30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the 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 Australian 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 Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon and Mr Neil. Petitions received.
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 Yates. Petition received.
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:
Whereas the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act was passed in contravention of a 1968 agreement;
Whereas this Act conflicts seriously with Commonwealth Government Policy on Aboriginal Affairs and on Australian equity in multinational corporations working in Australia;
Your Petitioners therefore note with appreciation the statements already made on the matter by Government members but humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will also:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Viner and Mr Connolly. Petitions received.
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 distress is being caused to social security recipients by the delay in adjusting pensions to the Consumer Prices Index months after prices of goods and services have risen, and that medications which were formerly pharmaceutical benefits must now be paid for.
Additionally, that State housing authorities’ waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners grow ever longer, and the cost of funerals increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to adjust social security payments instantly and automatically when the quarterly Consumer Prices Index is announced.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
Update the State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act of 1 974, eroded by inflation, to increase grants to overcome the backlog.
Update Funeral Benefit to 60 per cent of reasonable cost of funeral. (This benefit was 200 shillings, 20 dollars, when introduced in 1943. It was seven times the 1943 pension of 27 shillings a week).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
To the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned students and staff of Christ College in Victoria respectfully showeth:
That the Immigration of teachers recruited from outside Australia be prevented while students with similar University qualifications are refused entry into Diploma of Education courses, and school leavers are refused entry into the State colleges of Victoria.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Minister for Immigration, Mr McKellar will carry out this Petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
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 since the Australian Assistance Plan is making it possible for citizens to help themselves, thereby ensuring best possible use of limited Government resources, as shown by the fact that over 200 community projects have been initiated or funded through the A.A.P. in the Outer Eastern Region.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament will take immediate steps to continue the Australian Assistance Plan as recommended in the Report tabled by the Honourable the Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle in Parliament on the 4th March, 1976 and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable the Speaker and House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned persons believe that the $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble
Petition of the undersigned students and staff of State Coleges of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That Teachers recruited outside Australia by the Victorian Education department have their income taxation exemption for the period of their stay in Australia cancelled.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Treasurer will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to return to the State of New South Wales a fairer share of the income tax paid to the Federal Government by that State.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Has he received any reports from any source on the behaviour of certain judges in the Family Law Court? Is it open talk in legal circles that some judges are refusing to accept evidence, delivering homilies, castigating persons appearing before the Court and prejudging some of the cases? Is he satisfied that the custody, counselling and reconciliation provisions of the Family Law Act are being utilised as intended? If he knows nothing of these complaints, will he institute an immediate inquiry into the operations of the Family Law Court to ascertain the truth or falsity of the allegations?
– Dealing with the latter part of the question, may I say that those provisions are being used in the way in which it was intended. As to the question whether I have had any allegations or complaints about judges of the Family Law Court, I have received one from one honourable member. But may I say that that matter is now the subject of an appeal to the Family Court in its appellate jurisdiction. Earlier this week, I think, another case that came before the High Court on an order nisi involved allegations about the conduct of a judge and his intrusion into the proceedings. It would be most improper for me, of course, to make any comments which would reflect on either of those matters. Therefore I do not propose to do that.
However, I refer honourable members to section 97 of the Family Law Act. Honourable members will recall that last week there was a somewhat unusual meeting in the sense that members of both sides met and discussed amendments to the Family Law Act that were subsequently introduced into this House. One of the provisions discussed was section 97. Section 97 provides for the proceedings of the Family Court, or indeed any court dealing with family law matters, to be heard in camera subject to regulations and subject to parties, relatives, etc., being present. That was the principle that was endorsed by this Parliament last year. Because the High Court held that that section was invalid insofar as it was a direction to the courts of the States, the question arises as to how that section should be amended. I indicated then to honourable members that I proposed to talk to the Attorneys-General of the States in relation to this matter to see whether they would apply to State courts under State legislation the principle of section 97 of the Family Law Act. May I say that I have some reservations about the desirability of courts sitting in private. It has always been a basic principle of justice that justice seen is justice done. One of the basic principles of our courts since the time of the Stuarts has been that there ought to be an open administration of the courts. I am not talking about section 12 1 which provides that there shall be no publicity of proceedings in any court. That is a very salutary rule. There is no reason why particulars of divorce cases should be publicised. However, what I am talking about is whether the public should be entitled to go into a court.
-Or whether the public should know a case is coming on.
-I am talking about whether the public should be entitled to go into a court. A very significant matter that was referred to me by the Chief Justice of Tasmania was whether contempt proceedings before the Family Court should be dealt with in open court or in closed court. At the moment there are 2 people in Pentridge gaol who were put there under an order for contempt. Those contempt proceedings were heard in closed court. It is most undesirable, and I think honourable members will agree, that anything in the nature of criminal proceedings should be heard in a closed court. It is a basic principle of justice that that should not happen. I ask honourable members to treat what I am saying seriously because I think it raises a very serious question.
The Chief Judge of the Family Court and other judges have said to me that they believe it would be better if the predominant rule were that the Family Court itself was held in open court as distinct from the principle of section 97. One of the basic reasons, as it was stated once by Bentham, is that ‘it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial’. It is a very salutary rule that a judge who is being observed, and I make no reference to those matters that are before the court, is a judge who is under public scrutiny. If a member of the public or a member of the Press can go in, not to publicise what is being said by the parties but to see how the proceedings are being conducted, we are more likely to get purer justice administered. That is a basic rule and I commend it to honourable members.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware of reports that Taiwanese fishing vessels are continually violating Australian territorial waters off the Queensland coast, particularly on reefs off the coastline of Gladstone and adjoining areas? Repeated sightings by Australian charter and fishing vessels in the area confirm the presence of Taiwanese vessels and extensive pollution of islands where they have landed crew members. Will the Minister assure the House that steps will be taken to increase surveillance and eliminate the danger of the introduction of exotic diseases, long term damage to Australian marine resources and ecological damage to the Great Barrier-Reef?
– I share the concern so plainly evident in the honourable member’s question. That is one of the reasons why instructions were given several months ago for the level of surveillance activities in northern Australia, in particular off Queensland waters, to be stepped up. That has happened. I can assure my honourable friend that the only report I have received of a Taiwanese vessel being in propinquity to Gladstone was a fishing vessel which was sighted near Swain Reefs, which I understand is about 150 or 160 miles from Gladstone. There are regular patrols by Royal Australian Air Force aircraft operating from Townsville and there are 3 patrol boats operating out of Cairns. The honourable gentleman may rest assured that the Government views with anxiety reports concerning intruders into our waters. This is one of the reasons why the Government is taking the action it has taken to increase our surveillance capacity.
– I ask the Foreign Minister a question without notice. Four weeks ago in answer to my most recent question about Commonwealth assistance to Mozambique in meeting her losses in applying sanctions against Rhodesia he said that the Government would be able to announce in greater detail the form of its aid when it had received a request from the Commonwealth Secretary-General. I now ask: Has the Secretary-General asked Australia to contribute to a special fund to compensate Mozambique? When was the request made? What response has the Government made and what response has been made by other developed Commonwealth countries to the same request?
-Yes, I recall giving the answer; I think it was on 29 April. Taking a leaf out of the former Prime Minister’s book, I can generally recall the dates on which he has asked me questions and I can generally recall the content of them, so much so that I can recall that I also referred to awaiting not merely the report of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth but also that of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I cannot recall the precise date on which the report from the Commonwealth SecretaryGeneral was received. I can indicate that it was received some time in advance of the receipt of the report from the Secretary-General of the United Nations which came to my Department last week and which is under examination.
On 29 April I said to the Leader of the Opposition that the Government had decided that Australia would give some form of food aid to Mozambique but that the details would be studied, particularly after we had received and studied the report of the United Nations special mission to Mozambique. I noted that according to the World Health Organisation advice that we had received, Mozambique desperately required skim milk powder and that Australia would be able to respond to a request for that commodity. As I have said, copies of the report of the United Nations mission were received only in the latter part of last week. Its recommendations are under study. I am able to confirm, however, that the UN mission also sees an urgent requirement for food aid, including skim milk powder. Consideration is also being given to an appeal by the Commonwealth Secretary-General- an appeal which was not only made in writing following the report of his mission but was also made in person to the Prime Minister and me the day before yesterday. I shall be able to advise -
– This is a request for a contribution to a fund.
– It is a request for a contribution to a Commonwealth fund for technical cooperation.
– A Commonwealth fund.
-It is a Commonwealth fund. It is not asking for bilateral assistance at the instigation of the Commonwealth and the fund, as I understand it, is to be called the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation and it will provide technical assistance to Mozambique. I believe that the United Kingdom already indicated that it is prepared to provide a sum of money, as has Canada, and that other members of the Commonwealth have indicated their willingness to contribute a particular amount or are giving consideration to it, but through a Commonwealth multi-lateral body. We are giving consideration to this. I should be able to advise the House in the very near future of our response to that request.
-f direct my question to the Minister for Health. I refer to the quarantine restrictions on imported cheese. I understand that the Government, rather than prohibiting the importation of cheese, has decided to establish a withholding period of 120 days on all cheese imported from countries where the risk of foot and mouth disease contamination exists. If cheeses are produced under the same specifications as decribed in the Plum Island report, namely cheese manufactured from heated milk, are there any cogent reasons why these cheeses cannot be imported with a shorter quarantine period, say 30 days, from such non-exempt countries as Switzerland, France and Holland?
– The Government has a no risk policy with respect to the introduction of diseases from other countries, and particularly foot and mouth disease. I am sure it is no accident that foot and mouth disease has not entered Australia. If there was one case of foot and mouth in Australia the consequence of that event would be that Australia would lose its total market for beef to the United States of America, Japan and to practically every country. We would have no alternative but to slaughter the whole of the sheep population of Australia because it would not pay to vaccinate sheep at today’s prices. Furthermore, if foot and mouth disease ever got into our wild or feral pig population it would be doubtful whether we could ever contain foot and mouth disease in the cattle population in Australia. The net result of that could well be a loss of somewhere of the order of $2 ,000m worth of exports. It is against that background that the Government took a decision, on advice from the Bureau of Animal Health and also from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which conducted an evaluation of the Plum Island -
– Why did you not tell the trade department what you were doing?
