I ask for leave to incorporate that editorial in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The events of 197S, particularly the latter pan of the year, have been disastrous for many of the voluntary agencies providing services for handicapped people. Programs have been set back, just how far back we have yet to learn.
The effect of the drastic reduction in a lot of the programs will have a lifetime effect on many of the agencies’ handicapped clients. Many people on waiting lists for various kinds of services will lose interest, and some will no longer be motivated to participate when their turn finally comes to he involved in delayed programs.
The severe reduction in allocation of government funds for capital expenditure and for running costs of services for handicapped people of all ages announced by the government in August 1975 did not come as a surprise to the many organisations whose applications for subsidies legislated for the previous year had been deferred for many months. The restrictions on spending on rehabilitation seemed to be more severe than in other areas, and the Minister’s statement that the limited funds available would be used to sustain existing programs and that there would be a year’s delay in funding new programs was disheartening to all who work in the rehabilitation field.
It is a sad fact that the downward trend in the economicsituation and political events which have followed so quickly on legislation which encouraged action in many diverse directions have put many voluntary agencies in very serious trouble.
Agencies with developing programs must meet contract payments on new projects without government help, often losing income from invested funds which must now be used to meet operational costs or advanced to pay for land, architects fees and other commitments which in the normal course of events would have been eligible for 4 to 1 subsidies. Any delay or deferment of building programs results in massive increases in costs. Staff must be paid, often without the promised subsidies, although staff resources had been strengthened in the light of the government’s encouraging program. The present financial predicament of many organisations has arisen because they applied for government assistance, were given approval, and proceeded to develop services. Some have had the opportunity to choose between subsidies for running costs or subsidies for capital expenditure. It has been estimated that by mid-November up to ten million dollars will be owed to organisations whose claims have been approved in the proper manner.
Although the provision of services to handicapped people of all ages should be a major concern of government and citizens, they continue to have low priority and the present crisis has emphasised this more than ever.
-I thank the House. In effect, this editorial strongly condemns the last Government for continuing to give a low priority to the provision of services to handicapped people. A broader look at social welfare activities quickly reveals that the role of voluntary organisations was being downgraded very noticeably at the time of this Government’s return to office. I was pleased to see such a strong mention in the Governor-General’s Speech supporting the role and function of voluntary welfare organisations in the community and the strong assertion to continue financial assistance in this area as well as ‘placing Public Service resources at their disposal through improving opportunities for transferability of staff between the Government and the non-government sector’. This is good news to the large number of voluntary organisations in my electorate of Cook which have been having a very tough time of it in the past 1 8 months or so.
At this stage I would like to mention briefly the changing role of the Surf Live Saving Association of Australia, a most splendid and active organisation which has 4 clubs in my electorate. The value of this Association and its vital role in safeguarding Australians who use our surfing beaches for recreational purposes are well known and need no great comment. I believe it is about time that all members of this Parliament, in accepting and acknowledging the dedication of the thousands of young men who volunteer their time and efforts to help their fellow Australians enjoy themselves, were made to realise that, with the increasing requirement for more sophisticated equipment to save lives on the beaches, the movement is now supplying a service which can develop only into an even greater and more effective scheme. I trust that the Government will view the Surf Life Saving Association not merely as an activity for the welfare of its members but as a self-helping voluntary welfare organisation totally deserving of this Government’s support. I could go on, but time does not permit a longer discussion. However, in passing, I would be remiss if I did not pay my personal tribute to the greatness of Sir Adrian Curlewis who this year retired after a remarkable 42 years as National President of our Surf Live Saving Association.
I have already said it is not my intention to speak in this debate on economic matters. As Secretary of the Government Members Treasury Committee, it is my intention to involve myself with the economic debates that take place in this House and beyond. However, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the basic economic fact that within the next 10 years we will have to direct unprecedented proportions of our national and international resources towards capital formation rather than towards consumption expenditure and the public sector. This means that the Australian business community as well as members of this Government will have to publicise the need to counter anti-profit and anti-business attitudes and policies which have taken hold in surprising quarters in Australia. The problem of capital formation must be set forth in terms that can be understood by all. The solutions must be the constant care of this Government. We have a deep responsibility to see that business has not only the incentive but the means to meet capital requirements of the future. New areas of advanced technology with astronomically high costs, the requirement of preserving and improving the natural environment, the constant erosion of balance sheets by inflation are some of the causes which clearly reveal that the risks to private industry are growing even faster than the need for capital. So we find ourselves in the position in which the incentives and capabilities for investment are falling while the need for them is growing.
It is obvious that government policy- some of it has already been announced- will try to ameliorate the situation, but I suspect that a great deal of research is required from non-government and non-academic sources to consider what tax policies, what foreign investment policies, what fiscal reforms generally are required to set the proper climate to permit the proper and desired expansion of the private sector. It is time we stopped listening to the allegation that profit is a dirty word. It is the most efficient way of capitalising a country’s future. We must state this without embarrassment and without hesitation. There is a crying need for public debate on and a public acceptance of the critical role of private capital formation in the intelligent future development of Australia.
Like my colleague the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean), I did not come into this House to be a member of a Government without a social conscience. We were not elected to supervise the disintegration of the traditional Australian way of life or the concern of the average Australian citizen for his fellow man. We on this side of the House are concerned with the welfare of all Australians and I remind honourable members opposite that it was a LiberalCountry Party Government which instituted the Inquiry into Poverty. It has been LiberalCountry Party governments which have moved into all new areas of social welfare and concern and I am confident that in the years ahead it will still be the Liberal and National Country Parties, with their concern for the individual Australian and for his or her welfare, which will lead-and here is the great difference between our parties and the Opposition parties- in conjunction with community organisations to achieve the most effective welfare and advantage for’ all Australians.
I suppose the most crying need in my.electorate in social terms and in terms of public debate concerns the child welfare scheme, and I compliment some of the actions taken by the previous Labor Government in this regard. However, the people of Australia should be constantly reminded that even after 3 years of Labor Government and the criticisms we have heard about child welfare and its implementation, we are still operating under a Liberal Government’s legislation. It would be an interesting exercise if honourable members went through all our social welfare programs to see to what extent we are operating under legislation instituted by the Liberal-Country Party Government parties.
I would like to talk for a great length of time but before I sit down I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your election to that position. As has been said, you are bringing great dignity to that office and I am certain that the welfare of Parliament itself will be enhanced by your occupation of that most important chair.
– I was impressed with some of the remarks of the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie), particularly when he said that he came to this Parliament with a social conscience. I do not know how he reconciles his social conscience with that of the Government when it contemplated and was close to removing the $40 funeral benefit paid to unfortunate pensioners burdened with the cost of the funeral of their near and dear ones. I hope that the honourable member will do all in his power to see that that funeral benefit is not removed. I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. The amendment deals with 3 aspects which the Opposition considers to be very important. The Governor-General’s Speech in our view neglected to emphasise or to point out these 3 important matters which are of great moment to the Opposition and, I believe, millions of Australian electors.
The first part of our amendment stresses the importance of this House in financial matters. Even today the overwhelming majority of Australians who supported the Whitlam-led Labor Government prior to 13 December are stunned and dumbfounded at the role of the people’s House in financial matters being usurped by the other chamber. I believe deeply that this must cause some concern privately to many of the decent conscience-affected members, even of the Government. What happened in relation to these matters prior to 13 December has destroyed the confidence of millions of Australian electors in the people’s House and the people’s system of government as it is now.
The basic power and the singular power of this House, and similarly of the House of Commons, as we know, is that it has always had total control over the appropriation of money from the Treasury or the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Now it appears that that singular power held by this House can be sidetracked and subverted by a hostile Senate which has no power to initiate money bills or to amend them. So now we must reluctantly admit that the people’s House, or the House of Representatives, only has these powers relating to money Bills on the basis of good faith between the Governor-General and the Parliament. Now a precedent has been created by the Governor-General and the Senate that the Senate is able to refuse to consider the appropriation of funds by this House. That is the greatest departure from the long established precedence of this, the people’s Parliament. The other chamber, which refused to consider the allocation of funds referred to in our amendment, and requested by this House, we must admit if we have an ounce of sincerity in our make-up, was an illegitimately constituted Senate.
Let me now refer to the balance of power in the Senate. The Senate was elected by the people in 1974. We know that it consisted of 58 senators elected by the people and 2 senators who were appointed. Yet neither of the 2 senators appointed was a representative of the Party in which the vacancies occurred. The vacancies were created by the departure from the Senate of former Senator Murphy and by the death of the late Senator Milliner. Yet the antiquated Constitution does not cover that sort of serious discrepancy. Did the framers of the Constitution, I ask myself, overlook this or did they, in the Australian vernacular, leave a sliprail down in the hope that someone might take advantage of it one day. I would be inclined to think that the latter was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution. Se we find that the new senators were of a political faith different from that of those they were replacing, who were chosen by the people. How does the Governor-General, I ask myself, and the electors of Hunter ask, support or uphold a Senate so set up by manipulation? Am I not entitled to say, Mr Speaker, that it was an illegitimate and not a properly constituted Senate? I think I am entitled to use those strong words.
The downfall of the Whitlam Government was formulated, I believe, by a long range conspiracy of international proportions because we were not obeying the money masters of this country and the Western world. The Premier of Queensland, who is commonly referred to as holy Joh, played a major part in the downfall of the people’s elected Government. How can millions of Australians who supported the Whitlam Administration have the faith that they once held in the people’s Parliament. How can the millions of new Australians who have migrated here since the war understand this sort of thing when they were told before leaving their native lands that they were going to a country where the people ruled, where the people chose the government, where the people dismissed the government, a country which was governed by a majority of the people. Many new Australians in the Newcastle region of the Hunter electorate cannot understand how one man can dismiss the popularly elected people’s government; they cannot understand how it can be destroyed by one man.
A lot of people have lost confidence in the people’s democracy in this country following the events of late last year. Because of the actions of that person in not carrying out the wishes and requests of his Prime Minister and of his Ministers, as is the obligation of the Queen tinder the Westminster system, the dignified position of Governor-General is no longer as dignified as I would like to see it. Today in the House of Commons the Prime Minister of the mother country, Great Britain, from which we get our tradition, is defeated by a vote of no confidence on the floor of the Parliament. Members of the Government will have to live down the events of last year. I believe that those skilled in semantics will have some difficulty, in the years to come, in explaining to their constituents and to the people of Australia the valid reasons- if there are any- for the dismissal of the Government. Members of the Government overlook the point that one day the same thing may happen to them.
The second aspect of the Australian Labor Party’s amendment deals with the neglect of the Governor-General’s Speech to overcome the serious consequences which result from the actions taken late last year. No reference is made to avoiding or averting a repetition of the events which shook to its very foundations the people’s form of government in this country. One would have expected some proposal to set up an inquiry or to alter the Constitution to prevent a repetition of the sad events of last year. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech failed to foreshadow any efforts to overcome any repetition of what happened. Does that mean that we are to continue with a system whereby the events of last year can be repeated. If it continues- I hope it does notone day the streets of Australia may be flowing with blood. It well could happen and it probably has happened in some other countries. But I hope that there is never a repetition of what happened last year. I hope that nothing of the nature of what I think one day could happen does happen.
The powers of the people’s House in relation to money matters has been usurped. The powers of the House of Representatives are so flimsy that the Senate can refuse to consider Appropriation Bills. The people’s parliament has virtually become non-existent. An honourable senator can die and a State government of a different political faith from that of the government in the Federal Parliament has only to appoint an honourable senator of a different political faith to upset the balance in the Senate and a repeat performance of what happened in 1 975 can take place. The Governor-General’s Speech made no reference to a suggestion or to a method to overcome this serious situation. Last year the Senate virtually went on strike. It refused to work. It tried to blackmail Australia’s Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. It failed in that endeavour. It then cajoled the Governor-General into dissolving both Houses of Parliament. The GovernorGeneral chose to stay with the strong. He is astute. He was made aware that if the Whitlam Government went to the people during that period of its term of office it would be defeated.
So now the Governor-General has more power than the people’s parliament. This is a serious situation which honourable members on the Government side refuse to admit. But one day it may be the lot of such honourable members to suffer as the Whitlam Administration suffered late last year when it was endeavouring to build a better and happier Australia. Goverment speakers referred to unemployment and inflation but they know that they are problems of the Western world and that the orthodox Western world capitalist system has not been able readily to overcome them from time to time.
The third aspect of the Labor Party’s amendment deals with the transfer of funds from the low income group to those on higher incomes, the people in the better off section of society. I repeat that to contemplate removing the $40 funeral allowance for unfortunate pensioners is scraping the bottom of the barrel. We know that this allowance is for dependent pensioners who face the burden of meeting the cost of a funeral. I received a deputation of pensioners in my electorate a few weeks ago. It was led by Mr Bill Black, Mr Bromage and another outstanding, honest and trustworthy citizen in my electorate. They pointed out that the pensioners were determined to use all in their power to resist the removal of the funeral benefit.
We know that pensioners cannot withhold their labour and that they do not have access to powerful bodies like chambers of manufactures, chambers of commerce, sectarian bodies or trade unions. However in the Hunter electorate at least the pensioners are pretty well organised because of the great training they had in the mining unions when they were employed. They cannot withhold their labour and they have no products to withhold but they are sincere in doing all they can to get the strong unions in the region to press the Government not to remove the $40 funeral benefit. Its removal would reduce the $4,000m deficit by only about $700,000-less than $lm. It must be embarrassing to many members of the Government and its supporters to be associated with a political machine that seeks to take $40 from pensioners in the most worrying time of their lives, when they have to suffer the departure of their near and dear, such as wives who have reared their children. I hope that the Government will not remove the $40 funeral allowance but will double it or at least increase it. The pensioner delegation to me at Kurri Kurri a few weeks ago pointed out that the average cost of a funeral is between $500 and $600.
The next point I wish to mention is the fertiliser bounty which the Government reintroduced. I think it is worth while -
– Hear, hear!
-The National Country Party member for Hume says ‘Hear, hear’. I think this should be properly explained to farmers. I know some very worthwhile farmers in the Hunter electorate who agree with me that only the wealthy farmers get the benefit of the superphosphate bounty. A question on this matter was asked in the South Australian Parliament and I want to quote the answer given as reported in The Advertiser of South Australia on 12 February this year. The newspaper report stated:
Two S.A. farmers received $59,050 in superphosphate bounty assistance during 1973-74.
The Minister of Agriculture (Mr Chatterton) gave the figure in the Legislative Council yesterday.
He told Mr Foster (Lab.) that during 1973-74, 18 500 of the 25 000 farmers in S.A. used less than 12 tonnes of superphosphate and received less than $ 1 50 in assistance.
On the old prices for cattle, that would be about the price of a good vealer. That is all that the overwhelming number of farmers in Australia receive from the superphosphate bounty. The article says:
Ten farmers or companies who used more than 1500 tonnes received more than $18,000. ‘There are much better ways of providing assistance to primary producers when assistance is required,’ Mr Chatterton said.
