30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred, Mr Brown, Mr Falconer, Mr Fisher and Mr Garrick.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Commonwealth Government to reduce the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $21m and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ellicott, Mr Howard, Mr Cohen and Mr Falconer.
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 whereas the Democratic control of organisations registered under the Counciliation and Arbitration Act is essential to a sound system of industrial relations.
And whereas Democratic control can only be guaranteed by the opportunity for all rank and file members of organisations to vote in elections for all officials and all Committees of Management and whereas some forces within the Trade Union Movement are attempting to deny rank and file members the right to vote in all Union elections;
Your petitioners humbly pray, that the members in Parliament assembled will take steps to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fife, Mr Fry, Mr Les Johnson and Mr Keating.
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 Uren, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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 Les Johnson, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Morris.
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 there have been drastic cuts in the NEAT programme which have caused significant hardships to many individuals employed under the programme.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House reconsider the changes that have been made and institute the allowances at their previous rates.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Brown and Mr Willis.
To the honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Latrobe and other electorates in Australia respectfully showeth:
That almost insurmountable financial barriers to further study have been created for students under the National Employment and Training System, as a result of changes to the said system.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that students under the NEAT Scheme be allowed to earn sufficient money to maintain a reasonable basic standard of living and that this be done by revoking the $6.00 per week earning allowance.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrBaillieu.
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 Carige.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the possibility that cuts in Government expenditure will adversely affect the operations of the Australian Assistance Plan.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government endorse the continuation of the Australian Assistance Plan as a long-term program to be implemented on a regional basis throughout the nation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Carige.
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. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by 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 new Government during the recent election campaign, promised lower taxation and more money in people’s pockets.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to prevent the introduction of Television and Radio licence fees, the imposition of a tax levy for Medibank and the introduction of higher charges for drugs dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that public schools in the inner city area of Sydney are in desperate need of special grants and provisions, viz., the maintenance of current expenditure, the allocation of smaller classes, the absorption of unemployed teachers, the provision of more specialist teachers such as bi-lingual and remedial teachers, the provision of special grants for disadvantaged schools, the provision of cash grants for aid and equipment and the implementation of building programs to improve the deplorable conditions in these schools.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to ensure that grants to underprivileged schools in the Sydney inner city area are retained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
There is 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 program of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sainsbury.
- Mr Speaker, I inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, left Australia on 2 May to attend the fourth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which is being held in Nairobi. He is expected to return on 12 May. In his absence the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-I give notice that on Thursday next, General Business day No. 2,I shall move:
That this House notes the statement made by Henry John Fischer, which makes against the Leader of the Opposition the most serious charges which have ever been credibly levelled against any Member of this Parliament.
It notes that these allegations include:
The negotiating with Iraqi organisations which sponsor terrorism for the obtaining of large sums of money to be used to further the purposes of his Party, the Australian Labor Party, at elections.
The acceptance from Iraqi agents of a packet said to contain half a million dollars.
The discussion with the Iraqi emissaries, at the time of the receipt of the package, of the propositions that, if elected as Prime Minister, he would assure that Australian policy in the Middle East was changed, and that he would pass on to their organisation special information about the Middle East policies of the United States, Israel and other nations.
The promise of further Iraqi moneys for ALP purposes, amounting to another half million dollars, on certain conditions.
The House further notes that, although these allegations are not yet fully proved, they are made credible by established facts, including the following:
The Leader of the Opposition was concerned in negotiations for Iraqi money for ALP electoral purposes.
The ALP was put in substantial financial difficulties after the last election campaign by reason of the nonreceipt of all expected moneys from whatever sources.
Mr Fischer, the maker of the above allegations, was closely concerned in financial negotiations between the Iraqis and the ALP.
Mr Fischer was sufficiently intimate with the Leader of the Opposition to be his host and to be present at the critical breakfast meeting when Mr Fischer states that the packet was handed over to the Leader of the Opposition.
The Leader of the Opposition’s own versions of these matters, as reported in the Press, exhibit evasion and implausibility.
This House therefore expresses the hope that, if the Leader of the Opposition believes himself to be innocent of these charges, he will take prompt steps to call for the setting up of an effective tribunal, with full powers to probe them all and to clear his name.
– My question to the Prime Minister is in the same terms as those asked him by the honourable member for Barton on 8 April and the honourable member for Evans on April Fools Day itself. Can he say whether he intends to take part in the next New South Wales election?
-I would not have thought that the honourable gentleman could get a great deal of consolation out of the events of last Saturday, because he was told by the Leader of his Party m that State- the verdict in this election is by no means certain yet- that he must stay out of the election campaign and out of New South Wales. I suppose we have to give some credit to Mr Wran because he was largely successful, other than for one or two aberrations, in keeping the Leader of the Opposition out of New South Wales. There is no doubt that if the honourable gentleman had appeared more often or been more evident and had more breakfasts at Blues Point Towers in New South Wales, he certainly would have done his partner’s cause considerable damage.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Resources. I refer to the announcement at the weekend of agreement to raise the Australian interest in the Nebo coal project to 55 per cent. When are this and other coal projects in Queensland likely to proceed now that the Commonwealth and the companies concerned have resolved the equity question? Is the Minister aware of the impact which the coal export levy will have on the prospects for these projects getting under way? Will he do all he can to persuade the Government to abolish the levy in the next Budget?
-The Nebo project is one of 3 major coal projects in the central Queensland Bowen Basin area. I am very pleased to say that all 3 projects have now had clearance from the Commonwealth Government to proceed with construction or with feasibility studies prior to the construction stage. The Government’s policy has been that we should allow Australians to have the opportunity to participate in these projects. Our policy has provided for a minimum of 50 per cent Australian ownership except in regard to uranium. In respect of these 3 projects we have been able to reach agreement with the company concerned for 55 per cent Australian ownership in the case of Nebo and Norwich Park, and 60 per cent Australian ownership in the case of Hail Creek. I think that everybody welcomes this arrangement.
The important thing is that Australian companies which wish to participate have the opportunity to do so. I have been able to achieve this position in the relatively short time since this Government came to office. The 3 projects will cost in the vicinity of $l,500m, and when all come into production they will supply about 13 million tonnes of coal a year. One can see from these figures that the operations will be of great dimension. It is hoped that the feasibility studies in respect of Nebo and Hail Creek prove correct because both projects will be able to share infrastructure arrangements. Both projects ought to be able to commence construction in about a year’s time. The infrastructure work has already largely been done in respect of Norwich Park and that company can proceed at any time although it has to conclude arrangements with the Queensland Government.
The export coal levy is a matter on which we have expressed our view many times. We have said that we do not like it. This levy which has been inherited from the previous Labor Government has done a great deal of harm to the coal industry across Australia. We have said repeatedly that it is built into the financial structure of this year’s Budget. We will look at it when we are examining the whole Budget situation. I have had many requests in respect of the levy from different sections of the coal industry, particularly the soft coking coal and the steaming coal sections and I have said that I will undertake a review of the situation so that the Government will have full information before it to enable it to examine this question at Budget time.
– I address my question to the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Department of Transport is cooperating and working with the New South Wales Government with a view to establishing a second major airport in the metropolis of Sydney? Is it a fact that 4 sites are under consideration, namely, the Holsworthy Army area east of Glenfield and Ingleburn; an area west of Liverpool in the Rossmore-Borengeli area; the Rouse Hill region east of Riverstone; and Marsden Park, west of Riverstone? Is it a fact that the site east of Glenfield and Ingleburn is on the shortlist?
– The answers to the first 2 parts of the question are yes and yes. I will have to check the accuracy of the specific sites mentioned by the honourable member. I will have to supply the honourable member with information as to the site east of Glenfield and Ingleburn. The situation, as everybody in this House knows, is that the air traffic problems of Sydney have been mounting almost month by month. No solution to the problem has been found. I have been in consultation with the State Government on the matter. If events this week prove to be satisfactory, no doubt those consultations will continue in the usual satisfactory way. I cannot be sure that the alternative Government of New South Wales will consult, as has been the practice of the present Willis Government. That question is hypothetical and there may not need to be any more thought about it. Needless to say, consideration is being given to what we need to do in Sydney. I hope to be in a position to take a paper to the Government after the consultation or studies with the State Government are concluded in the few months ahead.
-I ask the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs a non-party-political question. I base my question on a conversation I had over the weekend with the father of one of the Australian journalists killed in Timor. I am told that he and other parents are being deeply distressed and hurt by the continued publicity appearing, and the cheap politicking taking place about this human tragedy. I ask the Minister to use whatever influence or persuasion he has with politicians of all parties, and also the media, through whatever ethics committee the media have, to limit public discussion and comment on this matter to occasions when the true national interest demand them.
-I commend the honourable member for the question for in a discussion on issues that affect Australia as a nation and its relationships with other countries in the region, it is important that those who have suffered because of the tragic deaths of their loved ones should not be more deeply grieved than circumstances require. It is true that as a result of the deaths last October there have been, unfortunately, in this House and at many political meetings in Australia discussions which have canvassed the fate of those journalists in a way which must have brought suffering to their relatives. Like the honourable member, I have had contact with some of those affected in that way. I share with him a feeling that they should not have in any way any additional suffering because of the publicity that appears. I trust that members from both sides of the House and persons outside the chamber will take note of the admonition implicit in the honourable member’s question.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the fact that Edgells Ltd is applying purchase quotas to dairy farmers who are also potato growers on the north-west coast area of Tasmania for whom potatoes are an important source of off-season income, but not to the property ‘Kindred Downs’ whose owner has a regular high income? If this is so, what action can the Government take to ensure that all growers have equal opportunity to sell their production to Edgells?
– I am constantly amazed at the rather rare occasions on which, and the unusual circumstances in which, questions pertaining to agriculture emanate from the Australian Labor Party. In this instance there is another fascinating aspect of the question, for one of the few agricultural products which at the moment seems to be selling fairly well is potatoes, to which the honourable gentleman’s question referred. Obviously I have no knowledge of the particular circumstances, nor can I pronounce on or know the property or the property owner referred to in the question. I can assure the honourable gentleman that it is of concern to the Government that there be reasonable stability in the incomes of vegetable growers, including those potato growers of northern Tasmania. I hope that the concern which the honourable member has expressed with respect to their income from vegetable growing might extend to their overall economic circumstances, for many growers in that area are subjected to an extraordinary drop in income to far below average weekly earnings, simply because of the crisis in the dairy industry. As a result, I hope that henceforth, when consideration is given to matters pertaining to assistance to the rural community, particularly to farmers who are grievously affected because of the decline in their incomes, honourable members opposite will lend their support.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. I ask: What progress has been made in establishing a rural bank as outlined in the joint election policy of the Liberal and National Country parties? Can the Treasurer indicate when it will be introduced?
– The matter of a national rural bank was the subject of discussions between my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry, the trading banks and me on 11 February. As a consequence of that meeting a working party of officials of government and the trading banks has been established. As soon as information is available to the Government from the study of that working party I will contact the honourable gentleman to provide what detailed information can be made available.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Resources, relates to the level of Australian equity in uranium. I preface it by referring to Professor John’s warning in his submission to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. He said:
If foreign owned mining companies determine the extent of local equity and the timing of share issues to the public there is likely to be little economic benefit, indeed, there may be positive disadvantages.
I ask: Is it a fact that the Jabiluka uranium deposit is 52 per cent Australian owned? Is it a fact that the Getty Oil Co. will have to divest its 35 per cent ownership- the cost of this stake is $35m- if Pan-Continental Mining is to meet the Government ‘s criterion of 75 per cent Australian equity? What action does the Government intend to take to guarantee Australian shareholders that their deposit will be developed if the Getty Oil Co. refuses to cash in its shares?
– In a statement to the House on foreign equity in Australian resources the Treasurer made special reference to uranium and the requirement that there be 75 per cent Australian ownership. This will have an impact on three of our possible uranium development projects. I say ‘possible’ because it all depends upon the environmental inquiry which is being conducted at the moment. The particular company to which the honourable gentleman referred has had consultations with me and with the Treasurer. We have explained the guideline rules to the company. The company believes that it can adjust its equity situation to meet the guideline rules. In this case I do not see any reason why Australian shareholders should be fearful that the project will not proceed because of that condition.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. He is doubtless aware that the Australian Olympic Federation is to decide in the next few weeks on the anthem or song for the Montreal Olympic Games. Is the Prime Minister aware of reports that the Australian Olympic Federation favours Waltzing Matilda! Is it also the Prime Minister’s choice? If so, is the right honourable gentleman in favour of both the tune and the words?
– I have seen reports in the Press this morning concerning the choice of the Australian Olympic Federation for the tune, song or anthem to be played at Montreal. Let me put this matter into perspective. I think that honourable gentlemen now understand that the Government hopes that, through the process of natural selection and choice, an Australian national song which is preferred will emerge. God Save the Queen will be used on royal or vice regal occasions and on such other purely Australian occasions when the organisers of the function wish it to be played. As honourable gentlemen will recall, considerable embarrassment was caused on a. number of previous occasions when, by, I understand, the direction of the former Prime Minister, Service bands were specifically prevented from playing God Save the Queen when the organisers of the functions wanted them to do so. That directive has certainly been removed.
So far as the Olympic Games are concerned, I certainly agree that a purely Australian song ought to be played on such occasions. I am advised that the United Kingdom does not play God Save the Queen on such occasions because there are 3 kingdoms that make up the United Kingdom- England, Scotland and Wales- and they all play their own national songs during the Olympic Games. If that is to happen in regard to Scotland and Wales I certainly think it ought to happen in regard to Australia.
– Wales is not a separate kingdom, and never has been.
– Well, it is a principality, or whatever. Anyway, I think the honourable gentleman would understand what is being said. I hope so. I had some discussion with my colleagues in the Government this morning on this matter of what ought to be most suitable as a national song, as opposed to a national anthem, for Australia. It is the very strong view of the Government that it would be a good thing if the Australian Olympic Federation chose Waltzing Matilda for Montreal. I might add that it would not be the first time this had happened. It happened in 1952 at Helsinki, although I am advised that on that occasion it was not by an act of choice; nevertheless, it was played on that occasion. There are some who think that the words of Waltzing Matilda are not appropriate for a national song. But having in mind Australia’s origins I think the point made in an editorial in the Age this morning is well worth noting. It said that the words are not all that inappropriate. I am not sure that the words are any more inappropriate than the words of Advance Australia Fair. In the second verse of Advance Australia Fair we find these brave words: ‘Britannia rules the wave’. I tend to have some doubt as to whether that is an appropriate line for Australia’s national song. It would seem to me a little outdated and not entirely in keeping with the national sentiments which I hope are held by most Australians.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. By way of preface I refer to what I said in the adjournment debate on Thursday night of which I asked the Minister’s private secretary to take note and apprise the Minister accordingly. I now ask the Minister Is it a fact that in the Federated Clerks Union elections in Victoria in previous years, conducted by the Industrial Registrar, the candidates for office were supplied with copies of the electoral roll? Is it a fact that when one of the candidates recently lodged his nomination with the Electoral Office in Melbourne he was told in the presence of witnesses that the candidates would again be supplied with copies of the electoral roll? Is it also a fact that in spite of this candidates will not now be supplied with copies of the electoral roll by the Electoral Office? If this is a fact, what steps does the Minister intend taking to ensure that the practices of previous years are complied with in the forthcoming election?
-The honourable gentleman’s speech during an adjournment debate last week was brought to my attention. He made certain allegations regarding elections currently being conducted in the Federated Clerks Union by the Australian Electoral Officer for Victoria. He made the allegations that he has repeated here this afternoon. The elections for officers in the
Victorian Branch of this union and for the Federal councillors from that branch are being conducted by the Electoral Office at the request of the Victorian State Executive and the Federal Executive of the union. They are being conducted in accordance with section 170 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Industrial Registrar, who approved the section 170 application, asked the Electoral Officer to conduct the ballot on his behalf. I think it would be useful to the House if I were to quote part of section 170a of the Act, because it is relevant to what the honourable member has asked.
Section 170a (1) states: a person conducting an election . . . may . . . take such action and give such directions as he considers necessary in order to ensure that no irregularities occur in . . . the election. . .
Such a person- in this instance the Australian Electoral Officer in Victoria- is in sole charge of the election and there is no way that I or any other person can take any action to intrude into that person’s conduct of the election under section 170 of the Act. I am quite sure that the honourable gentleman, with his long experience in this field, is well aware of the legal position. But I am informed that if requests to examine the lists of members of this union are made in the proper way the lists will be made available. I understand that the original request was made- I am not sure whether it was made verbally- certainly in an informal manner before the rolls for the election were fully prepared. I am informed that the rolls for the election are now prepared and that if a formal request is made they will be made available.
-Is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware that Australia’s last ophthalmic manufacturing businessthat of the Martin Wells company- is about to close down? Does the Minister know that some 400 people employed directly by the company will lose their jobs and that some 2000 indirectly employed also will lose their jobs? Will the Minister tell this House what course of action he proposes to take to ensure that this does not happen? Does the Minister know that the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission were known for some time prior to 20 February 1976? Has the Minister been informed of the New Zealand situation in which a local ophthalmic company has been increasing its plant size to accommodate the proposed increase in sales to the Australian market? Will the Minister consider changing the name of the LAC, the Industries Assistance Commission, to a name more in keeping with its actual role, namely the IDC, the Industries Destruction Commission?
-I think the honourable gentleman’s question relates to a report in one of the Sunday newspapers which reported some comments made by a Mr Sinclair of the Martin Wells company to the effect that if the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission were accepted some 400 people would be retrenched from the company and that effectively would close the company’s operation as the only maker of spectacle frames in Australia. The report of the Industries Assistance Commission was received by the Government several weeks ago. It is presently under very active consideration by the Government, and very soon I hope to present a Cabinet submission recommending a course of action on the report. I can assure the honourable gentleman that the Government will have very much in mind the employment consequences of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission and also the desirability of maintaining, as far as possible, viable Australian industries.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral checked whether the original or another copy of the document which Senator Townley quoted in part last Wednesday and which thereupon was tabled by order of the Senate was one of the attachments to the police report which he himself received in the weekend of 1 9 March and which, as he told the House on 25 March, he had decided he should not table? If it was, I ask: When and where did the original or any copy of the document first come into official hands and who was the official who received it? Which Ministers and members of Parliament other than the Attorney-General himself have subsequently had access to the original document or received or made copies of it?
– When I answered a question on this matter in this House some weeks ago I indicated that I would not comment upon the police report. That is still my attitude and I do not propose to comment on that report.
– You leak it to everybody.
-I would only say that Senator Townley has said that -
-Order! I believe I heard an interjection from the honourable member for
Melbourne which, if I heard correctly, he should withdraw. I ask him to withdraw the interjection.
– What do you want me to withdraw?
– I do not want to repeat it. I ask you to withdraw it.
– I do not know what you want me to withdraw.
-The honourable gentleman will bear the judgment of the House if he persists in that attitude. Will the honourable gentleman withdraw?
– I withdraw, but with due respect I do not know what I am withdrawing.
-Senator Townley has said that the document he tabled in the Senate did not come from any member of Parliament. A senator from New South Wales- Senator Sibraa- made an allegation that the document had come from me. He immediately withdrew that allegation. I issued a Press statement on, I think, Thursday to the effect that the document did not come from me.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. In view of the recent Press reports that the abolition of the Department of the Media has happened in name only, will the Minister advise the House what has happened to the staff of this Department, particularly to the senior officers, and how many of those officers have actually left the Public Service?
– The Department of the Media has been abolished. If I remember correctly, it was the policy of the then Opposition prior to the 1974 election that, in government, we would abolish the Department, as it was the policy of the Opposition prior to the last election. It was a very proper decision because, of course, the Department was both abused and misused by the former Government. The majority of the staff went across to the Department of Administrative Services. Of those who were with the broadcasting and television division- there were 100 positions- about sixty have had their positions abolished, leaving forty of them still with that particular division of my Department. If the honourable member wants details as regards the personalities involved he will have to put the question on notice.
-I address a question to the Attorney-General. Is the Attorney-General aware that the serious shortage of judges with the Family Court of Australia is slowing its proceedings very markedly? Is he not concerned that the Court cannot work to give people prompt help under the present conditions? Will he respond favourably to the many calls from legal practitioners for more judges and additional staff to be appointed so that what is basically fine legislation can be made to work as was intended?
-I am constantly in touch with the position in the Family Court of Australia and I am concerned, as I think most honourable members are concerned, at the fact that the number of applications for divorce filed this year is running at three to four times the comparative rate for last year. For instance, in the first 13 weeks of 1975 some 6261 applications for divorce were filed. In the first 13 weeks of this year 21 846 applications for divorce were filed. I anticipate the current number to be about 24 000. One explanation of this may be that there is a backlog of people who were waiting for the Family Law Act to come into force, but one would have thought that by this stage that rate would have declined somewhat. Honourable members will also be aware that the Family Law Act itself is under challenge in the High Court of Australia and that the decision of the High Court has been reserved and has not yet been handed down.
The question of the appointment of additional judges was referred to by me on Sunday in addressing the opening of a service called ‘ ‘Youthline’ at Parramatta. I indicated then that I proposed to bring recommendations before the Government very soon for the appointment of additional judges. Those judges would be in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and South Australia. It is proposed to bring into existence in Western Australia a State Family Court on 1 June next. That will be under an arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia. I can assure the honourable member and all other honourable members that the matter of additional judges is being kept constantly under review.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Press reports indicate that the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has instructed its solicitors to issue a High Court writ against the
Commonwealth concerning chemists ‘ remuneration for dispensing pharmaceutical benefits. Can the Minister provide to the House the terms of the Government’s offer?
-The Commonwealth Government made an offer to the Pharmacy Guild involving a payment of $ 15m, made up of payments of 5c for each prescription dispensed since 1 July 1973. The offer would have meant on average $3,000 per chemist throughout Australia. The decision was taken in very difficult economic circumstances and I can only express my disappointment that the Guild has taken the decision to refuse an offer made in good faith. This will prevent many chemists throughout Australia who may have wished to accept the offer from receiving any immediate payment. I understand that the decision was taken without a referendum and without the total knowledge of pharmacists throughout Australia. However, the Guild has now instructed its solicitors to issue a writ against the Commonwealth concerning chemists’ remuneration for the dispensing of pharmaceutical benefits.
-Will the Minister for National Resources inform the House whether he has had any official involvement with the Japanese proposal to set up a nuclear recycling plant in Australia? Does he, like the Premier of Western Australia, favour this proposal, or will he prevent the country from becoming a dump for nuclear waste until it is clear that there will be no threat to the environment or the health and safety of the Australian people?
-The first I knew of this proposal was a newspaper report which appeared, I think, last Friday. There has been no discussion of this matter with anybody in my Department, with any overseas interests, or with anybody. The whole question of Australia’s policy on the development of uranium or the processes of the nuclear cycle will depend largely upon the outcome of the present Ranger environmental inquiry.
-I ask the Minister for Defence: Is it a fact that under long-standing arrangements members of the Australian Army Reserve travelling to and from parades have been paid travelling allowance on a mileage basis? Has a decision been made to vary these arrangements from 1 July 1976 by removing the mileage basis and substituting a flat rate attendance allowance of $ 1.20? If so, will this disadvantage many existing members, particularly those in country areas where considerable distances are involved in travelling to parades? Is it likely to have the effect of reducing the existing number of Australian Army Reserve members and of inhibiting future recruitment to the Reserve?
– This is a matter that was examined by the Millar Committee which reported to the Minister and to the Parliament in 1974. The Millar Committee described the basis on which the administrative arrangements were made for assessing travel allowances as complex and recommended that that basis should be disturbed. It recommended in its place a flat rate of $1.20 per attendance at parades. That recommendation was considered by the steering committee of the Defence Conditions of Services Committee, which recommended against accepting the $1.20 for each parade attendance. Instead, it advanced the idea that there should be a differential on the basis of concentric circles of, say, 10 kilometres radius which would determine what the rate would be. The Defence Conditions of Services Committee in turn did not accept that recommendation. At a time when the Inspector-General of the Army Reserve, Major General J. M. L. MacDonald, recommended that the original proposal, namely, the differential, should be accepted, the government of the day- I offer no impeachment here at all- elected to accept the flat rate of $ 1 .20. Since that time the Chief of the General Staff, Major-General A. L. MacDonald, has taken the view that the present arrangement is not an equitable one. I am bound to say in simple candour that that is a view I take myself. The matter is currently under examination.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security seen reports that the Department of Social Security is enforcing more stringently the requirement that supporting mothers seek maintenance from the fathers of their offspring before receiving a supporting mother’s benefit? Does this not mean that the Family Law Courts will be required to set higher maintenance orders, with a resultant increase in both defaults and the costs to supporting mothers of enforcing maintenance orders? Does it also mean that supporting mothers will lose benefits crucial to their personal autonomy?
– I have seen the reports to which the honourable member refers. I will make inquiries of the Minister for Social Security and report the reply to the honourable member as soon as possible.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I refer to the review of the Cadet Corps and the Air Training Corps being carried out by the Minister and his department. Is the Minister aware of the sterling efforts by parents of boys in cadet and ATC units in keeping the units running on a voluntary basis? Is he further aware of the difficulty in maintaining the interest of many corps members because they do not have access to basic training aids such as training manuals? Can the Minister say when he will make a clear statement of the Government’s intentions with respect to the Cadet Corps and the Air Training Corps?
– I am aware of the matter to which the honourable member has referred. I am also aware of the interest he has shown in the issue. This issue has been far more difficult to resolve than was my previous anticipation, and for that I should apologise to the House and to the country, but I have not been able to resolve it before now. I will tell the House why. The Air Training Corps, to which the honourable gentleman refers, is made up of predominantly open units. There are some 94 open units not attached to any school which involve members of the ATC. There are some 21 units which are closed units. As against that, all the 320 Army Cadet units were closed units. On the other hand, some 43 naval cadet units were open units and two were closed units. I was seeking to devise a formula whereby there was a recognition of the Army cadet tradition which has long accompanied many great public schools and many great state schools and an effort to preserve that tradition and at the same time to give access to cadet units by people who were not in attendance at those schools. So far I have failed; but I am in the process of considering yet a fresh paper which has been put before me. Let me say that it is the Government’s clear commitment to restore the cadet system in some form or another. It is also the Government’s clear commitment to seek to save money wherever possible. It is my task to find an equipoise between the two. It is a job with which I am continuing to battle. I would hope that I would be able to put a statement before the House in the very near future.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications a question concerning the inquiries which he has asked public servants to make into the broadcasting system and also ethnic radio. I note that interested individuals and organisations have been invited by public advertisements to send written submissions to the former inquiry before the end of next month, and I appreciate that public servants traditionally deliberate in private and report to Ministers alone. Nevertheless, I ask: Will the written submissions be published in time for other interested individuals and organisations to make written submissions in turn upon them? Better still, will there be an opportunity for individuals to give their views in public, as has been the case with several inquiries conducted into the electronic media by a Senate standing committee and by the McLean inquiry and the Industries Assistance Commission under my Government, and will their reports be tabled and published, as were the reports by those bodies and the working party on public broadcasting and the Priorities Review Staff?
-It has been decided to have the sort of inquiry that has been instigated by the Government because the purpose of the inquiry is to look into the whole of the broadcasting system, particularly as it affects government and the relationships between all the components of the system such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the various sections of the commercial radio and television industry. The decision to hold the inquiry in this way was made to enable it to be held effectively, without a lot of grandstanding and without a lot of cost to the Australian taxpayers. There are within the Department of Post and Telecommunications competent people, people who are well skilled and who in some cases have had experience in the commercial area or the private industry. They are quite capable of conducting this inquiry and making submissions.
There is nothing secret about the inquiry. We have made it perfectly clear that those people who want to make their submissions public may do so. We equally have said that if somebody wants us to maintain confidentiality we will do so. In the case of those who make public contributions, if there is a need or desire to have a reaction to a submission, of course such a reaction would help. By conducting the inquiry in this way we hope that we will get all the submissions quickly. We sent out, I think, about 900 invitations to all people interested in this matter. We are trying to get the broadest cross-section of the community to tell us their views about it. We will have their views available to us, we hope, by about the end of June so that I can make a submission to the Government some time in the August-September period.
-Will the reports be published?
-A11 the reports?
-No, the 2 reports by the inquiry into the broadcasting system and the inquiry into ethnic radio.
-No decision has been taken. There will be a recommendation to the Government from me. In regard to ethnic radio, that is a completely separate inquiry which is now being conducted with a number of other departments. When the Department advises me as to the best possible system, I will make a recommendation to the Government and the Government will reach a decision and that will be announced.
– My question to the Attorney-Genera! relates to legal aid services. Is the Minister aware that fees due to many members of the legal profession for services rendered on behalf of the Australian legal aid offices are long overdue? Will the Minister assure the House that he will take action to speed up the payment of these outstanding debts?