– The trade department was in fact informed.
– It was informed. It was a decision not arbitrarily taken. It was a decision that was taken as a consequence of the recommendation of CSIRO officers who had done an evaluation of the Plum Island report. We have not yet promulgated or gazetted regulations but they are being prepared currently to ensure that cheese coming from countries where foot and mouth disease is prevalent is withheld for a period of 120 days to ensure that the risk from contamination or the risk of the virus becoming free in Australia is prevented. We are looking at experiments that are being conducted in regard to other cheeses that are produced under heating processes. Of course we would have a further look at whether it is possible to allow cheeses that have been properly bonded and properly processed to ensure they are free of any contamination from infected cheeses to come from those countries, but those cheeses will come into Australia only if we are satisfied that there is no way that they can introduce foot and mouth disease into Australia.
– Is the Foreign Minister aware that the last UDT leaders who co-operated with the Indonesians in their invasion of East Timor have been imprisoned? Is he aware that Mr Tomadok, the former Indonesian Consul to East Timor, has now been made Governor of East Timor? Does he agree that these events remove the last vestige of hope for a genuine act of selfdetermination in East Timor? Will the Australian
Government protest to the Indonesian Government on this matter? Will the Australian Government protest on this matter before the United Nations?
-I am aware of a report that not only indicates this but also drew the same conclusions as the honourable member has drawn and are implicit in his question. That was in the Canberra Times of today’s date. At this stage the Government has no information to confirm the report contained in that newspaper to the effect that the head of the Provisional Government of East Timor has been replaced and that UDT personalities have been arrested. Let us wait for confirmation of the information. Then I will give consideration to the matters justifiably raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, concerns Medibank. He has asked Premiers to consider changes in the Medibank hospital agreements. How can changes be made in firm legal agreements that still have several years to run?
– There are provisions in those agreements which allow for matters to be negotiated between the Commonwealth and the States. One of the matters of which I think honourable gentlemen are well aware that I have put to the Premiers for negotiation is the matter of charges that should apply to intermediate and private wards in public hospitals. I think some Premiers are already aware that our proposal, which would add something to the revenue of the States in this regard, would in no way hurt or change the basic element of free treatment in standard wards, which is the Medibank approach to health care in these matters. These proposals, along with one or two others, were put to the States for negotiation between the Minister for Health and State Health Ministers. I hope that the States would respond constructively to these matters.
Within the last several hours a much more serious matter concerning the hospital agreements with all the States has come to the notice of the Government. It is a matter that concerns the Government greatly. Before I describe the nature of the problem that has come to our notice, let me say that the Government stands firmly and absolutely committed to the retention of Medibank, the continuing support of public hospitals in the States and the free treatment of patients in standard wards, as Medibank and the hospital agreements provide. It has come to my notice that at some stage last year the AttorneyGeneral’s Department advised the Department of Social Security that the hospital agreements being drawn up with the States may not be in compliance with the Act passed through this Parliament. There was some cause to look at the Medibank agreements in more detail as a result of the statements made in one or two quarters, by one or two Premiers perhaps. As a result of that, there is now- in a sense unfortunately but factuallyfirm legal advice from the AttorneyGeneral and the Solicitor-General, in a joint opinion, that the hospital agreements are not in conformity with the Act, that past payments are probably invalid, that future payments would not be valid and would not be approved by the Auditor-General if they continued to be made under the Act as it now stands; that is, the legal situation that arises from an arrangement which was made by the previous Government in which the hospital agreements, according to that joint opinion, are not in conformity with legislation passed through this Parliament.
Let me come to the point on which I started. The Government is firmly committed to supporting State hospitals. It is firmly committed to the kind and form of service that Medibank provides, and we have every intention of passing through this Parliament forthwith, as soon as legislation can be drafted, measures to enable these matters to continue in proper form until 30 September 1976. This will allow these matters to be looked at in more detail by the Minister for Health and his State counterparts. The Treasurer has been asked to introduce urgently legislation to ensure that payments to the States will be continued in the forthcoming months so that the Medibank arrangements will not be upset. That will be special and separate and particular legislation to enable payments to be continued so that no patient will in any sense be prejudiced. There is no intention on the part of the Government that any person in Medibank need have any fear or concern for the future, because it is this Government’s intention to put to right and to correct the error that was committed by our predecessors.
It is likely that the payments will be in the form of specific grants to replace the cost sharing arrangements previously in force and now known to be invalid. The basis would be to work out how much money would normally be paid to the States over the forthcoming months to 30 September and to provide that payment to the States in a block grant to cover the Commonwealth’s share of the cost of running State hospitals. We believe that this is the best interim measure that could be introduced to overcome the problem, and it will enable the Minister for Health to sit down with his State counterparts and work out longer term arrangements which will be valid, which will be in compliance with legislation passed through this Parliament, and which will protect State hospitals and patients. The Minister for Health has been asked to discuss with State Health Ministers the agreements which will become effective from 1 October, which will be legal and which will not be challengeable.
I might add only that the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General are so firm in their view on these particular matters that, as I have already indicated and as I am advised, the Auditor-General would not and could not in any propriety authorise continued payments under the present legislation. While nobody can be certain in legal matters, as I understand it, the opinions are so clear and firm it is suggested that nobody would bother to take the matter to the High Court of Australia because the invalidity of the present arrangements is beyond question.
– Has the Deputy Prime Minister visited Mr Wiley Fancher at or near Atherton? Has Mr Fancher visited him at or near Murwillumbah? If so, when?
– I thought that after the belting the Opposition had received from my Deputy on this question the matter would have become a dead issue, but apparently the Opposition is prepared to resurrect it. I am happy to answer the question that the honourable member has asked me. I have never visited Mr Wiley Fancher in Atherton. He did visit me, with the Premier of Queensland, in January this year. That was the first time I ever met the man.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of statements by the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, that he would be unable to fulfil his election promises because of the Commonwealth’s economic measures? Is there any truth in these statements?
-Even a casual reader of the newspapers could not have failed to see over recent days statements by the Premier of New South Wales concerning the difficulty he is already finding in implementing his election commitments. It was interesting to note that 24 hours after the new State Treasurer had been named as Treasurer he was talking about introducing a State income tax. I think the Premier has failed to perceive and understand one of the basic objectives of our federalism proposals, that is, to establish the circumstances in which Premiers can be seen to be responsible for their own actions and not have to resort to circumstances in which they can hide behind the back of the Commonwealth Government in perpetuity blaming that Government for all their own sins, whatever those sins might be.
Of course, Mr Wran must have known that the Commonwealth was committed to tax indexation. He and the whole of Australia were told of that often enough. He must have known that we were committed to restraint in expenditure. He and all Australia were told of that often enough. He has known quite well that his election promises would have to be paid out of resources that he knew would be available to the Government of New South Wales. Maybe the kindest thing that can be said in these matters is that from his position of Opposition he had not been keeping up with what had been happening in the political scene and was not entirely aware of what had occurred. Our federalism proposals are designed to enable States and Premiers who have the pride and propriety to wish to take responsibility for their own affairs to do so. I hope very much that Mr Wran as the Premier of the State will accept that responsibility.
The publicity that has come forward this week would seem to indicate that like a predecessor of his kind in this place he is already seeking scapegoats. We know that the gentleman who sits opposite me was a pastmaster in seeking scapegoat after scapegoat, Treasurer after Treasurer, Deputy Leader after Deputy Leader and all the rest, time and time again, until he was finally caught out.
I really would not have wanted to enter into this kind of public debate with Mr Wran before a meeting that I will be having with him later today, but I feel impelled to say something about these matters because of the statements that he himself had made or caused to be made over the last week. In these matters the Commonwealth is not going to be put in the position of being responsible for Mr Wran’s own failures and the misleading of the people of New South Wales.
– My question which I address to the Minister for Foreign Affairs is based on the fact that apparently the casualties in Lebanon in less than a year are about 4 times the rate of casualties of the worst year of the Vietnam war, that Arafat’s statement that he will prevent partition is interpreted as an intention to genocide of Christians and that there are Syrian troops in Lebanon. Is the Minister prepared to take up these issues before the United Nations as a threat to peace, or is he satisfied with the situation in the United Nations where Israeli school text books can be discussed as a threat to peace, but not Lebanon- a situation which seems to be explicable in terms of the old Middle East metaphor of straining at gnats and swallowing camels?
-I am not prepared to commit positively to action to take this matter to the United Nations as a threat to the peace, but I am prepared to accept the major thrust contained within the question of the honourable member. It is time that international bodies got the whole question of threats to peace in perspective. It is time for a little more frankness and honest discussion in the international forum rather than the regurgitation of set lines. If international organisations are to solve international problems there has to be a movement of good will on all sides and a preparedness to compromise from their own predispositions and well worn slogans that are constantly regurgitated. I am not satisfied that text-books in Israel are a threat to the peace. It would take a great deal of persuasion to get me even to entertain such a contention. I believe that what is contained in the thrust of the question of the honourable member is better than anything I can say in answer. I believe that the events in the Middle East will be solved only by some form of compromise on both sides. But unless the right of Israel to exist is seen as the paramount consideration, and unless that state is not to be kept continually under siege then countries cannot enter into worthwhile negotiations. With regard to the remarks made by the honourable member concerning Lebanon, I compliment him for the sentiments behind them.