I believe that the Australian Labor Party’s policy on superphosphate was true, real and sincere. I am proud to belong to a party that would not contemplate removing the $40 funeral benefit, would not cut off money for child minding centres and would not substantially cut back the moneys provided for legal aid. I know from my own experience that most of the unfortunate people- some of them are unfortunate-who go to gaol are those who could not afford or could not get legal aid. If a person is able to afford good counsel, often he is saved the embarrassment of a court conviction, as was achieved recently by a member of the Government Parties and an exsenator who followed the same political faith as that of the Government. I hope that the Government will not be so ruthless or will not continue to be so ruthless in its prosecution of the unfortunate section of the community.
In their maiden speeches unfortunately, four or five Government supporters made bitter and unfair criticism of the Soviet Union, a friendly country, over its build-up.of forces in the Indian Ocean. Honourable members opposite all laugh, but it is a pity that some of them have not read a speech made by Senator Eugene McCarthy in the United States Congress. If time had permitted I would have referred to that speech. I would like to have it incorporated in Hansard, Mr Speaker.
– Order! The matter which the honourable gentleman is raising is out of order because it goes beyond the terms of the amendment. Is leave granted for the honourable member to incorporate the speech in Hansard]
– Leave is not granted. The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like first to congratulate Mr Speaker on his appointment and to say that in the few weeks that he has been in the Chair he has shown sympathy, understanding and humour which I think are of great benefit and will help us all. Certainly I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on being reappointed as Chairman of Committees. Your vast experience has helped us all in past years. Before leaving this subject I should like also to say a few words about the previous Speaker, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), and his deputy. I thank them for the courtesy and assistance that they displayed to many of us even though we were in Opposition and on occasions were somewhat unruly. I have noticed that the speeches from members of the Australian Labor Party during the whole of this Address-in-Reply debate have been based on an antiGovernorGeneral theme and the claim that they have been done wrong. They are really flogging a dead horse. They surely must realise that the people of Australia did not want the kind of government which they were imposing on us. They should not keep on and on trying to score points by criticising the Governor-General and wailing and howling about what happened at the election. I think they should just look inward and study themselves. They should consider the way they behaved as a Government, what they did to Australia and the position they put us in. The Liberal and National Country Parties have now come back into government and must endeavour to improve our economic situation. It will take a long time to do this and there will be a lot of hardship in so doing.
We heard of errors of judgment. Good heavens, there was nothing but a series of errors of judgment from the previous Prime Minister, all the way through. I urge our Government to press on with the constitutional reform for the Northern Territory which was offered by the Liberal Party Government in October 1972 and about which there was much pressure by the Labor Party when it was in Opposition. The previous Minister, the former honourable member for Dawson, and others did a lot of jumping up and down in respect of this issue and said that we had not made a good enough offer, that our offer did not go far enough, and so on. What did they do when they got into government? There was an election for a fully elected Legislative Assembly in the Northern Territory, at which the Australian Labor Party was wiped out as a political entity in the Northern Territory. The previous Government did nothing whatsoever about that Legislative Assembly. The previous Government received two joint parliamentary reports on which it did not act. It took no notice whatsoever. I applaud the few lines in the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech which states: … the Government will progressively act to confer executive responsibility on the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory-
A joint Federal and Northern Territory Legislative Assembly committee will be set up . . .
That was recommended in the report of the parliamentary committee and the committee has now been set up. I urge that this Government continue along that line and use that committee. The committee has met once and I hope that it will continue to sit and make some worthwhile contribution towards moving the Northern Territory to statehood. Five years is really a short time within which to do that, but it is an aim and a very good aim. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated that as an aim during the election campaign. There are many very able men and women in the Northern Territory who can assist vitally in the build up of the Territory to statehood.
Referring again to the Governor-General’s Speech, I ought mention that it states:
Historic reforms will be made to reverse the concentration of power in the Federal Government and increase the autonomy and responsibilities of Local and State Governments. The Government believes that there must be more scope for community and individual initiative if people are to solve their problems sensitively and with rational use of resources:
On the same page the Governor-General’s Speech states also:
There will be a major direction of resources away from Government towards individuals and private enterprise:
In the face of those policy statements I say again that it is imperative for the Government to take the Northern Territory into its confidence, that is, through its elected leaders. Many of them are very able men. While I am speaking of this I should like to ask the Government urgently to consider the across-the-board economies which have been forced on the Treasury and the Government by the complete and utter bungling of the economy by the Labor Party. In the Northern Territory we are being especially hit, and hit very hard because there is no State-type infrastructure at all. Any cut or deferral in allocation of Commonwealth funds has immediate effects whereas in the States there are government grants and government financed works programs and so on. But in the Northern Territory that is not so.
– Hear, hear!
– I hear the honourable member for Canberra saying: ‘Hear, Hear! ‘ His electorate is in exactly the same position. I have heard him speak about this before so my remarks concerning these matters relate to his situation also. Eighty per cent of the contracts in the Northern Territory are initiated by the Government. The work is carried out by private enterprise contractors but it is done on government initiative whereas in the States only 20 per cent of contracts are initiated by government. So honourable members can see the tremendous hardship which is being imposed on the people of the Northern Territory. I urge the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to look very hard at this angle of the financial situation. The Northern Territory is a major wealth producer. If it is allowed to develop and not allowed to go economically down the drain it can play a very significant part not only in financing itself but also the rest of the Commonwealth. I hope that it is allowed so to do. The Northern Territory contains a very strong mining industry. It was hit very hard under the Labor
Government and is now going to fight back with the support of this Government, I know. But with the economy the way it is it will not be easy. We have the beef industry.
– Good beef you have, too.
-Yes, the honourable member for Mallee says that it is good beef- or was it the honourable member for Darling Downs? He sounded like a mallee bull. What he says is correct. It is an industry of great significance. It is having its problems at the moment. There is certainly plenty of beef there and assistance is needed to transport the beef. After all, most of it represents overseas income. It has been saidand I have spoken in this place before about itthat these cuts from the works programs; I say ‘cuts’ because that is what they are referred to as in the paper; they could be deferrals of allocations or some other kind of economy- of $154m will be deleted from the civil works program in the Northern Territory. How these people arrive at this figure I do not know, because looking at the 1975-76 Budget allocations there would not have been that cash flow especially since the Labor Government was applying the screws on the Northern Territory at that time. But I ask the Goverment to look at those allegations and see what can be done, because when we do get around the economic corner we could well find that there are not any private contractors or road building or electrical contractors doing jobs for the Government or for private enterprise or for anyone else in the country, because they would all be broke. So I urge that we look at these things. The Northern Territory is a far away place and very often, especially in the days of the Labor Government, we never got much consideration in these areas.
I should like to deal now with defence. The Governor-General in his Speech says:
Within South East Asia Australia has particularly good relations with the ASEAN group of countries. The Government will seek ways of expanding co-operation with them both individually and as a group as well as maintaining and developing substantive communications with all the countries in the Asia-Pacific area.
I hope that is to be carried out because I see Darwin as a pivot to a defence area in the ASEAN group of countries in South East Asia. Also I notice that in the Speech- unless I have missed it- there was no mention of Indonesia. After all, Indonesia is the largest anti-communist force in our area. I say to honourable members: Do not be distracted by the communist brushfire war tactic which is happening in East Timor and which was being promoted in Indonesia prior to General Suharto. So I say that communism is at work in Indo-China, Malaysia and Africa. We have heard about the downward thrust of communism. If that is not happening, nothing is. We have heard about the domino theory. It was laughed at and joked about, and so is the communist situation. That is because the corns are winning the psychological warfare. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) spoke in this House this evening about unfair criticism of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Russia, Cuba and China are all hell-bent on pushing South Africa, as a white nation and a bulwark against communism, into the sea. Let the Government not rely on propaganda from outside these countries. I ask the Government to send competent men to see what can be done to prevent whatever the honourable member for Hunter is threatening us with from happening over there and prevent it from spreading here, because after Rhodesia and South Africa comes Australia. So we do not want to have our backs turned on South Africa or Indonesia. And who rules these countries which are taking over in Indo-China and in Africa? Most of them are either one-man governments backed by the army, or the army itself. So I say to the Goverment: Do not turn your back on the defence of the north. It takes five or ten years lead time to plan logistics. It would certainly take that time to organise Darwin as a defence base, which it should be. This should be considered very seriously.
I should like to mention Aboriginal affairs briefly. The Governor-General said:
The thrust of the Government’s policy in Aboriginal Affairs is to promote self-management and self-sufficiency for Aboriginals.
It should be ‘Aborigines’. He continues:
To this end the Government will be considering ways of providing opportunities for Aboriginals to play a significant role in setting their term goals and objectives, priorities for expenditure, and in evaluating existing programs and formulating new ones.
That is a very fine objective. But I ask: How is it operating. How did it operate under Labor? 1 should like to see it operating more efficiently under us. I should like to know why, when we talk about objectives and priorities of expenditure, etc., governments spending $500,000 on buying cattle stations such as Kenmore Park, Mount Allan and other such places. We have seen the past performances of these Aboriginally-run cattle stations. The stations are running down. There are far better ways of spending money and helping Aborigines than buying a cattle station which even if it costs $500,000 1 could run with 10 men-and that does not feed very many people. So I would say to the
Government: Get a look at all that and see that we are getting value for Aborigines from the money spent. I say money is not all. We want to know where we are going with our Aboriginal policy, who is dictating it, who is advising on it, and planning it, and what work is being done in the field.
Briefly I mention the Aboriginal Land (Northern Territory) Bill. I have described it in this place before as a disaster. It is divisive and discriminatory. The Aborigines are being brainwashed, as they were in the streets of Alice Springs the week before last. They were brought into town by institutions financed by the Government. They were told stories of what they were supposed to be doing- attending a corroboree or a dancing ceremony. They stood there; they did not know what was going on. So their representatives came down here and are misrepresenting the Aboriginal land case to this Government. I say that we should continue the policy that we had in Opposition; that is, to have this Bill referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs or some such Committee so that the people interested, both black and white, can have a say as to its effect upon the Northern Territory. I say that these radicals are producing a very dangerous situation in the Northern Territory. It is not going to be of any advantage to the Aborigine and it is certainly not going to be of the slightest advantage to anyone else in the Northern Territory. I say that before it is too late, we should consider very seriously the effect that this Bill will have. I know that it did not get through the previous Parliament; it got stopped at clause 42 and it should have been stopped before that. I ask the Government to look very seriously at who is supplying the propaganda, who is supplying the noise to do with Aboriginal land, because there are people in the Northern Territory who do know about Aborginal land. So far as I know the advice and the knowledge of those people is not being taken very much notice of at this time. So we should be seeing to it that the Aboriginal land is reallocated. We are saying that certainly the Aborigines have land rights, but that the land should be allocated in a fair way and in accordance with what the real Aborigines believe and want.
I urge the Government to have another look at the transport systems in the Northern Territory. Under heavy rain conditions the railway has not run to Alice Springs for months. The roads up and down the country are being undermined. I know that we do not have very much money to spend on these things, but surely we can get the plans ready so that the money can be used when we have it. Please remember that the Northern Territory, as I have said, is different with regard to the allocation of funds. We need the assistance. The Territory can help Australia very substantially, but currently it is going broke.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the Opposition’s amendment. It mentions a number of very important matters which have been on the business paper every day but to which most honourable members opposite usually do not refer. They only ask why the Opposition continues to talk about the GovernorGeneral’s action last year. Before we get to the aspect of the amendment dealing with the constitutional crisis, I think it is important to mention that the Australian Parliament has an important place in the world of defence and foreign affairs. It is very significant that at present, particularly in the world of foreign affairs directly related to defence or aggression in areas other than Australia, we do not seem to be speaking with an effective voice.
It is not good enough just to give tacit support to what is deemed to be the present situation in Rhodesia or to hope that nothing will happen in South Africa. We are just running away from the problems as we know them as an Australian nation. The previous Government was well aware of that situation when on behalf of the Australian Government I attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Jamaica last year to represent Australia as one of the Commonwealth countries. I was concerned to learn of the problems that the underdeveloped countries were then facing and how they were looking to Australia for a lead on what could be done to expedite the improvements in conditions that they thought should have been made 10 or 15 years before. Sitting around the conference table were people from all walks of life, of all shades of political opinion. They represented some 800 million people. They discussed certain resolutions that they thought were the most important that ought to be discussed. I think that they are still the most important that ought to be discussed because they relate to the life or death of many people, particularly in Rhodesia.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Jamaican conference was directly concerned with the bloodshed which it was thought would occur in Rhodesia unless something urgent was done. President Kaunda of Zambia and President
Nyerere of Tanzania, the 2 main speakers, said to the Australian representatives and to others, including the Prime Minister of Great Britain: ‘We want to make it very clear that we have been attending these conferences for years, and we have heard the likes of Mr Harold McMillan and Sir Robert Menzies promise us solutions to’ these problems for the last 10 or 15 years. All we have had is talk and no action. We now tell you that action will be taken. Everybody in the world should have equal rights according to the Christian ethic that all men are born equal and entitled to equal opportunity. This does not apply in Rhodesia, and it will not apply in Rhodesia if we just leave it to the present controllers there. We want to know what you, Great Britain, intend to do.’ All the British Prime Minister could say was: ‘I will endeavour to negotiate again’. The leaders of both Zambia and Tanzania said: ‘This is not good enough. We have been listening to this sort of platitude, thus sort of excuse, for 10 to 15 years. We have now reached the stage of taking direct action. We will do it within a period of 3 to 6 months, and we will do it with guns. We do not mind where we get the guns from, because we realise now, as happened in Mozambique, the only way we will ever get justice in Rhodesia will be through the gun. ‘
I say this now in this forum because it is just running away from the problem to assume, as one can sense that the present Government assumes, that there is nothing wrong in South Africa or Rhodesia, or that justice is being adopted by the Smith regime or by the Vorster regime. Delegates representing some 800 million people of many nations made it pretty clear at the conference that they felt there was still an opportunity to get justice if somebody would only take action. They welcomed the then Australian Government’s support for the principle that everybody in the world has an equal right, that government should be on a democratic basis and everybody ought to be entitled to participate in that Government. They believed that there should not be a minority white supremacy and a majority black inferiority. A paragraph in this morning’s Age says how good it is to live in Rhodesia on an income of $6,000 as this would enable a person to have a swimming pool and 5 servants. The next paragraph was the most significant one.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I regret having to interrupt the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, but I have been looking at the amendment. I understand that the honourable member has actually spoken in the debate on the Address-in-Reply and is now speaking to the amendment. While I accept that a certain amount of latitude is allowed in speaking to an amendment in a debate like this, I think that if the honourable member occasionally refers to something in the amendment it might help the situation just a little.
-Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. You and I usually have some minor difficulties which we can readily solve. I made the point that the financial pre-eminence of the House of Representatives gives it the ability to have the financial resources for defence and for the implementation of foreign affairs policy. In other words, without money allocated to defence or foreign affairs we have no policy in either of these areas. Mr Deputy Speaker, I think you will agree with that. I was talking about the pre-eminence of this House, which is the subject of the first part of the amendment. I know I had to go into detail to indicate how we must get that pre-eminence. What I was saying is true. Allocations to the under developed countries have to be substantial not only in monetary terms but in political weight, to which the monetary support would be ancillary. I was saying that it is not good enough for the Government to ignore the problems of the world in this forum, this Parliament, and perhaps put too much emphasis on what might be given by way of grants to some institution or something of that nature. The world is a very large place, and the Australian Parliament has a very significant role to play. I emphasise that in the Rhodesian situation we are dealing with life and death matters. This is not a passing reference. This is a very serious matter related to the Jamaican conference. I come now to another matter.
– The amendment?
-I dealt with the amendment on the basis of what might be deemed to be the financial pre-eminence of the House of Representatives because this affects the whole development of this nation. By judicial decision in the 1942 uniform tax case the Commonwealth was given the right to collect taxes. Prior to that decision the Australian Parliament was deemed to be in a rather inferior situation. It did not necessarily have the adequate financial control it thought it should have. We had to wait until the battle of El Alamein during the Second World War for the High Court to rule that the Australian Government could occupy the whole field of taxation which it did, thereby attaining a pre-eminence from the point of view of financial resources, which it then proposed to administer in the best interests of this nation. Unless we maintain that pre-eminence- we can do it only on the basis of what we now regard as being in the interest of Australian development- we will slip back again.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said that he hoped the Northern Territory would attain statehood. That is very good indeed. Nobody is objecting to that. The only people who might object to it are supporters of the present Government because they even opposed Senate representation for the Northern Territory when the Australian Labor Party Government introduced it by way of legislation. It was a remarkable mental switch to suggest in the recent election campaign that the Northern Territory was promised statehood, which of course would guarantee it 10 senators. It is remarkable in the sense that the Territory was virtually denied in debate here even 2 senators. But progress can happen even, amongst the ranks of the Government.
It is important to the development of the Australian Parliament that the House of Representatives attain and retain the pre-eminence it normally had. Unless we get it from the point of view of financial resources or financial clout we will not get any other development in respect of legal reform, constitutional reform, foreign affairs policy, trading policies or in any other areas. Australia has to speak with one voice. It cannot speak with the voices of 6 separate State Premiers and perhaps one or two Territory representatives. This just cannot happen and Australians must recognise this.
So we come to this point in regard to the amendment: Is it not important that we in this Parliament talk about what sort of arrangements should be made? I have learned that a constitutional convention is to be held in Hobart. If there is to be a constitutional convention we hope and urge that it will receive support from the Fraser Government because we are aware that the previous convention held in Melbourne last year was boycotted by the present Government. As a result no weight was carried by that convention. We urge the Government to attend the Hobart convention and to make some suggestions as to what should be done to overcome the many problems that will obviously beset Australian governments of the future unless we can get some improvement in the financial situation.
The pre-eminence of this House, in my view, will not be maintained by the policy of the present Government that there will be a fair apportionment of tax revenue on a 30 per cent basis, and a per capita basis at that, between the various States or Territories. I repeat that such a system would advantage the States of New South Wales and Victoria but would be a decided disadvantage to every other State because those States do not receive the same per capita income. Yet I am told that it is proposed that this matter be not even discussed at the Hobart convention. A firm promise was made on the basis of national development that it was important that local government should have a fair share of revenue. That, of course, was really the issue at the Melbourne convention. Resolutions were passed at that convention that not only should local government have a share of revenue but also it should be accepted as being eligible for Loan Council borrowings. That, of course, would require a constitutional amendment. I am somewhat mystified to learn that the present Government suggests that these matters should not be placed on the agenda for the Hobart convention because it does not want financial matters discussed there.
We reach the position that if we are to run any debate in this Parliament on the basis that we have not got control of the economy or our financial resources we cannot really offer any policies whether we are talking in terms of State government or local government or development or aid to underdeveloped countries. We find ourselves coming back to a situation we were trying to establish as far back as 1901, namely that all legislation related to money, tax collection and its appropriation should be the responsibility of this House. Section 53 of the Constitution said that. The significant part of the amendment now before the House asks how it is, then, that we are denied the opportunity or even the stability of saying that this House will have the financial resources to govern for 3 years irrespective of whether or not it has a majority?
We now find that by the exercise of a Governor-General’s prerogative- a mental prerogative- a government can be dismissed. We are urging that there be an amendment of the Constitution to give support to what was obviously intended in section 53, that unless this is the House of pre-eminence, the House of the people, the House where taxes are raised, we will not have democracy in this country. I repeat that we can have a situation where a Senate can continually reject Supply Bills, the House of Representatives continually has to go to the people and the Senate itself need not go to the people and could not be made to go to the people. Democratic processes cannot be run on that basis. No government of the future can afford to risk having a majority in the House of Representatives and a minority in the Senate.
This situation just will not work for that government irrespective of the merits of its legislation and its policies. It always means that that government will be defeated at the whim of the Senate or at what we might say the whim of the Governor-General because of what might be deemed to be an inability to obtain Supply. It is for that reason- and this is the basis of the amendment- that this House should give consideration to what should be done.
If former conventions as they had existed for the past 75 years were applied- and conventions always have the force of law until they are broken, and they have now been broken- there would be no need to discuss this crisis. But now they have been broken it is obvious that they will continue to be broken whether by State Premiers or by Governors-General. We just cannot find any rule of law now to control a course of conduct by the Senate and prevent it from rejecting or ejecting a House of Representatives and the Government from which it flows. Therefore it is of extreme importance when discussing the Governor-General’s Address-in-Reply that we should be entitled to say what is not in the Speech in terms of the need for reform. The Governor-General said in the speech which he made on Australia Day that he felt that there was some need for reform. Agree with him or otherwise, we now have to say that there is certainly a need for reform if the previous problem, the previous course of conduct, is to be repeated. For the reasons I have mentioned, especially in the field of foreign affairs, Australia will become a laughing stock unless we can say: ‘We are a government for 3 years and we have Supply for 3 years’. That means nothing unless we have constitutional reform and can say: ‘Yes, section 53 really means what it says; you cannot get a double dissolution unless you are talking about delays in legislation other than money Bills, according to the present interpretation of the Constitution’. For these reasons it is extremely important that this House address its mind to the amendment.
The remarks which I have made so far relate to paragraphs (a) and (b) of the amendment. The amendment also deals with another matter altogether. It refers to the economic situation and the major transfer of resources from low income families to those on high incomes. I want to make passing reference to some of the problems we see in the Government ranks in relation to the present interpretation of policies. It is very important in the field of consumer protection and the fair utilisation of resources that there be no monopolies and that restrictive trade practices should be forbidden. The best way to achieve this would be by the proper use of the Trade Practices Commission. According to the appropriate legislation the Commission was virtually under the control of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). However we now find that in practice the Attorney-General might as well not appear in the House when we are discussing restrictive trade practices because this matter appears to be under the control of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard).
In that respect I want to refer to a couple of matters which seem to me to be rather serious. A question was asked today whether a committee will have another look at the Trade Practices Commission. Obviously this is to be the case. It is significant to note that the Commission itself knows nothing about this matter nor has it been consulted. So apparently someone is arranging the fate of the Commission; its future destiny is to be determined by someone else and without any recommendation from it.
There are a couple of problems in respect of the specifics of that situation, not the least of which was some suggestion that there is a necessity for an alteration to the Trade Practices Act so that unions could be controlled. I understand that an amendment is proposed which will allow trade unions to be controlled under legislation relating to the Trade Practices Commission. A Press statement was issued on 23 February stating that that would be done.
– What is wrong with that?
-I will tell you what is wrong with it. The Press statement was issued before the Trade Practices Commission had discussed the matter. That is what is wrong with it. One would think it proper that any Press statement related to that matter would be issued after the Trade Practices Commission had given it consideration. I would submit that the Minister concerned knew about it on 9 February. In fact he had a copy of the proposed Press statement on 20 February. However, the Trade Practices Commission knew nothing about it. Is it any wonder then that the Commission is beginning to feel somewhat superfluous? Apparently it does not matter what the Commission thinks or intends to say. This is said for it. It is prearranged.
So I urge the Government, from the point of view of its bona fides in the matter, to guarantee that the Trade Practices Commission is left untouched and uninfluenced and is allowed to act as a judicial body, not inhibited by suggestions that there is another short cut and one docs not have to consult the Commission but can go through the Minister or his Department. That is just not good enough, and the Government will have all sorts of difficulties in this Parliament if that is the way it intends to control the Trade Practices Commission. I again urge that the Commission be returned to the control of the Attorney-General.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Before I call the honourable member for Barker, I remind the House that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech and I expect the usual courtesies to be extended to him.
-I rise to speak in support of the motion. However, firstly I would like to congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your election and I would like you to convey my congratulations to Mr Speaker. I am convinced that you will promote and maintain the respect that this House deserves.
I should also like to refer briefly to my predecessor, Dr Jim Forbes. Through his untiring work in the electorate, he has earned a reputation of which any member of this Parliament would be justly proud. His devotion and unfaltering loyalty to the Liberal cause earned him the admiration and respect of all those who worked with him. During his career here he was Minister for the Army, Minister for the Navy, Minister Assisting the Treasurer, Minister for Health and Minister for Immigration. Such a record speaks for itself. Perhaps his greatest asset was his political nous. I believe he was one of the most under-rated politicians this Parliament has seen. I have a great task before me to equal the record of my predecessor and I can but wish him well for the future.
I cannot speak for the first time in this House without expressing my sincere gratitude to the electors of Barker who supported the Liberal Party and elected me to be their voice in this Parliament. Let me say that I am acutely aware of the responsibility they have vested in me and I can only hope that my efforts in the future will show that their faith was not misplaced.
In my opinion, the essence of the last election can be summed up in one word- incentive. The overwhelming rejection of the Labor Government was brought about by that Government’s gross underestimation of the intellect of the Australian people, and that is putting it in the most courteous terms. The electors are not fools. They saw in 3 years the most rapid erosion of the incentive to stand on their own 2 feet that has occurred since Australia’s foundation. It is the idea of incentive for the individual, the fulfilment of enterprise and reward for effort which can be seen to be the thread running through the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. He said that the Government’s long term objective is ‘to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their own goals in life, in ways which they decide. ‘ Later he said:
There will be a major direction of resources away from Government towards individuals and private enterprise.
We are moving from an era of government control and the resulting bureaucratic inefficiency to an era of relative non-intervention by government. I do not mean to say that the Government intends to go all the way and absolve itself of responsibility and enter a period of laissez faire economics. The Government, subject to the Constitution, is the last decision maker.
The role of members of Parliament must be in part to stand aside from the day to day running of their government departments or electorates and to ask themselves: ‘Where are we heading? What is our long term goal?’ I suggest that the answer must be tempered by the underlying assumption of the promotion of incentive for individuals or companies to enable them to benefit from their own efforts.
During the election campaign I was confronted by employees who said: ‘Why should we work when our taxes are going to pay those who do not want to work?’ In other words, what incentive is there to work when your next door neighbour sits home and enjoys the fruit of your toil at your expense? Undoubtedly there was a large number of genuine unemployed. However, the number of bludgers was sufficient to raise the ire of employees. Similarly, as a result of unparalleled inflation, the company, the single employer and the employee were all subject to a soul-destroying taxation system. Inflation had moved the average wage earner into the higher income tax bracket so that he was earning more, losing more in tax, but also having to pay more for his goods and services. In fact he was getting large pay increases but not ending up better off.
What incentive is there to increase output when there is no benefit in real terms? It is clear that companies are being taxed on an illusory profit, as the report of the Mathews Committee clearly shows. Worse, companies are maintaining their dividends in money terms, not in real terms, by paying those dividends out of reserves. Their wage structure is such that, combined with the interest rate or cost of capital, there is no incentive to invest. This has led to the huge numbers of unemployed. For this reason it is imperative that for the promotion and maintenance of incentive in the Australian work force, especially in times of raging inflation such as we have seen recently, the Government must implement its tax indexation policy. I fear that the disastrous state of the economy left to it by the now Opposition, which hangs like a millstone around the Government’s budgetary neck, will prevent it from implementing a tax indexation policy as fast as it would like. It is tax indexation which will allow the Australian worker to increase his money income through his own effort without being faced immediately with a disproportionate increase in his tax. When I refer to the Australian worker’s effort, I mean his physical or mental exertion; I do not mean his strike power.
Let me make it clear that I do not consider money to be the only incentive in our society. Clearly it is only one amongst a multitude. Job satisfaction would be considered by most to rank with money income. However, it seems clear that if the scale of taxation becomes so high, as indeed it must to support the socialist system which the Opposition would like, then I believe it is a disincentive to work and eventually will bring about the downfall of the economy. The handout mentality becomes overpowering. The Swedish version of socialism is put up by some on the Opposition benches as the ideal, yet when I was in Sweden in 1974 it was the ordinary citizen who claimed to me that his rate of taxation had become stifling. Many people went to Sweden after World War II. Sweden was then considered to be the land of golden opportunity. Some of those same people said to me that they were now looking elsewhere.
It is worth remembering that just under onethird of the electors at the last election were under 30 years of age. The incentive to the young to obtain their own homes was almost nonexistent. The young were faced with outrageous increases in the cost of housing and enormous increases in interest rates. Their dissatisfaction was amply shown in my electorate. Between the 1974 election and the election on 13 December 1975, in one sub-division- a new housing development area- there were approximately 1000 new voters and the vote for my Party increased in the sub-division by the same figure. I therefore applaud the Governor-General’s announcement that the Government will introduce legislation to establish a new homes savings grant scheme.
Let us not forget the farmer, who is extremely important to me as mine is largely a rural electorate. The farmer was faced with rising costs for his inputs and falling prices for his produce. What is more, he was told that he did not need to maintain his production and so the superphosphate subsidy was removed. He was told that he did not need that incentive. In fact, some honourable members opposite seem to think that the superphosphate subsidy is a tax-free income whereas in fact it is a reduction in the price we pay for one of the many inputs in farming. The last straw for the farmers who had to put up with all those problems was to be told by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that they had never been better off. They had been and they knew it and they proved it on 13 December.
I want to refer briefly to 3 areas which are of great concern to the people of my electorate of Barker and to the Australian community as a whole. I will look firstly to the Australian Wool Corporation. I think most would agree that the Corporation has fulfilled its roll in endeavouring to minimise the effects of the cyclical slumps which seem to occur in the wool industry. Unforunately it has not been all plain sailing for the Corporation, as reported on page 5 of its interim annual report for 1974-75, where it is stated:
At this time, the market was still reflecting some apprehension as a result of the Government’s indecision on fixing the floor price level for 1975-76.
The decision to retain the floor price at its previous level of 250c per kilo clean for 21 micron wool was welcomed by the Corporation and the industry in general, but the delay in reaching the final decision caused widespread uncertainty and undermining of confidence, both within Australia and amongst our overseas coustomers.