– When this Government came to office and I took over the administration of the Australian Legal Aid Office I discovered that the previous Government had in effect set up the Australian Legal Office in such a way as to leave it without adequate administrative support, and had put it into premises which were not adequate. For instance, in most capital cities in Australia you will find that lawyers and others in a Legal Aid Office are sitting in open space on a single floor of a building. Those are not adequate premises in which to dispense legal aid because that requires a degree of confidence. I also found that there was insufficient support staff and that accounts were outstanding to some extent. Since then I have been concerned to bring these accounts up to date. Accounts were outstanding in Western Australia and, I gather, in Victoria and special steps are being taken to get the backlog under control. On Friday, last I was advised that the backlog in Victoria should be up to date in approximately 3 weeks time.
In those circumstances one can see that the legal aid services had not been adequately established by the previous Government. The House will recall that presently I am engaged in discussions with State Attorneys-General with a view to rationalising legal aid services throughout the Commonwealth, both in the States and in the Territories. Those discussions have been amicable to date with all States and I hope that soon they will produce a system of legal aid which will not allow this sort of deficiency, and the sorts of deficiencies I have referred to already, to continue.
- Mr Speaker, with the leave of the House may I add briefly to an answer I gave this afternoon?
-That indulgence is granted to the Prime Minister.
– I would like to add, as I ought to have done earlier this afternoon, that the reason the Government holds its present view concerning Australia’s national song and the music it regards as appropriate to it, Waltzing Matilda, is that eminently that music is recognised around the world as Australian and as depicting many of the best characteristics of this nation. It is instantly recognisable in each part of Australia. We do not believe that applies to any other tune or song. It also is one which moves the minds and hearts of many Australians in many different locations.
-During question time the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) asked the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) a question which referred to a writ which had been issued by pharmacists in Australia. An honourable member- I think it was the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford)- asked whether the question was out of order because of the sub judice rule. I would like to inform the House that the sub judice rule will not apply in civil actions merely because a writ has been issued. If the matter were set down for trial a different test would apply. I do not believe that the national Parliament can preclude itself from discussion of issues simply because a writ has been issued. As to the sub judice rule generally I will, of course, protect the interests of people coming to trial in criminal matters just as I will protect the interests of people bringing forward an action for trial in civil matters.
– Pursuant to clause 1 1 of the Sugar Agreement 1975 I present the annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ended 30 June 1975 together with the financial statement and the report of the Auditor-General on that statement.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on tourist accommodation industry- short-term assistance.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian Sports Institute Study Group dated November 1975.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974 1 present an agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to Tasmania for land acquisition for nature conservation purposes- Lavinia nature reserve, King Island, 1975-76.
Pursuant to section 82 of the Repatriation Act 1 920- 1 975 1 present the annual reports of the war pension entitlement appeals tribunals numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 for the year ended 30 June 1975.
-The Minister for Repatriation wishes to make a personal explanation?
Yes, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman claims to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Mr Speaker, during question time the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) directed a question to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) concerning a trading company known as Kindred Downs which operates on the north-west coast of Tasmania. He insinuated in his question that that company, that partnership, was receiving preferential treatment in obtaining contracts and /or quotas in relation to the supply of potatoes to the company Edgell Division of Petersville Ltd at Ulverstone. I am one of the partners of the partnership Kindred Downs. I make the point that it is an interest that I have declared to the Government.
I would like to make some points by way of explanation. First of all I would like to make a point about contracts. The contracts for potatoes were found in the ordinary way, without any seeking of preferential treatment, about June of last year if my memory serves me correctly. It was well before the present problems facing the dairying industry were apparent. The contracts were found in just the same way as any other grower on the coast would have found his contracts.
My second point relates to quotas. I am advised by Mr Dave Penman, the Manager of Edgell Division of Petersville Ltd, of Ulverstone, Tasmania, that no preferential treatment was given to anyone as regards the acceptance of potatoes. He said that the company was in fact looking for extra potatoes at this time. He said that as far as his records indicate no farmers had been refused a contract and that growers who had not supplied goods in the previous year had been taken on this year. However, bulk suppliers such as Kindred Downs did have their potatoes accepted earlier than the smaller growers who supplied bags of potatoes.
Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Bonython asked a mean and cheap question. It illustrates perfectly well -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will not now argue the matter.
– the poverty of the Opposition and the depths to which its members have now sunk.
-The honourable gentleman will not argue.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Financial Agreement Bill 1976. National Debt Sinking Fund Amendment Bill 1 976. Social Services Amendment Bill 1976. Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1976. Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1976. Wheat Export Charge Amendment Bill 1 976. Wheat Products Export Adjustment Amendment Bill 1976.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The urgency for the Australian Government to use all avenues available to it to bring about a genuine act of selfdetermination for the people of East Timor.
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)
-Mr Speaker, before this House is a matter of public importance, that the Australian Government should use . all avenues available to it to bring about a genuine act of self-determination for the people of East Timor. I stress the words: ‘should use all avenues available to it’. It is time Australia, and this Government in particular, got moving in all the possible ways open to it, and stood for the rights of the people of East Timor to determine their own future.
I do not want to turn this urgent and tragic situation into a party political wrangle in this House. I want to make sure that Australia as a nation takes the honourable and proper stand, and that this stand is based on all possible information available to us. There seem to have been doubts in the minds of some people that the East Timorese should have any right to selfdetermination. It would seem that in some high corridors of power in the Foreign Affairs Department it has decided for these two-thirds of a million people that they should be incorporated into the vast nation of Indonesia, a nation of more than 3000 islands and 130 million people. It would seem that this decision cuts right across the principles that Australia has stood for since we have been speaking in world forums. Most importantly, it cuts across what now is becoming increasingly clear- the aspirations and the welfare of the East Timorese.
There has been some effort to create the impression that the East Timorese are just a small group, much the same as the vast majority of Indonesians. This is not the case. The East Timorese have a unique ethnic identity. Their culture and their language are different from the people around them, and certainly very different from the military men who come from Jakarta to defeat and rule them. They have had 400 years of Portuguese colonial rule. From this, there have been some beneficial and some harmful effects, but one major effect is that the East Timorese have been drawn into the Christian faith. Indeed, many of the maligned Fretilin leaders are active members of the Catholic Church. Indonesia is a Moslem country, and the relationship between Jakarta leadership and the Christian communities in Indonesia has not been a happy one.
There is another reason why Australia should especially recognise the identity and the plight of the East Timorese. That is the moral debt that we owe these people for their assistance to Australian troops in the Second World War. I served in Timor and was taken prisoner there on the western end of the island. On that end, there were cases of the local people turning over Australian soldiers to the Japanese. But this was not the case in East Timor. The East Timorese protected our troops. Many suffered and died because of the loyalty and assistance they gave to the Australians. I ask the House to think about this: During the Japanese occupation of East Timor in the Second World War, 50 000 East Timorese were killed. This number is twice the number of Australians killed in all theatres in the Second World War. The Mombai people of the mountains of East Timor were extremely loyal to the Australians during the war. These very same people are strong supporters of the Fretilin and other independence fighters who have moved into the mountains to escape the Indonesian invaders. I do not think there would be many Australian returned servicemen who would like to explain to the Mombai people the Australian performance on East Timor. Australia is now in a position in which it is engaged in a shoddy regional political exercise at the expense of its principles. Australia is in the process of betraying a country and a people to whom it owes a considerable debt. And why? Because of some phony excuse of the worst type of expedient diplomacy.
The Australian people will have to bear part of the responsibility for the recent and imminent tragedy in East Timor, because a silent group of Foreign Affairs officials has skillfully sought to protect their own pet project of a certain kind of relationship with the Suharto Government of Indonesia. I cannot accept the proposition that Australia’s relationship with the Indonesian people will be destroyed if we make a moral stand on the rights of the East Timorese people for independence. After all, the basis of our bond to all Indonesians is our support for them during their own independence struggle. The only basis for long term relationships in the region is one of honour and integrity, not devious compliance with a situation that has already produced suffering of horrifying proportion and that is likely to lead to further wholesale violence over a protracted period of struggle by the East Timor independence forces.
We cannot turn our backs on the violence at our doorstep. The Timorese demonstrated in the Second World War that they will not give up the struggle easily. The Australian people have had some difficulty in obtaining an understanding of the issues involved in the East Timor situation and in obtaining the facts about the tragic events that have occurred there, particularly since September of last year. As information starts trickling through, and questions are raised, the people of this country are beginning to wonder what really has been going on there. What can be so important about Australia’s relations with the Jakarta generals that we can ignore the gross violation of human rights on our very doorstep?
Who has been distorting and withholding information? How can it be that 6 Australian journalists can be killed, in questionable circumstances, without Australian authorities insisting on the full facts surrounding their deaths? I ask the House to ponder the reaction of this nation, or any nation, if five of its journalists had been destroyed beyond recognition in the war in Vietnam. Can it be that the deaths of these 5 young men, and the circumstances of their deaths, do not really matter if it makes for diplomatic embarrassment in the circles which our bureaucrats in the Foreign Affairs Department are trying to cultivate?
Let us cover a couple of areas where misleading impressions have been created. Firstly, there is the Fretilin Party, and other political parties in Timor. Certain quarters have raised bogus fears that Fretilin is communist or communist inspired. The present Deputy Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Anthony) has fuelled these fears. The truth is that Fretilin is a strongly nationalistic Party, its main attribute being that it has wide popular support amongst the vast majority of villagers and common people. Most of the articulate left wing elements of the Party, mainly students returned from studies in western Europe, were killed in the UDT coup around August 1975. Fretilin, like most other political parties in East Timor except Apodeti and one other small party, has a basic policy of independence for East Timor and is opposed to integration with Indonesia.
Secondly, certain authorities have worked hard to create the impression that all that is happening in East Timor is an indigenous civil war. In fact, a large scale invasion by Indonesian troops, with sea and air support, has taken place. One side of this civil war is an estimated 35 000 Indonesian soldiers and a small band of indigenous officials forming the Provisional Government of East Timor, controlling the major towns and the coastal areas. The other side of the civil war is the civilians of East Timor, or at least 300 000 odd who inhabit the hinterland, or who have fled there to avoid the Indonesian invaders. Fretilin, with many members of UDT and other parties provide the leadership for this side of the so-called civil war.
There is sufficient evidence now to make clear that, in the last 2 months of the Labor GovernmentSeptember to November 1975- and the period of the Fraser caretaker Government Indonesian troops participated in, and led, invasions into East Timor, from the border with Indonesian Timor. On or about 16 October 1975, in the attack on Balibo, 5 Australian journalists died. We Australians have been the victims of ignorance, propaganda and deceit. I personally feel cheated that something approaching the facts of the events as they were occurring in East Timor were unknown to me and to my Party. On 30 January 1976 the Australian Labor Party determined its position at the Federal Executive. This position was in line with the general principles of the Labor Party on the rights of people for self-determination and condemned the role of Indonesia. The Caucus of the Parliamentary Labor Party passed a resolution on 31 March 1976 along similar lines. I seek the permission of the House to incorporate these 2 decisions in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
As it has become apparent that Indonesia is in the process of seizing by force the territory of East Timor, and particularly as this is in direct violation of assurances given by Indonesia to the former Labor Government that force would not be used, this National Executive:
Further Amendments were carried:
‘That this meeting of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee recommends that Caucus confirm that the Labor Party has consistently adhered to the position taken by Senator Don Willessee as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Senate on 3 1 October, 1974, namely-
Timor could choose independence.
Timor could choose to adhere to Portugal;
Timor could choose incorporation in Indonesia; and in respect of these choices he said: “We have been saying as a government since we have been in power that we believe in self-determination of people. We believe that they should make that decision. “ and accordingly condemns the armed intrusion into Timor by Indonesian forces as being inconsistent with the principle enunciated by Senator Willessee on behalf of the Labor Party.
In the existing situation the Parliamentary Labor Party declares that the following steps should be taken:
-I thank the House. Thirdly, there is the tragic situation of the massive death toll in the East Timor conflict. Counteracted by a sense of disbelief, reports have continued about the ^discriminate killings by Indonesian troops. Estimates, including that given by Lopez da Cms, a member of the Indonesian backed Provisional Government, are now placed at approximately 60 000 people. I imagine this is 10 per cent of the East Timorese population. This is death in atrocious proportions.
I want to mention 6 other deaths- the deaths of the 5 journalists killed at Balibo and Roger East. The remains of the 5 young men were handed over in one small packet, and were buried in a single grave in Jakarta. Over that grave is a headstone saying ‘No words can explain this pointless death at Balibo.’ I suggest, Mr Speaker, that there are no words to express the tragedy of the deaths of these young men, but there are words to explain how it happened. There has, indeed, been a very disturbing explanation, that three of them were executed in cold blood by Indonesian troops. Their presence in what we now know to have been a very dangerous war zone can be explained by the possibility that they, like most of the Australian people, did not and could not know that such a ferocious war was taking place. They could not know, because information was withheld, and a propaganda exercise carried out to prevent public knowledge of the real situation in East Timor. They were executed- I stress those words- because they had concrete evidence of an invasion that the Indonesian authorities had sought to hide from the world. They were executed because they had the truth.
I am terribly afraid that what will happen is that, based on false information, a false impression deviously created by a handful of Indonesian and Australian authorities, an entire country that is one of our closest neighbours, will be destroyed. This destruction would include not just destruction of a culture but the physical liquidation of a large portion of the population. I am terribly afraid for Australia’s integrity in the world community, and for the guilt that our authorities will bear throughout history for allowing such a situation to unfold. How callous and ungrateful will this country look to our children, and to the people of neighbouring countries, when they look at Australian history 1942 to 1976. On the one hand they see the generosity and humanity of the people of East Timor; on the other, they see callous abandonment by Australia in 1976. How hypocritical Australia will look in world forums for years to come, when we speak, as we have done in the past, of basic human rights and freedom for peoples of the world to determine their own future. It is indeed a matter of extreme urgency that Australia act, with honour, now on East Timor.
-Let me quote, for the benefit of the House, the final words just spoken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). He said: ‘It is indeed a matter of extreme urgency that Australia act, with honour, now on East Timor’. The very fact that the Opposition has incorporated in Hansard a resolution in such terms was nothing more than a massive act of hypocrisy. It is one of the worst acts I, for one, have seen in the Parliament during the last 2 years- a period in which you will recall, Mr Speaker, many strange things took place on the floor of this chamber. Never before have I seen an Opposition so suddenly reverse the position it took when it was the Government. Now the Opposition has decided that whatever took place regarding Timor during its period of administration can be ignored and that suddenly the situation has changed so immeasurably that honourable members opposite may stand in this House and attempt to criticise what the Government has done. The Opposition has tried to embellish the facts of its non-interest, non-activity and the complete hypocrisy of its policy over the last 2 years towards East Timor.
The first indication which Australia received of Indonesia’s intended initiatives in relation to Timor became quite clearly evident during the period of the previous Government from September 1974 onwards. Despite that, the then Government and its Prime Minister did virtually nothing to persuade Indonesia to moderate its attitudes. It is well known that there were major differences of opinion between the then Foreign Minister, Senator Willesee, and the then Prime Minister. Senator Willesee did speak of an act of self-determination and non-use of force. But what happened to him? He was not backed up by the Cabinet nor was he backed up by his Prime Minister, who preferred to go to Indonesia and make it perfectly clear to the Indonesians that he lacked sympathy for the concept of an independent East Timor. It is worth putting on record that the same gentleman, in the United Nations and elsewhere on various occasions from December 1 972 onwards, was perfectly happy to suggest that the Portuguese colonies of Africa, such as Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau, should have acts of self-determination. But nobody considered then whether Guinea Bissau would be an economically viable state. Yet we find this concept of economic viability being suggested in relation to East Timor.
Let us look at the facts. Around Australia, especially in the South West Pacific, there are many mini-states which, measured by any normal yardstick, are not economically viable. But is there any man in this House who is prepared to come here and honestly state that those small island states should not be given the right of selfdetermination? The former Prime Minister made statements to the Indonesians in such mealymouthed terminology, left them no alternative but to presume that the then Australian Government was perfectly happy to stand back and let events take their inexorable course towards the destruction of a small country containing, as we have been told by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, some 800 000 souls. The destruction of those people, and their loss of any possibility of independence under Indonesia, was a strange policy from a government which was so happy to wax eloquent about other people’s independence and their right to self-determination, in this chamber and elsewhere including discussion with Indonesia. Yet it did not show any indication of its courage, fortitude, or desire to maintain all those other glorious epithets we heard put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Let me contrast the policy of the previous . Government with that adopted by my Government. After we assumed control of the affairs of Australia last November the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) moved decisively and immediately, to put Australia’s policy on a strong basis of principle. Our policy is clear. It is based on 4 major points in relation to East Timor- firstly, a cessation of hostilities, thus putting an end to the bloodshed; secondly, a resumption of international humanitarian aid, preferably through the return to East Timor of the International Red Cross; thirdly, a withdrawal of Indonesian forces; and, fourthly, a genuine act of self-determination. The Foreign Minister underlined these points last January and April when he visited Jakarta, and our Ambassador has done likewise at all levels of the Indonesian administration.
Our position has not been related entirely to our relationship with Indonesia on a bilateral basis. We also have made our position perfectly clear at the United Nations. The Australian delegation played a leading role in formulating the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December last year. That resolution called for:
That is the very right which the former Prime Minister was prepared to deny them. The Security Council met some days after that resolution was tabled and its decision reiterated a number of features which were included also in the General Assembly’s resolution. It provided for the appointment of a United Nations special representative, a move suggested and supported by the Australian Government before the Council.
Of course, it must not be forgotten that Australia is not currently a member of the Security Council. Yet we believed that this matter was one of primary importance for Australia as a member of the region and as a government which was prepared to accept, as we do, the rights, the duties and the responsibilities towards our close neighbours, Indonesia and East Timor. Australia’s position nevertheless was set out again by our representative in a statement before the Council on 14 April last. The main points in that statement- renewal of the mandate of Mr
Wingspeare Guicciardi, withdrawal of Indonesian forces and a genuine act of selfdetermination were later embodied in the resolution finally adopted by the Security Council. The Australian Government accordingly welcomed the resolution, believing that it provided a basis for progress towards a settlement in East Timor as it incorporated self-determination for the Timorese people.
I come back to the question time and time again- the right of these people to selfdetermination, a right which was taken from them by the then Labor Government in Australia by its craven lack of courage and its refusal when the time was right to make it clear to the Indonesian authorities that, whilst we wish to maintain good relations with Indonesia, we did not believe in the course of events which was so perfectly obvious. A policy of genuflecting to all and sundry is not the way to maintain international respect for Australia. I emphasise again that so much was said at the United Nations by the then Australian Government about the other Portuguese colonies especially in Africa, and so little was said- in fact not one word was said- by the previous Government in the United Nations in support of East Timor’s position. We believe that the strong diplomatic position which we have adopted in Jakarta played some part in encouraging the statement issued by the Indonesian Government on 20 March last in which they indicated that it was intended to withdraw Indonesian forces from the territory, and we shall hold them to it. That is the purpose of our diplomacy. It will be the test of our success that Indonesia must see in Australia as equal and important a relationship as we wish towards Indonesia.
The Australian representative at the United Nations, Mr Harry, in his last statement in relation to the question of East Timor, made this point. … the Australian Government and people were most conscious that a stable settlement in East Timor can rest only on the free choice of the people concerned. It remains the firm policy of the Australian Government that the people of the territory should exercise freely and effectively their right of self-determination. And, if their decision is to have any validity, it must be made in the full knowledge of the alternatives from which they are to make their choice.
This Government, however, unlike its predecessor does not presume to lay down any precise formula or modalities for self-determination. We should prefer to respond to the wishes of the Timorese people themselves as to the best means by which they might genuinely exercise their right of self-determination. We note from the special representative’s report, although his visit was hardly a total success, that the parties principally concerned also are agreed on the need for United Nations involvement in selfdetermination for the territory. Whilst we recognise that the question of United Nations assistance in this area would need to be subject to separate consideration and examination, nevertheless we believe that some form of United Nations participation would be appropriate, desirable and in the best interests of the parties concerned.
Once again let me draw attention to the very real difference between the policy of this Government and the policy of” the previous Government- a government which put so much store on the rights of the United Nations, a government which believed so strongly, in words if not in deeds, that it was to the United Nations that the world was to look for better, more peaceful and more logical and reasoned solutions to problems. Yet when Australia had a problem within 300 miles of the coast whom did the then Government approach? Nobody. They hoped it would go away. In their bilaterial contacts with Indonesia Mr Whiltam simply said: ‘We think it would be better if East Timor was incorporated in Indonesia because it is not economically viable’. I repeat my opening words: That was one of the greatest acts of hypocrisy that has ever been done by an Australian Government.
The Liberal-National Country Party Government has noted the remarks of the representatives of the so-called Provisional Government of East Timor and their proposals for selfdetermination in the territory. At first sight these proposals would appear to bear some relation to an earlier program of decolonisation announced by the Government of Portugal. Whilst we believe that these proposals are interesting and deserve further study there would be a need to ensure that the election of a People’s Assembly or Parliament was conducted in such a manner as would allow the people of East Timor freely to express their views. The Australian Government therefore continues to regard as important an early resumption of international humanitarian aid to the territory. The conflict has brought hardship and suffering on a massive scale to much of the population. We appreciate the work of the Indonesian Red Cross, but this is a task in which others, including of course the International Committee of the Red Cross would be glad to participate. Australia has already provided humanitarian assistance not only within East Timor itself but also to the Timorese who last year took refuge in Indonesian Timor, as well as of course to refugees who came to
Australia. I must emphasise therefore that Australia remains ready to contribute humanitarian aid to Timor. It must be remembered by this House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on his last visit to Indonesia, made it quite clear that we supported the return of the ICRC. There are already indications that the Indonesian Government is prepared to consider that. Discussions are currently taking place in Geneva. We hope that they will come to an early and fruitful conclusion.
The situation in Timor therefore is indeed a sad one. We are aware that in many quarters of Australia there is a feeling that we should take our opposition to Indonesian action in Timor to the lengths of breaching relations which have developed between the 2 countries. I make this point clear: There is no advantage for the people of Timor, and there is certainly no advantage for the people of Australia, if the relations between Indonesia and Australia are permitted to deteriorate to the position where we are unable, on a bilateral and a multilateral basis, to continue a frank and free airing of our views and to appreciate the fact that there exists a serious difference between us. Accordingly we have no intention of allowing a breach in our relations to take place. As I said, this would not help the Timorese and it would certainly not help the Australian people. The Australian Government is of course conscious that a stable settlement in East Timor can be reached only on the basis of a free choice of the people concerned. It remains the firm policy of the Australian Government that the people of East Timor should exercise freely and effectively their right to selfdetermination. I cannot emphasise that point too strongly. It is the basis of our policy; it is the objective towards which we shall continue to work.
– I think it is now quite apparent to even the most objective observer that Australia’s policy on Timor can only be described as one of duplicity and one which is immoral, unprincipled and deceitful in the extreme.
– I shall tell the honourable member why. What we have been doing is telling the Indonesians in one ear that we want them to get out and that that is the only solution. But in the other ear we have been telling them: ‘It is OK; we have to say that publicly, but privately we understand your situation and we believe that your solution is the only viable one possible’. If there is any doubt about this I refer honourable members to the notorious Woolcott cable which was leaked on 17 January. Mr Woolcott, the Ambassador to Indonesia, said:
It is a choice between what might be described as Wilsonian idealism and Kissingerian realism.
The former is more proper and principled but the longerterm national interests may be served -
Note that he does not say ‘will be served ‘- by the latter- we do not think Australia can have it both ways.
It is quite obvious that he is saying that we should be telling the Australian public that they should go easy on Indonesia and that we should not do anything that might cause a deterioration in our relations. Mr Woolcott says:
We believe the emphasis should now be on accepting the inevitability of Timor s incorporation into Indonesia, letting the dust settle and looking ahead, while taking what steps we can in Australia to curb the growth of further hostility towards Indonesia within the Australian community.
That is straight-out duplicity. He is telling the Government that it should deliberately mislead the public of Australia as to what is really happening in East Timor. There should be no doubt m everybody’s mind that that is the policy of the Government and that has been its policy since it became the Government. The Government is confronted by a choice between a moral stance based on condemnation of Indonesia for the invasion of East Timor and on the inalienable right of the people of East Timor to selfdetermination on the one hand and a pragmatic, realistic acceptance of the inevitabilities of the situation on the other. This has been the Government’s policy as spelt out by Mr Woolcott, the Ambassador, and it has not been refuted by the Government of the day. That it is deceitful has been further borne out by considerable evidence which has come forward. It now indicates that the Government knew all along precisely what Indonesia intended to do. It knew the size of the forces that were going into East Timor. It knew that those forces were not volunteers. The Government was even able to identify some of the regiments. It was fully aware of the planning of the whole exercise. Equally it is now apparent that the Government had vital information concerning the death of the newsmen. This has been withheld from the public. There has been a deliberate attempt to withhold information from the public along the lines suggested by Ambassador Woolcott.
That the Government’s policy is inappropriate and inadequate was also very apparent- if not before, it certainly became most obvious when I visited the United Nations a short time ago. Practically every delegation I spoke to- and I spoke to about 20 of them- taxed me with the question: ‘Why is Australia taking such a low key role in East Timor?’ They said: ‘We were looking to Australia for leadership. We were looking to Australia for some initiative to help the Timorese people, and it has let us down. Australia has failed miserably. There has been no leadership and no initiative whatsoever coming from Australia in the United Nations’. This was the story we heard not only from the non-aligned nations of Africa, but also from European nations including Italy and France. Instead of looking to Australia as the only Western country on the edge of the South East Asian area, they had to look to Japan. Of course Japan was the broker and the agent for Indonesia in the debate in the Security Council. Japan led the support for Indonesia. It fought very hard to have a soft resolution put through the Security Council. All the Western nations, with the exception of one, which is to its credit, supported Japan in that move. When an amendment to the resolution was moved to soften up the resolution the only Western nation that did not support it was Sweden, to its credit. Every other nation supported the motion to try to soften the resolution towards Indonesia. Australia did not have a vote of course, but it was quite apparent that it was in the same camp as the other Western nations. Everybody at the United Nations was aware of it. I was ashamed of the role Australia played. I do not say that in a personal sense. The mission was doing what it was told to do and it was doing it quite well.
What of our great and powerful friend, America? It kept out of the matter altogether. When the final vote was taken telling Indonesia to withdraw its troops and reasserting the right of the Timorese to self-determination, America and Japan, the 2 nations which could have put some pressure on Indonesia and which have the economic leverage to put pressure on them, abstained from voting. They ran away from the issue altogether. These are the countries with whom we are associated in the United Nations not the non-aligned nations. What of Indonesia’s role in this? Indonesia’s role has been equally shameful, based on blatant lies, deceit and misrepresentation from the very beginning. The Indonesians have tried, with no evidence whatsoever, to smear the Fretilin Party as a communist party. Let it be known that there has been no support for Fretilin.
-I advise the honourable member that he cannot refer to what are termed in the Standing Orders as ‘friendly countries’ in too dire terms. I am not suggesting that he should withdraw his remarks; I just warn him to watch the adjectives he uses in this regard.
– Indonesia claimed a threat to its security- 600 000 people a threat to 130 million Indonesians? The Indonesians encouraged the UDT to stage the coup. While Senator Gietzelt and I were in East Timor the very places we were visiting, which were under the control of Fretilin and which were orderly, were claimed by the Indonesians to be controlled by pro-Indonesian forces. Those were blatant lies and distortions. The Indonesians have obstructed aid. They obstructed the envoy in his work in East Timor. One could say all sorts of things about Indonesia but in deference to the remarks of Mr Deputy Speaker I shall leave it at that.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), hamming it up in the House and pointing the finger at the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), does not do anything at all for the Timorese. His Government was in power when the Indonesians invaded East Timor on 7 December, not the Labor Government, so the present Government must take some responsibility. Even at this late hour I think the Government could still play a positive role in doing something real for the Timorese, not just supporting pious resolutions. I suggest that the Government could lean on Indonesia by threatening to cut its aid, hot increasing it as the Government has done. The Government could and should grant a radio licence to the Fretilin people in Darwin so that they can communicate with their forces. I think we should adopt a stronger role at the United Nations to try to persuade the U.N. to put a peacekeeping force into the field in East Timor and not just carry pious resolutions. The Government could take a strong stand and assist in the plans of the trade union movement to send aid to East Timor by guaranteeing safe passage. We should insist on a genuine act of self-determination, not the sort of one we had in West Irian.
What are our Indonesian friends saying? They are saying that because the people are illiterate we must let the chieftains vote for them. What a hypocritical attitude to take. A lot of people in this world cannot read and write but that does not mean they are stupid or they do not understand what independence and self-determination are all about. The Timorese have been under the thumb of a colonial overlord for 400 or 500 years. They have been depressed by those overlords. When they get the opportunity to stand on their own feet a neighbouring country comes in and crushes them underfoot. We have been a parry to that action and we should be thoroughly ashamed of it.