– The Treasurer would be aware that no change has been made to the base values of the zone allowance since 1958. Further, the boundaries adopted for the purpose of determining residency for allowances in zone A and zone B have not been reassessed since the allowances were introduced in 1945, except for minor changes in 1956. Consequently, many isolated townships lie outside the boundaries, thus depriving their residents of this allowance. Recognising that the Treasurer intends to index the allowances so far as they refer to dependants, will he instigate an investigation to examine the boundaries so that they might more realistically reflect the purpose of the allowance, that is, to compensate for isolation, inconvenience, climatic conditions and high cost of living? Will he also increase the base value so as to give some tan.igible relief to taxpayers in those zones?
– Unlike the former Government, the present Liberal-National Country Party Administration has a very firm interest in seeking to protect the position of families in isolated areas. The honourable gentleman and others on the National Country Party and the’ Liberal Party side- apart from the honourable member for Dawson, I instance particularly my colleague the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, who has also spoken to me about this matter in the strongest possible terms and has had several discussions with me- recognise that there is a need for a revision both of the boundaries and the scales which apply. I think the honourable gentleman said in his question that the values were last subject to revision in 1958. That clearly raises the question whether or not that revision should now take place. I can assure the honourable gentleman that consistent with this Government’s understanding of the need to protect the position of people in isolated areas, the examination which he and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie have properly sought of me will take place. Of course it will be a matter for consideration by tb.2 Government in the Budget context.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Transport. Since the Government has announced its intention to disband the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, which was established in 1956, and since the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement made at that time is about to expire, I ask: Has the Government decided to allow the Australian Shipping Commission to undertake its own stevedoring operations, as all other shipping companies are free to do, instead of having its stevedoring operations undertaken by its competitors?
– I can only imagine that for once the Leader of the Opposition has read a speech of mine, one that I made in Sydney last Monday.
– Ord er ! The honourable member should not reflect on another member.
-Mr Speaker, I was looking at the Leader of the Opposition hoping that he would confirm that he has read the speech I made in Sydney on Monday, but he has declined to do so.
-My flattery will not go that far.
-I thank the Leader of the Opposition. At present we are looking at a proposal that the Australian National Line should be able to set up its own stevedoring operation as a result of the decisions taken by the Government and referred to by the Leader of the Opposition in his question. I believe, perhaps not for the ideological reason that the Leader of the Opposition put forward but for other reasons, that it would be wise for the Australian National Line to have a window into the stevedoring industry so that government can be better informed about stevedoring operations on the coast. The other part of the question related to the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement. As usual in these sorts of matters, the Leader of the Opposition is quite right in his facts. It is due for renewal by October this year, and consideration is being given to it.
– Will you send me a copy of your speech.
-I will be delighted to do so.
-Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of rumour and speculation to the effect that the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is to be abolished? Has the Minister ever heard of any proposals to abolish the orchestra? Has the Australian Broadcasting Commission made any decision to abolish the orchestra? Is there any truth or credence in the rumour that it is Government policy to abolish this very fine orchestra? (Honourable members interjecting)
– Order! There is too much cacophony in the House.
-I heard that unfounded rumour late last night. I suppose that it arose because the expenditure for the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be reduced next year. That is why we hear this sort of damaging and unnecessary speculation. I assure the honourable member, and, indeed, other honourable members from Tasmania and all Australians that the matter could not have been discussed. First of all, the General Manager of the ABC is on leave. The Commission has not met since the Government’s decisions were taken. I do not think that it meets until next Thursday or Friday. I put the rumour in the bracket of utter speculation and, if I were the honourable member, I would ignore it.
-I ask the Attorney-General whether it is the intention to apply to laws relating to non-Aboriginal landholders in the Northern Territory similar national interest provisions as have been announced are to be contained in the Aboriginal land rights legislation whereby the ownership of land and its usage can be over ridden in the national interest? This is not a new provision. I believe that it is also contained in previous legislation. I ask the Attorney-General whether similar national interest provisions, where negotiations for use of land disagreed to by the landholder are intended to be applied to non-Aboriginal landholders in the Northern Territory.
-I do not regard the question which the honourable member has asked as a matter that falls within my portfolio. Therefore I do not propose to answer it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Has the Minister seen reports that approximately 15 000 illegal migrants entered Australia during those months when 8500 illegal migrants surrendered under the amnesty arrangements? Are these figures exaggerated, or is Australia the easiest country in the world to enter illegally and a country that could be placed at risk because of obvious health dangers? Is it correct that the present round-up system of illegal residents allows the apprehended holder of an expired visitor’s visa once again to disappear back into the community? Now that the amnesty is over, will the Minister continue to review the visa system and assure the House that people found entering this country illegally can no longer expect leniency but rather instant deportation as a general rule?
– I have seen the reports to which the honourable member refers. I would say firstly that they were attributed to a man who does not enjoy a very savoury reputation in regard to the accuracy of the statements that he makes. Secondly, I would point out that every country has its quota of illegal migrants at any one time. People over-stay or desert ships and there is always in any country a number of people in the category of illegal migrants. During the previous Government’s administration there was introduced to Australia a system known as the easy-visa-system. A great number of people^ took advantage of the system to enter Australia with the sole purpose of circumventing the normal migration laws and staying here as permanent residents. That easy-visa-system was set aside by the previous but one Minister for Immigration- he was then the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameronand when we came to office we decided that the only way to overcome the situation of a large number of people residing illegally in Australia was to declare an amnesty. That amnesty was declared. It was made clear that it would last for only 3 months. It is now finished and it will not be repeated.
I am concerned that procedures for entry to and exit from Australia require updating in terms of the technology that is used so that we can have a better idea of the movements of those who do come to and leave Australia. I would point out that approximately Vi million people enter Australia every year and surveillance of those people who come here to obtain residence illegally is very difficult. However, my Department is looking at ways in which we can improve the technology of our entry and exit requirements and we are also looking as a matter of urgency at the Migration Act itself so that we can overcome the problems to which the honourable member has referred. Australia is not the easiest country to enter illegally. However, there are factors which must be taken into consideration and will be taken into consideration. We will be tightening up our entry and exit procedures.
In answer to the last part of the honourable member’s question, I inform him that if those people who come to our attention and are here illegally do not have some very special circumstances which would allow us in terms of human compassion to permit them to continue to stay in Australia they will be required to leave this country.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health about his no risk policy for animals. Is it a fact that a celebrated theatrical entrepreneur has imported 15 pedigree Simmental cattle- 13 heifers and 2 bulls- from New Zealand for his stud in the electorate of the Minister for Primary Industry? Did the aircraft bringing these cattle to Australia stopover in Noumea? Have the quarantine authorities impounded the cattle and are they now at the Sydney showground, not at a certified quarantine station? Will the Minister show the same concern as he has in respect of cheese imports, resist pressures from his ministerial colleague and undertake to the House that the cattle will remain impounded for the full quarantine period which, I understand, is 6 months?
Mt HUNT -I thank the Leader of the Opposition for bringing this matter to my attention for the first time. I had not heard of it before. I hope it is not a lot of bull. I can assure him that if the facts are correct I will be thoroughly investigating this matter and indeed I am sure that the Minister for Primary Industry would be concerned if the facts are correct. They will be investigated.
-Is the Minister for National Resources aware of recent further discoveries of high class coal in close proximity to Toowoomba? Is this discovery an extension of the rich Millmerran coal deposits? In view of the discovery of these further huge high quality coal deposits described as among the best in the world for the purpose of converting coal into other fuel and in view of the expected increases in world wide prices for oil and oil products and possible shortages, what is the latest development in encouraging overseas and local business to combine in establishing a plant in the Darling Downs area for converting coal into other fuel?
– I am well aware of the honourable member’s keen interest in the development of a coal industry in his own electorate. It is well known that there are very large coal deposits in the region. Some of them have already been assessed. I am not aware of any new announcements other than the one by the Millmerran coal company towards the end of last year that it had 425 million tons of coal which would be available for development. The Government welcomes the development of coal projects and would welcome the interest of companies in getting into the business of converting coal to synthetic fuels. The Millmerran company is already negotiating with other Australian companies and overseas interests about a joint venture with the prospect of such development. It is keeping my Department informed. My Department is also carrying out evaluations of various forms of coal conversion. The Australian coal industry research laboratories are also doing a good deal of work in this area along with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. 1 hope that in the not too distant future we will have some major projects under way in this country converting coal to oil or other forms of fuel which will be a valuable augmentation of our already diminishing supplies of oil.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. He will be aware of the pending dismissal of 260 railway employees in South Australia. Will he take urgent action to ensure continuity of employment for the men concerned in accordance with his election pledge of last November to assist the States to modernise and rationalise their rail systems?
– I suspect that the question arises from a row that seems to be brewing in South Australia at the moment about the alleged dismissal of some 260 men from the South Australian Railways. The Minister for Transport in South Australia has been sending me telegrams and telexes and writing me letters about this question. I am really at a loss to understand why he is doing so because the Chairman of the State Transport Authority, who reports to the State Minister for Transport, is also a commissioner of the Australian National Railways Commission. As Chairman of the State Transport Authority he was present at all the meetings- the minutes record this- when decisions were taken that the number of men employed by the South Australian Railways ought to be reduced not by sacking but by attrition; that is, it was decided that as people left, their positions ought not be refilled. The State Transport Authority Chairman would know of that decision and I would have thought he would convey it to the Minister for Transport in South Australia. So in fact there has been no decision to sack 260 men in South Australia.
I think this whole question highlights again the difficulty I have as Minister for Transport in looking after the South Australian Railways under the agreement signed by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister, and the Premier of South Australia. Normal management decisions cannot be taken by the proper authority without being oversighted by the South Australian Minister. I am a bit like the fellow who bought a house and was told by the previous owner that he could not use the bathroom. That is just about the situation we are in at the moment over the South Australian railways agreement. Normal management decisions cannot be taken without the agreement of the South Australian Minister. I have to confess that I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition was caught early in the morning after a late night when he signed the agreement or what.
– You can go to arbitration.