That was yet another example of the Labor Party’s meddling which we could well have done without. It is interesting to note that the average price received for wool at auctions has declined from 1972-73 when it was 184c per kilo greasy- I use round figures- to 127c in 1974-75 and 139c to date in this season. The figures as supplied speak for themselves. It is worth mentioning in passing for those city dwellers listening that the floor price does not mean that we all get 250c for every kilo of wool we produce. It is quite clear from the figures that although inflation has been rampant in this country over the last 3 years and costs have been increasing, the return to the wool grower has in fact been falling. Bearing this in mind and even though a recovery in the wool price seems to be likely, I wish to raise the following suggestion for the consideration of the Corporation and the Government.
It seems that whilst the main competitor to wool is the artificial fibres and that one of the main problems for the manufacturer using the natural wool fibre is the fluctuating cost, maybe it is time we considered long term contracts, say between the Corporation and the manufacturer direct, just as we do with our minerals. It would seem that the manufacturer, wherever he may be- Japan, Germany, France, England the United States or any other country- could, if he knew the cost of his major input, plan his production with much greater certainty. This would have the effect of minimising the wild fluctuations which occur in the market. Undoubtedly, there are a number of difficulties in this proposal. I understand that Japan and France already have shown their distaste for our direct contracting with the manufacturer. However, I understand that we have made certain inroads into the Unites States market. Clearly it will require a good deal of co-operation from all those in the industry, especially the governments concerned. However, it would seem to me that the benefit accruing to the producer-manufacturer and the end user could well be worth the effort.
Secondly, I look to the Australian meat industry. I am concerned at the decrease in the export of live cattle for slaughter. The Australian Meat Board annual report for the year ended June 1975 reports a decrease of 4 per cent to 5130 cattle exported live. This, viewed in the light of the large trade in live cattle in the rest of the world, points to the fact that we could be missing out on an extemely important export market. Australia has the fourth largest beef cattle population in the world. According to the 1974 Food and Agriculture Organisation figures we are fourth behind the United States, Brazil and Argentina. Out of the 10 major live cattle exporters we were tenth. Let me look briefly at what some authorities are saying about the livestock cattle market. The World Agricultural Report dated 19 December 1975 states:
The United States made its first export sales of cattle to Indonesia in 1974, and while sales were small, they represent a breakthrough for United States livestock exporters into a market previously serviced entirely by Australia.
Such a statement needs little comment. The state of our beef industry is well known to all, yet we are losing markets. It is not only Indonesia. What of the feasibility of large scale livestock projects in Malaysia? The Canadian Agriculture Abroad December 1975 issue estimates that 15 000 to 20 000 breeding animals will have to be imported annually over the next 15 years to improve the domestic cattle. The Canadians are also negotiating with a number of Moroccan government agencies for the sale of pure bred dairy and beef cattle. I therefore strongly urge this Government to work towards the removal of all restrictions affecting the rights of our cattlemen to export their produce in the form demanded by the purchaser. It is well known that one of the greatest stumbling blocks to a trade in cattle for slaughter has been the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union. Members of that union seem to be under the mistaken belief that such a trade would lead to a decrease in the number of jobs, which of course is quite wrong. In fact, it is the same baseless argument as was used against the introduction of machinery in the Industrial Revolution. I therefore urge the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to undertake immediate talks with all parties concerned in order that a guaranteed unrestricted free trade in livestock for slaughter may become possible in the very near future. Without such a guarantee it is quite clear that we are not even going to get a chance at this trade. What agent or shipper would comtemplate a contract in live cattle for slaughter knowing of the huge losses suffered in the past as a result of union bans?
Finally, and necessarily briefly, I refer to a matter of great concern to my electorate and to all Australians, that is the abuse of power wielded by some unions. There is little doubt that unions have a positive role to play in our Australian society. However, it is equally true to say that there are a number of unions in this country which are controlled by individuals whose aim is not to benefit members of their unions but rather to use their position for their own purposes. More often than not those purposes are contrary to the continued existence of our society as we know it. I am not about to indulge in a spate of union bashings. Those who sit on this side of the House as well as those who sit opposite are well aware of the individual executive unionists whom wc would be much better without. It is clear that it is a joint desire, it is an Australian desire to see cooperation between all members of the productive processes in this country. I refer to the Governor-General ‘s Speech in which he said:
The Government intends to increase the capacity of Australian workers and employers to decide the leadership or their organisations.
Merely by implementing the secret ballot provisions we are not going to rid ourselves of our mutual union problems. Rather, it is going to require encouragement from all sectors of our community to ensure that reponsible members of the unions stands for executive positions and, further, to encourage unionists to exercise their right to vote. We all have a duty to ensure that the role of responsible unionism is protected. At the present time our greatest task is to ensure responsibility from the unions. It is those in the rural sector in my electorate who are grieviously affected by irresponsible union action. They are defenceless against the abuse of union power. They cannot pass on costs. I look to co-operation from all sectors of the Australian community in order that we might effect our economic recovery. I thank the House for its courtesy on this occasion.
-May I take the opportunity to congratulate the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) on his maiden address. I rise to speak in support of the amendments moved to the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s opening address by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). These amendments clearly focus attention on the gaps and deficiencies to be readily found in the Governor-General’s Speech. In fact, the Speech is significant more for what it fails to say and make clear than for what it purports to tell us of this Government’s future intentions. I think it is appropriate at this stage to refer to Alan Reid’s book The Power Struggle and extracts from it in reviewing the performance of another LiberalCountry Party coalition Government, that of Sir Robert Menzies. In writing about Sir Robert Menzies, at page 38 he said:
He came to power on a platform of restoring private enterprise to its one-time eminence, of freeing the banking system from Government authority, of giving back to the States the right that they had been gradually losing under frankly and openly unificationist Labor federal administrations to control their own financial affairs, and of reducing the power of the bureaucracy which had expanded under Labor’s rule. He changed remarkably little. He maintained the Government enterprises established by the Chifley Labor Government, if anything tightened Government control over the banking system, kept the States in a state of financial dependence upon the Commonwealth, and enlarged the power of the bureaucracy.
I think, in some years to come, similar words will be written about the performance of the present Prime Minister and his Government and the platform on which it came to power and the content of this Governor-General’s Speech which we are now debating. At no point in the Governor-General’s Speech is reference made to the proper relationship between the 2 Houses of the Parliament. Yet it is just this relationship which will be crucial in the years ahead in determining the ability and value of the Parliament as an institution capable of reflecting the needs and aspirations of the Australian people.
The first part of the amendment, to which I now speak, refers implicitly to what has always been acknowledged as one of the basic and fundamental principles of our system of responsible government: The lower House, the House of Representatives, takes precedence over the Senate, particularly in matters dealing with public finance. The Constitution makes abundantly clear the role of the House of Representatives as the sole originator of Bills for the purposes of public finance. The Constitution also makes clear the inability of the Senate to amend any Bills dealing with such matters of public finance. Since Federation the forms, practices and patterns of the Parliament have been built around and founded on the acknowledged and constitutionally prescribed fact that in regard to financial matters the House of Representatives is predominant over the Senate. Indeed, it was a widely held belief by eminent constitutional scholars that as the Constitution forbade the Senate authority to amend Bills relating to financial matters this was tantamount to a prohibition on its authority to defer or reject such Bills. These patterns and conventions safeguarded the smooth, uninterrupted and stable operation of government and national administration in Australia for almost three-quarters of a century. Yet these conventions are now shattered, and shattered perhaps beyond repair.
The conservative parties, only a few months ago in a series of machiavellian manoeuvres, viciously attacked and destroyed, for their own political ends, the equilibrium of the relationship of constitutional convention which for almost 75 years had been maintained between the House of Representatives and the Senate. It was a relationship maintained on the basis of the acknowledged supremacy of the lower House on financial matters. This attack was launched by those men who for decades have peddled the propaganda that it was they and they alone who stood by convention, precedent and tradition; that it was they and they alone who supported law and order. All Australia now sees just how hypocritical that propaganda was. The truth is that these men, these self-righteous conservatives, smug in the belief of their divine right to rule, support order only as long as it gives them the advantage and support law only as long as it is prejudiced in their favour. It is now clear that they are interested solely in power- power by any means and power at any cost. History, I am certain, will lay the blame squarely at their door for the damage that they have done to our democratic system.
The second part of the amendment points up another omission from the Governor-General’s address. This Government, which began its path to power on an act of political blackmail, apparently has no intention of making even a token effort to put to right the damage that it has done to the Australian parliamentary system. I recall challenging the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) a few weeks ago to declare the Government’s policy in respect of a referendum to be held in the term of this Parliament to determine the rights of each of the 2 Houses. Nothing has been heard of that challenge.
– You will hear no more of it.
– We will not hear any more of it because the Government does not have a policy on this matter and the honourable member supports the Government. For the future the danger, which present members of the Liberal and National Country Parties have caused, is that a future government without a secure Senate majority will have little or no likelihood of serving its full term. Any chance or contrived majority of senators who oppose that government’s electoral mandate could conspire to sabotage it at their whim by blocking Supply. It will happen. Honourable members should have no fear that it will happen. With the deferment of Supply late last year by the conservative party senators the operation of the system of responsible government in Australia took a body blow from which it will not recover without extensive and bipartisan efforts to make good the deficiencies now all too obvious in our parliamentary processes.
– It was done according to the Constitution.
– Government supporters are interested only in power for the present time. We are interested in the future of parliamentary democracy in this country for all time. The Government has won the present battle and it has the power for the present, but only for the present. Those honourable members opposite who support the actions of last November betray their rights as members of the House of Representatives. They really ought to run for the Senate and not for the House of Representatives. I should like to see how many of them will resign their places in this House and stand for the Senate at the next election. I am sure that none of them will. With the deferment of Supply by the conservative senators late last year we saw the destruction of the system that had developed in the first three-quarters of a century of our development as a federation. Responsible government is well defined by Professor Geoffrey Sawer, one of Australia’s foremost constitutional authorities. It is a definition which, for the enlightenment of those honourable members opposite, who are rowdy, I quote. Their behaviour is in accord with that of the their predecessors when they were in Opposition. It is for their enlightenment that I quote the definition. Professor Sawer states:
Australia follows the British system of responsible Cabinet Government. This system requires that the Queen’s representative should act on the advice of a Cabinet of Ministers, members of Parliament having the support of the majority party . . . in the lower House.
If Australian democracy is to return to a position consistent with that described by Professor Sawer, a position which promised and conferred certainty and stability on the workings of the Parliament, vigorous remedial action is essential. If the power of Opposition members in the Senate to destroy the elected government at will is not eliminated then the long term consequences of such a capricious and politically motivated power to destroy will itself destroy all vestiges of stability and certainty in Australian government and administration. It is a perversion of the very nature of representative democracy that the elected representatives of the people can be hamstrung in their task of government by just those men that the people have rejected as potential administrators of the nation ‘s affairs.
The Australian Labor Party knows that it can expect nothing constructive from this Government in this area of vital concern. It is a corrupt government founded on conspiracy and treachery. Supporters of the Government wear the label well. Thus the task of erasing this black mark of shame against Australian democracy falls to other quarters. The Australian Labor Party and the Labor movement together will do their part to make the Australian people truly aware of how the calculated actions of the conservative parties last November have seriously endangered the effective operation of democracy in Australia. However long it takes, the shame of last Remembrance Day must be wiped away.
– It is too late; you are out.
-You will be out. Your turn will come. During its period in office as a twice elected Government, the Australian Labor Party sought to implement programs for a more just and equitable distribution of wealth within the Australian society. Now, however, as we sec from the Governor-General’s address and as outlined in the third part of the amendment of the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins ), this Government intends to destroy that program- a program that was designed to ensure greater social justice and equality of opportunity for all Australians. Opportunity is a word that Government supporters have forgotten all about.
The conservatives who sit opposite intend only that the rich will get richer and the rich can only get richer by the poor getting poorer.
– The honourable member should tell that to the poor if he thinks it is rubbish. Those opposite will ensure that this happens at the direct expense of the majority of Australians whose means are only modest and often inadequate. Pensioners are already paying for the superphosphate bounty with the deferment of their pension increase- a bounty that benefits almost exclusively the wealthiest members of the rural community while the small needy farmers whose usage of fertiliser is perhaps only minimal will be fortunate if they benefit to the extent of a few dollars. So much for the care, compassion and social justice of the conservatives. It is a wonder the pensioners have not already been reduced to existing on handouts of an extra 50c a week, as was the case under previous coalition administrations. No doubt this practice will return also.
The Australian savings bond issue recently floated by this Government has forced up interest rates on home loans financed through building societies. This additional burden may very well place the cost of a new home beyond the reach of many young home buyers. What has the Government promised to do to assist these people? The homes savings grant, with all its inadequacies and inequities, is to be reintroduced. I warn applicants to beware of the canvassed homes savings grant. Most people are unaware that the scheme will not provide any benefits to anyone before some time in 1979. By that time it will be too little too late. Yet the scheme of housing loan rebates introduced by the Labor Government, which benefits everyone paying interest on his original home loan- not just the people with the opportunity or the ability to save- is apparently to be reviewed. I suspect that this is merely a term used to disguise the fact that the scheme is fast nearing the end of its life span. Again I think the Government ought to be frank with the community and with the young home purchasers and tell them that it intends to abolish the scheme in this Budget. The Government has canvassed its abolition in a number of ways, but it should be frank with the young people and tell them so that the young people can arrange their own finances in the coming year.
I could easily continue to enumerate the instances where this Government has clearly demonstrated its intention of transferring resources from the middle and low income families to those on higher incomes. I am sure those instances are already well known to the people concerned. If so far the Australian people have been fooled and confused by the machinations of the media as to the true colours of this Government, honourable members should recall the mention I made earlier of Sir Robert Menzies’ achievements, what he promised and what he did. The colours of this Government- the reference to and support for wealth and privilege for the few- ought to be brought more before public attention. Again the Government ought to come clear and spell out its policy. It does not have a specific policy. In fairness to the electorate and to those who supported it on 13 December, it ought to spell out its policy.
The impending re-introduction of radio and television licence fees by this Government is a major step in redistribution of incomes. In effect it is a poll tax or a household tax of $70 or $90, depending on whether one has a black and white television set or a colour television set.
– You know more than we know.
– That is not at all surprising. That tax, a flat household tax, does not relate to the capacity of a family to pay. I have no doubt that certain households will not be able to have a colour television set because of the impost of the radio and television licence fees which will be reintroduced by this Government.
We have heard something about the federalism policy of this Government. Really it is the answer to a federal politician’s dream. It is an unloading of the national responsibility by a federal government to State governments, and also handing back to the State governments the responsibility for expenditure. It will be very interesting to see how the conservative State Premiers welcome with open arms not only the transference of income but also the transference of expenditure that will follow if ever federalism is brought in.