-The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) conveniently forgets many facts of the past. He forgets that it was the Government of which he was a supporter that sowed the seeds of what is happening in Timor at the moment by its tacit approval of Indonesian actions. Had the previous Government taken strong action in August 1975 we would not be having the problems in Timor we are having now. I do not believe that in this debate we should dwell too much on the past. Surely it is the future of the Timorese that really concerns us in this debate. Throughout Australia many people feel a sense of anguish, frustration and concern for the Timorese. The Government shares this concern. It shares the concern of the families of the journalists who died.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) used some emotive terms in describing their deaths. Sadly, we do not know how they died. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has seen enough of war to know how, in the confusion of war, facts can easily be twisted by both sides. This Government must press, and continue to press, for a genuine process of self determination for the Timorese. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, we owe a debt to the Timorese for the assistance they gave to Australian forces during the last war.
Several arguments were put forward in the United Nations Security Council, ranging from the views of Indonesia, supported by the Philippines and Malaysia on the one hand, to those advanced by Fretilin supported by China, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and the honourable member for Fraser on the other hand. It is true the resolution reflected something of a compromise in that while it called for the withdrawal without delay of Indonesian forces it also avoided any strong censure of Indonesian actions. In a sense the resolution pointed the way to an appropriate and just solution in Timor without indulging in unnecessary and probably counter-productive recriminations.
Australia is not currently a member of the Security Council. The Australian position was set out clearly by our representative in a statement before the Council on 14 April. The main points of that statement which have been mentioned by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), related to the renewal of the mandate for Mr Winspeare, the withdrawal of Indonesian forces, and a genuine act of self-determination. Those points were embodied in the resolution finally adopted by the Security Council. The Australian Government accordingly welcomes the resolution, believing that it provides a basis for settlement in East Timor providing for selfdetermination of the Timorese people.
We have to consider the political and regional environment in which we live. I represent the northernmost seat in Australia. The north-west boundary of my electorate is only a few miles from the nearest Indonesian territory, West Irian, and one gets a different view if one lives in the Cape York Peninsula from the view one gets in the ivory towers of Canberra.
So far, we are alone in the whole region in pressing the case of the people of Timor, a case that was not pressed by the previous Government. Their case was neglected. I believe we cannot press their case to the extent of breaking off diplomatic relations with Indonesia. We must look at this problem in the perspective of our overall relationship with Indonesia and with the region as a whole. I have spent many years of my life living and working in Asia. I have taken part in 2 wars in the Indonesian archipelago. I certainly do not want my children or the young Australians of today to have to be involved again in that area. I am firmly against any military involvement by Australia in the Timorese problem. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would agree with that. But if we take his argument to the extreme, that is where we are leading and we cannot do that.
We have to look at this problem in the context of our overall relationship with a great neighbor.
We must continue, with all the means in our power short of a break of diplomatic relations, to press for a withdrawal. We must press for a genuine act of self-determination so that the Timorese can say what they want for their future. This act should be undertaken with UN participation. We are pressing for a recognition of the rights of the Timorese. But we must also look at our interests in the wider concept of South-East Asia in which we live. We must continue to press as hard as we can, being a lone voice in this whole region, speaking for the people of Timor. We must press for a self-determination for the Timorese. I see very little argument with the Opposition on this. We want the same thing. The Opposition is dragging up the past; we are looking to the future of the Timorese. The past is the responsibility of the previous Government; the future must be our responsibility.
-The discussion is concluded.
Debate resumed from 27 April on motion by Mr Killen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The legislation before the Parliament proposes what I think one could with some studied restraint describe as uncomplicated adjustments to the system of retirement benefits for ex-service personnel. Unfortunately, with equal restraint in describing the legislation, I must say that it is rather confusing if not overwhelming, for the average layman. Having had a look at the ways in which the adjustment formulas are to apply I am wondering whether there is not some simpler way of expressing in legislation what takes place. But let me say first that the adjustments included in this legislation are adjustments that the Labor Government in fact had in train at the time it left office late last year. Legislation either had been drafted or was in an advanced stage of drafting. I think we would have presented the legislation in exactly the same form as the legislation now appearing before the Parliament. Accordingly there can be no dispute between ;the Opposition and the Government on the substance of the Bill before the House.
I approach a simple, short explanation of the proposed system of adjustment of the defence force retirement benefits scheme and the defence force retirement and death benefits scheme with some qualms for fear that the record may not be quite as straight as it ought to be by the time I have finished explaining the matter. The simple principles of the schemes are as follows: The DFRB scheme, as it is generally known, applies to pre-October 1972 retirees from the defence forces. The adjustment formula to be applied therefore is, I repeat, a simple one, that is, an increase in what is called the government proportion of the total benefit payment of 1.4 times the increase in the consumer price index or the average weekly earnings, whichever is the lesser. However, because of the complicated nature of applying this in each individual case- the formula has to be applied separately in each individual case- it seems that in practice the machinery becomes more difficult to function. For instance, rather than the Government proportion of the total payment being five-sevenths, as is generally assumed from a rather superficial reading of the legislation, because of the way in which the adjustments have taken place to the present time since this formula has been increased- that is, the adjustments have been applied on the government proportion and not on the proportion of the benefit which came from the contributors’ contributions- the proportion of the benefit which comes from the contributors’ contributions has remained as a fixed amount while the amount coming from the government has increased and accordingly, as a proportion of the total payments, the government proportion has increased. So we find on average for 1975 that the adjustments will be on about 85 per cent of the total payment. That is an average, which means that in some cases it will be higher and in other cases it will be lower. I move now to the defence force retirement and death benefits scheme, which I believe was introduced in October 1972. The system of adjustment there is to adjust the total pension according to movements in the consumer price index or the average weekly earnings, whichever is the lesser.
For those who may harbour some concern that there may be some preference for retired servicemen as against Commonwealth public servants or vice versa I point out that, as I understand the situation, there is a fair degree of similarity between the two. For instance, the new Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme is based on increases arrived at by multiplying the government proportion or amount of the retirement benefit by a figure equal to the percentage increase in the consumer price index. In the case of the DFRB scheme, the adjustment upwards of the government proportion by the factor of 1.4 will mean that it will be very similar to what will apply under the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme. It is proposed by this legislation to provide an adjustment in the benefit rate for servicemen, as has already been done for Commonwealth public servants; that is, the adjustment that I understand has taken place in relation to Commonwealth public servants is now to take place in relation to ex-servicemen. Quite frankly, I can see no reason why there should be any delay in the passage of this Bill or why there should be any further complex explanations from me which, on balance, may tend to be not totally balanced. Accordingly, I think that I should conclude my comments by reiterating that the Opposition supports these proposals.
-1 join in this debate for the express purpose of recording my pleasure that the long awaited adjustments to the pensions of recipients under the Defence Force Retirements Benefits Act and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act will now be undertaken. I commend the decisive and speedy action of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the Government in having the unjust situation that previously existed in this respect rectified after only 4 months in office. Many recipients of pensions under the defence force retirement benefits scheme depend entirely upon their pensions as their source of income, and the delay in the adjustment of those pensions has caused unnecessary hardships in quite a number of instances. The failure to recognise that as a fact and to effect the necessary adjustments will stand recorded to the everlasting discredit of the previous Labor Administration. It is not as if it was unaware of the situation because on quite a number of occasions I brought this matter to the attention, both publicly and privately, of Mr Barnard and Mr Morrison when they were successive Ministers for Defence. I also appreciate the Government’s attitude in making the adjustments retrospective. I am well aware that its actions in this respect will ease the financial hardship suffered by a number of recipients because of the unnecessary delay in making adjustments.
One very important matter remains to be resolved with regard to the DFRB and DFRDB pensions; that is, the making of automatic adjustments to those pensions. I was pleased to hear the Minister say in his second reading speech that the present adjustment is an interim measure only and that it is the Government’s intention to have a permanent method of updating and making adjustments to pensions or benefits received by recipients under the 2 Acts. I trust that we will see this happen in the very near future. I regard this as a machinery Bill. For that reason I will not take up any more of the time of the House except to say again that I wholeheartedly commend the speedy action of the Minister and the Government in this matter and recommend that the passage of this Bill through both Houses of the Parliament be effected as quickly as possible.
– I must say that I am rather sad that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) blamed the previous Government for the slowness in the introduction of this measure. Unfortunately there has been very little haste in adjusting superannuation payments and, if I may say so, superannuation systems over a very long period and during the term of office of more than one kind of government. The honourable member for Herbert and I were members of what is known as the Jess Committee. Once the Jess Committee had put in its report some difficulty was experienced in finally getting the necessary legislation passed. I think the honourable gentleman ought to acknowledge that. After all a Labor government has actually been in office for a total of less than 3 of the last 26 years and the Labor Government in power in those years was scarcely in power in the sense of having the numbers in both Houses.
I would say that governments have been reluctant in the past to make adjustments. I think that the sensible thing about the present Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill, to give it its proper title, is that, like the new Superannuation Bill, which is not yet through the Senate and in relation to which there does not seem to be any reason why it should not be through the other place, it now places the contributions on a flat rate basis rather than a unit basis. The honourable member knows, as well as most of us do, that the old Act was bedevilled by what were called pre- 1959 contributors and post- 1959 contributors. At least the post- 1959 contributors did take the unique step many years ago of relating contributions to a flat percentage, which I believe is the only sensible thing to be done. It seems to me that the more contributors there are to funds, the more the constituency of contributors changes over a period of time and the more uncertainty there is about the value of money the more it is impossible any longer to regard these sorts of schemes as actuarially based in any sense. I do not think they are, and the concepts of what is actuarial no doubt will change.
I was a little intrigued to hear the words used by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in his speech. He was a man of few words. He must have noted Pistol’s observation that men of few words are the best men although I hope he does not scorn to say his prayers lest he be thought a coward. He did say:
I am bound to tell the House in simple candour that the Government would be anxious to stand back with the method of adjustment.
In other words, there would be a distinct preference for a permanent and regular method of adjustment. I hoped that he would give us a foretaste of what that permanent and regular method of adjustment might be. I will give my view on the matter. I believe that once it is decided to have pensions on the present methodthat is, that there is a flat percentage and some part of the final payment, in fact a major part of the final benefit, is met by government rather than by contribution- they should be adjusted for changes in living costs and whether the consumer price index, average weekly earnings or the minimum wage is used the adjustment has to be applied to the whole pension. I think that one is drawing fine distinctions that cannot be sustained when one attempts to say that this is not so. One should not get into fine arguments about whether the adjustment is made only on the government’s portion.
I think the Minister might have explained the magical formula of 1.4 per cent at the end of his speech when I interjected. In my view it was simply a fiction to acknowledge that the Government paid roughly five-sevenths of the pension and the contributor two-sevenths, so to make the whole pension adjustable by one times the amount of the CPI 1.4 per cent was applied to the five-sevenths of the pension. This was equivalent to applying one times the CPI to the whole pension. I believe that is the right device to use and I do not know why the Government does not simply say that in future pensions will be automatically adjusted according to changes in the CPI, if the CPI survives. Instead, it says that it has suddenly done something which the previous Government shelved doing. I do not think it was shelved; I think it was simply the difficulty of getting anything sensible through the previous Parliament because of obstruction. But now, having the flat rate of contributions and believing that those who contribute to pension funds are entitled in their retirement to some standard that had relation to their end earnings, the only sensible thing to do is to adjust the whole payment by whatever one decides to be the fair living index reference.
I hope that the Minister will get us out of our agony and that his simple candour will prevail upon his colleagues in the Cabinet as quickly as possible so that we will never again have to worry about these adjustments which will be automatically embedded in the legislation. This, I think, is the proper course to take. My colleague, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who led for the Opposition in this debate, referred to the complicated nature of these schemes. I have had to deal with them, once as a contributor in a State scheme many years ago, and certainly in Opposition and in government. In varying these schemes and in seeking to maintain the fiction that they were actuarially determined one certainly got into great complications when the scheme was on a unit basis rather than a flat rate basis. We overcame that situation and I believe that the remaining block should be removed as quickly as possible; that is, that the pension as a whole should be adjusted in relation to changes in living costs generally.
– I rise to support this Bill. I notice that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who led for the Opposition in the debate, wished it a speedy passage as did the previous speaker, the former Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I feel that the previous speaker tried to shift the blame from the Labor Government for not having passed this sort of Bill when in office. I do not wish to talk about the blame. The main thing is that this measure has been introduced speedily by this Government and by a man who has a great deal of sympathy and understanding for the armed forces. While on this subject I refer to the Jess Committee and those senators and honourable members who comprised it because the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and others, have done a lot of work on behalf of servicemen and were really responsible for bringing this measure to the starting line in 1972. 1 will say no more about the fact that in the following 3 years nothing was done about it but I commend the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and this Government for introducing it.
I am very pleased to see that pensions will be increased in round terms by 20 per cent retrospective to July 1975, and that there will be some permanent method of updating pensions. I think that this in itself is most important because although measures are being taken to curb inflation, if this amount of 20 per cent, which sounds fine, is cut into by inflation it will mean that the value of these permanent payments will be absolutely whittled away over the years. Therefore I hope that this method of updating pensions comes about.
I make a point to the Minister concerning members of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund who join as married serving men, whose wives subsequently die, who marry again and who leave the Services. It seems to me that there is an anomaly in the fact that the man who was a member of the DFRB Fund paid his money to that fund on the understanding that the pension would go to his wife, whether it was his first or his second wife. I have not been a member of the DFRB scheme and have not studied it very closely but I hope that somewhere along the line the pension of the man who joined, whose wife died, who took another wife and left the forces would not be lost on the desert air. After all, we are endeavouring to assist servicemen and their dependants. I just make that point and support the Bill.
-It is pretty apparent that the Parliament, or at least this House of the Parliament, supports the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in what he is doing. I suppose that in the face of the situation in the Senate it can be said that the Minister is not just attempting to do something; in this case it will be done. I think that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) was a little less than gracious in his remarks. As I recall the history of the defence force retirement benefits scheme, the situation had been swinging for many years, with people attempting to have readjustments made and new systems introduced, until finally a report was produced during the term of office of the Government prior to December 1972. It was not implemented by the end of 1972. The Labor Government post- 1972 implemented it and, I think, made some minor adjustments to it which removed anomalies, difficulties and penalties which confronted people seeking early retirement.
I do not think it does the Parliament much service not to admit that sometimes one’s opponents can be right. Perhaps the Labor Government was unduly slow in making adjustments; but my friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), pointed out that the extraordinary circumstances of the last 3 years made it very difficult to arrange for the actual passage of any legislation. The Superannuation Bill is still hanging fire, despite the almost unanimous agreement of the members of the Parliament about it. In the consideration of any matter associated with servicemen we have to face the reality that service in the armed services is of a different order from that in any other area of the Public Service. It is true- we hope it always will be true- that servicemen may serve for many years at a base in Australia in comfort, returning home every night; but, of course, when the trumpet sounds their lives, their homes and everything else are on the line and the ultimate sacrifice may well be called for. Therefore, service in the armed services is of a different order from any other service.
I appeal to the Minister to take whatever steps he can to make adjustments which will remove the various tangles that still apply in the various benefits systems. I recognise, and the Opposition recognises- I suppose everybody does- the great difficulties we face now in making adjustments in accordance with inflation and changes in money values. It is probably true that under an inflationary system most citizens become slightly better off if they are at work and things keep up with the general revaluation of money. The exceptions are those people who are on fixed benefits, and there are countless thousands of them in the community. This is one of the challenges we all have to face, and perhaps one about which we have not done all that much in the past- not effectively anyhow. So, the Minister can rely on the Opposition to give him whatever support and assistance it is possible to give in trying to find a permanent method of making adjustments to pensions.
I am reminded of some people I know who retired way back and are still on deck. They did not have their pensions adjusted and brought up to date in line with, say, those of presently retiring servicemen. I make a friendly appeal to the Minister to do something about those people who retired perhaps 12 or 13 years ago, or a little earlier, when a new system was starting to be introduced. Their service to the nation was of an extraordinarily high order. I think of one person whose service extended from the tail end of the First World War right through the Second World War. He was one of the most senior commanders we have had in any field. He retired 12 or 13 years ago, or perhaps a little earlier, on the pension of the time. People who retired later with an equivalent rank or even a much lesser rank but with a much less order of service of course are much better placed financially. So, there are anomalies, as my colleague the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) pointed out, associated with wives, widows and dependants. There are anomalies associated with people who retired in the distant past to which we have to apply our attention. I ask the Minister to make a note in his notebook to have these matters looked at. He will even find on the files, if they are available to him, letters to previous Ministers about the subject. I remind the House that I think the honourable member for Herbert was a little less than gracious in his denunciation of the previous Government. On the whole, I think the previous Government made life much better altogether for servicemen than had been the case previously, particularly with regard to financial and retirement benefits.
– in reply- Very briefly, I thank the House and honourable gentlemen who have spoken for their reception of the Bill. I am delighted that the Bill will be accorded a speedy passage through this House. I trust that, despite the quiet pessimism of my friend, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), it will receive an equally speedy passage through the other place, because I am most anxious that the benefits of this legislation should be received by those entitled to them. I readily acknowledge the gentle admonition of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) concerning the complexity of this legislation. The draft Bill that was handed to me by one of the parliamentary advisers before Easter had attached to it a note which read: ‘Everyone has his personal via dolorosa. Here is your Easter reading’. The complexity of the Bill is quite daunting. One of the reasons why the Jess Committee was appointed was to try to take out of the legislation the complexities which were lodged there. It is an old school, I know, but I still adhere to it, which believes that legislation should be intelligible to people who have been instructed in the 3 Rs; but I venture the view that one would need to go to a lawyer with a considerable degree of brashness, to those who are involved in the discipline of administering the legislation constantly or indeed to actuaries to gain a perceptive understanding of the full implications of the Bill.
It is sad that Parliament should be put into this situation. I went through the Bill over Easter. I will not say which day of the Easter-tide it was. I was mighty glad when I was finished. Even though I would be quite confident of sustaining an argument on any aspect of the Bill, I would have some doubts that I should be confident as to the quality of the argument that I might mount. Having said that, let me assure the honourable member for Oxley and my honourable friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), that it certainly would be my anxiety and that of the Government to get a simple formula for the updating of defence force retirement benefits and defence force retirement and death benefits. The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) will recall the discussions which took place during the deliberations of the Jess Committee. This is one of the recommendations made in the Committee ‘s report.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports chided me in his typically charitable way. He asked why the Government should apply 1.4 times the increase in the consumer price index to five-sevenths, or the Government’s contribution, of the pension. He asked whether it would not have been simpler to have opted for applying to the whole pension one times the increase in the consumer price index. I am bound to tell my honourable friend that I am attracted to the simplicity of that suggestion; but, having regard to the long time which had elapsed and the fact that a considerable amount of work had already been done with respect to the DFRB pensioners, I was reluctant to interfere in any shape or form in any matter which may have incurred further delay. Beyond that, the honourable gentleman will acknowledge that the 1.4 was the recommendation made by Professor Pollard in his formula. That is the explanation. I accept my honourable friend ‘s very gentle rebuke. He has my assurance that, to the extent that it is possible for me to influence government legislation, certainly it will be my aim to seek to ensure that we secure a modification to the formula regarding updating.
The last point to which I turn is that raised by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). It has been brought to my attention already that a number of people have been disadvantaged because remarriage has occurred and the claim of the relevant spouse to the DFRB pension or the DFRDB pension has subsided. I acknowledge that. The House may recall that when the Superannuation Bill went through this House recently provision was made to overcome that difficulty. I have issued instructions to my Department that an appropriate amendment be prepared to make a mutatis mutandis alteration to the legislation so that in the future members of the 2 Service funds and members of the Commonwealth Public Service will be placed in exactly comparable circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. -
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Killen) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 April on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1976 and the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill 1976 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The purpose of these Bills is to extend the existing stabilisation scheme to cover the 1 976 season for apples and pears. The scheme, which has operated since 1971, was designed to protect the apple and pear industry against sineusiodal movements in incomes arising from export fluctuations. The Industries Assistance Commission recommends in its interim report the continuation of this scheme on a modified basis for the 1976 season. In its report it recommended a support price under the scheme for 1976 of $2 a box on apples on a maximum quantity of 2 million boxes, and in respect of pears a support price of 80c a box on a maximum quantity of 1 400 000 boxes, payments to be made on at risk sales to Europe in respect of apples and to Europe and North America in respect of pears. These Bills incorporate the recommendations.
Like many horticultural industries, the apple and pear industry is facing export competition in the areas which have been its traditional markets. The competitive position of the industry in these markets has declined in recent years mainly because of increases in freight costs and the high labour inputs into Australian production. Because of the nature of the industry there is not the opportunity to capital intensify the industry to make it more efficient. Harvesting techniques are still carried out manually and it seems that the industry will be constantly suffering from labour cost increases. During the Labor Party’s terms of office from 1972 to 1975 appreciable amounts of money were funded to the industry. Following the revaluation of the Australian dollar in 1972, emergency adjustment assistance was provided for the industry based on growers’ average annual exports in the 2 calender years 1971 and 1972. Total payments to fruit growers on the post revaluation system was about $ 1.65m. Additional supplementary grants of $1,000 were made available to farmers experiencing extreme financial difficulties. Net assistance from Canberra under Labor in 1973 and 1974 was $2.73m and $ 1.98m respectively. In addition to stabilisation payments the Australian Government joined on a State for State basis with the Tasmanian, Western Australian and
Queensland governments in providing special assistance to growers exporting at risk to the United Kingdom and other European markets in the 1974 season. This committed the Australian Government to a maximum of $2. 6m though the final cost was $2.1m which, on the matching grants basis with the States, totalled $4.2m. In 1975 the Labor Government joined with all State governments except New South Wales in providing joint additional assistance for the 1975 export season to all markets except North America. The assistance amounted to $ 1 .2m.
The Industries Assistance Commission recommends in its final report on apples and pears, dated 16 January 1976 and released only last week, that this apple and pear stabilisation scheme be terminated after an interim 2-year period. It goes on to say:
Contingent upon the termination of this scheme the Commission recommends that the adjustment assistance measures outlined in the separate report on fruit growing reconstruction apply to the apple and pear industry and in particular that area redevelopment authorities be established in the apple and pear growing regions of south-west Western Australia, southern Tasmania and the Stanthorpe region of Queensland and that the feasibility studies necessary to determine the nature and extent of these authorities be undertaken as expeditiously as possible.
Like many horticultural industries, the apple and pear industry will continue to face declining export markets. Obviously there comes a point at which governments are forced to look at assistance in terms of rationalisation rather than price supports which will continue indefinately. The International Assistance Commission no doubt believes that within 2 years of the continued operation of this scheme that point will be reached. Of course the sad reality is that many growers and their families will suffer subsistence levels of income and be forced off their places before this rationalisation comes about.
While the scheme may operate for another 2 years, depending on the Government’s view of the LAC recommendations, stabilisation schemes like this scheme give support to an industry in general but do not assist to any great degree the smaller grower. On the contrary, a scheme like the current one which is production orientated gives the larger grower a larger proportion of the funds available and the smaller grower receives only a small amount of the funds available which, in many cases, just becomes a form of welfare assistance rather than viable support to take growers over the hump of any particular crisis. As Commonwealth social welfare benefits are not available to growers because of the work test, the stabilisation payments in many cases are just a substitute for this kind of benefit. I point out to those people who are listening to this debate that under the work test a person who registers for Commonwealth benefits must be prepared to take work that is offered. Obviously a farmer is unable to accept any work that is offered, therefore he does not qualify under the work test for benefits. Even with the operation of tree pull schemes the industry will probably decline further and the number of smaller growers leaving the industry may increase before the stabilisation scheme expires. It would be a great thing for these growers if there were a larger domestic market in Australia which could sustain a higher proportion of production. A larger domestic market would, of course, help most of the horticultural industries.
Overall production has declined in respect of both apples and pears since the peak of 1970-71. In that year the quantity of apples produced was 442 700 tonnes. It has declined steadily through to the 1975-76 season when it reached 315 000 tonnes. In respect of pears, for the same years the production has declined from 184 000 tonnes to 142 000 tonnes. Unfortunately, while exports account for about only 25 per cent of Australian apple production, the States of Tasmania and Western Australia are hit much harder. In Tasmania the proportion of production going to export varies from 55 per cent to 65 per cent depending on the season, and in Western Australia it varies from 45 per cent to 60 per cent depending on the season. The Tasmanian Labor Government made an offer to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to extend additional cover other than the stabilisaton scheme on 340 000 boxes on a dollar for dollar basis with the Commonwealth. This would have brought its expenditure on this item up to what it spent last year. However, the Federal Government refused this offer and Tasmania is now going to extend the scheme on the basis of $2 a box to be paid entirely by the State Government of Tasmania on only 170 000 boxes. I would have thought that the Federal Minister would have been more receptive than he has been.
In respect of the mechanics of this legislation, varietal stabilisation funds have been established in respect to each type of fruit, into which Government contributions are paid and from which payments to growers are made. In the circumstances where charges are imposed upon growers, this is authorised under the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Act 1971, and collection is made under the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Act 1971-73.
The purpose of this amending legislation is to limit the rate of export duty that growers may be required to pay in respect of the 1976 season in accordance with the limits on stabilisation payments proposed for this season under the extended stabilisation scheme. Naturally export duties would be limited only in respect of those export markets covered by the scheme. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation but calls upon the Government to consider sympathetically the plight of small growers in their endeavours to extricate themselves from a declining market situation, particularly in Tasmania and Western Australia, and not to string out their misery with the extension of this scheme when they ought to be moving rapidly into the stabilisation process.
-These Bills affect the apple and pear industry and primarily are an extension of the 1971-75 legislation. The apple and pear industry is yet another industry that was founded along traditional lines to supply the markets of the United Kingdom and can be coupled with other industries which are causing a great deal of concern in Australia today such as the canned fruit industry, the dried fruit industry, the dairy industry and, to lesser degrees, other industries. Traditionally this country has grown great as a result of the export earnings that have flowed from such industries. The reason for this legislation today is that no longer have we the traditional market tie-up with the United Kingdom that we had. If one studies- and I will not attempt to do so today- the barriers put up against trade by the European Economic Community in general one must acknowledge that it is a source of some horror for all thinking members of parliament. In this day and age, with the importance of emerging countries wanting to sell their goods, which so often are based on primary industry, it is unthinkable that any bloc in the world today should adopt what I regard as such a nefarious tactic as to put up its defences and its tarriff barriers against all trade. It is a matter of grave concern not only to this nation but also to other smaller nations spread around the globe.
The scheme we are discussing today provides for the setting up of a support price for each variety of apple and pear. Support prices are adjusted each season. Payments are made to growers whenever the average realisation within that variety is below the support price. When realisations are higher than the support price level growers are required to contribute to the scheme funds. The scheme uses average realisation from all export sales as an indicator of the market price level. However, only fruit shipped ‘at risk’ is eligible for stabilisation payments under this legislation or is liable for grower contributions. Such shipments are mainly destined for the European and the North American markets. ‘At risk’ shipments are denned as shipments exported but which have not been sold by fixed price contracts prior to export. Such shipments include fruits shipped on consignment under guaranteed advance contact and fruit that can be sold when on board ship.
The objectives of the scheme include an attempt to reduce economic and social disruption at a time of declining profitability within the industry. The scheme also attempts to provide some form of security for future planning within the industry. The last figures I have on the costs of the scheme cover the period from 1971 to 1975. The costs have amounted to $ 14.3m and in that period growers have been required to pay $200,000 into the scheme. During the period from 1971 to 1975 export apple growers experienced continued downward pressure on their incomes due to increasing costs of production. These costs are primarily made up of packing, overseas freight and labour charges. Despite the high level of price support exports of apples to Europe and to North American markets declined by 47 per cent during the years 1 97 1 to 1 975, for the reasons I have already mentioned. For the same period and in the same markets pears declined by 30 per cent. Growers in Tasmania have received approximately 65 per cent of the assistance paid to the industry, and Western Australian and Victorian growers have received 20 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
The main effect of the stabilisation scheme has been to provide income support to apple growers and, to a smaller degree, to pear growers who faced a rapid decline in prices of fruit sold in traditional export markets. Growers have left the industry in some numbers. Over the 5 years from 1 969 to 1 974 the number of orchards declined by 44 per cent in Tasmania and the number of growers went from 938 down to 528, and the trend is continuing. In Western Australia the number of orchards declined by 50 per cent, from 1 133 to 566. There was a greater loss of orchards in the west than in Tasmania.