-He really did sell the Commonwealth short on this occasion. The honourable gentleman says: ‘Go to arbitration ‘. I suppose he means that every time we have a bit of a row we can go to the divorce court and see what the judge has to say. I really am at a loss to understand how the Leader of the Opposition could have sold the Commonwealth so short. He has claimed that State governments are redundant and ought to be dissolved. When he had the opportunity to make a nice clean deal and take over the South Australian railways in a nice clean fashion what did he do? He left the South Australian Government involved so that every future Commonwealth Minister for Transport has to kowtow to the South Australian Minister to get some ordinary management decision taken.
-Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to conflicting reports about the amount of money to be made available to local government next year? Will he give the House an indication of the actual position?
– I have seen conflicting reports and have noted odd passing comments made in this House by members of the Opposition about the assistance which this Government is providing to local government. I can say at the outset in clear and unmistakable terms that there is a new deal for local government. In fact local government next year will receive some $I40m in general purpose assistance. This represents an increase of some 75 per cent over the amount for the current year. It is a massive increase in general purpose funds and reflects this Government’s desire to give local government a real measure of independence and flexibility, and to make it a genuine partner in our overall federal system.
– What about specific purpose grants?
– The honourable member for Adelaide asks about specific purpose grants. They include areas such as sewerage and roads. He will find in the due process of time that when the amount for specific purpose grants is included with the amount for general purpose assistance grants, local government will be decidedly better off than it was under the Labor Party’s administration. I might say that what the Government has done by way of financial grants represents a major step forward. That, of course, is quite apart from the outstanding significance of the framework under which local government for the first time will be able to go to States Grants Commission on its own behalf and not be subject to the centralised bureaucracy to which the former Government intended to submit it.
– My question, directed to the Minister for Defence, has a bit of a kick in it. The Minister will recall his answer to my question on Tuesday of last week which showed that the Treasurer, accompanied by 5 members of his personal staff, arrived by VIP aircraft from Melbourne in Canberra on 29 March at 1.05 p.m. when there was a commercial flight arriving at 1.10 p.m., 5 minutes later.
– I said that my question had a kick in it. I ask the Minister why the Treasurer was not required to abide by the rule that VIP aircraft will not normally be provided to Ministers when commercial flights are available at or near the same time. Will he in future eliminate such waste, duplication and extravagance?
-I can assure my honourable friend that the use of the Royal Australian Air Force VIP Flight is made according to rules which have been observed- I venture to say quite punctiliously- by me and by the Government since I have had the responsibility for it. If there would appear to be some excess I invite the honourable gentleman to consider the facts which I, from recollection, set out in the answer I gave to him. From time to time cases are put to me- may I say from both sides of the House- in which there are extenuating circumstances and I seek to recognise those circumstances in relation to the rules. I believe that last week I tabled the manifest dealing with RAAF special flights covering the period from October to January or February this year. It indicates that during that time considerable use of the Flight was made by my honourable friend’s colleagues.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Wheat Research Act 1957, 1 present the annual report on the operation of that Act for the year ended 31 December 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into land tenures.
– For the information of honourable members I present an urban paper entitled: A Report on the Information and Library Needs of the Citizens of the Western Region of Melbourne.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In today’s Australian I have been reported to say: . . . any Lebanese with family ties in Australia would be immediately granted a visa. Others who were suffering hardship because of the war would be given special consideration.
I point out that in this House on Tuesday, 25 May, in reply to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith I informed the House: … the normal entry criteria for people who have managed to escape from the situation in Lebanon and who have made application to come to Australia at one of the Australian posts surrounding that area of the world have been relaxed to the extent that the utmost priority is given to what are known as category A applicants, that is dependent parents, husbands, wives and dependent children. Special attention is given to those applicants who meet the normal migration criteria and additionally those people who have some special relationship with residents of Australia and who have their own special compassionate circumstances. Their applications are received and sent to Canberra for assessment.
I also informed the House: … we are making special arrangements particularly in respect of category A people. Even if they do not have passports, for instance, we are accepting identity documents and we are carrying out health checks after the people arrive in Australia- if conditions do not permit them to be taken overseas.
I believe that the report may have misled a number of people who have some real interest in this area and I should like to correct that.
by leave-Mr Speaker, honourable members will recall that the Government undertook during last year’s election campaign to reintroduce schemes for the training of Army, Navy and Air cadets which our predecessors decided to disband. We also undertook to review the overall cadet training system. In January this year I announced that I had instructed the Department of Defence to draw up proposals for a new scheme. I also invited interested organisations and individuals to submit proposals. More than 1000 letters and submissions containing constructive suggestions were received and these have been considered along with the advice of my Service and civilian advisers. Account was also taken of the Report on the Army Cadet Corps by the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces- the Millar Committee report.
I am now able to announce to the House details of a new scheme which each Service should have in operation by September this year. Three factors were important in shaping this new scheme. The first is my belief, and I am sure this is a belief shared by all honourable members, that we have an obligation to do all we can to encourage young people to develop the qualities of leadership, discipline, self-reliance and loyalty which the previous cadet training schemes fostered. Secondly, the Government wishes to see greater involvement of schools and the community generally in cadet training. The third consideration was one of cost. In a period when the Government must rigorously examine every facet of its expenditure the cost effectiveness of expenditure at this level on cadet training obviously demanded close scrutiny. This is particularly so at the present time when priority in defence expenditure must be given to equipment and the infrastructure essential to an adequate basis for expansion of our defence capability.
The cadet schemes which existed until late 1975 cost upwards of $ 12m a year to administer. That was a heavy charge on the defence vote. The scheme which the Government has approved retains the essential virtues of cadet training while at the same time seeking to ensure the maximum efficiency within the resources available. It will encompass both school and community sponsored units. Features of future Commonwealth financial assistance are: Provisions of appropriate military uniforms; full defence force support for annual camps of up to 7 days for all cadets- at these camps rations, accommodation and equipment will be provided; reimbursement of up to an average of $10 per cadet to schools and sponsoring authorities for travel costs associated with annual camps, provision by the Navy, Army and Air Force of 141 regular servicemen and some 20 Department of Defence civilian staff to supervise and provide assistance in the activities of cadets; Commonwealth compensation cover; and payment of annual allowances to cadet instructors.
Under the new scheme, the Navy, Army and Air cadets will retain their individual identity- a desire which was strongly expressed in the submissions of individuals and community groups and is shared by the Government. This is stressed in our decision to adopt a common aim for all 3 organisations, which has been formulated bearing in mind the fact that the organisations will be funded from the defence vote, and that the public submissions received strongly favoured the maintenance of a military flavour in cadet activity. The aim is to be as follows:
The common aim of the Australian Services’ cadet schemes is, by predominantly voluntary effort, better to equip young people for community life by fostering initiative, leadership, discipline and loyalty through training programs also designed to stimulate an interest in a particular arm of the Defence Force.
Besides introducing a common aim the Government has also decided that there should be a greater degree of commonality among the 3 Services’ cadet schemes particularly in the nature of the Commonwealth assistance. The Army Cadet Corps will retain the school as the basis on which cadet units will be formed. The main change from the previous scheme will be that under the new scheme schools will have greater authority and responsibility in the running of their own units. This desideratum has been expressed in many of the submissions which I have received. Initially there will be a ceiling of 32 000 on the number of Army cadets and cadet-officer instructors which is roughly the same number as under the previous scheme.
All schools which had Army cadet units prior to the previous Government’s decision to disband them will be invited to re-establish their units, if they so desire; although in the case of State schools they first must obtain the approval of the State government. Second priority will be given to schools which did not previously have cadet units, but which now wish to form a unit. At a later date consideration will be given to the formation of ‘open units’ not attached to any school, but drawing membership from the general community. These open units would be located with Army Reserve depots. Schools which wish to form units must have a minimum of 70 boys willing to join. This figure is considered to be a cost-effective minimum size for a cadet unit. Under the previous scheme a number of schools had units with numbers below this minimum. These will be given the opportunity of increasing these numbers.
– Will the cadet units be open to females?
-I am coming to that point. Units will be based on a company and platoon organisation. Each unit will be under the command of an officer selected by the school, and other officers of cadets will assist at a ratio of one for each 20 boys. Schools will be responsible for the administration and training of their own units, including the issue and care of uniforms and other equipment provided by the Army.
Because of safety and security problems modern rifles will be issued to cadets only during annual camps where appropriate Regular Army personnel and conditions will be available to ensure the necessary supervision and control. However, modified weapons may be issued to schools providing their security arrangements are adequate. In these circumstances it will be the responsibility of the school to provide the approved armouries. As a result of the greater independence given to schools in this new scheme, a considerable reduction of Regular Army support will be possible. This will permit a major scaling down of the costly former cadet brigade/battalion headquarters structure. Nonetheless, Regular Army support will continue. About 100 officers and other ranks will provide guidance and administrative support to school units, and ensure that uniformly high standards are maintained. In addition part time service of regular servicemen will be engaged in such things as stores issue and maintenance.
The new Air Training Corps structure will consist of over 100 flights totalling some 6000 cadets and cadet/officer instructors, which is approximately equivalent to its previous strength. About 30 regular officers and airmen will continue to support this new structure- a considerable decrease from the 115 previously. As with the Army the ATC essentially will be responsible for its own administration and the role of regular Royal Australian Air Force personnel will be that of guidance, support and overall supervision of standards. Air cadets will receive the same training as before, providing them with a range of practical skills associated with flyingnavigation, meteorology, air traffic control.
The naval reserve cadets system will continue. A ceiling of 4000 cadets, which is an increase of about 1500, will enable the Navy to maintain a similar proportion of cadets, compared to Service strength, as the Air Force. The total number of permanent naval force personnel supporting naval cadet units will remain at eleven as under the previous scheme. Naval cadets will also receive the same training as before which includes small boat safety, trips to sea on naval ships and navigation.