Let us look at local government and at the promise to local government of a fixed percentage of income. This promise comes from parties which steadfastly opposed at every opportunity during the past 3Vi years any proposition to give direct financial assistance to local government. At every step they blocked it. They did so in the Senate. They tried in the High Court. Now they come up with a pOliCy which says: ‘We recognise the needs of local government. We will give you a fixed percentage of tax income on a per capita basis’. A per capita basis of distribution of finance to local government will not help those ratepayers who feel heavily the burden of rates. It will not help those local government units which have a sparsity of population. It will not help those local government units which have settlements within their council borders which are scattered, which have problems in providing municipal services caused by distance, which have problems caused by age distribution and which have problems caused by income distribution. The $64 question will be how this Government tries to develop a system by which it can equitably distribute on a per capita basis funds to local government. I do not believe it will work. I think when local government starts to examine it more closely and compares it with a system of direct financial assistance to local government based on assessed needs, as was established by the Grants Commission, local government will see that it has been sold a pup. This Government has not examined fully and specifically what is involved in the distribution of financial assistance to local government on a per capita basis. It is a nice little slogan; it is easy to say; but I suggest that those opposite think about it.
The re-introduction of State income tax under federalism is based, we are told, on what is supposed to be a successful Canadian system. The Canadian system is not successful. It has resulted in major distortions between the provinces in Canada. They would like to be well done with the system. They have taxes ranging from 30.5 per cent surcharge in some provinces up to 42.5 per cent in other provinces. They are figures which the community ought to be thinking about. The same problems exist in Canada between a federal government and provincial governments. As I said earlier, federalism is the answer to a Federal politician’s dream. One can unload the odium of collecting revenue and the responsibility for wise and balanced expenditure of funds on a national basis. The scheme flies in the face of the national interest. I mentioned Sir Robert Menzies earlier. Thirty-five years ago uniform income tax was introduced in this country. Sir Robert Menzies offered State income tax to the State governments in 1951. They rejected his offer as not being in their interest and not being in the national interest. Successive governments- State governments, Federal governments, Liberal governments, Labor governments- have seen fit to support the continuance of uniform income taxation because in that way the expenses and the revenue needed to develop this country as a nation, not as 7 separate entities but as one nation, Australia, are best served. The national interest is best served by uniform income tax, and the resources needed and distributed within the nation are best served by a system of uniform income tax.
The Governor-General’s Speech referred to the investment allowance. Again it is an openended thing. It may be half a billion dollars, it may be three-quarters of a billion dollars. No one knows. No one can cost it. But while this Government is busy hounding unemployed young people, vilifying young people, because they are getting benefits, 836 young women in my electorate are out of work. There are vacancies for five. The Government can hound the 836 as much as it wants; there are jobs for only five. The Government’s assumption is that all people have to do is to get up in the morning, put on their best dress or their best suit and go out and look for a job and that the only reason these people have not got a job is that they have not looked for one. The Government can tell the 83 1 young women in my electorate who cannot get a job what its campaign is and what its policy towards young people is.
– You put them on the streets.
– I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark. There is an inference in that remark in respect of the young women of Australia being on the streets.
-I have no jurisdiction to ask an honourable member to withdraw a remark made in relation to people outside the House. I call the honourable member for Sturt.
-Firstly, I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your appointment to that high office. I also congratulate Mr Speaker on his appointment. I take this opportunity to congratulate all the new members, in particular those from South Australia. I refer to the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter), who has spoken tonight, and the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman). The Governor-General’s Speech not only outlines the Government’s programs but also clearly identifies the ideals which will guideit in the way in which it will govern throughout its term of office. The Australian people want idealism to play a more important part in our politics. They should expect parliamentary and political debate to relate as much to the principles upon which programs are based as to the details of the programs themselves. It is not so much the programs described by His Excellency the Governor-General which distinguish his Speech on this occasion from those delivered on behalf of the previous
Government; it is the underlying philosophy which the Government made clear in its expressed intention to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their own goals in life in the way they decide.
In Australian politics the difference between the present Government and the Opposition is the result of a conflict of philosophy, of different attitudes of mind and outlooks on life. It is my hope that as our programs are presented in legislative form the Government will make clear to the Parliament and to the people the principles upon which legislation is based. The immediate task of the Government is to overcome the twin problems of double digit inflation and high unemployment. Aspects of the Government’s strategy to control inflation and to revive the economy have been dealt with by most speakers in this debate. It is my intention this evening to refer to 3 inter-related proposals. They are, firstly, the Government’s undertaking to protect individuals from unlegislated tax increases; secondly, its undertaking to take account of the special problems of the single income family; and, thirdly, its undertaking to move towards a replacement of the means test with an income test.
The Asprey Committee, following its final examination of the Commonwealth taxation structure, recommended frequent adjustment to the tax rate scale to take account of inflation. On the other hand, the Mathews Committee, following a more specific investigation into the effect of inflation on taxation, recommended automatic adjustment through indexation. Every wage and salary earner knows that over the last 3 years increases in money incomes have resulted in an increased tax burden. Wages and salaries were recently increased by 6.4 per cent, but the effect on a man with a wife and 2 children earning $160 week has been to increase his tax burden not by 6.4 per cent but by 1 8 per cent. He now pays a higher proportion of his total income in tax than he did before the wage increase.
The great majority of taxpayers are now aware of the Hayden tax bite. They know that they were hoaxed by the Hayden Budget. The rebates made available in lieu of concessions at first sight appeared generous, but the apparent easing of the burden of taxation soon proved to be an illusion. Taxpayers have now discovered that the marginal rates of tax on low and middle incomes were viciously increased. They have found that the reductions in pay-as-you-earn tax deductions are merely advance payments of the tax refund that most taxpayers would have received under the pre-existing scheme at the end of the financial year. The special tax relief for expenditure on medical and similar expenses, on school fees, on rates and taxes, on insurance premiums and superannuation, has for all practical purposes been abolished. The general rebate of $540 gives no relief to a taxpayer with deductions amounting to $ 1,350 or less as compared with a taxpayer who has no such deductions. Both receive the same general rebate. In many respects rebates have advantages over concessional deductions, but the Hayden rebate system was a deceitful device designed to have taxpayers think that their burdens had been reduced when in fact an even higher proportion of their incomes was being taken in tax. The Labor Government and its several Treasurers had a vested interest in inflation. They knew that with the help of inflation they could gather into the Treasury coffers an ever-increasing proportion of personal incomes.
In his policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made it clear that a Liberal Government would index personal income tax. He has promised that the taxation laws are to be amended so that minimum taxable income, rebate scales, dependant’s and other flat rate allowances and rebates on concessional expenditure are to be automatically adjusted for inflation. In that way individuals will be protected from massive unlegislated tax increases. That protection is urgently needed. Its introduction should not be conditional on the success of the Government’s economic program to control inflation. In fact, the higher the rate of inflation, the more urgent is the need for that protection. We must put an early end to inflation’s secret tax rip-off. If the Government requires more money to solve the nation’s economic problems it should legislate for it.
If there is a need- and there is- to bridge the Labor induced Budget deficit, consideration should be given to the imposition of an explicitly designated bridging tax. It should not be bridged by imposing a host of inequitable taxes which become a permanent feature of the tax system. Taxpayers should be made aware of the extent to which they must now pay for Labor’s mismanagement. We must be frank with the people. If we need money for these purposes, we should legislate for it. As the economy revives and the deficit is bridged such an explictly imposed Labor deficit bridging tax should be repealed. Until that occurs taxpayers must be aware that their increased tax burden is the price of 3 years of wanton and irresponsible socialist spending.
The Government has said that it will introduce tax indexation because it believes it will help keep governments honest. But it will do more than that: It will prevent the distortion by inflation of the equity objectives of the tax structure. The relativities established by a progressive rates scale and rebates and concessions expressed in money terms can all be preserved in this way. If the percentage of personal income taken in tax is to remain the same as money income rise in response to the falling value of money there must be full indexation. Partial indexation would not bring about this result. It might control the growth of unlegislated income tax, but it would not eliminate the secret tax rip-off generated by inflation. Any legislation aimed at achieving indexation will need to be carefully drafted to ensure that it results in full and not partial indexation.
But indexation alone will not result in a fair and equitable tax system. It will be important for the Government to examine the levels set for minimum taxable income, the rates scale, dependants’ and other rebates and allowances customarily expressed in money terms. To imagine that the optimum level of equity would be achieved by indexing the existing tax structure would do a grave injustice to many taxpapers. This structure was adopted as the result of a compromise in which the equity between taxpayers with different incomes played only a minor part. In any event, it has already been grossly distorted by inflation. There is nothing sacrosanct about the existing mix and amounts of rebates and concessions. This House must not allow itself to be blinded to the need to legislate for significant improvements in overall equity. The tax system must be made fairer as well as simpler and more efficient.
We will need also to look at the effect of tax on incentives- the incentive to work and the incentive to save- a topic touched upon by the honourable member for Barker in his excellent maiden speech delivered earlier this evening. Notwithstanding the fact that the literature on the effect of taxation on incentive is somewhat inconclusive, I am convinced from my day to day contacts with taxpayers that more and more people are asking themselves why they should slave their insides out for the government. We must take urgent action to reduce taxes below that level at which they corrode the will to work. Many people, particularly experienced, skilled workers at the peak of their productive years, are opting for tax free leisure and working less. Others retire early, sometimes on reduced pensions, rather than continue working for what to them is Utile additional income. The remainder, by necessity, battle on in an effort to achieve an after tax income which enables them to support their families and complete the purchase of a home. To restore incentive we should adopt the suggestion of the Asprey Committee and aim to reduce taxes so that the highest marginal rate imposed is 50c in the dollar.
If the indexation of personal income tax were now in operation, substantial changes in tax brackets, rebates and deduction limits would operate in respect of 1976-77. To the extent that these changes are not made taxpayers will forgo a greater share of their real income without the Government being required to pass legislation explicitly to raise tax. Estimates by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and recent rises in the consumer price index indicate that the adjustment factor based on the Mathews formula which should be applied to existing tax brackets, rebates and deduction limits would be 13.2 per cent. If none of the desirable structural changes are made to the relativities established by the Hayden rebate system, indexation would result in the general rebate being raised from $540 to $61 1, that for a spouse being raised from $400 to $453, that for a child being raised from $200 to $226, that for rates and taxes being raised from $300 to $340 and that for education expenses being raised from $250 to $289. A wage or salary earner supporting a wife and 2 children may well find that he is forgoing income to the extent of more than $250 simply because of the impact of inflation.
Unless the structure of the tax system is amended as if full indexation were in operation there will be next year a substantial real increase in taxation without there being any necessity for the Government to legislate for it. The effect of inflation on the current income tax structure is so serious that I urge the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to provide the public with a fuller explanation of its impact. I suggest that he should include in the Budget papers a statement designed to show the extent to which taxpayers will forgo income in 1976-77 as compared with 1975-76 as a consequence of tax indexation not being fully implemented. At some later stage I will havemore to say on the effect of this concept of tax forgone, but I want to turn now to the problems of the single income family.
The Prime Minister gave the undertaking in his policy speech that a Liberal-National Country Party government would reform the tax structure to take account of the special problems of the single income family. In seeking to resolve these problems we need to consider the appropriateness of the unit of taxation. In Australia the income unit for tax purposes always has been the individual. This has been so despite the fact that for the majority of Australians it is the family unit which is the real decision making consumption unit. Many inequalities in society essentially reflect differences between families rather than between individuals. Our tax system increases these inequalities by imposing a tax burden on the single income family which is significantly higher than that imposed on the 2-income family with the same family income. The tax system should be redesigned to reduce these inequalities.
I urge the Government to act on the recommendations of a majority of the Asprey Committee and to submit for public examination and discussion an optional family unit system of taxation. We should not be frightened off by the scaremongers who peddle misconceptions about the use of the family rather than the individual as a unit of taxation. There are a number of ways to assess the family unit for tax purposes. The imposition of tax on aggregate family incomes is not the only method. This is done in the United Kingdom but there most families pay less tax than they would had the spouses been taxed separately because the rebates available to those taxed separately on the family unit are not otherwise available. The approach I prefer is one which would permit spouses to be taxed on a partnership basis. There are many other variations, such as the definition of family incomethe division of family income by a factor which takes account of the number of dependent children. In redesigning the income tax structure and the social security program it is essential that every endeavour be made not only to achieve an equitable redistribution between the affluent and the needy but also to achieve an equitable distribution between the affluent periods and the needy periods in the income cycle of an individual taxpayer.
Finally I turn to our undertaking to move towards replacing means tests with an income test. This is closely linked with the Government’s promise to stand by its commitment to abolish the means test and its proposed examination of the effectiveness of guaranteed income proposals in overcoming poverty. The importance of helping those in most need is beyond dispute but the methods of doing so may not be. All too often the tests used to determine those in need are wrongly designed. In the short run a mechanism may appear to direct resources to those in need but in the long run the nature of the tests applied may be such that they create the very needs that they have sought to relieve, and create them on an even larger scale than they existed before.
I urge all those who refer to the report of the Henderson committee for support of the view that those in need should be given priority to give equal weight to that Committee’s recommendations that the means test should be replaced by an income test. Different tests are now applied to determine entitlement to pensions, to supplementary assistance and to fringe benefits. These tests result in so many anomalies and so much injustice that there is an urgent need to convert them into an income test which is properly integrated with the tax structure. The combined impact of the currently used means test is to impose on many pensioners an effective rate of tax well in excess of 50c in the dollar. For those in receipt of supplementary assistance the effective rate of tax is 100c in the dollar for each additional dollar earned while those means tested out of eligibility for fringe benefits may be in a position where an additional dollar earned costs them benefits worth $5 a week. Other pensioners find that an additional dollar earned may result in a tax liability of 27c in the dollar and a pension loss, due to the means test, of 50c in the dollar- an effective marginal rate of tax of 77c in the dollar, higher than the rate of tax paid by the people on the highest incomes.
A comprehensive scheme of cash benefits with a consistent tax rate running through it as the best and only test of entitlement is urgently needed if the anomalies and injustices of the present scheme are to be removed. If an income test is to replace the present means tests the offset rates or marginal tax rates, including income tax, should not exceed 50c in the dollar unless the marginal income tax rate for that particular income in fact is higher. Only when reforms such as these have been achieved will we prevent the numbers of those in need expanding and thus enabling more to be done for those unable, for whatever reason, to provide in whole or in part for themselves.
In conclusion I urge the Government, as a matter of urgency, to do 3 things: Firstly, to fully, not partially, index personal income tax; secondly, to introduce optional family unit taxation which permits spouses to be taxed on a partnership basis; and, thirdly, to replace all means tests with an income test integrated with the tax system.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, first of all I want to congratulate the Government on the Speech of the GovernorGeneral. Secondly, I want to offer my congratulations to the Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, the Deputy Chairmen and, last but not least, the honourable members of this House who have made their maiden speeches. I do not wish to pass judgment in any expert way but I must say, for what my opinion is worth, that I have been most impressed with honourable members on both sides of the House, but particularly with those on the Liberal and National Country Party side.
This House is having this debate on the Governor-General’s Speech because there was an election in December 1975 at which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) led the Australian Labor Party to another disastrous defeat. I am sure that members of the Government Parties are all glad that he is still the Leader of the Australian Labor Party. He is almost the best asset the Liberal and National Country Parties have. If we have a look at his record since 1972 we will see why. He got home with a majority of nine after the 1972 election. This was reduced to a narrow 5-seat majority, decided by only about 220 votes over 3 different seats. If there had been less than 1000 votes cast the other way the Liberal and National Country Parties would have had a majority of about 9 seats. In the Northern Territory 21 members were elected for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and the ALP did not win one seat. In the elections for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly Labor suffered a severe setback. This is the record of the Leader of the Opposition. In Queensland where the Australian Labor Party held 33 seats before the last election, after the election it held 1 1 seats. It lost 22 seats.