The Industries Assistance Commission’s report recommends that price support assistance should be extended but that the levels of assistance should not discourage further adjustment out of unprofitable export markets. The scheme can provide income support as the industry adjusts itself. Apple exports in 1976 are estimated to be 3.5 million boxes as against 4.6 million in the previous year. On such a basis it is expected that up to 2.2 million boxes of apples may be available for shipment at risk, as I have just defined that phrase, and therefore will be eligible for inclusion within the stabilisation arrangements of this legislation. The IAC recommends that price support be available at a maximum of $2 per box for 1976 and that a limit of 2 million boxes be placed on shipments eligible for support. This is consistent with what is recommended within this legislation. Therefore total Government commitment would amount to about $4m, if that limit is met by the export supply, compared with the assistance to apple exports in 1 975 costing about $5m.
The general picture in the case of pears is roughly the same except that in 1975 high prices were received for pears. Much lower prices are predicted for 1976. Assistance in 1976 is to be at the rate of 80c a box, as recommended by the Commission. The limit in the case of pears for 1976 is 1.4 million boxes. The Commission recommends the extension of the scheme to cover the 1977 crop also as most farmers will need to make decisions about that crop during the 1976 winter when the first significant investments in the 1977 crop will be made. The recommendations of the Commission covering the 1 976 and 1 977 seasons are made on the assumption that the special assistance measures of 1974 and 1975 will not apply. I think that other speakers will take up that matter as it applies to their individual States.
The basic problem facing the apple and pear industry is an imbalance between current levels of production and available avenues for economic disposal in terms of export, local fresh consumption and processing. Processing in this instance would refer to apple pulp and apple juicing and other by-products that can be used in conjunction with other industries. The imbalance is more marked in some States than in others. The Apple and Pear Corporation is anxious for the continuation of the apple and pear stabilisation scheme and also that the tree-pull scheme be instituted without means test. This is a matter of some concern in areas such as Shepparton and others within the Australian horticultural scene. They are anxious that surplus production be reduced more rapidly in some States where such surpluses already exist.
During 1974-75 the juice concentrate market for apples and pears collapsed. This was primarily due to the withdrawal by the Whitlam Government of the sales tax concession applicable to the use of juice in carbonated drinks. Export demand for such concentrates also happened to fall at around that time by some 40 per cent. There is surplus capacity in many of the packing sheds throughout Australia today now that that market has diminished to the point of almost complete extinction. This state of affairs is a matter of some concern to plants within the electorate of Angas and no doubt elsewhere. At present it seems unlikely that any easy way can be found to remedy the stagnation within this section of the industry.
The position regarding fresh pears is in some ways less serious than with apples due to the more successful diversification of export markets. Sharp cost increases, including shipping freights, have made substantial inroads into net returns and future prospects can be regarded only as fairly minimal. Wholesale apple prices during the year looked at by the Apple and Pear Corporation report averaged around $8.50 a box and pears around $9.90. These prices are some $2 a box higher than 1974. However, after deduction of handling costs, commission and freight, it is not expected that the f.o.b. returns for apples will be sufficient to cover grower costs and will require supplementation from the stabilisation scheme. The apple and pear export industry continues to face a major problem in the negotiation of freight rates and the arrangement of shipping services for its major markets. The Apple and Pear Corporation made an urgent submission to the Government for the continuation of the stabilisation scheme. This, as a result of the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendation, primarily has been met.
I will finish my few words on this topic by once again attempting to hammer home the point in simple terms in this House that we are facing the debacle of our traditional markets in respect of all of our export orientated industries which are small in terms of production. In the case of the canned fruits industry, for instance, it may well be that 60 per cent of products exported in the past will now be foisted on the domestic market with devastating effects on the growers as the price tumbles due to over-supply. There is no easy or short term solution to this problem because added to it is the invidious position of the incomes of the growers concerned. Their incomes are not indexed. Their incomes do not receive annual attention from the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. They are faced with charges levied on the processing of all their goods plus payroll tax at the factory plus -
– Equal pay in the canneries.
– Equal pay for female workers at the canneries, about which I suppose we can have no moral objection, but this is an added cost. The industry also is faced with increased workers compensation payments. These are all matters over which the industry has no real control as regards its cost structure.
Primarily all farmers in all of these industries, whether they be dairymen, whether they grow fruit for canning, whether they grow dried fruit, whether they grow apples or whether they grow pears are in the invidious position that as charges soar they can obtain only what is left. In the case of several of the industries I have mentioned, almost nothing is left and what is left is considerably below the cost of production. The ravages of inflation have caused a huge increase in costs over which these poor unfortunate people have no control. They have no end way of receiving increased prices. They have been faced all of a sudden, primarily due to actions of the European Economic Community, with a situation in which their goods have flooded the local markets.
I hope that we will not hear quite so much from the Opposition as we heard earlier in this session in respect of small dispensations such as the superphosphate bounty. Primary producers received what I can only describe as a political kick from one or two sources. Every way that money can be found to help to effect a stable cost structure within those industries is a matter of very grave importance to the small farmers in the Australian community today.
– I support the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). Before I commence my remarks on the legislation before us I want to remind the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) that the Opposition has not opposed the stabilisation schemes. It has supported such schemes, with some reservations of course, right from the start, the same as it supports the set of Bills now before us.
The introduction of the apple and pear stabilisation scheme in 1971 coincided with the termination of devaluation assistance payments which had been made in support of the industry following a fall in demand in the traditional export markets. Like most of the others, it was introduced as an interim solution to assist in a short term problem. But the problem in this instance is one which continues to require considerable financial support and as with most other schemes the interim solution tends to become the permanent solution. This is the Opposition’s main criticism of this type of Bill.
The stabilisation policy in regard to the apple and pear industry has been used as a blunt instrument for achieving a wide variety of purposes. The basic problem facing the industry is an imbalance between current levels of production and available markets, including export, local fresh consumption and processing outlets. The weight of evidence which is available does not suggest that there will, over the long term, be any real improvement in this situation. On the contrary, it suggests that export sales to the traditional markets in particular will continue to decline. Other markets have not expanded greatly and it is possible that increased competition will emerge from New Zealand and South Africa.
When introducing the scheme the Government estimated an outlay of some $10m over the 5 years in which the scheme was to run. In fact, the liability over the 5 years has been $ 14.3m. During its lifetime export apple growers in particular have experienced continued downward pressure on their incomes. This has resulted from increased costs of growing, packing chemicals and overseas freighting, from changes in exchange rates and from increased competition in traditional markets. The anticipated continuation of a decline in the export market led to further support in 1974 and 1975. Special assistance was provided by Federal and some State governments. For 1974 the support provided by both schemes amounted to $2.80 a box. The total support amounted to $7.3m in 1974 and $5m in 1 975. Tasmanian growers received 60 per cent of the assistance paid to the industry, while growers in Western Australian and Victoria received 20 per cent. In 1974 the assistance amounted to an average of $13,500 a farm in Tasmania. The interesting thing is that despite this the average net farm income, inclusive of this support, in the State was less than $6,000. That gives some measure of the serious plight of the industry. The Industries Assistance Commission’s recent report on the fruit growing industry estimates that despite the scheme there is still evidence of considerable personal hardship in many areas of the industry. The report states:
Among other things, the availability of direct government assistance and the apparent willingness of exporters to provide credit encouraged some growers to continue in the industry and increase their indebtedness even though they had no prospect of re-establishing themselves on a viable basis.
Unfortunately, this is the continuing story. Despite the high level of government assistance, exports of apples to Europe and North America in the 1971-75 period declined by nearly 50 per cent. The main effect of the scheme has been to provide income support to apple growers and, to a smaller degree, to pear growers who faced a rapid decline in prices in the traditional markets.
As the assistance is product based, it inevitably has favoured larger and wealthier growers. That is one of our basic objections to this sort of scheme. Therefore, as a welfare measure, the scheme has not been at all satisfactory.
The malaise in the industry is due in some measure to the simultaneous operation of the tree-pull scheme, together with the large subsidies to encourage production. The push-pull system thus induced has favoured producers with larger volumes of exports, while many of the small volume growers have left the industry because of the tree-pull scheme. However, payments under that scheme have been relatively small compared with the production subsidies. The LAC report also states:
The stabilisation scheme has operated as an export subsidy. This method of assistance appears to be contrary to Australia’s commitments under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its continuation may bring about retaliatory action in importing countries and by export competitors.
Therefore, the Bills are not a solution to the immense problems facing the apple and pear industry. They are yet another interim measure which inevitably will perpetuate the unstable sector of the fruit industry. Everybody is aware, I am sure, of the long term trend in rural industries which has led to a reduction in the number of people living and working on farms. It might be appropriate to remind the House of the enormity of these figures. For instance, in 1933, 28 per cent of the male work force was employed in the rural sector. That figure was cut by almost half by 1954, when it was 15 per cent. By 1971 it was only 8 per cent. This represents a restructuring of or a change in the work force of considerable magnitude. The fruit industry has been a part of this change.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics study of the Huon Valley showed that as a result of the downward trend in net farm incomes between 1966 and 1973 the total work force in the Huon Valley declined by one-third. The 1971 census showed that about 50 per cent of the Huon Valley work force was dependent upon the production and marketing of apples and pears. A survey in Western Australia showed that between 1969 and 1974 the number of growers in the industry fell from 1333 to 567. The largest decrease was in the Great Southern Region where there were 20 growers in 1974, compared with 156 in 1 969. That represented a reduction in the number of growers of 87 per cent. The Western Australian apple and pear survey conducted by the IAC in 1975 showed that 32 per cent of growers interviewed in 1974 intended to leave the industry. The number of holdings above 0.4 hectares declined by as much as SO per cent between 1968 and 1974.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), in his second reading speech, conceded the need for a long term solution to the problems of the industry. He referred to the Bills as providing interim support for a period during which longer term and more comprehensive proposals for the industry can be considered. We would like the Minister to be more precise about these comprehensive proposals. How long does he regard the longer term as being? We are not very encouraged by the lack of action during the 23 years of previous Liberal-Country Party government. Although we support these Bills, we believe that it is the long term problem on which the Government should be concentrating. We must question the morality of sustaining people in the industry in a situation which clearly is not viable and which has no real prospect of becoming viable. I think it is without question that subsidies often encourage people to stay on the land when they and their families -
– Not as much as welfare measures do.
– This is welfare in another form, is it not?
– You were saying a while ago that it was not.
– I was not saying that at all. I am saying that subsidies encourage people to stay on the land when they and their families would be much better off making the break and setting up in another field of endeavour which would give them a more acceptable standard of living. People frequently make great sacrifices to stay on the land. If it is just a matter of an individual making a choice for himself, it is not so questionable; but, when young families, wives and mothers are concerned, they are deprived of normally accepted amenities which other people often enjoy. I think a great injustice is done to young people if their education is cut short or downgraded by people staying on the farm. I frequently speak to people in the Australian Capital Territory who, for various reasons, have given up farm life and have come to live or work in the Australian Capital Territory. I must say that generally these people have no regrets about making the change and about the decision to adopt a new way of life. Quite frequently their only regret is that they did not make the decision much sooner and that they delayed the decision for far too long, to the detriment of the welfare of their families. I strongly suggest to the Minister that the Government get on with the long term restructuring of the fruit industry.
– I shall take up a point or two raised by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). He spoke about the inaction of the LiberalCountry Party Government for 23 years in not moving towards reconstruction of the fruit industry. He spoke as though the last 3 years had not occurred and there had not been another government during that time. His last point was about young people coming to the city of Canberra and enjoying the life that they are now leading.
– Not just young people. I am talking about old people, too.
-Young people or old people. They are enjoying their new vocation. We must keep in mind that, although they may be doing that, the productive force for the true production of Australia is declining all the time. The honourable member said that the number of people living in rural areas today is down to about 6 per cent or 8 per cent. It is not only in the fruit industry but throughout our rural industries. One wonders whether our economy is not suffering badly as a result.
I was interested to see in the Melbourne Herald of Monday, 3 May, an editorial which pointed out a couple of things which I believe the city dwellers do not really understand. I will read sections of it. It stated:
Farmers and their families are suffering badly, and not even the most blinkered city dweller can dismiss this as the ‘cockies whingeing again ‘.
It also stated:
Quite apart from the effects on Australia of a loss of export income, the crisis on the farms is thus bad news for the cities as well.
The need for both short term and long term action grows acutely.
It was a definite recognition of the situation in Australia today, where our export earning industries have been forced out of world markets. So, our standard of living will suffer, regardless of people taking up and enjoying new vocations in the cities.
These Bills are the result, I suppose, of the inquiry into the fruit industry by the Industries Assistance Commission and of its recommendations. I would like to commend the Industries Assistance Commission on the amount of work it has done for the rural industries and for the recommendations contained in its reports. That does not mean that I always agree entirely with the recommendations. In this instance the IAC recommended that there be a stabilisation component in the export market of some $4m for 2 million boxes of apples consigned to traditional markets. Even under the constraints of the budgetary situation the Government saw fit to increase that amount by $500,000 which is to be divided on a $1 for $1 basis amongst the States. Whilst these measures will be passed I can assure honourable members that the proposal is far below the expectations of the industry. The industry would like to have seen at least 3 million boxes or more covered by that amount. In fact the industry points out that if the fruit exported to traditional markets were to be covered by the same amount as last year, which was $1.30, taking into consideration increased costs and charges to the industry, the equivalent subsidy for the industry would need to be $3.20 per box to all at risk markets. With rising costs as well as increased freight and insurance charges this year’s assistance is well below that which the industry received last year.
As has been pointed out, the state of the industry is depressing. It has gone through a period of rationalisation and reconstruction costing far more than the amount of government assistance received. In 1970 Australia proudly exported about 7 million boxes of apples overseas. In 1975 we were exporting 4.4 million boxes. In that period the production of apples in Australia has altered from a position where 70 per cent went to the local market and 30 per cent were exported to a position now where 80 per cent are for the local market and 20 per cent are exported. No one will deny that the industry is in dire straits. The additional $500,000 which is to be given to the industry is not included in the Bills which we are debating but it will be included later in the Appropriation Bills. I believe that the Government could offer additional assistance for fruit to at risk markets.
I do not see the rationale behind the recommendation of the IAC for new markets when the exporters are really battling to get into the Singapore and North American markets. Considering that there must be a phasing out of our traditional markets, it would be an ideal opportunity to give these growers and exporters some form of assistance. They are going through a period of adjustment and reconstruction. The industry is doing this because of economic necessity. The farmers who are being ground up by the system and who must seek government assistance are only a small percentage of the industry. The future of the industry does not look good.
I would like to spend a few minutes discussing the recommendation of the IAC for reconstruction. Farmers have to plan their orchards now. As one season finishes a new one begins. The IAC recommends price support for next year of only $1 per box for at risk traditional markets. I can assure honourable members that if that course is adopted no fruit will be exported from Western Australia to the traditional markets. I am not familiar with the cost structure of the industry in the great exporting State of Tasmania. With rises in costs, even today if only $ 1 were offered for the traditional markets the Western Australian fruit grower would not be able to export with dire consequences for the local market.
Another recommendation is that the tree-pull scheme that has been in operation for the last few years be extended for this year only. I will discuss that in a moment First let me touch on the main recommendation which is to set up area redevelopment authorities. The whole thrust of the reconstruction is built around the area redevelopment authorities. They will cover counselling services, concessional finance provided in difficult conditions, and assistance provided for the removal of trees and vines which, if not properly maintained, could harbour diseases and pests. Reading the recommendations and endeavouring to understand what would eventuate if they were implemented I come to the conclusion knowing the speed with which any type of government works, that by the time people are trained, and by the time the area redevelopment authorities are organised it will be too late for the next season- I am not too sure of their value anyway- another season and a number of months will have passed which will be full of uncertainty for the people involved in the industry. These people need to know what the Government intends to do.
Let me come back to the tree-pull scheme. I concede that for a number of years we have had a stabilisation scheme and we have had a treepull scheme, but I suggest that in these measures we have not gone far enough with either scheme. Basically the stabilisation scheme has kept most producers in poverty or just hanging on and the tree-pull scheme has not been attractive enough to get them out of that situation. Today we are in much the same situation as we were in a number of years ago. I believe we must continue with these parts of assistance- stabilisation and reconstructionbut the tree-pull scheme should be made a lot more attractive. It would be offset in a very short time by the Government’s not having to spend so much on stabilisation.
The apple industry is a good and worthwhile industry. We are exporting to countries other than our traditional markets, but the industry needs to be rationalised and, unfortunately, production needs to be curtailed. Therefore I suggest that we should have a tree-pull scheme which would not be subject to a means test. That may be a little awkward for the Government but at least there could be a liberalised means test to make the scheme attractive. If the idea is to reduce the production of apples in this country, for goodness sake let us have a scheme that makes it attractive for people to pull out thentrees and so reduce production. I believe that this is imperative and that the Government will have to make some firm decisions quickly.
There are also pockets of depression within our rural industries and, I suppose, not only within our apple industries, where one must suggest that some sort of a welfare payment be considered. It is also recommended in the Industries Assistance Commission report that for at least 12 months people should receive something like the unemployment benefit. But in some areas people are living in dire poverty without any way to get out. I believe that in this country today, where most sections of the community get this type of assistance, because the rural producer who is supposedly self-employed cannot get this type of assistance, it is imperative that we as a government assist him to live in some type of dignity and set a period from now to enable him to get out of the industry.
-The apple and pear season for 1976 is rapidly drawing to a close. At this early date I for one am unable to assess the total economic result of it. It is well known that I and my colleagues from Tasmania expressed alarm and dissatisfaction at the interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission. That report recommended the continuation of the stabilisation scheme on a modified basis for the 1976 season. With respect to the apple industry, the recommendations were that the maximum level of price support under the scheme in 1976 be $2 a box and the maximum quantity eligible for support be 2 million boxes. It recommended that support should be confined to sales at risk to Europe, including the United Kingdom. Previously stabilisation support for apples covered all apples exported on and at risk basis.
The Huon Valley, the home of apples in Tasmania, is in my electorate of Franklin. It saddens me, along with many Tasmanians, to see the continual reduction in production and desperate decision to tree-pull to enable orchardists to stay on the land and meet urgent financial commitments. Between October 1973, when the scheme was introduced, and October 1975, 40 per cent of the total tree area was removed. Admittedly some of the trees were old. It is not my intention to criticise governments, but the orchardists must be wondering in what direction to turn. They have answered the call for efficiency to the packing shed and sometimes have worked themselves to a standstill to stay in an industry that has been their life and their livelihood. Spiralling costs of labour and materials, coupled with high transportation costs, make each season a nightmare. But, in a spirit that sometimes the city dweller finds difficult to understand, the growers fight on, hoping that each season will be a better one. In the main, orchardists do not want handouts and a complete reliance on governments for the future. But they do ask for a comparable support to enable them to compete fairly with their competitors, namely Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. New Zealand, for example, has been aided by its 1975 currency devaluation.
Exports of Australian apples fell sharply from a peak of 150 000 tonnes in 1971 to 88 000 tonnes in 1975, both of which were offered on production years. Increases in ocean freight costs, particularly since the recent substantial increases in oil prices, have added greatly to the cost of marketing Australian apples overseas. Between 1971 and 1975 the average yearly rate of increase in freight costs to the United Kingdom was 16.4 per cent, which is substantially above the average level of inflation in Australia in those years. By 1 974 freight costs represented just over 50 per cent of the average market value of apples sold in the United Kingdom. The base freight rate for apples sent to the United Kingdom and Europe with the main group of owners of conventional ships in 1975 was $4.43 a carton. In 1976 the freight rate had been increased by 6 per cent to $4.70 a carton.
Tasmanians should be aware of how vital the apple industry is to the economy. It employs about 2 per cent of the total population and contributes 1 1 per cent of the Tasmanian gross value of agricultural production. One-third of all apples grown in Australia are produced in Tasmania. Tasmania supplies two-thirds of the total Australian export trade. The most important single form of assistance given is through the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. I note with interest that the final report recommended that this assistance should be continued for the 1977 season. Without the scheme there would be only a small apple industry. One is horrified to think what that situation would be like within the economy of Tasmania, especially because of the income the industry generates through shops, transportation, labour, equipment, sales, etc. The main concern of the Australian Government in introducing the scheme was to reduce economic and social disruption at a time of declining profitability in the industry.
I firmly believe that the scheme should be continued at such a level that prosperity will again return to the Huon and other Australian apple producing areas. The actual amount of stabilisation should be announced well before the ships are due to leave, not as was the case this year. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), whilst appreciative of the problems, should visit the Huon with his advisers and, in consultation with the Tasmanian Government and representatives of the total fruit industries, thrash out the problems and endeavour to instil a measure of confidence that has been lacking for many years.
In many circles a single marketing authority has been discussed, to improve all aspects of distribution from the producer to the ultimate consumer. Even at this early stage there are distinct signs of confidence coming back, and several growers who anticipated grubbing out last season are prepared to carry on. They feel that perhaps a new government sensitive to thenneeds will strive for their future. We, as a government, have a responsibility to ensure that our primary producers are given protection and assistance to enable them to produce the fruits of their labour in a just and profitable way. Both sides of the House must realise that small farms are in a desperate plight. They are part of our heritage and so important to our future survival in a world that already shows signs of massive food shortages.
-The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) in his comments made several general statements, with which I disagree, on support for agriculture. He criticised the form of support in this legislation, which is on what I call the productive unit basis, as not being as advantageous as what he called welfare assistance. As part of his comments he claimed, obviously in justification for that stand, that if a grower is larger he is therefore wealthier and that on a productive unit form of support he gets more because he produces more. He also said that the scheme has not solved the problem so far, therefore the form of assistance must be wrong.
I should like to take issue with him on all of these points. First, we are seeing an adjustment process of tremendous magnitude taking place in the fruit industry in Australia. A far greater adjustment has taken place in agriculture generally in Australia than in any other industry. One can think of many others of a secondary and tertiary nature which have not adjusted in the way that these agricultural industries, in particular the fruit industry, have, because of union obstructionism, because employees cannot be sacked anyway, or because the industry is protected by very high tariff levels. Secondly, some form of income stability, as provided through this productive unit form of assistance is required during the adjustment process, otherwise the whole industry will collapse. As the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) correctly pointed out, if during that adjustment process we provide more incentive to move people out of the industry, the level of assistance required with this type of stabilisation arrangement is not required so much in the future.
If this form of assistance is not the most beneficial and somehow or other the claims of the Australian Labor Party that welfare assistance is better are true, could members of the Opposition suggest what they would do? In the time they were in office they did not introduce any successful welfare measure for agriculture, including a most important one, that is, the provision of unemployment benefits for self-employed people. That would be more in line with the Opposition’s approach to assist country people, but in the time the Opposition was in office no such measure was introduced. To our discredit we also have not introduced any measure to overcome this most unjust provision in our social security legislation that self-employed people are automatically deprived by regulation of any form of assistance through the welfare system and, in particular, unemployment benefits.
The honourable member for Fraser also made the inference that because this adjustment is going on and assistance is needed- one cannot make any form of comparison of the level of assistance in this industry with assistance from tariffs or in tertiary industry- somehow or other this industry is not efficient. The agricultural industries appear to be the only ones efficient enough to be able to export anything from Australia. We have no measure at all of efficiency of tertiary industry so I do not know what people can rely on when they talk about the agricultural industries not being efficient. They are the only ones that have been efficient enough to export. Because of factors beyond the control of the apple and pear industry- Britain joining the European Economic Community, our rapid inflation rate and a whole lot of other things- the industry is painfully having to adjust. It is certainly painful for those people in it.
This legislation extends the apple and pear stabilisation scheme for one year, for the 1976 season. Honourable members on both sides of the House suggested in 1975 before the previous Parliament ended that this would be the best way in the short term to overcome the situation. I do not agree with everthing in the legislation, but I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government for the prompt action the Government is taking with a number of agricultural commodities. For example, loans have been made to fruit canneries. We have something in the pipeline on dairying. I only hope that it comes out of the pipeline fairly quickly. Some other decisions are needed urgently in addition to these. For example, the growers who supply fruit to canneries in most cases have received no advance on the fruit delivered several months ago. They must have money to live on, as must everybody else. I hope the Government is having discussions with the Reserve Bank on this subject at the present time.
The honourable member for Forrest and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) and others mentioned the need for a speedy reintroduction of the fruit growing reconstruction scheme, the tree-pull scheme, for one more year. There is no time to change the scheme too much because that in itself is a time wasting effort and time is urgent in the sense that management decisions on pruning, spraying and whether to stay in the industry or to get out of it are now facing the industry. Unless some announcement is made as soon as possible the maximum value of the announcement, when it is made, will have been lost because the best time for decision making will have gone. I accept that it may not be possible to abolish completely a means test with regard to the tree-pull scheme but I hope that the test is made as generous as possible and as flexible as possible so that Canberra is not breathing down the necks of the State reconstruction authorities all the time and so that the State reconstruction authorities cannot blame Canberra, in many cases unfairly, for their lack of administrative flexibility in the pursuance of the scheme. I think that if the announcement is made as soon as possible and both sides are flexible we can get on with the job. The message is well and truly with the industry at present that this is it, this is the dme for adjustment.
Another thing that the Government should be looking at in relation to this industry is the sales tax on alcoholic drinks other than wine or cider. There is a 15 per cent sales tax on all alcoholic drinks with the exemptions for apple cider or apple alcohol which has no sales tax. Of course the wine industry has its own problem, although not a sales tax, with the taxation from stock revaluation. This sales tax means that if the pear industry wants to develop perry and Babycham to the extent that they have been developed in Europe it has an almost impossible job because not only does it have to introduce new products to the market but it has to overcome a 1 5 per cent cent sales tax as well. That is asking a lot of an industry, especially when we ask industries to diversify. I hope that the Goverment will include a measure to deal with this situation in its Budget. It would not cost any money anyway.
My final point on the need for urgent decision making is in regard to unemployment benefits for self-employed people. I know this question is with the Government at present but in view of the very harsh restrictions now being placed on fruit growers, dairy farmers and other people in Victoria, which make it by definition impossible for an owner operator to obtain unemployment benefits even though he is generally available for work and has had virtually no income, because of the so-called continuing nature of his employment he is barred from receiving unemployment benefits. That is a harsher application of the provision than has been the case in the past. At a time when one would hope that there is some flexibility in the administration of this provision it is harsher than ever. I only hope that the Government will make a decision in the next day or two on bringing in a more accessible arrangement so that if the person passes the first work test of being genuinely available for work he may skip the secondary work test and then go on to the income test to decide whether, if no work is available, he is eligible for any form of benefit.
To come back to this particular legislation, the industry in my area genuinely welcomes the one year extension. But in spite of a rapid reduction in the size of the industry, both for fresh apples and pears- apples exported have halved in the last 6 years, so one can see the scale of the reductionthe stability of the industry still depends on a reasonable level of exports. Unless there is some stability in the export section there is no stability in the industry as a whole. For example, out of a total availability of approximately 17 million boxes of apples, the domestic market for fresh apples will take only about 12 1/2 million boxes. That leaves a surplus. Perhaps one can make the same point about the abolition of the sales tax concession on fruit juice not assisting the industry. With pears, 1:4 million boxes out of a total production of 6 million boxes have to be exported. This is a reduction of almost 2 million boxes on those exported 6 years ago. As other speakers have made the point, the export prospects for fresh pears are brighter than for apples.
I want to comment in particular on 2 points, namely, the export pear section and Granny Smith apples. The majority of fresh pears exported from Australia come from my electorate. The fresh pear exporters in the Murray electorate for 3 years of the 5 years of the stabilisation scheme did not receive any contribution from the fund; they paid into the fund. That is something that not too many people are aware of, and it is not mentioned by those who talk about Government hand-outs or subsidies. When one looks at the wheat stabilisation scheme one sees the tremendous subsidy the Australian consumer is getting from this stabilised product in relation to the value of the industry, etc. How much publicity is that given by Opposition speakers and by the Press? We only ever hear about these schemes when the Government contributes. I am told that for the S years the stabilisation scheme has been in operation less than $lm has gone out in actual payments for pears.
There is a particular problem of Granny Smiths being exported to North America. It is not a new market. The Industries Assistance Commission has said that exports at risk should not be included in considering new markets, but I have here figures of exports of Granny Smiths to the North American market for a number of years. They have been exported to that area since 1962. I have the figures for the exports since 1969, which indicate that there has been a large amount of Granny Smith apples exported to that market each year. As a general rule about onehalf of those exports of Granny Smith apples to the North American market come from my electorate.
I had hoped that the Government would amend the original proposal to include the Granny Smith apples exported to the North American market in the overall scheme, even if they were to be continued to be exported at the rate of 80c, which is the same rate as applies to pears; but that is not provided for in the legislation. One can only hope that they will be included later, as the honourable member for Forrest has mentioned, or that they will be included in the general flexible addition concession that the honourable members on this side of the House have gained; that is, the proposal concerning the 500 000 boxes that is to be worked out in conjunction with the State governments. Hopefully the exports of Granny Smith apples can be included in that category. I support the legislation and congratulate the Government for its prompt action. Before resuming my seat I remind the Government of just some of the points that I and other speakers have made concerning the inclusion of Granny Smith apple exports in this legislation, the tree-pull scheme and the payments from canneries and even the point concerning sales tax on pear alcohol.