Both Navy and Air Force cadets will receive weapons training under the same conditions as Army cadets. As with Army cadet units the Air Training Corps and naval reserve cadets will rely heavily on volunteer instructors, trained by the parent Service. This will provide a very rewarding part time activity for men who wish to become involved in an active and stimulating form of youth work which the Government believes is essential to the character building of Australian youth. Cadet officer/cadet instructors will be paid an annual allowance. The level of that allowance and the conditions under which it will be paid is a matter that will be examined by the established defence machinery for pay and conditions of service.
Cadet service for girls will be given consideration after the new scheme is properly established, and then the Government would welcome submissions on this.
Mr Speaker, this new scheme retains the best features of the previous scheme, but will achieve them at a lower cost. At current prices the scheme will cost approximately $5.77m for Army cadets, $ 1 . 1 9m for the Air Training Corps and $640,000 for the naval reserve cadets. This is a substantial amount but represents a reduction of some $5.5m on the previous scheme at current prices. I believe the community support necessary to make this scheme a success will be forthcoming, and once again cadet training will make a worthwhile contribution to the physical and mental development of Australia’s young people. I present the following paper
Cadet Training Schemes-Ministerial Statement, 27 May 1976.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-On Tuesday night the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) appeared as the national defence policy mendicant trying himself out in Labor s old clothes. Today he presents himself as the ragged trousered philanthropist of the school cadet system. The magnificent monument of his administration will be his contribution to the reestablishment of school cadets. He will restore cadets with obsolete firearms, if there are enough, if the parents and citizens associations are prepared to pay for armouries instead of better and needed educational facilities. For those who miss out on the equivalent of ancient blunderbuss firearms because there will not be enough or because the schools cannot or will not pay for armouries, presumably there will always be broomsticks and cardboard cutouts.
The cost of this program is about $8m. That is about $4 per week for each cadet in each of the categories of school cadets. Therefore I think it reasonable that some pointed questions about the cost effectiveness be raised. Firstly, what son of contribution does the cadet system make in terms of preparing a young person for military awareness and for military knowledge? The level of achievement of a cadet after the end of his experiences as such is the equivalent of about a fortnight of full time military training. After a fortnight in the Regular Army a soldier might know where his mess is, might have a rough idea of his left foot from his right foot, might know who to ignore and who to avoid, that 3 stripes are probably more important than two and where he sleeps, but he will not know much more. Let us look at the Report on the Army Cadet Corps which was tabled in this Parliament. At page 9 paragraph 3.3 states:
School cadets who subsequently attend the Royal Military College, Duntroon, or the Officer Cadet School, Portsea, tend to find that their military knowledge gives them a certain advantage at the beginning of the course, but only briefly. Before long all students are on much the same footing.
The advantages are short, fleeting and quite meaningless, in the end result. The $8m is an awfully expensive way of establishing that. Is this costly venture necessary to encourage people to join the armed Services? Does it provide the sort of cost advantage over other benefits that could be achieved by the community if the money were spent elsewhere to justify this sort of outlay? My firm, unequivocal conclusion is: No, it cannot be justified. Let us look at the results of the 1973 census of the Citizen Military Forces. That established that nearly three out of every five respondents had not been in either the school army cadets, the ATC or the sea cadets.
This is a very expensive undertaking, often put forward with the justification that it encourages an interest and an awareness about the armed forces and accordingly encourages a greater entry rate into the armed Services. On the sort of evidence available, there is no justification at all for that assumption. Preponderantly people join the armed Services because they are predisposed towards that sort of career, or they join the part time armed Services in the Citizen Forces because they have a hankering towards that sort of part time activity. The absence of the cadet system or of the opportunity to be able to join it has little influence, if any at all, on that decision. As one goes through the Report on the Army Cadet Corps which was tabled in the Parliament, one finds that only a limited number of schools have the opportunity to provide that sort of activity for pupils at the school. The reason numbers are limited is simply that governments previous to the last Labor Goverment realised what an enormous waste of resources was represented by the cadet undertaking but did not have the political courage to face up to the sort of pressure which would come from the community if they justifiably terminated the system.
This undertaking is nothing more than a cosmetic to try to save face for the Minister for Defence who, in his rather grand and extravagant ways in Opposition, frequently made florid undertakings with that accentuated type of rhetoric in which he indulged about what he would do in government as Defence Minister. I do not believe that $8m as a face saver for the Minister for Defence can be justified. Let us look at page 9 of the report again. Paragraph 3.4 states:
On these grounds, therefore, the purely military value of school Cadets is quite small and quite expensive.
Furthermore, when one considers the high turnover of cadets and the very limited interest displayed by and large by the teaching staff at schools, the evidence that the concept is a wasteful one is further reinforced. Paragraph 3.12 at page 1 1 of the report states:
It is evident that the military value of Cadets is small and does not of itself justify the present annual allocation of funds and Regular Army manpower. … it is very clear that the funds spent on Cadets could be spent in ways which would add more to Australia’s present defence capacity.
The proposal before the Parliament at this point is perfectly outrageous. This coutry has been witness to, some of the most severe and, in many cases, quite unjustified expenditure cuts on very worthwhile community programs, in such areas as health, welfare, education and urban improvement. A whole range of these programs has been severely cut back. I do not labour again in the House the serious economic implications which flow from the very sudden turnaround in the level of Government expenditure increase in the forthcoming Budget. Let me, however, point out the comparison between the Government’s priorities. One of its first and highest priorities when it came into government in the welfare field was to reintroduce the $30m superphosphate bounty. Of course, we well know that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), as a wealthy grazier, is one of the beneficiaries of that scheme. At the same time, a whole range of important community welfare programs-health services, health benefits- were cut back and made more expensive because they were given a lower priority in the eyes of the Prime Minister. This program now before us is a curious priority altogether and cannot be justified on the evidence given to us.
The implications of the Minister’s speech, are certainly going to be stimulating and challenging for the schools in Australia which, on the superficial acceptance of what the Minister says, are keen to have school cadets for one reason or another. This always escapes me as having any substantial rationality behind it. Those schools are in for a shock when they start bearing the burden of maintaining the school cadet system in its various forms.
Look at these sorts of implications: The Minister is proposing to cut the regular Service staff to about one-third of what it was when the cadet system previously functioned. The outlay, after adjusting the previous outlay to allow for inflation in the next financial year, is down by about 40 per cent on what it was previously. But the approved levels in the total number of cadets will be down by only about 10 per cent. This means that there will be a far greater work load and a far greater cost burden for someone else to have to bear. Who is going to bear it? The obvious victims of that sort of transfer will be the schools and the school parents and citizens associations. They are the people who will pay. How much will they have to pay? What is the nature of the burden? What is the nature of the total cost that will have to be borne? These are things which are not spelt out and details of which ought to be given. As I have said, the Minister becomes the ragged trousered philanthropist of the school cadet system in Australia. Apparently he is proposing that the school cadet system should run on chook raffles in the local pub, Saturday afternoon fetes, walkathons, and those sorts of local activities to keep it functioning.
Let us look at the opportunity cost of this proposal. There is always an opportunity cost when a decision is made about expenditure. If one priority is established above others, then the opportunity cost of deciding that must be established against what could have been done with the money on other programs. The Woden Valley Hospital, a 630-bed hospital, a fairly comprehensive modern hospital, recently completed, cost about $20m. That means that if this money had not been allocated to school cadets in every Vh years we could have built one 630-bed public hospital somewhere in Australia.
Let us look at some of the other alternatives. This is one packet deal in which we could have spent $8m: We could have built 1 3 of the Kippax style health centres which are located here in the Australian Capital Territory. They provide a medical, mental, paramedical team. The average comprehensive centre costs about $600,000. We could have built one or two community health blocks such as those to be found at the Woden Valley Hospital with 222 beds for geriatric, psychiatric and rehabilitation patients, with the full range of therapy facilities. That is an area which has been greatly neglected. There is a very high demand in the community for that sort of service but it receives a low priority in comparison with the Minister’s hobby-horse. In the area of education we could have established, at a cost of approximately $200,000 each, a high school science block, a high school library, a school extension of 6 to 8 new classrooms. In the child care area, at a cost of $50,000 each we could have provided faculties for 25 children at one centre. All of these items represent one packet deal costing each year as much as the rein traduction of school cadets but which would give more social and economic benefit.
These are some other ways of illustrating how the money could be spent: The allocation for home nursing services in 1975-76 was less than $6m; the maternity allowance was less than $8m; the handicapped children’s allowance was less than $8m. That allowance alone could have been doubled. Under the National Health Act, medical services for pensioners cost $6m and domiciliary home care cost $8.3m. I cite those things, and there are many more things which could be cited, to give honourable members some insight into the opportunity cost which is involved in this quite unwise and quite unjustifiable decision. It escapes me totally how this sort of priority could have been established over many of those other things which I have mentioned.
But let us stick with the defence area. Let us talk about some real improvement in capital equipment, an area that had been neglected in the closing years of previous Liberal-Country Party governments. Another 1140 Landrover vehicles could have been purchased with $7.6m. That was part of the capital expenditure announced by the previous Labor Government. Vickers quoted us approximately $240,000 to modernise each Centurion tank. The $7. 6m to $8m involved in this program before us would have allowed us to update 3 1.6 Centurion tanks. I cite that as an illustration of the sort of opportunity cost, of the alternatives forgone, in relation to which money could have been spent. The cost of a Leopard tank is approximately $560,000. The amount of money involved in the Minister’s proposal would have been enough to buy about 14 Leopard tanks. The defence Services, to the extent that this sort of money is diverted from other hard, useful types of programs, have their efficiency weakened and their effectiveness subject to deterioration. They would be far better off, if the money is to be used for defence purposes, having it available for purposes related to their continuing function in the regular service area and in the citizen military service area.
There are some hard questions in relation to which I think the Minister should grace the parliamentary reports with an answer. He says the objective of the scheme is, to use his words, ‘by predominantly voluntary effort, better to equip young people for community life’. The previous Minister for Defence in the Labor Government, Mr Barnard, announced that under Labor joining the cadets would be voluntary and that any school forcing pupils to join would have its unit disbanded. What does the Minister mean by ‘predominantly voluntary effort’?