– Not even a twelfth man.
– That is true. As my friend the honourable member for Kennedy said, there was not even a twelfth man. The Bass by-election was another great example of the leadership of this great politician, this great statesman. ‘I am the greatest’, he said- self-styled. There was a massive 17 per cent swing in the Bass by-election. Then finally there was the 1975 Federal election at which the Party was all but eliminated. That is the record of this man who is portrayed by some people as being the great leader. They said that no one can replace him. In modern jargon the Leader of the Opposition is bad news for Labor and he is bad news for Australia. The Australian people have shown that they know this. As far as we are concerned the Opposition should keep him as leader. He will do us.
The sometimes insidious, sometimes blatant anti-democratic actions of the Labor Government over 3 years should be of great concern to all Australians and must never be forgotten. It is the duty of all of us in the coalition parties and all truly democratic people continually to remind Australians of what Labor was attempting to do to and in Australia. A major example of its antidemocratic actions was the 2 1 Bills rejected over a period by a small but wise majority of the Senate. The Senate’s action in rejecting this legislation started a chain of events which led to the annihilation of the Labor Government at a democratic election. There is no doubt that many Australians realise the significant and frightening implications of these proposed laws and their totalitarian effects and objectives.
Those 21 Bills, dominated by the Inter-State Commission Bill, would have turned Australia into one of the most heavily policed and regulated of Western societies. Democratic government and democratic freedom as we know them would have been history. This would have eventually meant the elimination of private enterprise and the replacement of it with a government controlled economic system. Australia would have been virtually turned into a communist-like country. The Liberal and National Country Party members of Parliament and our supporters must keep hammering the fact that when a Labor Government or most Labor men use the words ‘democracy’ and ‘peace’ they have an entirely different meaning from the meaning which the vast majority of Australians believe them to have. The word ‘democracy’ to Labor has a similar meaning to that given it by the communists. The Labor and the communist people believe democracy will only exist when Australia has a socialist, neocommunist government which can never be defeated. To them democracy exists when the vote of the people does not mean anything. Labor’s definition of democracy is a situation in which if anyone disagrees with it they will be dealt with. I want to quote from a television interview with Senator James McClelland which was recorded on 13 November just before the election. The interviewer said on television to Senator James McClelland:
We saw an incident on a television newscast last night or a non-Labor unionist being set upon by his pro-Labor mates. What’s your feeling about that?
Senator James McClelland answered:
I am very strongly opposed to it. People who come to meetings to heckle us or to express their disapproval of us can’t be terribly surprised if they get roughed up.
That is a lovely example of democracy- if a nonLabor union man at a rally tries to express his point of view he can expect to get roughed-up. That quote was from a transcript of a television interview recorded just before the last election.
-Who said that?
-Senator James McClelland. The communist definition of ‘peace and democracy’ is a situation which will exist only when the whole world is ruled by the communist system. If ever Labor were to have a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate it would redraw the electorate boundaries so that it would be impossible to defeat it. We would then be in a similar position to that in other countries dictated to by a one party system. This objective is obvious in Labor’s new electorate boundary proposals rejected by the Senate. With those boundaries Labor would have needed only about 40 per cent of the vote to be the government. That was only a start. In time we would have seen boundaries which would have meant that Labor needed only about 30 per cent of the votes to win.
Look elsewhere at the socialist-communist election tactics. Look at the United Kingdom and the Labour Party there. The Labour Party got only 39 out of every 100 votes cast in England and yet won government. In Sweden the Government can be changed only with 65 per cent of the vote against it. In the more ruthless socialist-communist countries such as Poland, East Germany- I was there last yearand Russia of course, the people can never change the government through the ballot box. In Poland and East Germany it is proudly stated that the National United Front gets 98 per cent of the votes cast. Of course it does; there is no one else to vote for. This is what Labor is aiming to do in the long run. These are examples of what Labor means by democracy. It is a sham party. It stands for deception and double standards. The Australian people have shown that they are a wake up to the situation under Labor.
Returning to the proposed laws that were rejected, I want to try to make an emphatic point on some of them. They must never be forgotten. The Inter-State Commission Bill contained practically enough muscle in its own right to create a totalitarian Australia. The Commission, to be a 5-man body with unlimited powers, was not to be subject to Parliament. These 5 men were to be able to override and to ignore the laws of the Commonwealth and the States. The Commission was to have the status of an alternative government, having the same kind of power as a People’s Revolutionary Council. Next I refer to the Broadcasting and Television Bill. Under this legislation, the socialist Labor Government would have been free to dictate the nature and the content of all television and radio material. In effect, complete censorship would have been imposed on all the broadcasting media so that freedom of speech and freedom of the Presstwo of the basic tenets of democracy- would have been denied to every Australian. Yet, to my amazement, certain prominent journalists in Canberra and elsewhere continue their support for Labor even though Labor proposes to destroy the basic freedom which all journalists constantly say they support. Journalists say that they support freedoms, but the sincerity of their statements must be questioned because of the obvious sympathy of many of them with communist regimes around the world, regimes which practise all the complete antitheses of democracymurder, deceit and class hatred.
The next democracy-destroying Bill was the electoral legislation. This was nothing but a mass of savage prohibitions and penalties aimed at crippling the Liberal and the National Country Party financially but having no effect on the Labor Party. Various loopholes in the Bill allowed the Labor Party an out so that it was not subject to the same conditions as the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. In short, that legislation would have allowed the Labour Party an almost unlimited term of officeanother example of the shining light to Labor’s democracy. Then we had the Bill relating to the Australia Police Force. This Bill would have effectively placed every citizen under surveillance. It would have allowed the police unprecedented freedom of search and entry. In essence, it would have been a major threat to civil liberties, a blatant attack on another basicfactor of our democratic society. These threats to democracy and to our freedoms are not limited solely to the rejected Bills. They are ever present in the actions of the more militant communist controlled unions in this country. With the composition of the Federal Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions so heavily loaded in favour of the communists and the hard core left wing- there is not much difference -the Labor Party is virtually under the control of the communists. For example, maintenance of a 40-hour week as part of an overall plan to reduce inflation and restore economic sanity is complete anathema to the communist led unions. They will willingly grind all industry to a halt and bring the country to its knees in furtherance of their aims.
I quote from a document titled Communist Rules for Revolution which was written in 1919 and which lists the 4 basic rules as:
Always preach true democracy, but seize power as fast and ruthlessly as possible. By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit, produce fear of inflation with rising prices and general discontent.
Foment unnecessary strikes in vital industries, encourage civil disorders and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government towards such disorders.
By specious argument cause the breakdown of the pledged word- the truth.
I have a quote here from a well known former member of the Labor Party, now a senator, Senator Harradine, who talks about communist actions in the trade unions. He says:
The communists are trying to use the trade union as a weapon to tear down the institution of parliamentary democracy.
They are hitting at the integrity of the trade union movement and in an indirect way using the movement for political purposes.
One of the myths on which Labor was elected in 1972 was that it had a special relationship with the unions. Some relationship! In 3 years 11 million working days were lost. The year 1974 was the worst for strikes since 1 932.
Look at the record of the past Labor Governmenta government under the control of the unions, many of them communist led. It is a record of attempts to deny the individual his freedom; a record of incredible bungling and pathetic economic mismanagement, giving Australia the worst recession of practically any country except Iceland. It was a record of completely stupid government spending during a period of raging inflation, with a Budget deficit of astronomical proportions- over $8,000m in 2 years- unemployment at unprecedented levels, huge increases in the Public Service, jobs for the boys and a Prime Minister and his Ministers gallivanting their way around the world, cuddling and crawling with the communists in the Third World while turning a cold shoulder to the United States of America. In a last desperate attempt to cover up the bungling and try to evade the real issues the then Prime Minister attempted to confuse the country with the pretence that holding a democratic election represented a threat to democracy. What absolute bunkum! Democracy and freedom were at risk under the Labor Government. Fortunately, however, the people could see the dangers of a socialist government and the welfare state. Outside Australia, the communist tentacles spread even further. Angola has recently fallen to the
Russian and Cuban backed MPLA. There was no protest by the Labor Party; no protest by the United Nations, no observer sent to Angola. No, they ignored that completely. Much closer to home, in Hanoi recently the Communist Party newspaper called on underground groups throughout South East Asia to step up the fight to overthrow the non-communist governments. The newspapers state ‘communist victories in Indo China and United States setbacks in the region had combined to the point where the prospects for revolt had never been so good.’ That is according to the Hanoi communists. I saw the signs in 1970 when Laos and Cambodia were the victims of pitiful and brutal aggression. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) was there with me then too. He was in the hospitals at Phnom Penh. He had the courage to send a telegram of condemnation back to the Labor Party and to the Parliament here in Australia. He saw people being unmercifully and brutally treated by the communists in Cambodia and Laos. Many people, mainly pro-communist, have sneeringly denigrated the domino theory. Events in South East Asia show that it is happening before our very eyes. Day after day, week after week the communists are working unremittingly. They arc fanatical- I give them full credit for that. It is about time some of us got a bit more fanatical and had the courage of our convictions and spoke out on these matters. Democracy as we know it has its imperfections. It does not always make for an efficient system. Nevertheless, it is a privilege, and a demanding privilege at that. This country has fought 2 wars and more, to defend it. Rows of Australian graves on battlefields are spread across the world to show that we defend freedom of choice. Sometimes we need a Hitler and a Stalin to remind us of a privilege that many people have laid down their lives for. The Labor Party is dominated from outside this Parliament. It is dominated, tied body and soul to the Federal Conference of the Labor Party, and the communists dominate that. I am convinced that in the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) we have 2 great men of experience, intelligence and strength who will lead this Government, with the assistance of the people of this great country and with the backing of all members on the Government side. I am sure they will use their best endeavours to put this country back on the right track after pathetic economic management.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am grateful for the opportunity of being able to say something tonight. In the first place I congratulate the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) on his maiden speech.
– I thought it was a splendid maiden speech too. I believe we can look forward to a very long, successful and illustrious career for the honourable member for Barker. I trust it will be equally as illustrious as that of his predecessor.
– To make it even better than that of his predecessor would take some little doing. I must say that it is refreshing to have some members of the Opposition in the chamber tonight. I listened with dismay to the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). I can understand why there was not a single member of the Opposition in the chamber to listen to him. His speech contrasted with that of the honourable member for Barker in every respect. It was dull and backward looking. It is easy to understand why he is a chamber emptier. Lots of things about this place and some of the people in it irritate me, but I was particularly irritated tonight when the honourable member said that the Government, does not have any policies. He has probably gone home by now. When the Government parties were in Opposition our Housing and Construction Committee and I spent 18 months preparing our- housing policy. We believe it is a first rate housing policy and that when it is translated into legislation it will be something of an achievement for our side of politics.
It was stupid of the honourable member for Shortland to take credit for the abandonment of the homes savings grant. I believe the homes savings grant legislation is one piece of Government legislation which is eagerly anticipated, by every first home buyer in this country.
– It will take 3 years to get a quid out of it.
-That is quite true. It will take 3 years to get any subsidy. If it were not for the disgraceful way the previous administration handled our economy that would not be necessary. In fact the $2,000 grant proposed is equivalent in value to the $750 that applied when we were last in government. That is what has happened with inflation. The previous Government killed the home savings grant effectively by not raising the statutory limit. I would like to make sure that it is sheeted home to those who missed out on it in the last 18 months or so that the curious, grinning people in the Opposition were responsible for killing it, not the present Government.
The honourable member for Shortland talked about the tax deductability scheme for mortgage interest and predicted its demise. I do not know how he is able to make that prediction. The matter has not been discussed by the Government as yet. I suppose what really irritates me most- I guess we on the Government side are becoming slightly sick of it- is the Opposition’s constant talk about representative democracy being killed and its constant denigration of the Governor-. General. I place on record how much I dissociate myself from the behaviour of Opposition members. Let us face it: What can be more democratic than having an election for both Houses of Parliament? The Opposition’s argument is nonsense. The way that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G: Whitlam) and every member of the Federal Australian Labor Party, and the Premier of South Australia and his Party are behaving towards the Governor-General is a disgrace to Australian politics. It is also interesting to note the way that demonstrators behaved in Adelaide a week or so ago when the Governor-General visited the Torrens Advanced Education Centre. The same sort of people we saw the next day marching through the streets of Adelaide supporting Frelimo. I would hazard a guess that the people the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) has just been attacking are the same sort of people who organised both those demonstrations.
– Do you mean Fretilin or Frelimo?
– Was it Timor or Mozambique?
– The honourable member for Adelaide is one of those people who have come to this place on the endorsement of the South Australian Trades and Labour Council. They call each other comrades. This is the new rule. Their endorsement is decided on the card vote system. The biggest unions get the most votes. I wonder which are the biggest unions in South Australia and I wonder who controls them. They are very much to the Left. What the honourable member for Indi was saying is true. They are the people who run the Labor Party. They are the people who endorse all Labor candidates. There is no reference to the people in the electorate whatsoever. I think the honourable member for
Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who sold his soul some time ago, ought to keep quiet.
I wish to mention some of the Press reports I have been receiving of what has been said in Darwin in the last week and perhaps as recently as yesterday and today. I listened to the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) this evening.
– The distinguished member.
– He is the honourable, gallant and distinguished member for the Northern Territory. I thought it would be perhaps wise at least to comment on some of the statements that have been issued in the media in Darwin in the last few days.
– You are defending the Country Party.
– The disappointing part, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that I cannot hear the interjection.
– I suggest that the Minister ignore all interjections. They are all disorderly.
– It is more interesting when one can hear what the galoots are saying. Yesterday, 22 March, the daily newpaper in Darwin- I think there is probably only one- in its editorial attacked the Government for the cutbacks, as they are described, in construction work in the Northern Territory. In part of the editorial the editor, complaining about just how serious the cutbacks are, said:
The situation has become so serious and is indicated by a confidential report from the Department of Construction.
I say to the honourable member for the Northern Territory, to that editor and to anybody who reads that paper that if it is a confidential report it is so confidential that I have not even seen it. Therefore there is absolutely no truth in that assertion. One would expect that a confidential document would at least be shown to the Minister responsible for the Department concerned. That statement is totally false. I do not know on what days the reports of which I have copies were circulated, but in the same newspaper there is an assertion that- and I quote- ‘Darwin’s capital works program has been slashed by $125m’ and later in the report an assertion that ‘the Territory’s overall capital works program has been reduced by more than a third or $ 158m’. I think that was the part of the report to which the honourable member for the Northern Territory referred.
– It is true too.