Mr FRY (Fraser)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd).
-Does the honourable member seek to make a personal explanation.
– Yes. The honourable member for Murray claimed that I had referred to the subject of welfare and said that the subsidy was preferable to welfare. I made no mention of welfare. He introduced the subject of welfare by way of an interjection. I merely said that it probably would be regarded as welfare. I think that that is justifiable in that the agrarian socialists of the National Country Party of Australia might see it as welfare; but that was his comment and not mine. The other matter on which he misrepresented me quite clearly was his statement that I had said or implied that the apple industry is inefficient. I did not mention inefficiency in any shape or form.
– I think that the honourable member has made his point and should not debate the matter any further.
– I know that it is an efficient industry, otherwise it would not survive. The point I made was that its viability was questioned.
-In rising to support this legislation, with some reservations, at the outset I congratulate the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) on his very fine contribution to the debate. I am particularly delighted that I will be followed in this debate by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr). Without in any way recriminating, it has been a refreshing change from what happened in this chamber last year, as I will show by referring to Hansard, when the Apple and Pear Levy Bill was debated in this chamber and when only one Tasmanian was present- the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman), who is now the Minister for Repatriation.
This Bill and the debate upon it is a nostalgic moment for me because in a 10-year parliamentary career my political activities have been very substantially and intrinsically intertwined with the fate of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania. I originally became a member of the Tasmanian Parliament back in 1966, representing the Huon electorate, which is the prime fruit growing electorate in Australia and, if I might say so, the prime fruit growing area in the world. It is a matter of sadness to me that in the decade which has passed since my election to that House in 1966 I have seen the fruit industry in Tasmania decline very drastically. I make no apology for saying that I accuse governments, both Federal and State and both Liberal and Labor, for criminal neglect of the Tasmanian fruit industry over the last 10 years. As an independent in the Tasmanian Legislative Council I fought with- I think that is a fair descriptionmen like the present Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, the present Minister for National Resources, Mr Anthony, Dr Patterson, Mr Grassby and so on. The list goes on at some length.
One of the great failings I feel about my parliamentary career in the Tasmanian House is that I was unable to obtain the government support which I and the indsutry asked for incessantly from 1966 up until the time of my resignation in 1974. My original pledge to the fruit growers of the Huon was that I would endeavour to get them government support to give the industry stability and to give the growers hope. I came into the Parliament, frankly, knowing very little about fruit. I did not know the difference between a Democrat and a Geeveston Fanny. I spoke at a public meeting in Huonville a few weeks after my election and I was prepared to admit at that point in time that what I knew about the fruit industry could be written on the back of a postage stamp. But I was helped, and helped very considerably, by a number of men in the industry who were prepared to take the time to give me the information necessary to enable me to put a case. The sadness is that the case which was put on behalf of the fruit growers throughout Australia at that time fell on deaf ears. The fruit growing industry had been affluent in the 1950s and the early 1960s and I believe that governments thought that the fruit growers were doing pretty well. The tragedy of the situation is that governments failed to heed the warnings.
We have seen the diabolical situation, and I can only describe it as diabolical, in Tasmania where the fruit production in 1966 of 8.364 million boxes, to use the current term, had dropped in 1975 to 4.962 million boxes- a decline of over 40 per cent- because of the criminal neglect of governments, State and Federal, of all political parties. The fruit growing industry in Tasmania, which once comprised 1100 growers as at the time of my election in May 1966, has now dwindled to below 500 growers. As 45 per cent of the orchards which were in full production in 1966 are no more in production, that they have been grubbed out, one will readily appreciate the most difficult period of time that the fruit growing industry has gone through. Party to that criminal neglect- this is the only comment 1 want to make that is adverse to the previous Government- was a lack of care and attention by the former Australian Labor Party members of the House of Representatives who were supposed to be representing Tasmania. In my opinion every Tasmanian, whether he represents a metropolitan or a rural electorate, has a duty to stand up for the fruit industry because, as the honourable member for Franklin has pointed out, the fruit industry plays a vital role in the economy of southern Tasmania, has operated over a period of more than 90 years and has employed a large number of Tasmanians. One estimate that was given to me in 1966 was that the fruit industry was worth over $2 5 m per annum to Tasmania and that it was employing directly and indirectly over 5000 people. So it is no surprise that in those halcyon days Tasmania was known as the apple isle. Regrettably that title is not a happy one for the State at this point in time.
I took the trouble to look at Hansard and to read the debate last year on the Apple and Pear Levy Bill. On 1 1 September 1975, as recorded on page 1366 of Hansard, the honourable member for New England, Mr Sinclair, who is now the Minister for Primary Industry, pointed out to the House the most serious fact that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics had established that the average earnings of Tasmanian fruit growers in that year was $800. I emphasise that amount. During the course of his remarks an interjection was made by the honourable member for Murray, Mr Lloyd. The Hansard report states:
– Where are the Tasmanian members?
-Typically, they are not in the House. I do not really think that the Labor representatives from Tasmania have very much concern about the matter. Indeed, they will not have the responsibility for long. So perhaps their lack of concern is understandable.
I regret very much- I will take the matter no further than this- the fact that the previous honourable members for Denison, Franklin, Wilmot and Braddon did not -
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that it is not competent for a member of this House to reflect upon past members of the House and to misrepresent them in such a fashion as to say that they had no interest in Tasmania or an industry because they were not in the House at the time at which a matter concerning Tasmania or an industry was debated. Every member of this House knows that he can be a participant in a debate and can be preparing a speech without being in the chamber when a Minister is speaking. It is quite improper for the honourable member for Denison to raise that as a point in debate. I believe that you should make him withdraw the imputations, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-The Chair has no knowledge of whether the honourable member’s remarks are true or false. However, perhaps the honourable member will take the matter into account.
-Certainly, Mr Deputy Speaker. I just say that I am quoting from Hansard and the point I want to make is that if we cannot rely on Hansard, what can we rely on? The second point I want to make is that the Australian Labor Party members from Tasmaniathe honourable member for Blaxland has provoked me into saying this- sat silently in this chamber when the exemption from sales tax in relation to fruit juice was taken away by the Whitlam Government. I make the point that there are 2 types of people who talk about the fruit industry in Tasmania. There are those who have a genuine commitment to it and who have fought for it year after year. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), in his previous capacity as Secretary of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, has fought for the industry. I fought for it to such an extent that the Tasmanian Farmers Federation made me, a lawyer, an honorary life member. I say to the honourable member for Blaxland that if he is genuinely interested in the Tasmanian fruit industry he should come to Tasmania, talk to the fruit growers and look at the situation they are in.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. The honourable gentleman slates me; yet it is well known in this House that he has not opened his mail for 3 weeks.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– The honourable member for Blaxland must have been snooping in my room: How else would he know? I do not want to have a fight with him, but if he is genuinely interested in this matter he should come down to the Huon Valley.
– I have been there.
-Some of the honourable member’s friends came there. I can remember Dr Rex Patterson visiting the area. He wore my overcoat in the Huonville Town Hall one night because he was so cold. He spoke to 500 fruit growers and made promises to them. He was followed by his colourful colleague, the former honourable member for Riverina, Mr Grassby, who also made promises. Those promises persuaded a large number of Tasmanian fruit growers to put their faith in the Labor Party back in 1972. The point I make, before passing to greener pastures which I will do provided the honourable member for Blaxland is agreeable, is that the previous Administration let the Tasmanian fruit industry down in no mean order.
One innovation of the previous Government was the establishment of the Apple and Pear Corporation. I must concede that I was dubious at the time of the establishment of that body. I report to this House only that comments made by members of the fruit industry in my State are to the effect that the experiment has not been an overwhelming success. I do not want to engage in personalities, but I ask the Minister to give consideration to a restructuring of the Apple and Pear Corporation with greater grower representation. I emphasise that point. It is wrong for a statutory corporation to be running the industry and for the growers to be in a position where they do not have the same sort of representation as they had in the old days under the Apple and Pear Board.
I think that when the honourable member for Blaxland and I crossed swords I had been discussing the situation in 1966. 1 turn now to 1967. That was a particularly bleak year for the Tasmanian fruit industry. I am sure that the honourable member for Blaxland will realise that the Whitlam Government was not in power in 1 967; so I am not going to criticise it. In 1967 in southern Tasmania there were 2 tragedies, both of which I believe did enormous damage to the fruit industry- damage from which it has never really been given a chance to recover. The first was ‘Black Tuesday’, which devastated my. electorate. Honourable members will be aware that the effects of the damage caused by that unfortunate holocaust are still with us today. In passingI know it is well away from the Bill, but we are talking about the apple and pear industry- I again put in a plea for relief to the growers from the repayment of fire damage loans. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– At question time this afternoon I referred to the Olympic Games -
-Order! Is the Prime Minister seeking leave to make a statement?
– I seek leave to correct a point I made during question time this afternoon.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-At question time this afternoon I referred to the Olympic Games and spoke of the national songs of England, Scotland and Wales being played. Of course, in that case I was referring to the Commonwealth Games at which independent national songs are played.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting we were discussing apples and pears, but in view of the crabs which I drew from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) I could have been discussing fishing. My colleague, the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom), who has shown a very keen interest in the fruit industry over many years, reminded me during the suspension of the sitting that perhaps of all the States Tasmania suffered most by the devaluation decision of 1967. Our State in recent years has been denied access to interstate markets. Because of the high proportion of Tasmanian fruit which has been exported to overseas markets, the devaluation decision had a devastating effect on the Tasmanian industry.
From 1967 to 1974 a number of things occurred which should be referred to briefly. There was the Grant report in Tasmania. I say with respect that it is a great tragedy that the Grant report has been permitted to gather dust and that very little action has been taken on that most worthwhile inquiry and most worthwhile report. We saw the formation of the Apple and Pear Growers Federation of Tasmania. For the first time the fruit growers of Tasmania banded together in a group and for a short period they were effective, but as their numbers dwindled- I repeat that they went from over 1 100 in 1966 to fewer than 500 recently- so too did their influence diminish and the Federation went out of existence.
I have referred to the abolition of the sales tax exemption brought in by the Whitlam Govern. ment. I am sorry the honourable member for Blaxland is not here because I repeat that the sales tax exemption had a particularly significant effect upon Tasmania. It was a decision which was regretted very much by myself and others who were concerned for the interests of the fruit industry. I feel it is a decision which ought to be reviewed even at this late stage. I join the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in his request that this question of sales tax in respect of apple products ought to be reviewed. I made the comment early in my remarks, and I drew some fire, that there were no Tasmanian Labor members present in the House when this matter was debated in December 1973. I draw attention to the fact that there is not a single member of the Australian Labor Party here at this minute when we are discussing the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. So much for the interest of the honourable members opposite in the great fruit industry of Australia and so much for their interest in fruit growers all around this country, who at this moment are wondering just where they are going.
The next date I refer to is 8 April 1974, when the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, commissioned the Industries Assistance Commission to report on the apple and pear industry. I regret that the honourable member for Blaxland is not present but I am sure he is a person of honourable degree, so I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a passage on page 16 of the Industries Assistance Commission report of 16 January 1976 on apples and pears. This is most embarrassing. I did seek his consent.
-The honourable member has said that he spoke to the Opposition spokesman in charge of this Bill. I accept what the honourable gentleman has said and I take it that it is agreed that the matter be incorporated. (The document read as follows)-
The adjustment which has already taken place in the industry has resulted in a substantial reduction in exports. The anticipated ‘off’ production year in 1976 will further reduce supplies for that year. Preliminary estimates sugges that 1976 apple exports will be from 3m to 3.5m boxes (compared with about 4.6m boxes in 197S). On this basis, it is expected that 2m to 2.5m boxes of apples may be available for shipment at risk and, therefore, eligible for inclusion in the stabilisation arrangements if the scheme were to be extended unchanged. The Commission will recommend that price support be available at a maximum of $2 per box for 1976 and SI per box for 1977 and that a limit of 2m boxes per year be placed on shipments eligible for support in both years. As mentioned previously, support at these levels is intended to avoid hindering the adjustment which is currently taking place in the apple industry. Because 1977 is an ‘on’ production year in Australia and an ‘off’ year in Europe the consequent price and supply differentials should help compensate for the difference in the subsidies recommended in the two years.
Shipments of apples to North America were previously included in the stabilisation scheme, but only small quantities were involved. The Commission is aware of optimism within the industry regarding future apple exports to North America. The Commission believes, however, that new markets should be developed on an unsubsidised basis, as is the case with South East Asian and Middle Eastern markets. It will, therefore, recommend that apples exported to North America be not eligible for assistance under the proposed extension of the scheme and that the temporary assistance involved be limited to at risk apple shipments to Europe (including Britain).
– May I say with respect to the Industries Assistance Commission that there are passages in this section with which I frankly disagree, and disagree strongly. I regret that the Commission made such a pessimistic forecast of the production of apples and pears in this country next season. It virtually indicated in the report that the industry is about to die. I regret that the Commission was prepared to recommend only $2 per box for a maximum of 2 million bushels. I feel that the amount should have been bigger. It should have been $3 per box and it should have covered 3 million bushels.
The Government gave a pledge prior to the election that it would put into effect the report of the Industries Assistance Commission and to some extent perhaps bound itself, I would like to have seen greater assistance to the fruit industry both in the amount allocated per box and in the quantity of fruit to be covered. Secondly, I join the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in criticising the fact that stabilisation was not to be made available in respect to developing markets. At a time when this industry is crying out for developing markets, at a time when this industry is fighting for its survival, I respectfully submit that it is insanity to say that we will not support that industry to find new markets. To restrict stabilisation to zones A and B when in the past it has been made available to all at risk markets, in my opinion is a decision which is not based on logic and which cannot be substantiated by fact. It is extremely significant that the LAC in its report did not give any reasons for this decision. Honourable members, when they read the section which has been incorporated in Hansard, will note the fact to which I have drawn attention, namely, that the LAC simply made a bald statement that developing markets should not be the subject of stabilisation. Quite frankly, I cannot understand the decision. I think it is a very negative decision.
I regret very much that it took until 27 February this year for the Government to make an announcement on whether it accepted the IAC recommendations. I regret also that at the same time it announced to the fruit industry of Australia that it could not extend, as we had requested the Government to extend, the assistance to be given to the industry. I draw attention again to the fact that there is not a single member of the Opposition in this House while the future of the apple and pear industry in this country is being debated. I just cannot understand this. There is not a single member of the Labor Party in the House of Representatives at this moment. I just cannot believe it. If honourable members opposite are not interested in the fruit industry, surely they want to represent the people who voted for them on 13 December- the few people in Australia who supported them. I find it very difficult because I came under attack before the suspension of the sitting tonight and I wanted to reply to the allegations of the honourable member for Blaxland. He is not now in the chamber. There is not a single member of the Labor Party here even now. They are not only not here but they are not listening in on their little boxes. They just are not interested. I think the people of Australia, particularly the people of Tasmania, should realise that this is symptomatic of the Labor Party’s attitude to rural industry. It just does not give a damn. As far as I am concerned, even though I represent a metropolitan electorate I, together with all other Tasmanian Liberal members of the House of Representatives, who are present in the chamber, am concerned with the fruit industry. There are others in this chamber also concerned with the future of the fruit industry. We are going to carry the fight. A member of the Opposition has now come into the chamber. I am glad that at least one member of the Opposition has been prepared to come into the chamber and, hopefully, to add a contribution to the debate. I am nearly out of time. May I just say that in future decisions on government assistance for the fruit industry must be made early and not late. They must be generous and confident and not small and miserly. In this situation I appeal that future decisions in respect of stabilisation be made at the very latest by the end of October so that the growers can plan forward. I ask for the assistance to be meaningful to give the industry hope and confidence. I regard the tree-pull scheme as a monumental disaster. We should forget the tree-pull scheme and look to the future. We should endeavour to give the fruit industry an opportunity to grow and get back to the position it was once in.
Last but not least, I repeat that when you see an industry decimated with loss of production of over 40 per cent, loss of acreage of over 40 per cent and loss of orchardists of over 40 per cent, it is time for firm, positive government action. I hope we never again see the criminal neglect that we have seen from governments, Federal and State, Liberal and Labor, over the last 10 years. I support the Bill. I wish that it contained more support for the industry. It is too little too late, but at least it is something, and let us build on it in years to come.
– I commence my speech by saying that a wise old gentleman who was wise in the ways of politics reminded me when I started my political career that I should stand up, speak up and shut up, and that is exactly what I intend to do tonight.
– Hear, hear.
– It is a pity that the honourable member for Blaxland does not listen to his own words. I support the legislation. While I disagree with the description of the legislation that it offers stabilisation to the fruit industries I support the theme of the Bill that stabilisation should be afforded to those industries that are vital paticularly to some of the smaller States like Western Australia and Tasmania. There are two major reasons why, in my opinion, stabilisation is required by government action. First, we need to look at the political decisions that were made in Europe with the formation of the European Economic Community coming under the framework of a common agricultural policy. That agreement between the countries of Europe caused quite massive disruptions to the orderly marketing of primary produce in Australia. We are talking about the fruit industry but it also affected quite a number of our agricultural products, particularly dairy products and a number of other rural products of industries that are now in great difficulty. So I think that when we make decisions of this kind we need to be conscious of the political decisions that have been made in other countries and also that they need to be matched by political decisions in Australia. In some countries, particularly New Zealand which provides some of the greatest competition to Australian primary produce, farmers are very heavily subsidised by the Government.
The other point that I think needs to be given thought to when we are talking about stabilising the fruit industry is the high cost of shipping, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). It was pointed out in the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation report for 1974-75 that the incidence of freight rates on the value of the product is so high, in fact over 60 per cent of the c.i.f. value to Britain and Europe, that it has become the major factor in determining the future viability of large sections of the trade. I think we need to be conscious of that because in my opinion what is happening in this country, particularly in respect of some of our rural products, is that our hard-working farmers are in fact working as long as 14 hours every day of the week to put money in the pockets of waterside workers and other people who are engaged in the stevedoring industry. In my opinion this is grossly inequitable. Those people who do the work should be remunerated because they do the work. I think we need to be conscious of that fact and when we are considering, in line with our industrial relations policy, the new agreement for the stevedoring industry this sort of thing needs to be corrected.
There are other reasons why support by governments can be justified for the fruit industry and in fact for other rural industries in Australia. We need to recognise the fact that a large proportion of our fruit is sold on the export market ‘at risk’. In trading on the export market a large quantity of that fruit is affected by our economic policies. That is, the value of the Australian dollar is determined so as to offer the greatest benefit to the greatest number of Australian people. In setting the value of the Aus.tralian dollar it is affording protection to our manufacturing industry by protecting it against cheaper imports from overseas, but the policy of determining the value of the Australian dollar is creating problems for those industries that operate on the export market, particularly our primary industries, including our mining industries. If it is fair enough for a government to afford protection to our manufacturing industry by setting a value, an arbitrary value, for the Australian dollar then it is equally reasonable to expect the Government to provide some sort of compensation for those industries that are going to be disadvantaged as a result of that decision. If we take this factor alone into account it puts paid to a lot of the arguments that are put forward on our rural industries by supporters of the Australian Labor Party.
Another factor that needs to be borne in mind is the price of food on the Australian market. Again we hear a lot of publicity and a lot of comment from honourable members opposite about the price that Australian consumers have to pay for food in Australian supermarkets. There is a lot of hullabaloo about the price of food con.stantly rising and the housewives of this country being disadvantaged as a result of the high cost of food. I read a very interesting article quite recently in the March edition of the Pastoral Review titled “The Quiet Revolution in Household Spending’. That article stated that the average household spending on food in 1959-60 was 19.6c in each earned dollar and that by 1975 this
Notes: includes cost of home ownership, includes car ownership.
– I have incorporated that table because I think the information contained in it is such as to be of interest to both members on the Opposition side and to members on the Government side, and I think it will make very interesting reading in Hansard. I think it contains some facts to which not enough publicity is given and it might put paid to a lot of the arguments that are presented from the Opposition benches. I am disappointed with the legislation that is being put forward in that it offers $2 per case for a maximum of 2 million cases. In my opinion the industry has presented very sound arguments to show that this assistance is not enough to provide sufficient stabilisation to a very vital industry.
– You are attacking your own Government.
– There are sound arguments, as I said. I am attacking the report of the Industries Assistance Commission and I am attacking some had fallen to 12.2c in each earned dollar and by 1 980 is expected to fall to just over 10c in the dollar. That indicates in my mind that in fact Australians are buying cheaper food. It is cheaper because less of the average weekly earnings is being devoted to the purchase of food and more is being devoted to other items like entertainment. That article accompanied a table setting out the changes in food prices and other items that are absorbing the average weekly earnings between the years 1959-60 and 1974-75 and the forecast for the year 1979-80. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table reads as follows)- of the stands that have been taken by previous governments, not just this Government. There are sound reasons why the fruit industry should be stabilised and why in fact it needs to be subsidised to a higher degree than $2 per case with a maximum of 2 million cases. I have outlined some of the reasons. We need to look beyond just the economic factors of trading, on the world markets. We need to look at the social factors that are inherent in the decision taken in this legislation because these are very interesting. The honourable member for Franklin mentioned earlier that his electorate incorporates the Huon valley, which is one of the hardest hit areas in the fruit industry. The Tasman peninsula is in my electorate. The industry in this area has been almost decimated and the people are in dire straits. It is quite interesting to refer to the report of the Henderson commission on poverty. That report said that the only detailed study of rural household incomes available found high levels
of poverty in the Huon valley. I think the honourable member for Franklin would bear out that statement. I would suggest that this same situation exists in other parts of Tasmania and, as I mentioned particularly, on the Tasman peninsula. I would venture to suggest that the only reason the Henderson commission did not report on conditions in the Tasman peninsula area is that it did not visit the area. It is my contention that in fact people in the peninsula area are worse off than people in the Huon valley. I believe we have an obligation as a government to look after the social interests of those people who are very disadvantaged, particularly the small landholders of this country. We hear much talk about people in urban areas who need to be protected from some of the ravages within our economy. Last week or the week before in this Parliament we were considering a Bill introduced to pay higher superannuation benefits to public servants. Public servants at the moment live on top salaries but apparently they require more money to live in their retirement. We are talking about people who work as long as 14 hours a day for a mere pittance, people who in fact are living in poverty. I believe we have an obligation to protect these hard working people of Australia rather than the people who intend to live in luxury in their retirement.
Another factor that I believe we need to take into account is that if this industry is not given sufficient forms of protection there will be a continued decimation of the fruit industry in Tasmania. As mentioned by the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) in his speech on rural construction, over the past few years we have had a tree pull program in the fruit industry. In Tasmania the orchardists have responded throughout the years to the policies of various governments in this regard. It is interesting to note, again in the Apple and Pear Corporation’s report for 1974-75, that apple production in Tasmania in 1965 amounted to 6.2 million bushels but by 1975 it had fallen to 4.9 million bushels. In New South Wales in 1965 production amounted to 2.9 million bushels but by 1975 it had risen to 5.6 million bushels. In my mind I cannot justify any federal government providing public money to encourage people out of a particular industry in a particular area, by such means as the tree pull scheme, while production of that same product is rising in another area of the country. In my opinion the Tasmanian orchardists have been responsible. They have responded to trends in world marketing and have done their best to reduce the level of production. I think the New South Wales orchardists have to accept more of the obligation. They ought to be under the same sort of restraints that apply in other States of Australia.
If stabilisation is to be offered it should be offered on a basis that will allow production to be brought into line with market demands. If one State responds I cannot justify another State taking advantage of its response. I think the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government need to take that factor into account when considering future stabilisation plans.
– The Government is taking a lot of notice of you.
– I listened, which is more than I can say for other honourable members. I was listening to the honourable member for Wilmot on the broadcast system before I entered the chamber. I also heard the honourable member for Denison refer just after 8 o’clock to the lack of Opposition members in the House.
– The Minister is quite right. It was only as a result of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) bringing that fact to light that members of the Labor Party bothered to join us in the chamber. There is a need to provide stabilisation for rural industries in Tasmania. At the moment we are discussing the fruit stabilisation bills but I believe that the dairy industry is in the same category. In Tasmania we are not as fortunate as some of the other States whose rural industries are based on very large land holdings in grazing industries. We have a section of grazing industries but in Tasmania our rural industries largely are based on small family farms, mainly dairies and orchards. As most honourable members would be aware, at the moment those small family farms are in a very bad economic situation. Later we will be considering a Bill to offer stabilisation to the dairy industry but at this stage we are considering a Bill to offer stabilisation to the fruit industry. I disagree strongly with some members of the Opposition who say that money offered to rural industry is going to big landholders. A lot of false statements are being made by members of the Labor Party. In most cases government money offered to rural industry is offered to small landholders, those landholders who, as pointed out by the Henderson report, are living in poverty. The honourable member for Denison pointed out in his speech that last year the average orchardist in Tasmania made a profit of $800. How many workers at the General Motors-Holden’s Pry Ltd plant would work 14 hours a day for $800 a year?
– Not one, as the honourable member for St George says. We need to bear these things in mind. We are not talking about people who prefer to go down to the wharves and bludge; we are talking about people who are prepared to work 14 hours a day and we are asking them to live in poverty. Our rural industries have been the lifeblood of Australia. They were the industries that set the traditions of this country. I believe that this Government and any future government has an obligation to ensure that the rural industries which provide the lifeblood of Australia are properly protected and given a fair and reasonable slice of the cake in the Australian economy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before I call the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) I would point out that the mere fact that the House agrees to the incorporation of matter in Hansard does not necessarily mean that that material is incorporated. Such incorporation is still subject to the authority of Mr Speaker and to the capacity of Hansard to include such material.
– I support the Bills before the House. I would like to commend honourable members from Tasmania who have put up such an excellent case for the fruit growing industry in their State, an industry which is of such vital importance to Tasmania. Despite any interjections that we might hear -
– They did not get what they wanted.
-Despite interjections, those 3 honourable members who spoke tonight on behalf of the fruit growers in that State deserve well of those fruit growers. I am sure that their case, presented with undoubted sincerity and capacity, will be appreciated very much in the island State of the Commonwealth. The fruit growing industry generally throughout the Commonwealth is in very difficult financial circumstances. That would be an understatement if ever an understatement was made. Therefore it is absolutely essential that the support proposed in these Bills be given to that industry. It is sometimes thought that an industry which is not thriving and which requires some assistance is one that the nation could do without. Nothing could be further from the truth. An industry can be providing a substantial amount of income yet still be in difficult circumstances because of world markets at the time. Predictions at the moment for the fruit industry are not good- in fact they are grim- but the history of world markets shows that fluctuations are such that no one can foretell the future. Therefore, because of the overall value of primary industries, in this case the fruit industry, I believe that protection is justifiable from a national point of view. It is from that angle that I believe we should look at these Bills and the industry generally.
I go along with the idea that reconstruction of the fruit industry is desirable. To the extent that it can be provided it should be provided. But at the same time those people who remain in the industry, those who are able to remain in it in an area where reconstruction is not desirable, possibly because of lack of alternative measures of production, should not be asked to work for a mere $800 a year, as the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) said in the closing stage of his speech. I recall that on 1 1 September last year the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), then shadow Minister, used some figures which showed that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics had assessed incomes of fruit growers in Tasmania as being as low as $800 per annum. Honourable members should not forget that the people in this industry are facing the same severe rising costs that are faced by other people. It is to their credit that they have been able to stand up, for as long as they have, to the very great disadvantages from which they have had to suffer. I believe that the expenditure of this money to enable this industry to remain in existence is well worth while.
The income of fruit growers in the various States is a very clear indication of the almost impossible task they have faced over the years. I believe that at this stage it is desirable that they be given the opportunity to continue at least for some time into the future. I am somewhat concerned that this Bill seeks to provide assistance for only the next 12 months and that there is a suggestion that this assistance will be phased out. One has to look at what these people will do and where they will go if they do not grow fruit, what it will cost the Government in other ways to have them set up in other industries, and what responsibility the Government has towards them? These are sobering thoughts.
One of the factors that may not be known to the community is the tremendous effort that has been made by the wives and families of fruit growers. The wives and families of fruit growers have stood by them, particularly in the picking season, to enable the farms to continue to operate for the time being at least. Many wives have worked in the industry for years so that their menfolk and families might be able to carry on into a period of greater prosperity. Without that assistance, the net farm income would be lower than it is. I know that the wives and families are not compelled to assist the fruit growers to the extent that they do; but this has been the spirit with which fruit growing has been conducted. With this spirit the people in the industry have done everything possible to help to keep the industry at least on a footing on which it can carry on.