Some aspects of the new scheme appear to be impractical. The reimbursement of fees for travel to and from camps is at an average of $10 per cadet. That may mean that cadets travelling distances which incur a cost of more than $5 each way would have to meet the extra cost. Poor families would be disadvantaged. Schools may not be prepared to do it. The minimum unit size is to be 70 cadets. That means that many schools will be denied units. It will mean that in cases where schools increase their numbers to meet that level, the number of cadets in other schools will be reduced because the ceiling for the total number of cadets has been reduced. Schools will have to bear the responsibility for the administration of their units, the care of uniforms and equipment, and they will have to pay the very high expenses incurred in providing for the security of armaments. In the 12 months to November 1975, some 1 19 weapons were stolen, 42 of which were machine guns or sub-machine guns. What strict security requirements, at great cost, will be imposed on the schools?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLeay) adjourned.
– I move:
The operative pan of the motion is the request for legislation to be introduced protecting the rights and standing of the Aboriginal people affected by the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act 1975 of the Parliament of the State of Queensland. Although in some cases mining will not take place under that agreement until 1982, the Bill was hastened through the Queensland Parliament in the hurly burly of the Federal election campaign. It was thrust through without proper consultation with Aurukun Aborigines by the Queensland Government. The responsible Minister in the Queensland Government is the honourable R. E. Camm, the Minister for Mines and Energy. In the course of the debate on 4 December 1975 he claimed that there had been adequate consultation and Aurukun Aboriginal consent to his agreement. That Minister’s performance was depressing.
Under the arrangements of the Queensland Government some royalties are payable into a welfare fund for all the Aborigines of Queensland as a result of mining at Aurukun. When it was pointed out to the Minister (a) that nobody would regard it as compensation for the owner of a property if that owner were European to inform him that his property was being disposed of for the benefit of all the people of Queensland and he would have his share in that, and (b) that it would be perfectly easy to use the royalties in a welfare fund as a means of reducing the payment of other consolidated revenue into the fund, to no ultimate real benefit to Aborigines, the Minister made a priceless reply.
Queensland Hansard for 4 December 1975 at page 2538 records Mr Camm as saying:
Would the honourable gentleman say that the benefits of Mt Isa should go only to the people of Mt Isa?
The questions to be answered were really: Firstly, do you regard the Aborigines of Aurukun as having any title to the land of Aurukun; and secondly, have they been fully informed about what is happening to this land and do they consent to the arrangements?
It would be fair to say that Queensland follows the classic Australian pattern in acknowledging no Aboriginal land rights- I accept what is now happening, and has been happening for some time, in the Northern Territory- and regarding Aborigines in fact as a conquered people who may be dispossessed with impunity from what they regard as theirs. Therefore the answer to the question ‘Do Aurukun Aborigines have any title to Aurukun land?’ would in honesty be a simple ‘no’. That simple answer is not given. It is an assumption acted upon. What a man believes is not the principle he professes but the assumption on which he acts. In any event, if the land title were acknowledged, as the Minister indicated, since a Queensland Act of 1898 states that ‘the ownership of land does not give ownership of minerals on or under the surface of the land’, these minerals could be disposed of by the State government as it saw fit. Three per cent of the net profits of the project would be spent for the benefit of 50 000 Aborigines in Queenslandminiscule individual benefit.
A good deal of the debate in the Queensland Parliament turned on whether proper consultation had taken place. Aurukun has a Presbyterian mission and the board of the Presbyterian missions asked the Premier of Queensland ‘to withdraw the Bill pending consideration of it by the Aurukun community’ and ‘to ensure that the negotiated rights of the Aboriginal people are safeguarded’. I will not repeat any of that debate, but the question at issue did go to Mr D. Longland, the Queensland Ombudsman. In a report tabled in the Queensland Parliament he said that the Aurukun Aborigines believed that they had not been consulted enough. He pointed out that they were not implacably opposed to mining. I quote verbatim what he said:
They are firm in their stand that implementation should be delayed for adequate consultation, participation and explanation. The councillors-
That is the Aboriginal councillors - admit to a measure of consultation . . .
They say that consultation took place to the point where agreement was for prospecting, on a promise there would be further consultation before mining commenced.
It was claimed that this had not happened and that the developers arrived and commenced preparatory mining undertakings without permission.
One turn the debate took was innuendo against the missionaries and this, to me, had a familiar ring. I noted this when I was a member of the select committees on the grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines and the voting rights of Aborigines. Aborigines were assumed by some officials to have no thoughts or opinions of their own, and the missionary was blamed for ‘stirring’- a great word in the Australian outback. It was I who advised Yirrkala Aborigines to petition the House of Representatives and to do so on a bark painting. The local missionary, then the Reverend Edgar Wells, got the blame. The lawyers who advised the companies were legitimate but anybody who advised the Aborigines was a ‘stirrer’.
The Government of Queensland might well sing small in the presence of the Presbyterian missions at Aurukan and Doomadgee. The Government’s own Queensland Institute of Medical Research studied the syndrome of protein calory malnutrition in Australian Aboriginal children and published the academic consequences in the school work of the Aboriginal children as well as the health consequences in the form of growth retardation and anaemia. At 2 missions where infant feeding was supervised and nutritional deficiency in pregnant mothers prevented, the children showed normal growth patterns suggesting the Caucasian growth patterns also apply to Aboriginal children. The 2 missions where this desirable result existed were Aurukun and Doomadgee. These 2 missions left Queensland Government settlements for dead in terms of effectiveness for Aboriginal child health though their resources were less than Government settlements. The differentiating factor was mission dedication.
I quote the conclusions of David G. Jose, M.B., B.S., M.R.A.C.P., and John S. Welch, B.Sc, after the study of 2 250 Aboriginal children. They said:
The authors also wish to pay tribute to Sister A. Cameron of Aurukun mission and Sister I. C. Black of Doomadgee mission, the results of whose dedicated work in health and infant welfare over many years are recorded in this paper.
The paper was a searching study. The children showing proper growth showed the normal distribution of academic abilities, not retarded academic abilities. Aurukun Presbyterian mission, which has been derided in this context, carries the burden of caring about the Aborigines, the burden of understanding them, the burden of listening to them, the burden of applying inspired thought to their needs. I suggest no infallibility of the mission but its results show its superior level of action to that of the Queensland Government and that it is worth respect.
Aborigines are a pastoral people living off the land in their Aboriginal state. Land was and is sacred to them. I took with me to Europe to meet the principals of the Swiss company owning mining rights at Gove 2 young Aboriginal men. One had a name which meant ‘Horizon at sea, rock’. The other had a name which meant ‘movement of the octopus, reef. In Aboriginal belief in that area the earth spirit enters a woman to fashion the child when the woman first feels the quickening. The place where she first feels the quickening is sacred to that child. These young men were named after the place. The anthropologist Roheim long ago commented concerning Aborigines of the central Australian desert:
Like every other human being he loves his home dearly. Their faces will brighten up when they speak of the place where they ‘Rataperama’ (became incarnated), or of other places of mythological fame, and they will call them Tmarra knarra or Ngurru Puntu a big place. When one arrives at the big place in question, it is only a few trees and rocks, with perhaps a little water to account for its reputation. Yet Ltalaltuma for the Aranda or Ilpila for the Gumu has the same emotional value as London for an Englishman or Paris for a Frenchman.
Human beings born or conceived in an area may be identified with the supernatural beings who created the landscape. Aboriginal religion is transcendent. It seeks to explain the origin of all things and indicates man’s identity with all things and with creation and the creative idea, or dreaming. Our land titles derive from proclamations of the sovereignty of George III. A dreamtime origin of a title is no more mystic than the idea that George III by the grace of God owned it all. But George Ill’s legatees have had more fire power. What we are talking about is not justice, but conquest. We cannot reform our ancestors or reverse the past, but we can infuse justice into the situation. We can be sensitive- to other ways of thought and respect other forms of title.
At Aurukun the Aborigines want a decent standing. Mining for bauxite is not making a hole in the ground; it is creating a moonscape by razing the whole surface. Any standing for Aborigines has to be deliberately enacted. The late Harold Holt had a Parliament unanimous in his support for a referendum to confer power to legislate for Aborigines. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Eraser) has written to the Queensland Premier in this matter. When I was a member of the Select Committee on aboriginal voting rights, our committee came down the Queensland coast taking evidence. Any vehement assertion that Queensland had the finest Aboriginal policy in the world hit the front pages of the Press under big headlines. Intelligent, analytical criticism was invariably spiked by the Queensland Press. The State has, I fear, been systematically brainwashed in this way and Mr Bjelke-Petersen visits withering phrases on critics of this policy. Withering phrases will not exorcise the health research, unacknowledged by the Queensland Government, of course, not written for popular consumption, which I have cited and which is, in a way, a great tribute to Aurukun mission. We all, including Mr Bjelke-Petersen, have humbly to learn how to deal with Aborigines and we might begin by listening to them, acknowledging land rights and treating them unsentimentally and with dignity. The resolution asks for that.
I said we derive our titles to land from George III. His instructions to Captain Cook were to show the Aborigines:
Every kind of civility and regard and . . . with their consent take possession of convenient situations in the country in the name of the King of Great Britain.
His instructions to Governor Phillip were:
To conciliate their affections, enjoining all our subjects to live in amity and kindness with them. And if any of our subjects shall wantonly destroy them or give them an unnecessary interruption in their several occupations it is our will and pleasure that you do cause such offenders to be brought to punishment.