– The position is that it is totally untrue. The whole of the civil capital works programs that have been deferred for the whole of Australia- not cancelled, slashed or whatever, but deferred-until 1 July total $137m. Of that figure, $6m applies to this financial year. The amount spent on civil works by government in Australia this financial year was $2,000m of which $6m worth has been deferred. It would be nice to get this matter into some sort of perspective because this sort of reporting which completely distorts the situation must upset people who read the newspaper.
I think I should deal specifically with the points as they appear in this report. The report says that Darwin’s works program has been slashed by $ 125m. In fact the figure is $24m. But the expenditure has not been slashed; it has been deferred.
– You just said $6m.
– What a shame that a man who has some sort of academic qualifications cannot understand English and cannot do his sums. I am now talking about the amount of work which was deferred in Darwin. The amount of deferred work totalled $24m. This is the figure until next year. From that we have to deduct $12.5m which was a special advance made two or three weeks ago to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. So in fact the amount of deferrment in the Darwin area is virtually nil- about $ 11.5m. The amount of deferred work in the Territory is rather more significant. The amount of deferred work outside the Darwin area is $52m. So the total is $76m less that $ 12.5m, not $158m as is stated in the report. I hope that the newspaper in Darwin will give these facts the same sort of prominence as it gives the non facts that have been reported this week. The report also states that $60m for 1500 living units have been axed from the DRC program. That also is not true. All that is happening is that the commencement of the construction of those 1500 units has been deferred until next financial year.
– If the honourable member cannot understand the difference between axing and deferring of work there is no hope for him.
– Is it to be part of next year’s outlay?
– Axed for this year and maybe also the next year?
– I wish the gentleman at the table would not be so agitated. The report states that unless the capital works program is reinstated there will be widespread unemployment in the building industry by June. What the people who wrote this report do not seem to understand is that there is a very significant amount of carry-over work amounting to $200m in the Darwin area. So it is quite ridiculous to say that there will be unemployment by June directly as a result of the capital works program not being reinstated.
-Did you say $200m?
-The amount is $200m for the Darwin area alone. That seems to me to be quite a significant amount of carry-over work.
The newspaper went on to say that it will be too late to achieve a full recovery if nothing is done before the next budget session in August. What the author of the report does not seem to understand is that work proceeds through the July and August period. Things do not stop at the end of June and wait for the Budget. Work proceeds. In this case work will proceed. The position is that the priorities for this work are now under consideration by this Government. The Government is now deciding which works will proceed and which will not. We do not have to wait until the Budget to decide these priorities.
There is no doubt that the building industry is going through a difficult period. We do not deny that. I would guess that I have had 20 or 30 deputations from interested associations in the last two or three weeks. We understand that. But the position is that it is not just the building industry that is in trouble. Just about every industry in the land is in serious trouble. The point is that we should see where the blame lies. It is no good blaming the Government because it has been in office for only a couple months and is still operating on the Hayden Budget. If the Opposition wants to criticise anybody for the present deficit and the present level of unemployment it should criticise itself, the Hayden Budget and the previous Government. The real damage was done in the Hayden Budget and even more so in earlier budgets. But not only those budgets were responsible. The blame also rests with the Labor Government’s total mismanagement of the economy and, I believe, with the union leaders themselves, many of whom have a lot to answer for because they have priced many of their workers out of jobs. The union leaders themselves must accept some of the responsibility.
– They did not mean to do it.
– Of course they do not mean to do it. They had the purest of motives. It just so happened that this was the result.
Honourable members should remember that the Hayden Budget estimated a deficit of $2,800m. I believe that the deficit at the moment is $4,700m. Even though, as we all know, the economies instigated by the Government are in excess of $360m, the deficit is still $4,700m. It is my view, shared I am sure by some people in this chamber, that if Labor had remained in government the deficit would have been doubled by now. If Labor had remained the government and had been able to pass the 2 1 Bills that were deferred or rejected by the Senate, I hate to think how much the deficit would be by now. Wc would have been bankrupt without any question. We would have been in a banana republic situation. Heaven knows what the deficit would be. Even the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) would not take a stab at it.
It is no good blaming the Government for the downturn in work and for unemployment. In 1974, as a result of the policies pursued by the former Government, wages peaked. I know of some industries where the increase in wages was as much as 65 per cent. At the same time, because of the long lead times, the expansion of public works proceeded apace. We had an inflation rate of 20 per cent. The cut back commenced in 1975. 1 think it is fair to say that during its term of office Labor created an expectation in the field of public works which simply cannot be maintained.
In the non residential construction industry alone last year the total value of work performed was $3,000m, $2,000m of which is or was government funded, and this is running out now. It is a fact that the cut back on the $2,000m means that we cut back on private enterprisethe people who do the work. But in our view there is no other way that we can get the economy into some sort of sensible proportion. We do not want to put up taxes; we have to cut back on public expenditure. What do our critics think we should do? What do the clever people on the other side who keep on interjecting think we should do? What other things could we do but pursue our policy? Do they suggest that we should spend more money in the public sector, bill the private sector and jack up taxes at the same time? I believe that most builders of all sizes in the construction industry understand our predicament. But what do those people in the construction industry who criticise us suggest that we should do. Do they suggest that wc should build more office accommodation? There is more office accommodation in Australia now than can be let. Do they suggest that we should build more office accommodation to get the industry going, that we should build more factories and warehouses? Who is going to build factories and warehouses? There are vacant factories and warehouses all over the country. People operating those factories and warehouses have gone broke in the last 3 years. Is it suggested that we should build flats and home units? With interest rates as they are and industrial relations in the unions as they are, and without confidence, how many private developers are going to build flats and home units? The only thing we can do is get confidence back in the community. The only way we can do that is by adopting tough measures. We cannot soup it out forever. What should be done? Is the private sector to build more shops and shopping centres? The prime sites in this country have already been picked over.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-I should like to take this opportunity to offer my congratulations to the new Speaker and to the Deputy Speakers on their election in this place. In the short time that is available to me at the end of this debate, might I say that, having listened to a number of speeches during the Address-in-Reply debate, I have found the debate to be an interesting one. A feature of the debate, so far as the speeches of the members of the Labor Party are concerned, has been the paucity of valid argument. That indicates a Party which is so bereft of policy and leadership that it is reduced to mouthing inane arguments. From how many speakers have we heard charges of Central Intelligence Agency influence on the Governor-General? There were at least four that I counted.
Members of the Labor Party have talked about a coup d’etat on 1 1 November as though there was some sort of revolution in this country. They have said that democracy here is dead. That was their cry, as though the fact that the people of Australia gave the Australian Labor Party a vote of less than 50 per cent represents a defeat of democracy. That sort of statement has been repeated, but I suggest that honourable members opposite could not possibly believe that sort of argument. But they repeat it over and over again. Surely that indicates that the Labor Party has no policy or understanding. I suppose it was understandably stunned. But look at the quality of Labor’s amendment to the AddressinReply. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure you will be relieved to know that I intend to refer to that amendment. Paragraph (a) states:
That is the address of the Governor-General- makes no acknowledgment of the financial pre-eminence of the House of Representatives;
Why on earth should it? The practice has been clear since the 1890s. The constitutional practice in this federation has been clear to everybody except the Parliamentary Labor Party. It was told clearly what would happen if it went on with the deadlock, which the Labor Government insisted should continue because it would not call the election which it was so clearly its duty to call. The Opposition seems to imagine that it is incumbent on the Government parties to make some sort of change because of the defeat suffered by the Labor Party.
The ‘constitutional crisis’ referred to in paragraph (b) of the amendment is of course a figment of Labor’s imagination. That paragraph 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:
The Australian parliamentary system obviously is operating, is sound and healthy and living in Canberra! The truth of the matter is that there was no constitutional crisis but there was a political crisis. It was resolved in the traditional way, in accordance with parliamentary practice both in this country and in the United Kingdom; there was an election and the people expressed their view on the matter very clearly- much too clearly for the Labor Party Opposition.
– Done like a dinner, as the honourable member for Swan said very perceptively This is a spurious amendment. Of course 1 will be voting against it. But it does say something about the Labor Party. It is the major aspect of attack that the Party could put forward. Their lack of understanding of the Government’s objectives has been evident from the distortion of policy in the speeches made by most Labor speakers, and I see one or two of them here now. I credit them with knowing more about the Government’s objectives than they disclosed in those speeches. I believe that they have a greater understanding than they indicated. There is some indication that they do not want to understand. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) spoke not long ago and presented an incredible distortion of a number of announcements relating to Government policies and objectives.
The Australian people know full well that expenditure in this country has to be cut, that the rate of increase has to be cut. The Public Service, in spite of appeals by the Labor Party, knows very well that its rapid rate of growth cannot go on.
In relation to their argument about the Government’s federalism policy, surely it would do many members of the Labor Party good to read the documents and to read what has been announced about that policy. There will be no double tax in the sense that the policy will increase tax. The Labor Party should be the last party to talk about increased taxes. It raised the level of tax in this country to an unprecedented height. There will be no disadvantage to the smaller States. That is mere wishful thinking by them. What is the purpose of the maintenance of the role of the Grants Commission? The aim of the policy relating to the Commission, and apparently the Labor Party finds it obnoxious, is to give greater decision making power to local communities and to the States. Surely that is an objective that we all ought to support. Can it really be claimed that in all areas of government the Federal Government administration is wiser and more efficient? One only has to make that statement to see that it would be an invalid claim. The aim of the Government is to achieve a reasonable balance and division of powers. There are some areas of government that are best run in Canberra. There are other areas that are better run in the States and others in local communities. The Government must aim to get a reasonable balance of powers and responsibilities. Obviously a good deal of sorting out will be necessary, but the need for better government in Australia and more local involvement needs to be worked at seriously and persistently.
Economic issues are of course the main concern of the country at present, and Australians know that. It has been many years since a government was elected with a mandate to make cuts and revision. I hope that the Government will continue to seek out areas, perhaps some where there are a few sacred cows, in an endeavour to get more efficiency. I hope that it will seek to place its priorities in of order and not believe that every claim, even a worthy one, necessarily has to be answered by spending more of the taxpayers ‘ money. There is a need for people to have a greater share of their own earnings to spend in their own way. It is not just a question of dollars and cents. The effect on the people is the important aspect because the economy of the country has an effect on every single person in our community. Whatever may have been Labor’s policies and objectives, whatever may have been the motives, their result is the greatest unemployment this country has ever seen, the highest interest rates, the most prolonged inflation rate and the greatest recession since the 1930s. This Government has a clear mandate to stop that because the people who suffered most were the weak. That is based on clear statements made by men engaged in welfare services in this country. The Liberal and National Country Parties need to build up the productive and employment capacity of this country for the greater benefit of every Australian. They need to build up the national cake in order that all may have a greater share.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– It is always a pleasure to follow the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) and I am certain that everybody in this House who listened to his speech was delighted to hear the common sense for which the honourable member is well known. This evening I want to draw the attention of the House to the Timor moratorium that is beginning to stalk the streets of this country. This stalking horse is from the same stable as the Vietnam moratorium which turned our streets into centres of violence and potential violence, where political power was exerted through sheer weight of an ostensible non-violence that was both aggressive and essentially corrupt. The Fretilin in East Timor have been effectively defeated for the time being. No Australian troops were involved. Therefore the new Timor moratorium will be denied the diet of fear, hatred and defeatism on which the Vietnam campaign flourished and it is unlikely to have the stamina or staying power of its Vietnam sire. However, it does represent another attempt on the part of communism in this country to take foreign policy decisions out of the hands of the properly elected Government and into the streets and the backrooms of the Left.
The moratorium is a straight out attempt to turn Australia into a convenient base for the Fretilin, which the Italian Communist Party’s official organ called a group of ‘Marxist oriented guerillas’, although in Australia there is a lot of naive pussyfooting and deliberate misrepresentation of this fact. Some Fretilin leaders have been touring Australia, doing the ritual stirring up on the Timor moratorium- a tactic which is always used by the communists and their friends, witting and unwitting. Three of these Fretilin are known to have been former left wing activists from Lisbon University and honourable members can be certain that they did not come here to tell us they have now all been converted to right wing conservatism and want to set up a Liberal Party in East Timor.
A number of new organisations supporting the Fretilin have mushroomed and by their fruits and their companions shall you all know them. The Campaign for an Independent East Timor is operated by a Communist Party member and journalist from the communist Tribune, Dennis Freney. In the various States it works from the offices of a number of communist led unions. In Newcastle it works under Mr Keith Wilson, a member of the Communist Party and Secretary of the local Trades and Labor Council. In my own State of Western Australia the Friends of East Timor organisation operates from the office of the left wing Millers and Mill Employees Federation in the Trades Hall. In Brisbane CIET operates from the offices of the President of the Building Workers Industrial Union, Mr Hugh Hamilton, who is also State President of the Communist Party of Australia. In South Australia support is being organised by Ron Barclay, State Secretary of the notorious Seamen’s Union of Australia, using the office of Action for World Development in Adelaide and this is significant for it points to a linking of a church organisation with the pro-communist Fretilin movement to which I will refer later.
The story is the same in each State and city where the pro-Fretilin organisation has been set up. It makes no attempt to hide itself and is openly under the wing of the communists. The Vietnam moratorium was a giant confidence trick in which some honourable members opposite were involved. It manipulated people into supporting propositions which they were warned were wrong and which were proven to be tragically wrong. The people of South Vietnam have not been given any rights to self determination. They have no chance of democracy. They are not a free people determining their own destiny. They are being brutally forced into subjection by the communists. The firing squads and the reeducation brigades are doing their work in the way they have mercilessly done it in other countries that have been allowed to fall under the yoke of communism.
The then Government of Australia- the Government whose remnants are now in Opposition and not too many of them are present tonight- connived in this subjugation of a free people. I quote from Geoffrey Fairbairn, writing in the Bulletin, when he last bade a tragic farewell to Saigon after Australia had left the South Vietnamese to their fate. He said:
I never knew an Australian government could be so infamous in this fashion . . .
This is Geoffrey Fairbairn talking about the people opposite when they were in power. He went on to say:
The Canberra Government denied me the right to grant human beings mercy . . . This is infamy. I choose the word carefully: Infamy.
The Vietnam moratorium and all who shared in it, whatever their motives, can shoulder the responsibility for the tragedy of Vietnam as surely as can the North Vietnamese troops. The same people in many instances and certainly the same type of people are now trying to turn public opinion in favour of the Fretilin- the communist force which being communist is inherently no different from every other communist movement that has done the job of subjugating any country to communism and all that means. The Fretilin is simply not a nationalist body with the support of most East Timorese aimed at East Timorese independence. The East Timor moratorium is simply not a spontaneous rising up of concerned Australians anxious to support a genuine independence movement in a small nation. It is a careful scheme organised by the Communist Party, communist and left wing led unions and student organisations, left wing aid agencies and a handful of hard core Fretilin activists in Australia. Is the picture not aU too familiar? It is designed not only to support the Fretilin and a communist takeover in East Timor, but also to embarrass this Government and weaken our ties with Indonesia.