I agree with honourable members who advocate the further development of reconstruction. In view of the very unsatisfactory outlook at present for the fruit industry, I favour the maximum use of the reconstruction and tree-pull schemes. I think this is something that should be encouraged in appropriate cases. A maximum of $4m has been allocated under these Bills and up to another $lm will be provided on a dollar for dollar basis with the States. This is not a large amount of money relative to the national income or the national expenditure. The apple and pear industry has helped to develop towns, districts and areas and, as far as Tasmania is concerned, even States. We should remember what it has done for this country. I believe that the assistance that is given to this industry is necessary if the industry is to survive. I believe that we have to take some cognisance of whether we are going to take a conscious decision not to give the industry a chance to continue in operation. I believe that it would be a very sorry day if any government were consciously to take that decision.
– As long as you do not call them ‘dole bludgers’.
– That is another story. I ask the honourable member not to get me going on that subject, because if he does I will rival him in my sincerity of purpose and the vigour with which I will promote that particular angle. The assistance provided in this Bill is at much the same level in money terms as that previously provided. However, because of the falling off in the value of money, in real terms the assistance provided is not equal to the assistance that previously had been provided. At any rate, the assistance is in line with the recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission.
I believe it has been suggested that there should be some degree of regional reconstruction. I will want to know more of the details of that scheme before I express an opinion as to its merit. I still believe that when an industry has reached a stage where the outlook is not bright every facet of that industry should be given full consideration. I understand that the regions envisaged in the scheme are those where lack of profitability is the greatest. If that is so- I believe it to be so- there could be some merit in the suggestion of regional reconstruction. Possibly reconstruction could be expanded on that basis.
The fruit industry is in very serious difficulties. It is facing very hard times. I believe that it has to be looked at very sympathetically and with the object of preserving it where it is of the greatest advantage to do so. I believe that the industry could give very serious consideration to regional reconstruction, in light of the fact that the Europe and United Kingdom trade is diminishing and this will present further serious problems. If this trend continues there could be very serious problems in marketing the production of this country. Therefore I believe that there is merit in reconstructing the industry to the maximum degree which is possible and which will be accepted by the industry.
The industry also has to face up to the problems of increasing freight costs. While freight costs continue to increase the profitability of the industry continues to fall. This is another reason why assistance to the industry should be increased if we are to keep the industry in operation. I claim, as my colleagues on this side of the House have claimed, that the industry should be kept in operation. We have to pay for this. We pay for many other things. One only has to look across the whole gamut of Government expenditure to find that a lot of money is expended on things that perhaps are not as worthy as the retention of the fruit industry for the benefit of this country. Primary industry is much more heavily subsidised in many other countries than it is in Australia. Yet we depend very heavily on primary industry. Admittedly we do so now to a lesser degree in percentage terms than we have done in the past; but it is still a vital and important industry in this country.
While I agree that encouragement should be given to the reconstruction of the fruit growing industry, I believe at the same time that those who remain in it should be supported at least to the extent that is proposed in these Bills. I do not think that is enough. I go along with my colleagues who feel that this industry deserves a little more assistance- maybe considerably more- than it has been getting. I think that we have to weigh up the value of the industry to the nation as a whole. When the Australian people look at the industry from that angle, I believe that they might find that the contribution they are being called on to make, if that is the way to look at it, is fully justified.
-The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has asked me to apologise to the House. An urgent Cabinet meeting has meant that he is unable to be here in the closing stages of this debate. He has asked me to assure the House that he has taken note of the constructive comments made by honourable members and that he will look carefully at those remarks which he did not hear in the last few minutes. He is very aware of the problems of fruit growers. The Bills before the House provide interim assistance to the apple and pear industry. The recommendation in the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission on fruit growing- in particular, the apple and pear section of the industry- are currently being considered by the Government. The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) has referred to the need for long term solutions to the industry’s problems. Such solutions will be sought when the full IAC report is being considered. Honourable members have referred to the tree-pull scheme. The Minister has asked me to say that this scheme is only part of the overall assistance available to the industry. The Minister will be happy to provide explanations to any honourable member who wishes to know why the IAC did not include the American market under the stabilisation scheme now before the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1 April on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1 April on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27 April on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill proposes an arrangement by which voluntary agencies in the community which are entitled to draw benefits under the Aged Persons Hostels Act will be able to maintain their eligibility for that benefit over an unstated period. I want to come back to that matter because I feel some concern that the unstated, quite unclear period may be interminable. I state that obviously with some exaggeration, but I feel that the period of eligibility in this matter may be so extended as to be, in the long term, perhaps disruptive to the program of encouraging the development of hostels and, more especially, perhaps to become increasingly meaningless. That might be stating the issue a little too strongly. I do not know. The fact that I feel it necessary to raise these questions suggests, I think, that it is incumbent upon the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) to give us a more clear definition of what the Government has in mind.
Before I deal more specifically with these matters I would like to look quickly overall at the program of accommodation for the aged, particularly at the record of the last Labor Government. I do this firstly because obviously we are fairly proud, and justifiably so, of what we were able to achieve but, more specifically, because in a recent debate on social service matters a former Minister for Social Services in a previous Liberal-Country Party government took the opportunity to suggest, if not assert dogmatically, that our record in this field was not the best. It was a field in which we were very concerned, a field in which we had been particularly generous, a field in which we had taken a number of initiatives which allowed significant advances to be made. By and large, it was my clear impression from comments of people in the voluntary welfare area who were committed to the provision of accommodation for the aged, that they believed that we had been a particularly generous government in the provision of assistance in this area.
– It was not your money.
– We provided much more money than had been provided in the past, and in total accommodation for aged people in nursing home units, in self-contained units and in hostel units increased immeasurably. I think we must assess the total achievement of the Labor Government in this field, not separate one area such as nursing homes or perhaps self-contained units. On balance we should look at how the achievement stood up. It was a very fine achievement.
Firstly, I think we should put on record that when we came into government we felt a very strong concern, a concern which was shared although not stated by the previous Government, a concern which at that stage was just developing, that too many people were being institutionalised into nursing homes, and that accordingly there was a need to redirect the emphasis in terms of the accommodation programs for the aged. This Bill amends the Aged Persons Hostels Act 1972 which was brought in because of that concern. It does no service to put an aged person who is still mentally alert, physically reasonably active and capable, with a little support, of attending to his own affairs, into a bed in a nursing home. This is physically and mentally destructive. There is a vast range of authoritative sources which can be marshalled to support this point of view. I quote only one, the Australian Medical Journal, which I quoted on many occasions in this Parliament when we were in government, when I was a Minister, to substantiate the point that I am now putting.
In government we took a number of initiatives. For instance, in the program of accommodation for the aged or the disabled under the Aged Persons Homes Act, we increased the basis upon which capital subsidy was provided from a ratio of $2 to $1 raised by a voluntary agency to $4 to $1. We went beyond that. Apart from generously lifting the ceilings which attracted subsidy, we provided an additional subsidy. We provided a land subsidy. This had not been provided in the past. We did so because we realised that the cost of land was an extremely expensive ingredient in the total cost of providing accommodation for the aged. More especially we realised that the cost of land varied between areas and could be extremely burdensome in some areas as against other areas. That seemed, in terms of the practicalities which were available to us, the most practical way of trying to address this problem.
We were in the process of addressing many other problems in this area. For instance, it is much more expensive to build accommodation for the aged in certain rural areas. I dare say it is expensive for anyone to build accommodation, but the area in which we were interested was accommodation for the aged and it is much more expensive to build that accommodation in certain rural areas. We were in the process of sorting out some system which would identify these areas and allow some sort of weighting. We introduced a system of rise and fall- this had not been applied before- which allowed voluntary agencies which contribute valuably in this area to proceed with the development of accommodation projects, knowing full well that they would not be crippled by rapidly rising costs at a time of high and escalating inflation. These were some of the things which we did. In total, the achievement of the Labor Government was quite significant.
I have prepared 2 tables which will allow a better assessment of that achievement. It is true, for instance, that in our period of office the number of nursing home beds declined. This is the area where the Government directly subsidised on the capital side the establishment of those beds. For instance, in 1972-73 there were 1154 such beds established. In 1974-75 there were 992 such beds established. We do not regard that as a bad result. By world standards Australia has one of the highest ratios- my recollection is that it had the highest ratio- of nursing home beds to population. That is not a healthy result. I feel- I am encouraged by the nodding of the head of the Minister- that that is a view which he shares with me. It is certainly a view which his Department shared.
I return to the comments I made earlier. It is not in the best interests of the aged to be rushing them into nursing home beds. Before that happens we must explore the provision of other forms of accommodation for them. I draw attention to what we achieved in the other areas. The number of self-contained unit beds developed under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act went from a little over 2000 beds in 1972-73 to more than 2200 beds in 1974-75. But, more significantly, the achievement in the area of hostel accommodation was quite dramatic. Hostel beds are provided not only under the Aged Persons Hostels Act but also under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act. Accordingly we must aggregate the number of hostel beds provided under both Acts to establish what sort of achievement has been made. When we do this we find that in 1972-73 not quite 1200 hostel beds were provided, but by 1974-75 the number had increased to well over 3700. That is no small achievement.
I should state for the record, because I suspect that there are many people who do not appreciate the distinction between hostel beds and other accommodation, how significant that achievement is. Hostel accommodation represents a bridging between a self-contained unit and a nursing home unit. The self-contained unit is very similar to a self-contained flat- small albeit but nonetheless adequate by and large for the requirements of the retired aged person who desires to move to a retirement village. In too many cases the next step had been to a nursing home, into bed, to stay there and, I regret to say it, to die. Too often there was a disturbing effect on the rest of the village when this sort of thing happened. When I say ‘the rest of the village’ I am bearing in mind that in most cases there is a tendency to develop this sort of accommodation for the aged within a complex, in a village, with self-contained units, hostels and nursing homes. I would like to put it on the record that I have never been totally convinced that it is a great idea to have nursing home units within these retirement villages. That is a personal view which by and large tends to be overwhelmed by the views of the so-called experts. On the other hand I am not prepared to be daunted by the views of experts. Having worked with so many experts in so many fields, I realise how often they can be wrong and I am prepared to stick with a little bit of hard-headed common sense on some of these things, as I understand it. I still think that it would be preferable to have nursing home units away from other accommodation provided in retirement villages.
The hostel units provide a sort of selfcontained unit with some minimum support service for the aged persons, ensuring that in the course of the day they at least receive one substantial meal. That is the significance of those units. The people who are engaged on the staff of the hostel service are trained to observe the condition of the person who is a resident in the hostel unit- not only his physical condition but also the condition of the accommodation which he occupies. For instance, if there is evidence of incontinence or bleeding that is reported quickly because it is a very significant factor in the condition of a resident of a hostel unit. Very briefly, that is the way in which this program has been developed. In fairness, I must say that it has been developed over many years, if not decades, and it has been supported by all parties. By and large it is a very good service.
I think that again I should put on the record my criticism that, if it had not been for the fact that a wrong decision was made in the 1950s, we could have established a much better service. The wrong decision made in the 1950s was to start off with nursing home accommodation first, foremost and initially exclusively. That meant that when people were put into nursing home accommodation they were at the end of the line. Progressively we worked back from that program to self-contained units, and somewhere along the line the concept of hostel units was slotted in between those 2 streams of the program. This happened because a wrong priority decision was made in the 1950s. Momentum developed behind the program which in turn meant that the momentum pushed up the demand for public finance. All governments face the problem of having limited resources measured in terms of available finance as against unlimited demands upon those finances. As the demand and momentum built up behind the program for nursing home accommodation the capacity of successive governments to provide alternative forms of care for the aged- care in the home, care in the community, care in various community activity centres- was constricted. I am not saying that it was totally destroyed. The opportunity was clearly developing but nowhere near as well as it could have developed if the starting point had been to try to keep people at home first and to move progressively from that point to the end of the line, to the nursing home situation.
I am digressing there but it is a very important point and, if nothing else is established by it, this at least is established by it, that when we make decisions we need to establish our priorities properly. It is not always true that popular demand is the best measure of the most effective way of establishing a program for the community. Cold-headed, rational assessment of what the needs are and how best to respond to them is a far preferable approach to policy making but it too often tends to escape us because of the problems we have in the political situation in which we have to work. It calls for perhaps a lot more courage than we have been prepared to display in the past, but given the nature of the demands that have mounted enormously in the past several years and the availability of public finance, which has increased at nowhere near the same rate, much more courage will have to be displayed by all political parties than has been shown in the past. The Minister’s predecessor at the table agreed that I should be allowed to incorporate 2 tables in Hansard. They are quite factual and they are based on the annual reports of the Department of Social Security. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the one from which I have just quoted and the one from which I am about to quote.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The documents read as follows)-
-The second table deals in another way with very much the same sort of factors but additionally it includes the sort of expenditure for which the previous Government was responsible until 1974-75, the latest period for which comprehensive figures are available in the terms in which they are set out in the table. The third lay-out in the table under the heading ‘Total Grants- Aged Persons Hostels Act and Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act’ shows that the previous Government increased the outlay from a little over $22m to more than $76m in a period of a couple of years. In any terms that is a very substantial increase in outlay. The total number of beds or persons accommodated, in all forms, covered by both the Acts to which I have been referring went from a little over 4000 to nearly 7000. As honourable members can see, a very substantial achievement was made in that period. My party makes no apologies for that record of achievement. We feel no embarrassment. We reject entirely the criticism which was made a few weeks ago in the course of a debate in this House on a social services matter by an honourable member on the Government benches who was formerly a Minister for Social Services.
While I am on this matter I suppose that I should take the opportunity of talking about another aspect of nursing home beds. The Minister will find, if he has not already found, that the private commercial nursing homes lobby is a very effective and very emotional lobby. I remember when I was Minister for Social Security that on more than one occasion, when it suited the private commercial nursing home people, patients were moved on litters out of their nursing homes to the edge of the footpaths of the streets outside the homes. It was arranged for the media, particularly the visual media, to cover the whole exercise. All sorts of emotional displays were indulged in. Poor old grand-dad was put out on the street by the hard hearted bastard down there in Canberra- they were literal comments by more than one person. After the media went the poor old person was lifted up on the litter and put back in the nursing home. What was not mentioned was that in several of these instances at least the nursing homes were clearly investment enterprises which had been returning a very generous rate of return on investment, and the restrictions which we were applying and the regulations which we were imposing had been passed in this Parliament in the closing stages of the Liberal-Country Party Administration, which parties felt as we felt in Opposition, and held the view in Government, that there had been too much exploitation of the aged.
The Minister for Health will discover, if he has not already, that the profit making people in the nursing homes know full well how to be quite ruthless and brutal in trying to mobilise emotional responses in the community against a government so that they can exploit the taxpayer by forcing a government into paying out more money. There are a number of nursing homes in this private profit making sector which maintain very high standards. I have nothing but the highest praise for them. In fact some of them would be equal to the very best in the non-profit making sector and may even have a marginal advantage over them. But the point is that there are still some unscrupulous people. We took the system which the previous Liberal-Country Party Government had introduced to try to bring this effectively under control. I cannot hear what the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is trying to say, but from very long experience I know that I am not missing anything.
Mr Clyde Cameron- I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Griffith has no right to be interjecting while out of his place. I suggest that you either ask him to shut up or get back onto his seat.
-Order! The honourable member has made his point. 1 am inclined to uphold it.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! Two wrongs do not make a right! I call the honourable member for Oxley.
– It would seem to me that no matter where the honourable member was sitting in this place, he would be out of place. But as I was saying, having heard him so often before, but not hearing him now, I nonetheless know that I am not missing anything.
I want to go on to the issue of nursing home beds. I noted in the latest annual report of the Department of Social Security that the total number of nursing home beds provided had risen from nearly 78 700 to nearly 85 300. 1 do not feel any satisfaction when I look at the ratio of beds per 1000 population and note that it went from 6.1 to 6.3. 1 repeat what I said earlier; This country has too many nursing home beds per head of population and that is not a good situation. The emphasis is wrong and we are not properly responding to the real needs of aged people. I am sure that honourable members remember the period in which we were a government and the constant criticism to which we were subjected, and frequently the very bitter, personal condemnation of Ministers for Social Security in the Labor Government by the profit makers in the nursing homes about how tough we were and about how we were depriving the aged of beds. The figures show that in fact rather than our reducing the rate of beds per head of population the rate had increased in the period in which we were in government. Personally I feel that that is not as good a result as I should like to have seen.
I should like to move away from that narrow area, but not without underlining the facts. As I mentioned to honourable members before, I am bolstered by the tables which I have produced and which the Minister has been kind enough to allow to be incorporated in Hansard. The tables are based upon statistics in successive annual reports of the Department of Social Security. In total, the rate of increase in forms of accommodation for the aged under the 2 Acts which I have been mentioning- the Aged Persons Hostels Act and the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Actwas quite phenomenal under the Labor Government. It was a great achievement. Anyone who tries to diminish that must address himself to the cold, hard, statistical facts and try to dismantle those. More importantly, the fact that hostel bed type accommodation increased much more significantly than any other form of accommodation must be regarded as a very worthwhile achievement. I note that a former Minister for Social Welfare has returned to the chamber in the backbenches of the Government. Strange as it may seem to some honourable members, he is a man I have been critical of from time to time. I think we ought to pay respect to his initiative in introducing the Act which allowed very much of that momentum to develop. I hope that redresses the imbalance that he was complaining about a few weeks ago when he spoke to me following a speech I made in the Parliament.
Another aspect I wish to raise is the overall achievement in the field of social security and welfare by the Labor Government. I do not believe that we created a soft society by taking so many initiatives in the field of welfare and providing more generous benefits in the field of welfare. I do not think that pensioners are softer as a result of the more generous rates of pensions they now receive. I do not think that the dependent infants of supporting mothers are worse off, made softer, because we introduced a supporting mothers benefit. Nor do I think our overcoming the neglect of so many decades by introducing a double orphans benefit or a handicapped child allowance, for instance, has made people softer. Again as a further illustration, I do not believe we have ruined society by introducing the Homeless Persons Assistance Act, although I really must raise some questions about how far that has progressed since we went out of government. It is not the sort of welfare initiative which gets votes but it is the sort of welfare initiatives which satisfies one greatly because one realises that one has discharged a very important moral obligation in society to do something for the very serious social casualties that we do have in our community, and to help the very worthwhile people who dedicate their lives to helping the men and women who are homeless and who are drifting in the community, often in a situation of that nature because of some sort of crisis that has occurred in their life.
On balance we have a very favourable record. In 197 1-72 when we came into office the percentage of gross domestic product spent on social security and welfare was 4.4. In 1974-75 we lifted that to 6.3 per cent. There is no room for apologies on that. I note that the Church of England, in a publication which it released in the last week or two, suggests that much more needs to be done than the Labor Government did. I endorse that view. I think it is a very harsh, a very brutal and very insensitive society that does not accept the point of view that there are people in this community who, in spite of all we did, are still not being reached by the programs of welfare which are available, and that more needs to be done, not the least of which is the introduction of some sort of guaranteed income concept. I try to score no points on that, because I did enough work in the Vh. years I was Minister for Social Security to realise the enormous complexities and difficulties of introducing a simple guaranteed scheme with the vast range of different forms of benefits which are available and which ought to be overtaken by a more simplified, adequate system of guaranteed income.
– Order! I remind the honourable member that he is drifting a bit away from the Bill.
– I take your point, Mr Deputy Speaker. The only other observation I make in this slight excursion about the key point we are discussing, but relevant to the key point, refers to deficit financing of the non-commercial private nursing homes, that is, those conducted by voluntary agencies. I must say that when this proposition was first mentioned to me I had some reservations, but I was persuaded that the people in the Public Service could adequately audit this system. I still believe that they can. I believe it has been an outstanding benefit in the community. It has allowed people who are not profit motivated, who are committed to providing a high standard of service for people because they are committed to people, to do so without fear of a crippling burden of financial deficit looming, growing, before them. I feel unease at so many reports coming to me from people in this area that the Government is thinking seriously, if not dismantling the program, at least of drastically curtailing it. I sincerely trust that the Minister will spare the time to give the lie to these rumours, because this program is altogether too valuable, too helpful to the community to allow that sort of drastic objective to be imposed. I repeat that the community is not made soft by that sort of program either.
I come to what this Bill is all about- and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would say ‘At last’. It proposes that those organisations which have lodged applications for assistance under the Aged Persons Hostels Act and who have not received money yet can receive that money providing they complete construction of accommodation within 12 months of approval being given. I think that the Minister ought to clarify what I think are a few inconsistencies in his statement in the Parliament. For instance, he said that the previous Government decided in August 1975 to approve all outstanding proposals under section 5 of the Act on or before 27 September 1 975.
A little later he said:
An amendment to the existing legislation -
Which is what this is all about- will give organisations with existing rights 12 months from the date on which a grant is actually approved to plan and commence construction of their hostels.
The office of the Minister for Social Security, and the Minister is in another place, is unable to clarify a little conundrum here. If the approval was given in terms as expressed very clearly by the Minister in his statement to this Parliament on or before 27 September 1975, that would mean that within 12 months of that date, 27 September 1976, this calendar year, all of the organisations with outstanding applications should have completed construction of their buildings and received the money. There are 300 applications for grants and the value involved is in excess of $ 134m. I clearly had in mind- I believe my successor Senator Wheeldon had in mind- that we would clean that up over 2 years, 3 years possibly at the maximum. I do not believe that the Minister meant that this would be cleaned up in 12 months. I do not believe it can be cleaned up in 12 months. On the other hand, I do not like the open-endedness of his statement which suggests that it might go on for five or ten years. I feel no reassurance from clause 3 (2) of the Bill which states:
The amount of a grant under this section shall be paid at such time as is, or by such instalments and at such times as are, determined by an agreement between the DirectorGeneral and the prescribed organization or, in the absence of the agreement, by the Director-General.
I suspect that the Government is trying to evade its responsibilities in this area, trying to impose a burden on the aged and a burden on voluntary agencies in the community. I ask the Government forthrightly to state now what is its target date for cleaning up the outstanding 300 applications. Will it do this, as we were prepared to do, in 2 years or in an extreme situation, which I do not see offering itself at this moment, no more than 3 years?
-The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who just spoke, referred to the great achievement of the Labor Government in increasing the percentage of gross domestic product spent on social welfare. He also referred to what he believed was one thing that the Labor Government had done; it had not made Australia a soft society in spite of this increase in social welfare. I agree with him on this but I think it is interesting to see how it came about. Australia is now suffering from the greatest unemployment since the depression which was caused by the previous Labor Government. I am sure that hundreds of thousands of unemployed in this community would not consider that Labor had made a soft society for them. Also, if one looks at the increase in the percentage of GDP spent on social welfare one sees that a significant percentage of that increase was spent on unemployment benefits which was made necessary by the massive increase in unemployment through the maladministration of that Government. So one can agree with the honourable member but still look for the real cause of soft societies which spend a great percentage on unemployment benefits and on social welfare.
I would like to pay a tribute in discussing this Bill to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who was the Minister for Social Services when the original legislation was introduced back in 1971. He introduced the hostels legislation as a 3-year crash program to put greater emphasis on the provision of hostel accommodation as distinct from the other forms of accommodation. To the credit of the previous Minister for Social Security in the Labor Government, the honourable member for Oxley, the previous Government amended the scheme as people on both sides of the House had suggested it should be amended to allow the transferability of bed entitlements from those who had qualified but did not want to take up hostel accommodation. Because of this the time scale had to be extended. The previous Government extended it for one year. This legislation takes away a time scale and requires only that when an organisation receives a grant to build it has to do something within 12 months after receiving that grant. To me, that is a reasonable requirement.
In the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) he stated that the Labor Government, in finalising approvals under this Bill so that they would be accepted in principle before the closing date, accepted 300 applications which amounted at that time to a liability of $ 134m. The honourable member for Oxley in referring to this figure of $134m and what he thought a Labor government would have been able to achieve to satisfy this demand, then turned and criticised this Government for what he termed to be the open ended nature of this commitment that is inherent in this amending legislation. I think that if anybody should be criticised for making an open ended commitment it must be members of the previous Labor Government for automatically accepting everything that was proposed and saying in effect that the organisations would get their money but giving no promise of when that would happen. Of course the previous Government knew full well that unless the legislation was amended it would have been impossible to fulfil the commitments. I think the argument of the honourable member for Oxley is a little like trying to have his cake and eat it at the same time. As usual, he is suffering from indigestion in the process.
There is a real problem in the provision of adequate finance to satisfy all the demands for aged persons accommodation in Australia. There are 3 types of aged persons homes: Single units for those able to care for themselves; the hostels, with which we are particularly concerned tonight; and nursing home beds. I believe that the Government has to establish priorities. As money in any Budget is limited according to the priorities of expenditure within the Budget in the aged persons housing program, I personally would favour a priority for the provision of hostels and for nursing home beds in the many areas of Australia where there is an acute shortage of nursing home beds. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was right in saying, as he did by interjection, that there is a shortage of nursing home beds in many parts of Australia. I can give honourable members the example of northern Victoria where there are virtually no nursing home beds north of the Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged.
– And they are short of beds.
-That is right. That means people from my area have to go to Melbourne, which I think it is a most unfortunate social depredation for those people and for their families and the communities that they leave behind. Therefore I think the provision of nursing home beds in those areas of need should be a top priority and the provision of hostels should be the next highest priority. Nursing home beds provide assistance for the more frail aged than is provided in aged persons hostels. I believe that in many cases the provision of aged persons accommodationthat is the single units for those able to look after themselves- has allowed the younger generation of the middle class safely to push to one side the responsibility for looking after or finding a home for their parents. I think that many of the people in these homes would be able to pay for what I would call retirement-type accommodation on a purely commercial basis. In many cases government expenditure has not achieved the same degree of welfare assistance that could be achieved by a closer look at people going into the homes and by the proper priority of capital expenditure in the first place.
In criticising nursing homes the honourable member for Oxley made the point that many people who are in nursing homes perhaps need not be there because their medical conditions do not require them to be there. One would have to agree with that. But one should also point out that unless there are adequate nursing home beds we will have more and more people in acute hospital beds which cost up to twice as much a week to provide as nursing home beds. I think we have to have everything in perspective. Where people should be in acute hospital beds they should be provided. If a nursing home bed is required rather than an acute hospital bed, that should be provided. If a nursing home bed is not needed these people should be looked after in their own homes in their family environment with a greater provision of support services for them.
That brings me to the next point I would like to make. I draw the attention of the Minister for Health to an aspect of his ministerial responsibilitythe domiciliary nursing care benefitthat is very important in this area. If we are to discourage people from going to nursing homes unless they really need to do so- if their families and outside support services can help them- we should be looking at increasing the domiciliary nursing care benefit in line with the rate of inflation, we should be providing as much help as possible for these people in the way of community services, such as district nursing services, and perhaps we should be extending the flexibility of the domiciliary nursing care scheme not only to allow for a change in the ratio of registered nurses to nursing aides but also in relation to the requirement of a medical assessment for the domiciliary nursing scheme as distinct from the medical assessment that is required for the aged at the present time. If we can do more in the community with respect to such people it is not only cheaper but also more socially desirable to do so.
The honourable member for Oxley also talked about deficit financing in regard to nursing homes. He seemed to put some halo over this matter. I think that he attributed unfair motives to the many fine private nursing homes in our community. His attitude is wrong in the sense that I believe that, irrespective of whether a person is in a deficit financed home- that is, a charitable nursing home- or a private nursing home, our approach should be in response to the needs of the patient and our emphasis should be on the needs of the patient rather than the type of accommodation; that is, whether it is a private nursing home or a charitable nursing home. If we do not adopt that view we are being socially unjust because in our community there are not enough charitable nursing homes to cater for those who need nursing home accommodation and there never will be enough because larger amounts of government money are needed for the construction of more of that type of nursing home. No matter how beneficent a particular government is it just cannot do it.
That is one of the hard lessons that the previous Government finally learned. It went through an ideological stage in which it felt that it could put all the private nursing homes out of business and just move the patients completely to the charitable ones. It found that it would cost a huge amount of money to do so, and that the cost of doing so was even beyond its wildest spending dreams. We have to redress the balance and come back to looking at the patient in the nursing home situation rather than just at the person who happens to own that particular type of accommodation. I support the legislation. I think it is a sensible extension of a series of what I would call bipartisan improvements that have been made to legislation that was introduced by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in 1971 and whose provisions were continued sensibly by the previous Labor Government. This Bill is a logical extension. Hopefully the series of improvements will conclude in the not too distant future in the satisfaction of the applications that have been made under this legislation.
-The House is debating the Aged Persons Hostels Amendment Bill. It is not the most exotic piece of legislation by any means, but it is certainly legislation which means a great deal to a considerable number of people. The Bill involves, as the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) have implied, very significant philosophical considerations. Indeed, the more we talk about this sort of matter the more we are inclined to deter families from accepting the obligation that they otherwise might have accepted, particularly when we claim in the conversations and debates that we have that we are our brother’s keeper in respect of the care of the aged.