As to other colonies, notably Canada, George III spoke of the ‘great frauds and abuses in acquiring the land’ of Red Indians and other natives. We in the Opposition believe that the Aurukun land affair constitutes an abuse and consequently urge this action on the House and the Government. It has taken a long time to carry out George Ill’s humane instructions to Cook and Phillip. We might make a beginning here today.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. I want to add, with all the vigour at my disposal, the full support of myself and my Party and, I would suspect, of the Parliament, to the motion that is before the House. We speak to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) not to bury him but to fortify his resolution. This is a call to the Government and the Parliament to exercise the power conferred upon them by the referendum in 1967 with unrelenting vigour and persistence. This is no time for federalism; it is time for the exercise of the constitutional power that devolves upon us. It is a depressing fact that in Aboriginal affairs there are no bygones in Australian history; it will all happen again. We have the case of Yirrkala 1963, the rape of Weipa, the failure of so much of the aspects of the developments at Groote and now Aurukun. I am reminded of a debate that took place here in 1963 in which my colleague the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and myself spoke. We were speaking then for the people of Yirrkala. This is what I said:
We speak here for an isolated, defenceless group of people at the far end of Australia. As the honourable member for Fremantle has said, so far as Asia is concerned they are some of the most significant Australians. They are the closest Australians to Asia. They are black …
That was 13 years ago, and here we have this situation again. But fortunately, as far as I can tell from the statements made by the Minister and the actions of the Government we speak perhaps with one voice. We might give different emphases to various aspects of the matter, but this afternoon there is a chance for a declaration by this Parliament to the. Parliament of Queensland and Queensland’s Premier that they have gone too far.
A little piece of history is perhaps appropriate because it seems to me that the Yirrkala situation of 1963 is the perfect analogy. On that occasion mining explorations were taking place. The Aboriginal people were not all too much aware of what was happening. There were suggestions that there had been inadequate consultation. I belong to an organisation called the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. I was its vice-president. At a conference here that year the matter was raised. We received a telegram from the missionary at Yirrkala, Reverend Wells, whom my friend the honourable member for Fremantle quoted. My colleague from Fremantle and I went to Yirrkala. My colleague pointed out to the people that they could petition this Parliament, and that they did. In the interim I had taken a court case out in Darwin as a result of an advertisement in the newspaper there. I had lodged objections to mineral and mining development. We eventually appointed a committee of this Parliament to examine the matter. Things have changed a bit. They tried to remove me from that Committee. The Speaker took me into his room and said that I ought not to be on the Committee because I had a personal interest in the matter. However, the Committee proceeded and it produced its report. We recommended various things. But there is a depressing sameness about what is going to happen here because the intervention of State rights and all the rest of it prevents us from acting so effectively in northern Queensland unless we choose to take the necessary action to use the power conferred upon us at the referendum. One of the companies involved then and now is Pechiney, a French company. It is one of the biggest companies in the world and most technologically advanced. The material it is seeking is the same- bauxite. The people involved this time are much the same. They are remote. They are much the same as they ever were. What were the lessons of 1963 and the following years? First of all was the immense difficulty of consultation. My colleague from Fremantle pointed out what the Queensland Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations had to say as recently as 6 April. He said:
Each of the six tribes has its own tongue, but they have adopted a common language . . . English is also widely spoken and, to my ear, is not difficult to understand.
A few Aurukuns are succinct in conversation. Others, for want of fluency in English, express their thoughts in a round about fashion which initially may sound contradictory, but as they continue to speak their point emerges.
Aurukuns are largely suspicious of the printed word, and an Act of Parliament is no exception.
The lesson we learnt 13 years ago was that, with the best will in the world, the average departmental officer was unable to get through to the Aboriginal people what it was all about. We sat around the table and talked to these intelligent, self-contained young men and old men about what the proposal meant. They were really not conscious of money. There was no point talking about $30,000 or $3m to a person who had never held more than $3 or $4 in his hand. It was almost impossible for them to understand what was going to happen to their land, which was described by my colleague as a moonscape.
We faced enormous difficulties of communication and understanding. By nature these people are courteous to one another. They do not concur with white people because they are afraid of them; they concur because that is the normal way in which they deal with one another. We have a long history of confrontation as our mode of human behaviour. In this House matters are batted backwards and forwards. In parliamentary debates and other debates one person speaks for a proposition, one speaks against and then the question is put. In the community we talk about a competitive spirit. I do not like to bring political issues into this debate but honourable members opposite are the principal advocates of the great mystique of the competitive spirit. The Aboriginal people of course do not understand that kind of thing and therefore it is hard for us to talk to them about these issues.
What do we know about the impact of mining on Aboriginal communities? We know nothing. We know little enough about the social difficulties in our own suburbs. Numbers of people from overseas have poured into the area I represent. We have not yet been able to solve their problems. What chance is there for the Aboriginal people if we plant beside them on their land another and totally different development? What will happen? First of all we were told by the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement- like my colleague I am a bit depressed when I read the report of that debate- that a new town will be built about 12 kilometres or 15 kilometres away from the mission. That is exactly what happened on the Gove peninsular. There will be a new town with a totally different set of standards, big schools, a big hospital, paved streets and I have no doubt that there will be some hotel facilities otherwise only a handful of people, like some of us in this House, will be prepared to go and work there. What will that do to the community?
The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs published in 1964 refers to the serious problems of alcohol that are created. The report said:
A serious social problem facing the people of Yirrkala is the excessive consumption of alcohol.
Although the Commonwealth has had absolute authority in the Northern Territory there have been great difficulties in the field of health. The Committee ‘s report said:
One of the most serious findings of the Committee in this inquiry was the lamentable state of public health at Yirrkala among young children . . . Probably the worst of these is poor nutrition and that this should be so prevalent in a fertile environment is most alarming.
How do we train Aboriginal people to take advantage of the opportunities for employment that it is alleged will be created? We do not know the answer to that. It would take years. Even with all the warnings of history of the impact of such proposals on other communities around the world, we did little enough about it at Yirrkala.
The debate here today is about the land and its people. I understand that last night the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs issued a statement about the acceptance of the general principles of land rights for Aborigines. That is a big step. We did not have any doubt that the Government would do this. But how do we communicate this decision to the rest of the community? How do we convert the members of the Queensland Parliament, particularly the Premier and his colleagues? This has been a long struggle. Over 200 years ago George III, not a notable revolutionary, made an announcement about the Indians. His instructions to Governor Phillip were cited here this morning. The referendum in 1967- that is not very long ago- gave a clear mandate to this Parliament that when such issues are at stake the Australian Government must act regardless of any views of federalism, State rights or anything else. The rights of the Aboriginal people transcend anything else in this arena.
Unfortunately we are up against what may be called the unholy trinity- overseas investment, mining development and, implied though not said so loudly in the debate in the Queensland Parliament, the assimilation of the Aboriginal people. The word ‘assimilation’ has genocidal overtones. The Queensland Government has chosen to override the people of Aurukun as it would override anybody else. The companies involved in the mining development are some of the greatest in the world- Billiton Aluminium Australia B.V., which I understand is a subsidiary of the Shell Co.; Pechiney Aluminium Australia Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of the great French company; and the Tipperary Corporation. They have even had the hide to call themselves Aurukun Associates. Is there no stone that they are prepared to leave unturned in order to submerge the Aboriginal people?
Today we are facing a challenge to this Parliament to take action which it has not taken before. As I understand it, it is clear that the Australian Government could take over, purchase or acquire the land. It could test its arm on it. I am certain that its arm has that kind of strength. The Government ought to do that. It could then maintain the status quo until the social problems were resolved. What advantage is there in turning the Aurukun area into another piece of the Australian quarry? I am not for overseas investment, I am not against overseas investment; but I am in favour of placing the needs of the people involved before all other issues. The success of our efforts in this cause so far has been meagre. Today we are talking about the betrayal by the Queensland Government of the general consensus that has developed in this Parliament and throughout the community concerning the rights of the Aboriginal people and their land. I know that there are some philosophical difficulties for all of us. None of us owns the minerals in our land. They are the property of the state. But it will not do any harm to start taking a few steps against the tide of history.
I hope that the Minister will have time to say a few words in this debate. We on this side of the House have been deeply involved in this matter for many years. My colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) wanted to speak but he may be deprived of the opportunity. He took over the portfolio of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs after others of us had handed it on. He was involved with the question of land rights and the protection of the Aboriginal people. I say emphatically to the Minister that what we want now is unrelenting vigour on his part. If any political issues crop up he need not think that he will be the victim of them. Our colleagues in Queensland who happen to belong to an opposing political party are the villains in this matter and they will be made to face the music.
-Aurukun is a word that has become a byword in Australia and in Aboriginal affairs over the last 6 months. It is not without coincidence that it has become a byword at the same time as the question of Aboriginal land rights has been raised again. One of the astounding things about Aurukun is that it has shown how widespread throughout the Australian community is concern about Aboriginal affairs- concern about the fate and the future of Aboriginal people; concern about the relationship of Aborigines with their land and the impact of economic exploitation of that land. The way in which the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) persisted in the face of political and other adversity as far back as 1963 is an example of what can be done. So also Aurukun is an example of what can be achieved by the persistence of people who are concerned about an issue as significant as this one, people who are prepared to take the brickbats which are thrown ut who carry on and can begin to see the real achievement of what they have been seeking.
When I became responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Aurukun was then a very live issue and I considered it important that of all the places I should go to to meet the Aboriginal people Aurukun should be the first, not only because of the political sensitivity of the matter at the time but because it was a remote Aboriginal community and one where to a very large measure the integrity of the Aboriginal culture still existed. I went to Aurukun and met the people in a friendly way. They were extremely courteous and they spoke with great dignity about thenown concern for the future of themselves, their children and their land. To be seated there out in the open with some 200-odd people listening intently and being prepared to speak openly and freely in front of a newcomer, because that is what I was, was quite an exhilarating experience. A very clear singular message came out of that meeting, and that was that the Aurukun people themselves felt that there had not been any real or adequate consultation with them about the future mining development on and adjacent to their reserve. That above all compelled them to say that there shall be no mining on their land. That is why they were so bitterly opposed to the passage of the Queensland legislation in early December 1975.