Fretilin supporters argue that Indonesia, by acting in East Timor, bloodily suppressed the popular Fretilin movement to expand its own territories. But when the Portuguese organised a conference in Macao in June 1975 for the 3 major political groups in East Timor Fretilin refused to attend and attempted to seize unilateral power through a coup in late August 1975. A UDT attempt to stage a coup before that date to forestall Fretilin failed and civil war resulted. Fretilin declared unilateral independence for East Timor, which it calls the Democratic Republic of East Timor, on 28 November. It was not until 7 December that Indonesia intervened. Until then she had been prepared to let the
Timorese genuinely decide their own future, but it became obvious that under a government forced on them by Fretilin this would be impossible.
One final point that should be brought out here is the involvement of the churches in the pro-Fretilin campaign, particularly through the Action for World Development Program. Action for World Development is officially sponsored by both Protestant and Catholic churches. In addition leading officials associated with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, which includes official Protestant and Catholic Development Aid organisations, have played and are continuing to play a major part in the pro-Fretilin campaigns. These religious organisations draw their funds from their members’ donations- money given for welfare and humanitarian aid. Donors are entitled to believe that these funds are used in a completely non-political way, for their own political views would represent a very wide spectrum. Yet if these aid bodies are actively supporting pro-Fretilin campaigns their money is being used to promote a communist led movement aimed at subjecting a whole people and a country to communism. Just how non-political is this? Just how many people who give money and time to Action for World Development and to the Australian Council for Overseas Aid and its various component bodies know what is happening to the money they give? It is reasonable to ask: Just how long will the Protestant and Catholic churches continue officially to support aid bodies that are being used to finance a movement that is actively and demonstrably pro-communist and therefore the very antithesis of every single message that they preach?
– Hello, Mr Deputy Speaker. We have heard tonight -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Hunter has not received the call. I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
– I would like to echo the sentiments which my colleague the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) has in mind because Clyde Cameron said the other day of a speech by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) that it was the most reactionary speech he had ever heard in this Parliament in a period of 20 years. It would be easily rivalled by the riff-raff we have just heard from and it is a warning to the Liberal Party that the spokesman from the Democratic
Labor Party who come into the Liberal Partythe most extreme right wing group of this countrywill try to impose -
– I raise a point of order. I think that term ought to be withdrawn. I expected that the honourable member would have withdrawn it straight away.
– I had given the honourable member for Port Adelaide credit for using the word to describe the material of the speech, not the person who was making it.
– Of course. I do not know anything about the person apart from his political background. It is a warning, as I say, to the Liberal Party because the issue of foreign affairs was normalised by the efforts of the Australian Labor Party and by the efforts of the very courageous people who took to the streets in moratoriums during the time of the Vietnam war. If ever medals are struck for the people who did the right thing in this country over Vietnam they should be given to the people who fought the Government inside this Parliament and outside it. They were proved correct. Pete Seager wrote a song during the Vietnam War when the Americans were bombing the towns of that country. In that song the question was asked ‘How do we tell the enemy?’ And the reply was ‘We don’t know, just blow them all up’. That epitomises the views and stupidity of honourable members opposite who continue to say that we have to classify all the people of our region as one group. As the honourable member for Swan said, they are no different from any other communist movement. Back we go to the arguments that were put in the mad 1950s and 1960s with respect to foreign affairs- that we should look upon all the people of Indo-China, Asia and other parts of the world as one movement, and anyone who becomes associated with them, whether they be Catholic, Protestant, members of the Communist Party or any other group is to be damned in the same way.
Who has been proved right in their attitude to this region? The Australian Labor Party, the Democratic Labor Party or the National Civic Council? Honourable members should ask themselves that question. We have ambassadors now in those countries, not troops. We now talk to those people in Canberra nation to nation, not gun to gun. These people are human beings. They are in charge of their own affairs. They are determined to see that outside countries are not able to influence what happens in their countries. In 1905 when all the imperialist countries met in Shanghai to divide up China the only country that was not present to discuss what was to happen to the future of China was China herself. All those observing the internal politics of China predicted to the outside world, as was indicated hi Edgar Snow’s book Red Star Over China, what would happen. But those who clung to the old conservative attitudes said: ‘No, we can win this war with guns. If we just kill a few more million Chinese we can win this war’.
What happened in 1949? Who took control of China? The people did. The people determined what would happen. They are still very much in control. Despite 23 years of obstinacy by the previous Government with an absolutely stupid foreign affairs policy, Australia now has an ambassador in Peking. We have great trade links with China. We have almost daily discussions with the Chinese Government. Australia no longer persists with a stupid policy of ignoring the 800 million people of China. The Liberal and Country Parties tried to convince the people of Australia that there would be a continuous threat to us from the north and that we had to do all in our power to kill as many people to the north of Australia as possible to prove a political point; that if we did not kill them up there they would come down here and kill us. Who has been proved right? Has it been the people who marched down Bourke Street, George Street and King William Street, or the National Civic Council?
The Labor Party has proved time and again that it is better to normalise relations with other governments. What government a country has is to be determined by the people of that country. When government supporters will ever learn this lesson is beyond me. Repeatedly in this century we have seen people in other countries throw out people who have been trying to control those countries from outside sources. This is a simple exercise. One needs only to look at the countries of Indo-China- at Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Who is running those countries? I ask Government supporters to have regard to the circumstances in which we now meet the people of those countries. Yet Government supporters still say that they all belong to the one great communist takeover.
– I never said that; you say it.
-Government supporters were still saying it when Richard Nixon announced that he was going to China and when, on about ten or eleven occasions, Kissinger was going there to build better relations between the USA and China. Such comments were made in 1917 when the people of the Soviet Union made their decision. Government supporters still cannot learn. They think we are going back to the 1 8th century to start the Industrial Revolution again when all we wanted from Asia, Latin America and Africa was cheap labour. That is one reason for Government supporters saying to the Australian cricketers: ‘By all means go to South Africa. We do not want to do anything that would threaten the regime in South Africa’. The South African Government is rotten and corrupt. It exploits the black working people of South Africa. This Australian Goverment continues to support it. It has brought into this House another spokesman, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr), who clings to the attitudes of the National Civic Council and the Democratic Labor Party.
Such attitudes cannot be justified and will not be accepted. This is a different world and it is about time the honourable member for Swan read something other than News Weekly. He would find that there are other attitudes in Australia other views which are now acceptable to the people of our region. The Australian Labor Party will be dealt with generously by history for the way it built relations with other countries between 1972 and 1975. The honourable member suggests we should adopt a different attitude to the people to our north. He made this suggestion on the very day that the Government he supports brought before this Parliament a most disgusting statement in which it told the young people of Australia that if they could not find a job they should leave their homes and go to other districts where there might be jobs. On the very day the honourable member raised the question of the people of Asia his Government brought into this Parliament a statement on employment, a statement nothing short of disgusting. In it the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) suggested that a person should be required to take one and a half hours to get to work and one and a half hours to return home from it. He said that if a person was not prepared to do so he would not be paid unemployment benefits. He said that where parents could keep their young children the government would not pay them unemployment benefits.
The attitude of the Government is that the young unemployed should leave their homes. This is crass stupidity. These people are human beings and the Government should legislate for people and not for stupid points of view which it puts on behalf of some of its mates outside the Parliament. The views of the Labor Party have been correct in the past and they will be correct in the future. If we are living in a society which we all accept will from time to time have large numbers of unemployed we should not be in this place saying that we will kick the dole bludgers. What about the business cheats? Who are the greatest criminals- someone who may get $37 a week to which he might not be entitled or the Bartons, who were members of the Liberal Party and who have taken $62m to Uruguay or some other country? If we are to build this country we must have full employment but Government supporters know as well as I do that in August we will see the greatest escalation of unemployment in this country since the Depression. This is not guessing.
This evening the honourable member for Swan suggests that what we must do is crush Fretilin in Timor. The people of Timor will determine what happens in that country despite the aberration of the Indonesian invasion. That situation will not last and the people of Timor will decide the issue. If they want to support Fretilin and the majority of Fretilin members happen to be members of the Communist Party that is the business of the peope of Timor. If the honourable member for Swan wants to belong to the DLP that is his business. He can belong to it and can express whatever views he likes, but I warn members of the Liberal Party opposite to beware of the extremist right wing reactionary views that are being expressed under the cloak of the Liberal Party.
-It has sickened me to come into this chamber and to hear not only the many unjustified attacks on the actions of the Governor-General last November but also numerous vitriolic and cowardly attacks on the very character of the man himself. The Opposition has attempted to annihilate the good name, reputation and integrity of a man who was an adornment to the Bar of New South Wales, one of the greatest Chief Justices that State ever produced and a man described by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) when he chose him as Governor-General as one of the finest of all Australians. I know of no one who has been vilified more. To hear repeated, unjustifiable attacks on this great Australian thoroughly disgusts me. If he was an ordinary member of the Australian public, free to speak for himself, free to have recourse to the laws on defamation, not one of the cowards who now attack him under parliamentary privilege would utter a word.
At varying times he has been called a liar, an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, a conspirator and a person who was recreant to a solemn oath. Only yesterday he was described as downright deceitful. He was further denigrated by direct insults to the effect that he was more intent on safeguarding his own future than on exercising his constitutional powers. Further slurs have been heaped on him from time to time, comparing him to some latter day Hitler. I have heard some of the foulest utterances thrown at him, even casting aspersions at his manhood. I was delighted to hear the Chief Justice of New South Wales give the lie to reports that he advised the Governor-General against his proposed actions in November. The GovernorGeneral, this great Australian, should be released forthwith from any convention that demands his silence. I for one, as a member of the Australian Government, exhort and implore him to break his silence and to tell the Australian people exactly his reasoning and his motives in dismissing the worst government since Federation. When he sets the record straight good men and true who have been hoodwinked by these malodorous statements will bow their heads in shame. The attempt to destroy him came after he showed the Opposition he was no Charlie McCarthy but his own man, sworn to uphold the Constitution, which he did. History will applaud this man.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.52 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 Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Visit to Europe by the Governor-General (Question No. 31)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Official engagements were held on 24, 28 and 29 December 1975; 2, 14, 16, 23-29 January and 2 February 1976.
The visit was planned, when the former Government was in office, to take place during November/December 1975. The former Prime Minister had approved the use of a RAAF BAC 1 1 1 on the basis of visits to Canada, Britain, Ireland, Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium and France. At that time arrangements were in hand for eight officials to accompany the Governor-General and Lady Kerr.
For his recently completed visit the Governor-General was accompanied throughout by Her Excellency Lady Kerr and five officials and by the Official Secretary for the period 22 January to 3 February 1976.
Costs of the visit have not yet been finalised.
Overseas Visits by Governor-General (Question No. 32)
asked the Prime Minister upon notice:
How many days or parts of days has the GovernorGeneral spent overseas on official visits since 27 February 1974.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Twenty-three days as Governor-General designate; 80 days as Governor-General.
I am informed that all absences had the approval of the former Prime Minister. Approval for the latest visit was confirmed by me.
See also my answer to Question No. 3 1 .
Official Engagements of the Governor-General (Question No. 33)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has the Governor-General, in the course of his official duties, had occasion to receive (a) Mr Rupert Murdoch and ( b) the Chief Justice; if so, is he able to say on what dates.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Governor-General regularly publishes information in the daily press in relation to official calls made on him at Government House.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Works may be changed and returned to the National Collection or transferred to other official establishments or posts, usually as the incumbents of the establishments or posts change.
Works of art available for loan from the National Collection are acquired and lent on the recommendation of the Director, Australian National Gallery, with the approval of the Interim Council of the Australian National Gallery.
The following works were lent to Government House between 1 1 July 1974 and 29 April 1975:
Les Blakebrough: Five pieces
Three bark paintings
A number of paintings were lent to Government House on 10 July 1974 to replace paintings lent to the former Governor-General and returned by him shortly before relinquishing office.
The following works have been lent to Government House since 29 April 1975.
Two untitled works
St Francis and St Clare
St Francis Turning Away
Late Hour Monaro
Death of Sergeant Kennedy at Stringybark Creek
Figure with Black Can
Unicorn and Figure in a Tree
North Queensland Landscape
Low Tide Geraldtown
Plane over Dunlop
Woman with Parasol
Ship at Sea in Storm
Long Reef in a Storm
Still Life with Fresco
The following work has been lent to Admiralty House since29April 1975
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Overseas Investment in Australia (Question No. 77)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the current foreign owned content of (a) mining industries and (b) manufacturing industries, including portfolio investment in each case.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the case of mining industries, direct foreign ownership was estimated at 38.4 per cent and other identified foreign ownership (including known foreign portfolio investment) at 1 1.2 per cent. Foreign control of mining industries was estimated at 57.2 per cent.
In the case of manufacturing industries, the Bureau is undertaking a study of foreign participation in manufacturing but has not published statistics on the overall level of foreign ownership. However, statistics have been published relating to foreign control in the largest 200 enterprise groups. In 1972-73, the largest 200 enterprise groups accounted for 5 1 per cent of the value added of all manufacturing industry. Of the 200 groups, 87 were classified as foreign controlled and these accounted for 45 per cent of the value added of the 200 largest groups and 23 per cent of the value added of all manufacturing industry.
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
The Wayside Chapel was approved for a grant under the Grants to Community Agencies Scheme on 27 February 1969. Under this Scheme, now administered by the Department of Social Security, a voluntary welfare agency may, if it meets certain criteria, be given a direct grant for the employment of a social worker to work among immigrants. The grant covers the salary of the social worker and ancillary costs. The grant social worker position was occupied from 30 May 1969 to 18 September 1970, from 1 May 1972 to 9 May 1974, and from16 May 1974 to 20 December 1974 and payments were made for these periods. The grant was withdrawn as from 21 December 1974, since assessment of the operation of the grant showed that the agency had ceased to meet the criteria of the Scheme. Details of payments made accordingly under the Scheme over the last 5 financial years are-
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Travelling Post Office Service (Question No. 87)
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, on notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Notwithstanding this attitude and representations from country residents and organisations, the Public Transport Commission indicated that it did not wish to continue the TPO service and asked that alternative mail sorting and distribution arrangements be developed. This has been done and, apart from the continued use of rail to serve the larger centres, the alternative mail distribution arrangements required can be met by extending or deviating existing road mail services and, in some cases, by introducing additional services. Such alternative arrangements would provide a satisfactory service to each locality.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
What are the reasons for the alteration in the procedures on the release and public scrutiny of Industries Assistance Commission reports.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government does not consider that the previous procedures leading to decisions on Industries Assistance Commission reports dealing with long-term assistance were satisfactory. These procedures involved time being allowed after the receipt of the report for the report to be printed and released for comment by interested parties.
This usually involved a period of at least2½ months before the Government was able to proceed with its consideration of the Commission’s recommendations and representations from interested parties. In the Government’s view the time taken for the whole operation was far too long.
The Government’s new procedure provides that all Commission’s reports dealing with long-term assistance matters will be released in draft form by the Commission, not just some as in the past. Consultation by interested parties with Ministers and departments may then take place at the same time as these interests are presenting their views to the Commission.
On receipt of the Commission’s final report departments now have a maximum of one month in which to finalise their advice to the Government before the Government proceeds to make its decision.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760323_reps_30_hor98/>.