Of course, if one does take such a view, if one is involved in such an advocacy, it is very difficult for one to reconcile that with the contention that one should be curtailing expenditure in the public sector of the economy. When one talks about the general theme of the community accepting greater responsibility in the future than it has in the past, one automatically is giving credence to the idea that one should not engage in a cutting of the expenditure in the public sector of the economy. It is very fashionable to tantalize people with the prospect of a cut in taxation while one concurrently or simultaneously is dangling in front of them the great benefits that can be obtained from an expansion of public sector expenditure.
The purpose of this legislation, of course, is to give effect to the Labor Government’s decision to defer but subsequently to approve 300 applications under the Aged Persons Hostels Act which would involve a total construction expenditure of $ 1 34m. It is now proposed to amend the Act to extend the commencement time for the projects from 27 September 1976 to a period of 12 months for each project from the date a grant is actually approved. The original Bill- the Aged Persons Hostels Bill- that was introduced by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) on 14 September 1972 in itself was commendable, and nobody is seeking to detract from it in any way. It provided an incentive for the building of hostel-type accommodation for the frail aged, as was intended, to lessen the pressure on admissions to nursing homes of people who in many cases did not need such a service. The honourable member for Murray sought to disparage the Labor Government’s endeavours in respect of nursing homes. I think that I need only to say that if he studies the figures he will establish the point that there has been an enormous underwriting of the cost of this private sector activity to a degree which is becoming extremely worrying to a very large number of people.
We have a multi-tiered system of looking after the aged. We have the aged persons homes concept itself, where self-sufficient people are able to care for themselves, to cook for themselves, to wash their own clothes, to clean their own units and so on. Then we go on to think in terms of hostel accommodation, which is often an ancillary part of the same establishment, where people are losing the capacity to cook their meals. Then we go on to the nursing home situation, which attracts support from the Australian Government. After that, of course, there is the hospital system itself. So we really have an extremely complex system in operation at the present time.
The honourable gentleman’s identification of the merit of the Aged Persons Hostels Act was perfectly correct. He spoke about the credit side. But there are several offsetting factors which, in my view, have retarded the effectiveness of the hostel scheme. The first involves the category of benevolent organisations that are eligible for benefits. To be eligible, an organisation needs to have an existing home which was subsidised on a $1 for $1 basis prior to 1957. 1 remember being at the opening of an aged persons home with the honourable member for Mackellar back in those years when I was contending that a $1 for $1 subsidy was insufficient. Of course, I was reprimanded by him and a number of his political confreres who were there at that time, but since then things have changed greatly and the $1 for $1 subsidy that prevailed in 1957 subsequently has gone on to be a subsidy at a far more benevolent level than the subsidy at that time. So my prediction turned out to be spot on.
Those organisations are, as I understand it, assisted with the full capital cost of the provision of hostel-type accommodation. The incidence of unit capitalisation varies. If the home is an unsubsidised home, assistance is given on the basis of 2 hostel places for every person accommodated. If it is subsidised already on a dollar for dollar basis, assistance given is for one hostel place for every two accommodated. But why restrict the capital assistance, that is, the full cost of hostel accommodation, to those organisations operating and subsidised prior to 1957? Of course, other organisations have been subsidised dollar for dollar for some time. Then they were subsidised on a $2 to $ 1 basis and then, under the Labor Government, from December 1974 on a basis of $4 to $1. That subsidy has been provided for aged persons homes and for hostel accommodation as well in some cases. Of course, the subsidy of $4 for $1 is a lesser amount than that paid under the Aged Persons Hostels Act which, in fact, is the full capital cost. So only a very limited category of establishments is attracting the full subsidy and others are more or less relegated to the $4 for $ 1 subsidy element for the provision of hostel assistance.
As I see it, there is a need for flexibility. I believe that the capacity to catalyse or to start hostel development for the frail aged should be vested with the organisations, always subject of course to the approval of the Department or the Commonwealth Government, but also there should be a capacity for the Government itself to catalyse such development. It seems to me to be a peculiar situation that our response to the needs of the aged in terms of aged persons accommodation and the frail aged in terms of hostel accommodation, is met only to the extent that bodies rise up with spontaneity and seek to raise funds through the churches and various organisations with benevolent intent. In other words, without that sort of catalysing component which we vest very heavily in the churches, the service clubs and the benevolent institutions, it is possible to see a situation where entire communities could be deprived of the benefit of Australian Government assistance both for aged persons homes and for hostels. Therefore I believe that this prerogative to catalyse should follow in the wake of a careful government analysis of the community needs that prevail throughout Australia. We cannot depend on the spontaneity of a church organisation although it is welcome where it exists. But, in some situations it should readily be conceded that it is just not there or, to the extent that it is there, it may not represent the extent of activity that will result in a solution of the problem that prevails.
I say this in a broad sense but I also say that the Australian Government in this matter should take unto itself the prerogative of utilising the provisions of this Act in respect of the established organisations, whether they have received assistance under the 1957 provisions or whether they are receiving assistance under the 1976 provisions which provide a $4 for $1 subsidy. As I have said, this Bill provides very worthwhile benefits. I believe that it represents an isolated element of benevolence on the part of the Government in the area of social welfare- a government which in other respects is mounting an assault on social welfare. Tomorrow, as we all know, thousands of people will come to Canberra concerned with social service matters, as the teachers came here last Thursday concerned with education matters. I believe an assault is being contemplated as the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has already mentioned. He has called on the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to give an assurance that this particular scheme will not be jettisoned or adversely affected by the Budget cuts that are being contemplated. We have all read in the Press, even of today’s date, considerable mention of this kind of conjecture. There has already been opposition to the 93 per cent pension increases. There has already been a delay in paying pension increases which has cost the pensioner community some $29m. There has been an attempted assault on funeral benefits. Fortunately that has been thwarted but it has given cause for widespread concern. There has been a complete denial of the need to upgrade pensioners’ children’s allowances, and of course there is now strong doubt on whether the program for the elimination of the means test is to be proceeded with.
We read today that there is a secret report from the Income Security Review Commission and it is contended that this legislation is under threat through the recommendations of that Commission. It is contended that this subsidy will be cut from $4 to $1 to $2 to $1. We know that there is also conjecture that child endowment is to be curtailed and, of course, maternity allowances are the subject of similar conjecture. I believe in this particular matter we have this isolated element of benevolence, but there is good reason why the Government should take this attitude and why it should encourage activity under the Aged Persons Hostels Amendment Bill. The reason has been spelled out clearly by the Minister. The more we engage in activity under the provisions of this Bill the less we are likely to incur expense in terms of subsidies for the home nursing program which in terms of unit care costs is of a far greater order.
To recapitulate, the purpose of the Aged Persons Hostel Amendment Bill is simply to give effect to the Labor Government’s commitment to approve all outstanding proposals under section 5 of the Act on or before 27 September 1975 but to defer in a number of cases the making of a grant because of the then unavailability of funds. This Bill simply extends the date to enable those deferrals to be accommodated. It follows that the Opposition supports the legislation. The Labor Government gave practical expression to its concern for the aged in many ways. During its term of office the Aged and Disabled Persons Homes Act was amended, increasing financial aid for organisations. In 1974-75 grants were increased from $21m to $43m. Subsidies were increased from $2 for $1 to $4 for $1. The maximum subsidy for building rose from $7,800 to $9,360 for single accommodation and from $9,100 to $10,920 for double accommodation. Then, of course, there were subsidies for land. These were increased. First of all they were initiated by a Labor government but subsequently that same government increased the land element from $1,600 to.$l,920 for every unit built.
We moved in the personal care subsidy area to help organisations which conducted hostels so they could provide personal care and the personal care subsidy was increased from $ 12 to $ 1 5 a week. This subsidy was extended by the Labor Government to some 1 1 156 people in 456 hostels at a cost of $7.6m per annum. In 1975 the aged persons homes provisions were also greatly supported in that Labor gave approval to 228 grants to help build homes for old people at a cost of $37.2m. In addition hostels incurred an expenditure of $38. 8m. So I think it is fair to say that the previous Government had a very good record in this regard. In 1971-72 total expenditure on pensions and benefits under the Social Services Act was equivalent to 3.3 per cent of gross domestic product. In 1974-75 it rose to 4.8 per cent. The total paid in pensions and benefits in 1971-72 was $l,200m, and this rose to $ 1,560m in 1972-73, $ 1,944m in 1973-74 and $2,8 12m in 1974-75.
On 15 April 1976 the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) issued a Press release under the heading ‘Domiciliary Nursing Benefit Care Extended’. He said:
A review of the scheme had pointed up an anomalous situation in regard to people living in aged persons complexes which had no hostel or nursing home attached to them, or which contained a hostel but employed no nursing staff.
He went on to announce that as a result the domiciliary nursing care benefit would be extended to people living in these aged persons homes. I commend him for that activity, and I believe that that kind of concept could be expanded to very great benefit. There is no reason at all why we cannot provide a greater range of domiciliary nursing services to people who live in aged persons homes so that these homes will take on a hostel-type characteristic. Of course we can provide not just nursing home support but also an extension of the meals on wheels services and whatever else is needed to transform an ordinary aged persons home situation into a hostel-type situation. Overall the Opposition is pleased that the Government has given effect to the commitment made in respect of sustaining this very important program which benefits such a large number of people in Australia who have the need for hostel care.
– I support the Aged Persons Hostels Amendment Bill. It is not a spectacular Bill but it is an extremely important Bill. We stand at the cross-roads in many respects in the provision of welfare services. We have seen in the past few years an admirable attempt upon the Australian Labor Party’s part to try to do something to remedy some of the difficulties in our society. But it brought upon its own head very serious practical problems. I join in the congratulations to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who initiated this program, which has been a very significant benefit. It has accelerated the development of hostel accommodation, which stands between self-care and nursing care in hospitals, that is, for the person who is bedridden.
We have a number of different types of aged persons housing. I respectfully suggest to the House that we should consider an additional type or types. We presently have nursing homes, hostels and self-care for those persons who are perfectly able to look after themselves. There is really a need to supplement these, bearing in mind that we have in this country the highest number of nursing home beds per thousand population in the world. I notice that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) stated that there are too many nursing home beds. Perhaps that should be qualified, because it would be fair to say, as the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) said, that there must be some area where there is a specific local need. But when we are looking at overall objectives the question is: What is the best way at present to spend money in the interests of elderly persons without wastage? Under the Labor Government we had an unfortunate situation in which the Government ran out of money in many areas, not the least of which were the areas provided for under this Act and under the Aged and Disabled Persons Homes Act.
We also had some examples of abuse, indeed gross abuse. Of course this could occur under any social reform of an experimental type, but the fact is that serious difficulties arose. Projects under the Aged and Disabled Persons Homes Act worth $340m were deferred. In many cases the persons or organisations concerned had expended large sums of money in obtaining land at very high cost to which the honourable member for Oxley referred, had obtained builders and had partially commenced works. These were deferred late last year, leaving very serious situations. We must face the fact that we cannot afford more of the same type of approach. Last year’s allocation was $30m as against a backlog of $340m. There were some deferrals under the present Act, but these are now being taken care of. Many persons and organisations came forward and asked for subsidies. The Labor Government deferred some funding under this Act, but agreed to help certain organisations which made application. We are now taking up the running under this Act. I agree with the honourable member for Oxley. I cannot understand why it should be that if an organisation had a right in 1957 it should necessarily be tied to those criteria today.
We are dealing with a difficult situation. The Government is trying to do its best in these areas and is prolonging the operation of the existing Act. Perhaps there could be a full review of these types of matters at some future time. What we need is a total approach to care for the aged. As I said, a number of different services can be provided. We really need to expand the number of day care/day hospital complexes. There are one or two in Australia. I think there is one at Ballarat and there is a pilot scheme in my electorate which it is hoped will become operational.
I want to refer to a number of matters concerning the electorate of St George. According to figures which are now a little ancient, in the municipality of Rockdale in St George there is a population of 21 195 people over the age of 55 years. This is 25.2 per cent of the population. In Hurstville the figure is 24.19 per cent and in Kogarah 24.7 per cent. In some of the areas of the Canterbury Council that are in St George, the Earlwood district, up to 15 per cent of the population are elderly pensioners, many with illnesses. In Rockdale 1 1 per cent of the population are elderly people with one or more limiting diseases. The total number of people in that municipality with a limiting disease is 9732. In Kogarah the number is 4448 and in Hurstville it is 6251. Again the figures are somewhat dated, but the House can see the incredible need to care for people in these categories in very large numbers. Those figures include age and invalid pensioners.
What we need to look at is this huge area of need and ask ourselves what are the best ways of tackling it. It seems in the present circumstances, when there have been deferrals and when considerable problems have been caused, that we should be looking initially to approval in principle by the Government of worthy ventures to enable people to start planning with a knowledge of what they will be able to plan for in the future. We should be asking industry to start looking more closely at development and building in this field. One of the by-products of the Labor Party’s unfortunate difficulties was that much welfare housing was cut back and that in turn helped to cut back some of the building industry activity itself. There is a great role for the industry to play in the development of aged persons homes. There are areas in which, as we know, such as the self-care areas, the industry could take up a little more of the burden. I will talk about particular schemes in a moment.
I believe we could reduce some of the subsidies that need to be spent in those areas and spend them in areas of more particular need for people in very difficult circumstances. The problem we have now is that the program has become jammed. The organisation is jammed as well as the monetary problems. We have to look ahead 3 or 4 years and devise a scheme to get out of this situation. We should be looking carefully at the limits of the subsidies. As building costs rise the limits get out of kilter. We should be looking at regular updating of subsidy limits in line with building costs and make them more realistic
What I want to mention in relation to my own electorate are 2 projects which may be of some help in this area. One relates to a simple classic example of the difficulties being faced by organisations which have had their approvals deferred, as the Labor Party terms it. Of course this has happened across the board in many areas, including war service homes loans. Even today we heard about fees due for lawyers, the aged persons homes and many others which have been deferred. For all practical purposes this means they have been killed. The Rockdale Congregational Homes Trust had a project of a similar nature. Money was expended on the project. The trust had gone into very serious detail, planning and organisation. It had arranged to purchase property. It had arranged to have tenants moved out, many of whom had lived there for years and they were going to move out on the basis that they could move into the new building when it was completed. Now what do we find after the expenditure of large sums of money? The project is frozen.
There is a very very urgent need for this project to get moving but of course it has to be assessed along with many other priorities. I believe it has a very high priority. The Trust itself has placed this as its own first priority, amongst others. An extremely large amount of money has already been invested. It is important to retain the recommended tenderer. The trust has a builder standing by. He has been standing by for some time and he wants to get on with the work. Another consideration is the importance of avoiding the additional eventual cost that will come about. As it is the trust will now have to try to find the tenants, tell them to stay in their homes, or put back into homes the tenants who have been taken out, rearrange all the financial aspects later and start all over again at a time when in the economic recovery that is coming about under the present Government there will be increased prices.
The demography and the needs of the area clearly must be met. As I said, the trust has expended money on the purchase of more land in anticipation of final approval. It got to within one week of the final approval. That was the fine print that the Labor Government gave to the trust as a reason for this deferral, but any lawyer will tell you that past performance is the equivalent to the clinching of a bargain. If you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and part perform the contract there is a contract, but regrettably the former Government did not see the need to keep to its obligations. There is also a very high degree of community interest in this area. The people of Bexley, Earlwood and Rockdale are extremely interested in the project and they are disappointed with what has occurred. The local council has shown great interest and has assisted the project very considerably. Here I take some issue with the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). Under our federalism policy we are getting decision making down to the people where it belongs.
Although I agree with overall supervision of Commonwealth finance and Commonwealth projects we should not have overall detailed decision making. Here is a classic case of persons who have been deprived of the right to make their own decisions in their own interests. Many of these persons were prepared to pay the foundation donation. There are many other reasons, including the fact that in that area we have a large turnover in population and we need to look at elderly people who are in their own homes with a view to removing the burden of those homes. Many are big homes that could accommodate a family. Indeed at Bexley North public school there are too few children. The number of teachers has been reduced and there are combined classes which create considerable problems. We are getting a lot of trouble from the teachers. One of the reasons is that the children there are in fact becoming few.
In migrant areas such as Earlwood, Arncliffe and Rockdale this is not the case because migrants and other Australians are coming into the area with their, families. The point is to ensure that large homes are made available with everybody volunteering and agreeing on what is done to avoid having to send elderly people miles and miles out into the suburbs into aged persons homes. We should allow them to move into units in the vicinity of their previous homes where they can live with dignity and near their local friends. They should be allowed to develop a family life in those areas without the necessity of having to commute very great distances to make use of hospitals, schools and the like which are already built in this area. It must be sound common sense.
The second matter I want to refer to is the day care centre or the day hospital/centre complex. A pilot scheme is being organised by a number or groups including the Rockdale Community Mobile Nursing Service. Let us say that we have a large number of nursing home beds. Let us say that we have in hospital too many people who should not be there, people seeking assistance at vast cost to the public purse when indeed they ought not be in hospitals. What we need is more day care and assistance. It is a fact of life that many an old lady in a large home standing on a ladder to put in a light bulb, falls off, breaks a hip and goes to a hospital at great public expense. This could be avoided by providing additional domiciliary services, or more particularly during the recovery stage such a person would be assisted by day care or day hospital systems.
The pilot scheme is designed to reassess and retrain aged persons within the St George region who have suffered acute illness such as any of the ills which beset the aged, and also when physiotherapy and occupational therapy are required to be under the care of hospitals or private physiotherapists. There is no follow up or back up service at present and there is a need to ensure that something is done about it. This pilot project is placed as part of a community-geared program for retraining and reassessment. The whole program should consist of a day care, hospital with at least SO beds and a number of day care centres such as the one being proposed which will give maintenance, training and custodial care. The one in Ballarat seems to work fairly well and aged people seem to like them and find them acceptable. Such a centre would be able to accept basic referrals from a widely distributed community, from the St George hospital or any other centre envisaged by the Benevolent Society of New South Wales for hospital beds for other types of care for the aged.
It would certainly contribute to overall improvement of conditions for the physically incapacitated. What of the goals and the values of specific objectives? They could be summarised as follows: The maintenance of people in their own homes; the prevention by supportive care of admission to nursing homes; the prevention of early readmission; the provision of suitable geriatric services; and a reduction in the rate of readmission for occupation of acute hospital beds. They include assistance to persons who become lonely during convalescence. We should enable a co-ordination of services such as senior citizens groups, aged pensioner groups, aid and counselling groups, Meals-on-Wheels and community integrated services which will reach out into the community on a formed basis instead of a fragmented basis as exists at present. There should be interest and involvement by the community by way of training in these types of activities. There should be the provision of” domiciliary services, social workers, emergency housekeepers, drivers and other supportive services as will adequately maintain patients in their own home at the optimum level of self-directive participation in their own activities. The things that have to be assessed are the needs, and they are very high. As for the lack of such provision, there is no such thing. As for the donation of land for projects, land can be found if we can find finance for it. As for the involvement of nursing home nurses and facilities and the involvement of the local community, these are all available.
At present the developers of this project have applied to the council for town planning approval. Financial support has been obtained from some areas. The architects have been consulted. Investigations and studies of similar projects have been undertaken in detail. Application has been made to the Emergency Housekeeper Service for funds to employ housekeepers. Draft questionnaires and circulars have been prepared. There has been liaison with the hospitals. The pattern would be to refer from hospitals, nursing homes and the like. There would be assessment by doctors of the person, assessment by various other groups who would be assisting, nursing care, training by nursing staffs, involvement of the patient in social and occupational activities and, of course, transportation. Nowadays we need to ensure that we spend our money on welfare matters in the best way. It should not be beyond the wit of a reasonably compassionate government to do this.
I want to deal with one or two matters raised by other members. The honourable member for Oxley on the one hand said that there have been suggestions of cuts. The honourable member for Hughes said that this very scheme might be cut, according to newspaper reports. I ask him to takea lot less notice of newspaper reports. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. It cannot have on the one hand the honourable member for Oxley saying that there are too many nursing homes and on the other hand the honourable member for Hughes saying that the Government should not cut something out. I am not in the slightest degree advocating any cuts, but we must have spending organised in accordance with need. If the honourable member for Oxley had read the Sydney Morning Herald on 3 May he would have seen the commitment by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to the acceleration of the development of government supported aged housing to overcome the huge backlog. The honourable member for Oxley would understand the Government’s approach if he had been present at delegations I brought recently before both Ministers- one from a firm of architects which believes that it has a reasonable scheme to take advantage of the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act to allow a greater degree of self-care, and the other a delegation from the community nursing scheme.
There is no intention on the part of this Government to deprive people in need. It has a massive problem facing it in getting the economy going and directing welfare to areas of need. The recent debates in public on a political basis, with one party throwing mud at the other over cuts, have been unedifying, to say the least. The total welfare package is being developed by this Government to ensure that compassion is maintained. It is not a clash of hardheads with soft sells. It is an attempt at moderation within this Party to come to a sound and sensible basis to cater for the developing needs of all in this community from an ever-diminishing economic cake. In the next few years honourable members opposite will see that this Government will achieve its aims in this field.
– I am very pleased to be able to speak briefly in the debate on this Aged Persons Hostels Amendment Bill. The problems of the aged will concern Australians more and more in the next few years. This legislation was introduced in the first place by a Liberal-Country Party government. In that regard the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), who spoke not very long ago and who has left the chamber, seemed to’ be at variance with the facts. The then Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth)- a man with great compassion in this and other fields- brought forward this legislation, recognising the fact that Australia was entering a long period in which there would be an increase in the number of aged persons in our community in proportion to the population. In some respects aged people in the past few years have been advantaged, and so they should be. As productivity increases in our country it is only natural that the aged benefit in some respects. However, as the newspapers point out frequently, in the last 3 years there was a great deal of mismanagement in this country. The rate of inflation from which we have suffered and the consequent running down of fixed incomes of aged people have disadvantaged them. Members of the Opposition should not just take credit for good things that have happened for the aged in the last few years, because not everything that has happened has been good for them. Aged people have suffered in many respects.
As I said before, this is a long term problem. Since World War II we have had in this country what is called a baby boom and the education system has been strained to its limits. Last Thursday, E Day, many people came to this place to speak to members of Parliament. I suppose that many people throughout Australia realise that to some extent we were frustrated in speaking to them by the efforts of the Opposition. Last week it was pointed out very forcefully that there are still problems in connection with our youth in terms of the provisions of facilities for education. However, as the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) just pointed out, in some areas we are beginning to see the light in the sense that the number of young people in proportion to the population is decreasing and State governments are getting ahead with their school programs. They are catching up. Gradually children are getting better facilities and we are getting the right facilities for every child in school.
The problem which often is lost sight of and which is increasing is that of care of our aged people. The proportion of our population which will require hostel accommodation or other types of aged persons accommodation is increasing. This, of course, is presenting a massive problem for the Treasury, because as people leave the work force by virtue of their reaching pensionable age the onus on the working part of the population increases. We in this House, I imagine, will deliberate very carefully from time to time on that massive problem facing the Treasury. This Bill and others dealing with aged people relate to the human side.
I am very pleased, despite the fact that a large number of beds has been provided in hostels in the last few years, that care for the aged is also being de-institutionalised. In the last few weeks I was grateful to be able to visit 2 towns in my electorate where facilities for the aged have been opened in hospitals and people can attend those places on a day care basis. That trend towards de-institutionalising care for the aged is a very human one and I believe honourable members on both sides of the House will support it.
I believe that the role of voluntary agencies in the care of the aged in Australia has been and will continue to be very important. There is a very Australian attitude that we should look after one another. Voluntary agencies have played a very big part in setting up aged persons homes by various methods made possible by a former Minister, the honourable member for Mackellar. Nevertheless, we have many difficulties to overcome in dealing with this long term problem. At the moment, under the provisions of other Acts dealing with aged people, such as the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act, we have a great finance problem. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) recently publicised the . fact that applications for funds for 900 projects still had not been met. Many of those applications were received last year. Some applications are still coming in. I can think of three or four relating to areas on the south coast of New South Wales in my electorate and another closer to Canberra, near Goulburn. The people concerned already have put aside a great amount of money and are awaiting allocation of government funds.
The attitude of the previous Labor Government of increasing the proportionate subsidy from $2 to $ 1 to $4 to $ 1 seemed on the face of it a very humanitarian gesture. Of course, the way it turned out was not quite as humanitarian as the Labor Government had hoped because it was struck with budgetary problems. Even though the amount expended on the aged persons programs increased, the cost per building and the cost per bed kept going up so that in fact the $4 to $1 subsidy became a very thinly buttered subsidy. Probably it would be easy to argue that if the subsidy had remained on a $2 to $1 basis many of those 900 projects would have gone ahead, even though, of course, under the $2 to $ 1 system it is necessary to find a greater proportion of funds in the community. But, as I have said, voluntary agencies in Australia have always played a large part in the care of the aged. I think that most people in this country expect to find something out of their own pockets for appeals in their towns that are concerned with care for the aged.
Another problem that occurred in respect of the $4 to $ 1 subsidy system- I should not impute this to the Labor Party itself- was the fact that because the money was buttered thinly and because there was great pressure from many voluntary agencies to have their projects funded, there was a fair deal of cynicism in the community about the method of valuation. In the last 2 days I have been told of a project at Taralga in my electorate where there was a great deal of cynicism about an existing building that had to be extended under a grant for the aged. This building was valued in their terms at a ridiculously high, amount which meant that the $4 to $1 subsidy would have resulted in a lower amount of money. Maybe this attitude is cynical, but I can appreciate the problem when there is not an unending amount of money available at any stage for any group in the community.
When one has to look at the total number of beds and applications required to be funded, I imagine that the problem is great if people in all areas of Australia are to get some benefit. This, of course, leads to the proposition, which I think was mentioned by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), that we must look very shortly to the upgrading of the limit for subsidies. Under the legislation that we are debating at the moment the amount available per bed of $1 1,700 plus $2,400 for the land obviously must be increased before too long. It is of no use talking about $11,700 for a bed if in fact it costs $ 1 5,000 this year and will cost $20,000 next year. Of course, under the present Government it is most unlikely that building costs will escalate at anywhere near the rate they have over the last two or three years under the Labor Government. Nevertheless, until we can contain inflation we are stuck with the problem of escalating building costs. I realise that it is necessary for the Government to increase the amount available per bed as soon as possible so that this sort of grant for the aged can be made a sincere one and one that can be taken up by voluntary agencies and others.
Of course, another possibility that should be looked into by the Treasury and the Minister is that under the conditions of inflation that we are suffering from at the moment- we would presume that even this Government will not be able to contain it completely for a few months- we should be talking also about providing for escalation in costs. Even if the amount per bed is increased we should recognise that the amount would increase further over the normal time of building, and of course we are talking about one year for a reasonable sort of project of this nature.
To summarise, I would reiterate that the problems of the aged in general, not only the problems brought out and solved in some measure by this Bill, are increasing in this country. We will be speaking in this House about this problem much more often in the coming years. We are approaching the stage reached in Europe where the proportion of the aged is getting greater every year. I would hope that members from both sides of the House will think compassionately in terms of the aged when decisions are reached because those decisions will become more and more important in this country.
– The objective of this Bill is to ensure that all beds funded under the Aged Persons Hostels Act are hostel type beds catering specifically for the frail aged and those in greatest need of accommodation because of advanced age and limited financial resources. The Bill was introduced by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), a Liberal Government initiative, in 1972. It was intended that by encouraging additional hostel accommodation there would be a lessening of the pressure for admisssion to nursing homes by people who had no real need for nursing care. One could almost describe hostel accommodation as a halfway house between the nursing home and the accommodation provided by various organisations under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
Under the Aged Persons Hostels Act the Commonwealth Government meets the capital cost of providing hostel type accommodation for 2 additional aged persons for every one accommodated in an unsubsidised home, or one additional person for every two in an existing home subsidised on a dollar for dollar basis prior to 1957. The honourable member for Mackellar in his then capacity as Minister for Social Services devised a scheme whereby those people who had pioneered the concept of providing accommodation for the aged at full cost- many elements of the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and Masonic organisations had done just this- were recognised many years later and offered a grant to construct more accommodation at those premises or alternatively in some other place.
Since that time some 154 grants have been made to the tune of $64m. All in all, some 5700 aged persons have been given accommodation because of the initiative displayed by the honourable member for Mackellar, who I believe in those days had to lead a fairly fierce campaign to have this concept accepted. But it was accepted and it was a step forward in the care of our aged.
Earlier this evening the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), whom I am pleased to see has returned to the House to hear my speech, chose not to hear my comments when I interjected during his reference to nursing homes. All members on this side of the House, and indeed all members of the public, will recall the hangups of the honourable member for Oxley about private enterprise in the field of care for the aged. We can remember the claims in relation to the old key system for the aged Persons Homes Act. We can recall also his relentless pursuit of all of those privately owned nursing homes. The honourable member, when he was Minister for Social Security, had the idea that they should all be closed down and put into the hands of charitable organisations. He believed that as a result the rip-offs would stop and the aged would be taken care of.
Those of us who have observed the reaction to the performance of the previous Minister for Social Security will know that Labor has left us with a legacy of a huge shortage of nursing home beds. In every State of Australia there is a shortage of beds as a direct result of the Australian
Labor Party’s policy in this regard. Every member in this Parliament, whether he be Labor or Liberal, can tell stories of people ringing up and pleading with their local federal member to give them assistance to get an aged mother, father or some other close relative into a nursing home. This difficulty in obtaining admission was a direct legacy of the Labor Party’s administration. My support for this proposal to extend to the various charitable organisations. (Quorum formed) That performance was like the performances when the delegations from the education people were here last Thursday and the Labor Party called for 11 quorums and continually disrupted the discussions that members of this House were trying to have with parents and teachers. I return to the subject of the Aged Persons Hostels Bill. One of the difficulties encountered in recent times resulted from the fact that the Labor Government virtually ran out of money for those groups who wanted to construct hostels. This in itself had the effect of causing many people or many organisations in desperation to postpone or even to cancel their proposal to construct hostels.
I welcome this Bill because it gives an extension and a further opportunity to those charitable organisations which qualify for this allotment or allowance to get on with the job. I congratulate the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the Government on this initiative. I refer once again to the treatment of the private nursing homes by the Minister for Social Security in the Labor Government, Mr Hayden, when, in effect, his actions virtually closed the doors of many nursing homes. Those people to whom he referred earlier who were being dragged out on the footpath were not being dragged out simply for the television cameras but because they were told they would have to find alternative accommodation because business had reached the stage at which the nursing home could no longer continue. I regret greatly that my contribution must conclude now to allow the Minister to wrap up the Bill. There are so many comments of note that could have been made and so many colleagues on this side of the House who wanted to speak. No doubt that will be left to another day.
– I support the Bill. I am concerned about the very large backlog of worthwhile organisations which are desperate to commence projects. I regret that in my electorate, in particular, some people have sold their homes in expectation of going into such establishments, believing that there was every prospect of an early start. This was as a result of expectations 6 to 12 months ago. While I support the Bill, I hope that when the economic situation improves something can be done to assist these people, many of whom are now in serious economic plight because of the failure of administrations for a variety of reasons, obviously for economic ones, to meet the expectations created in this area, expectations which I hope this Government will be able to fulfil in the near future.
– in reply- There are a couple of questions to which I wish to reply. Firstly, I thank honourable members on both sides of the House for the very constructive contributions which they made to the debate. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) said that he hoped we would be able to clear up the backlog of claims within two to three years. He asked that we set a target to meet all outstanding claims. I can assure him that the Government has a target. The estimated total value of the grants involved is $134m. This year $40m is being spent in this area. We hope it will be possible for this level of expenditure to be maintained, subject to general budgetary considerations. This will mean that all claims should be met in a little more than 3 years.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) raised a point that needs some answer. I repeat that the purpose of the Act is to encourage the establishment of urgently needed hostel accommodation. The basis of assistance is 2 beds for each one in an unsubsidised home, and one bed for each two in a home subsidised on a $ 1 for $1 basis prior to 1957. It was calculated that assistance on this basis would come close to meeting the need for hostel accommodation. Also it meant that all aged persons homes organisations that had established homes without subsidy on a $1 for $1 basis would be placed on the same basis as newer organisations that had received a $2 for $1 subsidy.
I join the members of this House who paid their compliments to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who, after all, was responsible for the conception of this rather brilliant idea. The purpose was to provide hostel accommodation for aged people over a period of 3 years to overcome some of the backlog throughout Australia. I agree with the many speakers who said tonight that there is a great need to try to achieve a rationalisation within the framework of the funds that are available to cope with programs such as domiciliary care, day care, hostels and the self-contained units that are being built around Australia to compliment the nursing home program. Each should complement the other. I believe it is absolutely important to try to get private funds with public funds to achieve this objective. Once again I thank those who contributed so well to this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 1 8 February 1 976 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Grants to organisations).
– I seek guidance from the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in relation to clause 3, which amends sub-sections (2) and (3) of section 6 of the Principal Act. I find very little distinction between the 2 subclauses as amended and the 2 sub-sections in the principal Act. I simply ask the Minister to give me an explanation of the import as a result of the amendment of the 2 sub-clauses so that I can better define my attitude towards the proposed changes.
– I assume that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has read the second reading speech which spells out the provisions contained in sub-clause (2) of clause 3.
-Would the Minister be kind enough simply to explain the import of the sub-clauses as amended as against the effect of the sub-clauses as they stand in the principal Act? I find it very hard to distinguish any significant difference but I am sure that there is some significant difference because I do not think that parliamentary draftsmen, departments or Ministers waste their time amending Acts just for the sake of amendment or for a new style to say the same thing, because they are altogether too busy. Because the import escapes me I wonder whether the Minister would be kind enough to explain it.
– The proposed new sub-section (2) reads as follows:
That subsection gives the Director-General the right actually to pay the grant. An amendment to the existing legislation would give organisations with existing rights 12 months from the date on which a grant is actually approved to plan and commence construction of their hostels. Provided this condition is met, the legislation as amended will authorise the Director-General actually to pay the grant. The clause amends section 6 of the principal Act by substituting a new sub-section (2) and omitting sub-sections (2) and (3). Proposed new sub-section (2) of section 6 is a machinery amendment consequential upon clause 4. The omission of sub-section (3) of section 6 of the principal act is consequential upon clause S.
– Can you tell me why?
– Why not?
– I am serious about it.
– Clause 5 inserts a new section 13 in the principal Act. This clause is the usual, standard delegation clause which empowers the Director-General to delegate his powers under the legislation to officers of the Australian Public Service.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Terms and conditions of grants).
-Clause 4 amends section 9(1) of the principal Act and makes the principal Act quite open by replacing the words ‘approval of the hostel under section 5 of this Act’, which have some specificity about them, by a fairly open ended sort of commitment. Can I take it from what the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) said earlier that we have a very firm commitment that by the end of the fiscal year 1977 this program will be fully discharged? If not, why does the Minister want to extend the term beyond 3 fiscal years, including the current fiscal year?
– I think I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden).
– I am sorry. It is a question, not an assertion.
– The question I think I need to answer is this: I said that hopefully it will be possible for this level of expenditure to be maintained, namely the $40m that is being expended in this year, subject, of course, to general budgetary considerations. That will mean that all claims will be met in little more than 3 years. No government can forecast exactly what it will do from one financial year to the other; it is subject to the constraint of budgetary considerations.
Clause 4 amends section 9 ( 1) of the principal Act which provides that a grant shall not be made in respect of a hostel unless the hostel was approved on or before 27 September 1975 and construction commenced within 12 months from the date of approval of the hostel under section 5 of the Act. The effect of the amendment, together with the amendment to section 6 (2) of the principal Act, makes the payment of a grant subject to the erection of a hostel being commenced within 12 months of the date of making the grant.
-The Minister has in fact heightened my agitation about this matter. I am quite convinced that the whole purpose of this Bill is to present this clause. The whole purpose of this clause is to create an openended situation whereby the Government can extend this program to an inordinate and quite unjustifiable extent. I do not accept the proposition that welfare agencies in the Australian community or the aged people who are dependent upon this program are representative of the soft society, that this measure is necessary so that people will be saved from the moral degradation which flows from being victims of the soft society. We supported this program and we developed it more generously because we believed there was a need- a need which had been neglected too much in the past.
The Minister is trying by deceit to cover up the fact that this program will not be wound out in less than 3 years. We would have done it in less than that- 2 years or perhaps a little more, but not much more. The Minister is talking of a little more than 3 years at best; he is talking of a minimum of 4 years. In fact, the caveat he has put into what he said here makes it clear that this can go on for 5, 6 or 7 years or, in fact, may never be concluded. Honourable members on the Government side are the people who frequently demanded with some sort of synthetic outrage when we were in government that more be done for the aged. I quoted figures and I produced tables to show that our achievements were far ahead of those of any previous government. Now the program is going backwards. The achievement is going to be lost. The aged people in the Australian community will be the people who will bear the burden of this regression. This is intolerable. I believe that the Australian community has to be made aware of the situation. The community welfare agencies which very grandly and proudly maintain these sorts of services, will find that financial assistance which we would have provided- we would have guaranteed that the program would have been finished in less than 3 years- in fact may not come within 5 or 6 years. How much longer are we going to see this sort of thing where those least able to bear sacrifice in the community have to bear the most sacrifice. There has been altogether too much of it.
It is significant that the first welfare initiative by the Government was to reintroduce the superphosphate bounty for wealthy graziers like the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It amounted to $30m- a cost borne by deferring pensions, by seeking to destroy the system of funeral benefits, by denying working mothers child care centres, by making housing mortgage repayments more expensive -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. Surely the honourable member’s remarks have nothing at all to do with this debate.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr MartinYes, I think the honourable member for Oxley is straying a little from clause 4.
– On the contrary, Mr Deputy Chairman, I feel I must argue this with you. What the Minister is seeking to do is part of a pattern which is well established already. It is a pattern of sacrifice imposed on those least able to bear the sacrifice. I think it is significant that more and more the attacks are being made on the aged in the community. This program, in terms of the speech made by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth)- the member is not forgettable even if his electorate is- when he introduced this legislation into the Parliament made it clear that priority would be given in the allocation of accommodation on the basis of need. The people who were to become eligible for accommodation for these hostel units were not to be expected to make a contribution. That is my recollection. It goes back some years, but I thought it was a very worthwhile program. It is one of several things which the honourable member for Mackellar, the Minister for Social Services as he then was, did that attracted a great deal of respect from me. But the Minister for Health is now trying to turn over completely the whole purpose and the feeling behind what the honourable member for Mackellar did as the then Minister.
I want to know why we have an open ended arrangement being written clandestinely into this legislation. It seems to me that the old, the aged, the more needy, the less well able to care for their affairs, not only for personal and financial reasons but also for physical reasons- after all that is why people go into hostel units- are too much being asked to bear these sorts of sacrifices. Why? Why not some of the more wealthy people in the community? Tell me, is company tax indexation going to be paid for by this sort of sacrifice? Because I am bound to say that if it is most company people I know, most business people, would not want a bar of it because it is quite inequitable and unjust.
I again ask what sort of situation it is that saves money for the Government in some sort of crude measurement sense but imposes a greater social cost which in itself imposes within the community economic costs that have to be borne. Someone has to look after the aged. In many cases those people are unable to call on close friends or relatives or loved ones to look after them. This is a tragic situation. An honourable member tells me to ‘come on’, but I am being dead serious about this. When I was Minister for Social Security I used to sit on the front bench at question time and wonder why I received so few questions from the then Opposition- the LiberalNational Country Parties- on such a range of important welfare issues for which I was responsible. The explanation is very simple. People in the Liberal and National Country Parties do not care. They are not the sort of people who represent areas where there is a fairly substantial weighting of these sorts of people. By and large they have the eighteenth century social determinism as a guide for their sort of political philosophy. They believe that you look after yourself; you stand on your own feet. Your backbone has to be strong enough to hold you up by itself and you should not call on the government for support. That is demonstrable nonsense. There are very few people in this community who can adequately discharge these sorts of demands that arise in life, meet the challenges and successfully face the crises and the consequences which flow from them and which affect just about all of us without the support of government in one form or another. I reject totally the sort of oppressive economic social political philosophy that the Government is trying to introduce. By and large it does not care because the people who are dependent on these programs do not represent a significant force in Government-held electorates. Government members do not care because the people with whom they are mostly associated are fairly selfsufficient wealthy persons, if you like- as are so many Government supporters. How else can Government members justify this regression, this complete turn around, this wind down? That is what it is. The Government is putting the brakes on this program. The Minister waffles something quite imprecise about ‘a little over 3 years’. Of course that means a minimum of 4 years. But the Minister is not prepared to say a maximum of 4 years, leaving the way open for a period of 5 years, 6 years or 7 years.
It is all very well for the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) to sit back and to grin like a Cheshire cat. In all these welfare issues that have been debated in the Parliament, I have noted that he has derived great hilarity from the concern expressed by the members of the Opposition about people affected by the discrimination and the unfairness of the burden which has been imposed on these sections of the community. The honourable member stands to one side when these issues arise. He cannot understand concern of that type. He is indifferent to the people about whom we are concerned, even those people about whom we are concerned who live in his electorate. This is the story which we must get around: The honourable member for La Trobe is a technocrat at heart- I suppose that is the kindest thing one can say- because the last thing that ever worries him is a concern for people. I am asking the Minister to put an end to this sort of concern, this feeling, this outrage which is spreading through the community, and hopefully will seep into the Senate, by giving a very firm commitment by stating a maximum of no more than 3 years and saying that the program will be completed as it would have been if the Labor Government that was in office until November of last year had continued to hold office.
– I must say that I have not heard as much nonsense from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in my life. I remind the House that he is a former Treasurer of this country who played his part in wrecking the Australian economy. When we came to office, we inherited a Budget deficit of no less than $4,700m. He lifted the expectations and hopes of the Australian people to a level that could not be sustained or met. So, it is all very well for him to come into the chamber tonight and to seek to make a big man of himself. The honourable member for Oxley was one of the architects of the mess into which this country has slumped. Why do we have this piece of legislation before the House at present? It has resulted because the previous Government deferred in excess of 300 applications for grants under this legislation. It could not keep up with the expectations and hopes that it had inspired in people in this country.
It is all very well for the honourable member for Oxley to come in here and to say to us, with the inherited budgetary mess that we have, that we should give a commitment for 3 years in respect of this matter. I can assure the honourable member that it will be the intention of this Government to overcome the inflationary crisis that is wrecking the whole social and economic structure of this country. We concur with the view of the Henderson inquiry into poverty that no country with a high rate of inflation can avoid causing great hardship to the poor. We accept the recommendations of that body that the reduction of inflation is essential to the reduction of poverty. The poor and the aged are the people who suffer. They are the people who have suffered most under the Labor Party’s regime. Yet the honourable member for Oxley comes in here tonight and tries to make a big honourable fellow of himself when he has probably contributed to more suffering in this country than any other member who sits in this chamber.
Now he says that he is not happy because we would not give an undertaking that he demands. We give an undertaking to the aged people and to those who are seeking accommodation in hostels, in nursing homes, or wherever they might be, that we will achieve an economic stability that will ensure them the security that they have not had in the last 18 months. Until we get the wealth producing industries of Australia going again and start generating wealth in this country, we will not have the wherewithal to try to overcome the great problem confronting the less privileged and the disadvantaged people in the community. So let us not hear any more of this claptrap from the honourable member for Oxley.
– I raised a query with the Minister which I think -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! I think the honourable member for Oxley has already spoken twice on this clause.
– Only once on this clause.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- No, the honourable member for Oxley has already spoken twice on this clause.
-I have never heard so much pious nonsense from a Minister as we have just heard.
– We want to get this Bill through and you are delaying it.
-The honourable member for Bendigo may not realise it, but the major industry in his electorate is the care of the aged, and it is a very worthwhile industry. I suggest that if he treated the question as seriously as it should be treated he would be up supporting us on this matter. The question confronting the Opposition is: What does the clause mean? The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has not been able to explain it to the Committee. He does not know what it means. The fact is that a clause has been written into this legislation to make the completion of this program virtually open-ended. It is legislative deferment. We have heard from the Minister talk about getting the economy back into shape and about how the poor are the ones who have to suffer.
– Hear, hear!
– I hear an honourable member saying: ‘Hear, hear! ‘ I do not support that point of view.
– That is obvious.
-The honourable member for Evans may believe that the poor are the people who have to be punished. That is what he just said ‘hear, hear! ‘ to. He may scream now, but he says ‘hear hears! ‘ when I say that the Minister has claimed that the poor have to be punished. (Honourable members interjecting)
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr MartinOrder! The Committee will come to order. It is getting completely out of order.
-The fact of the matter is that the costs of the benefits being put forward by this Government are to be borne by the people who cannot afford them. This is one of the measures -
– The poor have to carry your burden.
-A lot of people on fixed incomes at the moment are carrying your burden. They took your advice on where they should invest their savings and they have not got them any more. So do not let us hear any pious nonsense from you.
The first of the money saving measures was the abolition of a paltry funeral benefit. When that measure was before the House I said that it would be defeated in the Senate, and it was. We now have the proposals to cut personal and company income tax. In order to pay for that the Government is to impose a flat rate tax for Medibank and impose television licence fees which pensioners who do not pay tax will have to pay instead of having the money paid from income tax. I think honourable members opposite ought to look at exactly what are the policies of their Government. They are to transfer income from the poor to the rich. Every action which has been taken is in this vein.
– Speak to the clause.
-The honourable gentleman suggests that we speak to the clause. The purpose of the changes proposed in this legislation is to extend ad infinitum the completion of a program to provide accommodation. A few minutes ago we heard an honourable member saying that people had sold their houses a year ago in anticipation of this provision. There is nothing in the Bill which guarantees that this accommodation will be built at all.
– There is no money left.
-I suggest that honourable members opposite who say that there is no money left have a look at the situation when they want to pass legislation costing the Treasury money. When it suits them there is money; when it does not suit them there is no money. I well remember my first night in this chamber, when the only thing available for pensioners was sympathy. They could not get a pension rise. But before the Budget of that year had been passed, $ 120m had been found to fund compensation for devaluation losses. There was no money for pensioners, but when money was needed for other purposes, it was there. The suggestion from the Government that there is no money is an excuse poorly put. It is a question of priorities. The Government has set its priorities and this Bill represents the embodiment of those priorities. The Government is deferring ad infinitum this program that is -
– We are questioning the program.
-The Government is deferring the program ad infinitum and spreading it out over a period which will be as long as it wishes. That provision has been written into the legislation.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to speak on the clause for only a minute. I would like to ask the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt)-I hope that he will reply- a question which relates to the speech he made last Tuesday, 27 April, which is recorded at page 1626 of Hansard of that date. He said: . . . the previous Government -
That is the Labor Governmentdecided in August 197S to approve all outstanding proposals under section 5 of the Acton or before 27 September 1975 -
This was because of the expiration of the previous legislation. So all those applications were approved. Later on, in the very last paragraph of the same speech, he says:
An amendment to the existing legislation -
That is the legislation we are debating now- will give organisations with existing rights 12 months from the date on which a grant is actually approved to plan and commence construction of their hostels.
I want to know whether that 12-month period commences from 27 September 1975. The grants were approved last year. That is the point. The grants were approved on 27 September 1975. That would mean that they would expire on 27 September 1976. 1 wonder whether the Minister could consult with his advisers on this matter. I think that it is a terribly important point for all the organisations which feel that they have had approval granted and they want to know exactly what is going to happen. Does the time for the grants expire on 27 September of this year, before which date obviously there will be no money available, and if there were money available, it could not be spent before 27 September of this year?
– The provision clearly relates to the grants now approved.
-The point is that the Minister said last Tuesday night that all those programs had been approved by our Government- that is by the Labor Governmenton 27 September last year and that the amendment will now give these rights for only 12 months after the date of approval. Could the Minister please give me a reply on that point?
– I reply to the honourable member simply by referring to the last paragraph of my speech, as recorded at page 1627 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 27 April 1 976 where I state:
The Government has decided that, to enable an annual program of construction to be undertaken and to ensure that the rights of organisations which have acquired entitlements under the legislation are preserved, there should be an extension of the time within which the erection of a hostel can be commenced.
That statement means precisely what it says.
– Does it mean commenced before September last year?
– Not necessarily. The outstanding value of the projects was $134m. I will refer the other details of the question to the Minister for Social Security in another place.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt)- by leave- read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Superannuation Bill 1976.
Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Amendment Bill 1976.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What consideration has been given by his Department to a proposal that the Army carry out a ground survey of a proposed north-south road linking southern Australian with the north from Mildura through Broken Hill and Tibooburra on to Boulia in Queensland.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My Department has only examined the possibility including costs, of conducting a ground reconnaissance of the Broken Hill-Boulia section of the proposed North-South Highway as an Army training exercise. The possibility of actually surveying the route has not been considered.
The Minister for Transport has commissioned a study of the proposed road by the Bureau of Roads. It is expected that its report will be available in the near future. A decision on the reconnaissance exercise will be taken when the Bureau ‘s report has been considered.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has supplied the following answers to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice:
Is it the Government’s intention to reduce its budget by $130m by deferring or abandoning 250 Government construction projects; if so, what are the projects affected and the estimated capital cost in each case.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I have previously announced the Government took action to defer commencement in construction of a number of projects throughout Australia; the total estimated cost of all these works was $ 137m of which $6m would have been spent in 1975-76 had the projects proceeded. These projects will be considered for inclusion in the 1976-77 Civil Works Program.
The projects affected are works for Civil Departments and aggregate about 250 individual works in the various States and Territories. If the honourable gentleman wishes to obtain information about a specific project, I will be happy to assist him.
asked the Minister for Busi ness and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Bureau of Customs maintains case records of all seizures and prosecutions under legislation for which it is responsible and all other prosecutions in which it has been involved. The records include details of the offences, offenders, evidence, judgments and penalties.
In common with other law enforcement agencies the Bureau maintains information about persons suspected of offences under legislation for which it is responsible.
Records of every Customs examination of passengers baggage are not maintained. However the Bureau does maintain search registers at Customs control points- such as international airports- to record the names of all passengers subjected to a search of person (as distinct from a normal baggage search), the circumstances of the search, and the result.
Statistics indicate that the number of arriving and departing air passengers subject to Customs clearance during 197S was 3 009 248.
Searches of person by Customs officers at airports during 1975 numbered 2390-about 8 in every 10 000 passengers.
The extent of each search of person will depend upon the nature of the searching officer’s suspicion. If, for instance, he has reason to suspect that a weapon is concealed upon a person, he may decide that a ‘frisk’- involving no removal of clothing- will suffice.
In future records will indicate the degree or extent of each search undertaken.
Officers are required to acquaint every passenger detained for search of person of his rights before a search proceeds.
Many people waive their rights when acquainted of them.
An officer of Customs (or Police) having reasonable cause to suspect a Customs offence involving concealment upon a person may detain the person for search.
The officer is required to acquaint the person detained for search of his right to have the matter of” whether or not the search will proceed determined by a Justice of the Peace, or by a Principal Officer of Customs.
Where an intrusive search is considered necessary such search is undertaken only by a legally qualified medical practitioner.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It will be noted that the procedures followed in relation to the search of persons conform very closely to the recommendations of the Interim Report of the Law Reform Commission. The only significant difference appears to be that where the person detailed for search so requires the search may only proceed on the authority of a Justice or a Collector (i.e. a Principal Officer of Customs) whereas the Law Reform Commission’s Interim Report envisaged that such a determination should only be made by a Justice. Because of the very real practical considerations- such as the difficulty of locating a Justice where compelling circumstances for search may exist in remote areas of Australia, and the need to be able to cope immediately with an armed person- I do not intend to vary present legislation. However, new instructions require that a person detained for search be given the option of whether he prefers that the matter of search be determined by a Justice or a Principal Officer of Customs, and that as far as possible his wishes be met.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
VIP Aircraft (Question No. 302)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Departure Melbourne 1 1.40 a.m. Arrival Canberra 1.05 p.m.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
Can he identify the conditions under which claims for RED Scheme projects, particularly those involving wage escalations, will be considered for settlement.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The decision by the previous Government to limit the RED Scheme to $ 1 35m in the 1 975-76 Budget led the Ministers’ Committee formerly responsible for the administration of the Scheme to resolve on 10 September 1975 that no further cost escalation- regardless of now or when incurred- - could be funded on projects other than in the most exceptional circumstances.
Following advice by my Department that limited funds are available within the 1 975-76 Budget allocation of $1 35m for the Scheme, I have agreed to meet outstanding applications from sponsors which have experienced cost escalations due to award wage increases occurring before 10 September 1975 and paid to labour recruited from amongst unemployed CES registrants.
I must emphasise that other cost escalations cannot be met except in the most exceptional circumstances.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) $433.7m has been paid out under the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act since the introduction of this bounty in 1963.
In 1974 payments under the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act amounted to $78. 1 m. Payments under the Dairying Industry Act during 1973-74 amounted to $ 18m and in 1974-75, $9m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce; upon notice:
When does the Government intend to re-introduce the Travel Agents legislation which was passed by the House of Representatives on 28 October 1975.
– The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
A review of the legislation is currently being conducted. The matter has been the subject of discussions with industry and we are now awaiting a response.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Planning and Co-ordination Committee
Mr Fraser (Chairman)
Mr Fraser (Chairman)
General Administrative Committee
Mr Lynch ( Chairman)
Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee
Mr Fraser (Chairman)
Machinery of Government Committee
Mr Fraser (Chairman)
Mr Sinclair (Chairman)
Planning and Co-ordination
Permanent Heads of the Departments of-
The Prime Minister and Cabinet (Chairman)
Permanent Heads of the Departments of-
The Prime Minister and Cabinet (Chairman)
Employment and Industrial Relations
Foreign Affairs and Defence
Permanent Heads of the Departments of-
The Prime Minister and Cabinet (Chairman)
Machinery of Government
Permanent Heads of the Departments of-
The Prime Minister and Cabinet (Chairman) Treasury
Administrative Services and the Chairman, Public Service Board
I do not propose to make public any further information on the operations of the Cabinet.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
1970- 71 -$34,000
1968-1973- Annual grant toward administration costs incurred by the National Council of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia 1973- 1974- $50,000 grant for national administration as in previous years. $100,000 grant on a $ for $ subsidy basis for the purchase of essential rescue equipment. 1974- 1975- $66,000 grant for national administration; $144,000 grant on a $ for $ subsidy basis for the purchase of essential rescue equipment; $60,000 direct grant to purchase twenty-six power rescue craft for ranches of the Surf Life Saving Association which did not have them; $10,000 direct grant to assist needy clubs purchase essential rescue equipment. 1 975- 1 976-576,000 grant for national administration; $144,000 grant on a $ for $ subsidy basis for the purchase of essential rescue equipment; $50,000 direct grant for the establishment of an integrated radio communications network; $10,000 direct grant to assist needy clubs purchase essential rescue equipment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I am unaware of any other research being undertaken on alternative forms of blackberry control in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Since the discovery of the oriental fruit fly in Australia, CSIRO’s Division of Entomology has been closely involved in attempts to control it. This has included supervision of the aerial spraying campaign on Melville Island where the insect was first found, and collaboration with Departmental officers from Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, in planning the monitoring of the distribution of the fly in northern Australia, and the prevention of its spread to the southern States. The Division has also drawn up contingency research plans, the implementation of which will depend on whether it is decided to attempt to eradicate the pest or to contain it in northern Australia.
To help provide a sound basis for decisions on future action, the Officer-in-Charge of the Fruit Fly Research Unit recently travelled overseas for discussions with specialists in countries which have attempted to eradicate the oriental fruit fly. He presented his report and recommendations to a meeting of the Exotic Fruit Fly Working Party of the Standing Committee on Agriculture held in Brisbane on 22 and 23 April. In the meantime, CSIRO’s Division of Entomology has established cultures of the strain of the oriental fruit fly present in northern Australia. Large-scale breeding cultures will be essential if it is decided to attempt eradication using the sterile insect technique. If eradication is not attempted, such cultures will be equally needed for the development of effective commodity treatment techniques for produce shipped from the Northern Territory to the southern States.
The long-term value of a successful eradication campaign would be influenced by the likelihood of further introductions of the fly from Papua New Guinea or other islands to the north of Australia where it is known to occur. It is of major importance to determine whether fruit flies are transported from these areas to the Australian mainland on prevailing winds. A special radar unit developed by the Division of Entomology for studies on the aerial dispersal of locusts is being modified to carry out appropriate studies in the north during the next wet season. This work will involve the services of the Officer-in-Charge of the locust research unit and a Divisional engineer, together with assistance in the operation of the highly-specialised radar installation by an officer of the Centre for Overseas Pest Research, a British organisation with which the Division has collaborated for some years.
Funding of the programs outlined above has been provided by the Department of Health.
Sales Tax: Aerated Waters (Question No. 126)
asked the Minister representing the
Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
– The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Payments for export support were:
$200,000 was paid to the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation to support research and development of apple and pear products.
Cascade Cordials Pty Ltd, Hobart
Henry Jones Ltd, Melbourne
Plaimar Ltd, Sydney
Bush Boake Allen (Aust.) Ltd, Melbourne
Ardmona Fruit Products Co-op. Co. Ltd, Mooroopna
Golden Circle Cannery, Brisbane
The investigation of claims from Cascade Cordials Pty Ltd, Bush Boake Allen (Aust.) Ltd and Golden Circle Cannery has been finalised and payments will be made as soon as possible. Finalisation of claims from the remaining processors has been held in abeyance pending the supply of additional information from those processors.
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
What sum has been paid by the Department of Social Security, or by Departments formerly encompassing the functions now performed by that Department, to each airline for air travel within Australia during the last 2 years.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Amounts paid by the Department of Social Security to each airline for air travel within Australia during the last 2 years is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760504_reps_30_hor99/>.