The Commonwealth Government’s concern and its action over Aurukun are now well documented both in Parliament and publicly. From the time of that visit of mine to Aurukun with people like the legal adviser to the Aurukun community, Mr Frank Purcell, Senator Neville Bonner and departmental officers, we were aware and very conscious of the nature of the concern of the Aurukun people. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) answered 2 questions in this House, one on 2 March and one on 23 March this year, making it quite clear how the Australian Government regarded the Aurukun question, making it quite clear that the Government considered that there should be better and more effective consultation with the Aurukun people. Its fundamental position was that if there is to be mining it ought only to take place after adequate consultation with the Aboriginal people themselves. The Government can use a strong arm in ways other than through legislation. If this motion were agreed to it would put the Australian Government in direct confrontation with the Queensland Government, and that kind of situation is not always the best way of solving a particular problem. The Government does have the strength of the 1967 referendum behind it and the acknowledgment by the Government in the face of the overwhelming result of that referendum that it does have in Australia today the paramount responsibility for Aboriginal affairs, and that will be the thought which guides the Government in its future action in respect of Aborigines. It is what has guided the Government in respect of its agreement to introduce land rights legislation for the Northern Territory.
Honourable members on the Opposition side have referred to the inquiry by the Queensland Ombudsman. His inquiry vindicated the stand which had been taken by the Australian Government and the Ombudsman found as I found what the feeling of the Aurukun people was, and that is that there had not been real or adequate consultation about future mining development. The Ombudsman suggested that there be fresh discussions and he foreshadowed that the result of those discussions might well be the need to amend the agreement reached by the Queensland Government with the mining consortium.
On 10 and 1 1 May there was a conference at Aurukun attended by representatives of the mining consortium, advisers to the Aurukun people, observers from my Department and observers from the Queensland Government. That conference did not resolve all the issues nor was it expected to resolve all the issues immediately. If there was one thing that has been learned over the last decade in dealing with Aboriginal people it is that negotiations and discussions must be carried on with patience, with understanding and in no sense of trying to get a quick decision out of the Aboriginal people. As negotiations have gone on over the years in different places so mining companies as well as governments have come to understand better how the Aboriginal people operate. They do not operate in the same way as we do. Their social structure is not the same as ours. The lines of authority within the Aboriginal community are not the same as ours. They are formalised, well defined and clearly known to the Aboriginal people but regrettably all too frequently they are neither known nor understood by people who deal with the Aboriginal people.
So one clear message that has come out of developing experience is that when mining companies and others go in to confer with Aboriginal communities they must first take the time to do their homework and learn the basis of Aboriginal social structure, learn the nature of Aboriginal tradition, learn where the lines of authority are within Aboriginal communities, learn who can speak with authority for the Aboriginal people and learn who ought to speak when they are conferring because only if this is done can any adequate consultation be carried out. That is a lesson which has been learned at Aurukun and on that basis I would hope future conferences and negotiations can be much more fruitful than they have been in the past.
It is regrettable that out of much of the public discussion on Aurukun the most attention has been given to the question of royalties as if money is the answer to it all, and of course money, as we know, can help.
-It is helpful.
– It helps but it is not the answer. This again was the clear message that came from the Aurukun people. They did not consider that a 3 per cent share of net profit was proper compensation or a proper sharing by them in the results of the mining project because it was uncertain. Whereas royalties are taken off, in financial jargon, at the front end profits are taken at the back end. There may not be profits for one reason or another; they might be small for one reason or another. Those who obtain royalties obtain them at the front end, obtain them without risk and obtain them before any other expenses are incurred. So the Aurukun people were concerned to see that they received a direct and immediate benefit from the mining project and the benefit that they were to receive in money terms was not left to chance, nor that it be left to flow through uncertain governmental channels.
The Aurukun people also were concerned at the future prospect of employment for their people. They were not satisfied that employment should be for outsiders alone. When we speak of giving equal opportunity for employment to an Aboriginal community, it is not enough to ask employers to throw open their employment books to Aborigines and say to them: ‘Write your name down and we will look at the prospects of employing you’ because of course, that ignores the lack of skills, the lack of training and the lack of prior opportunity to be trained in the kinds of skills that a mining operation would require. So equal opportunity for employment requires training and a well planned program of training before the operation commences. Other considerations are social development within the community, community facilities, living facilities, town facilities. Are we to have side by side, in an architectural and landscaping sense, a beautifully designed, mining town for mining employees and only a short distance away an Aboriginal community, with all that that implies in terms of past history? That kind of situation can no longer be countenanced by the Australian people.
When the Aborigines seek protection for their land they seek protection for their spiritual affinity with the land, which was so adequately expressed by the honourable member for Fremantle. They desire safeguards for their social structure, traditions and culture. Whilst we speak so freely of the clash of culture we simply pose the problem and in no way offer solutions. I am quite sure that my announcement in the House yesterday of the Government’s decision to introduce legislation in this Parliament for the giving of land rights in the Northern Territory will be a watershed in Australian history. It will be a watershed in relations between Australians and the Aboriginal citizens of Australia. Likewise, in its own way, Aurukun will also be a watershed in terms of both Australian history and our relations with Aboriginal communities, because no longer can we see that the future will be the same as the past. We know we have a long way to go because community understanding of what is involved in land rights still leaves much to be desired. That is why it is a matter of high priority for my Government that not only must things like land rights be recognised; programs for bicultural understanding must also be implemented, reach a high level and pervade every section of the community from the children to the elderly, because only when the Australian people understand Aborigines, their traditions, their culture, their spiritual affinity with land, can they understand what is involved in the granting of land rights and why. people persist in trying to help Aborigines like the Aurukun people when they come face to face with the demands of economic interests over their land.
Although the Government does not accept the motion in its terms, the mover of the motion can be well assured of the Government’s concern to see that a proper solution is reached at Aurukun and that there is adequate consultation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– I move:
That the House condemns the previous Government’s economic mismanagement which has caused hardship and misery to a high proportion of those involved in rural industries.
I do not expect that I will have a lot of time to debate this matter today, but I must say in opening my remarks that all over the countryside today rural industries are in trouble because of the ravages of inflation and high costs which I maintain are the direct responsibility of the previous Government.
-Order! The time allotted for precedence to General Business has expired. The honourable member for Angas will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting.
Bill presented by Mr Killen and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 28 April 1976 I tabled in this House the report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board together with a report to the Board by the Australian Government Actuary on the assets and liabilities of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund as at 30 September 1972 -the effective date of the transfer of the Fund to the Commonwealth. The investigation covered the period from 1 July 1964 to 30 September 1972. It revealed excess or surplus assets at book value of $6.337m which was attributable to those who were pensioners during that period. I emphasise that the investigation relating to former DFRB contributors who transferred to the new Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme is not yet complete. I am awaiting a further report from the Board. I explained at the time that the surplus amount would be distributed in cash to the eligible persons concerned and that the amounts to be allocated would be accumulated from 1 October 1972 using a factor based on the earning rate of the DFRB Fund at 30 June 1972. The calculations will be equivalent to the accumulation of the surplus assets at compound interest and will produce a final return to pensioners of an amount approximating $8m. This Bill gives effect to those decisions.
It provides also for the development of a basis of allocation which ensures that each person concerned will receive a fair and reasonable share of the amount to be distributed. The allocation arrangements will be determined by myself after receiving advice from the Actuary. In conclusion I should mention that the Chairman of the DFRB Board has informed me that every attempt will be made to have all the formalities completed in time for the payments to be made before the end of the year. Indeed, I would express the hope that that time in fact will be cut. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963-1973 so as to permit the summary prosecution of offences against section 18 of that Act. The Crimes (Aircraft) Act is the basic Commonwealth legislation concerning offences on or in relation to aircraft engaged in flights in and around Australia. It creates a number of offences of varying gravity but, as it now stands, provides only one mode of trial for those offences, namely, trial on indictment. In the years since the first passage of this legislation by Parliament experience has shown that there are many cases arising under section 18 that do not warrant the lengthy processes involved in a trial before a judge and jury nor are they within measurable distance of warranting the maximum penalty prescribed by section 18, namely, imprisonment for 7 years. As it now stands that section makes it an offence for a person, except in the circumstances specified in sub-section (2), to carry or place dangerous goods on an aircraft; deliver dangerous goods to a person for the purpose of their being placed on an aircraft; or be in possession of dangerous goods on an aircraft.
Honourable members will see that basically these are very serious offences indeed. It will be equally obvious, however, that there can be circumstances which make it totally inappropriate for the offender to be tried before a judge and jury. For example, there have been several cases where undeclared ‘dangerous’ goods, usually firearms, have been found in passengers’ hold luggage. If there is no intent to mis-use the goods on the aircraft the danger created by the presence of those firearms may not be of major significance. Accordingly summary prosecution of offenders falling within this class would provide the adequate deterrent effect and allow for the imposition of the appropriate penalty.
I need make only 2 more points. Firstly, the consent of the Attorney-General will still be required for any prosecution instituted for an offence against the Act. This will ensure that there is adequate control of proceedings arising out of any infringement of the provisions of the Act. Next, the essence of this amendment is that an offender may only have his case disposed of summarily if both the prosecutor and the defendant agree to that course being taken. It is of course the intention that serious cases be prosecuted on indictment. Additionally, however, this amendment ensures that an accused person will retain his right to insist on a trial by his peers for any offence against this Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr E. G. Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 May, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Last night the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) raised 2 points -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! before the Minister speaks I would point out that no other honourable member has risen. I presume the House appreciates that the Minister is closing the debate.
– I think he is answering a question.
– Yes, I am speaking in accordance with an understanding or an agreement I made last night with the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and the honourable member for Prospect. I am now answering 2 points that the honourable member for Prospect raised at the Committee stage yesterday concerning- the Government’s proposals to withdraw income tax rebates for “children and substantially increase child endowment.
His first point was that he considered that the tables illustrating the total effect of the package should have been based not on the rebate for children that had previously been allowable, $200, but on that amount as notionally indexed, $226. 1 must disagree with the honourable member on this point. The tables are, of course, intended to compare the existing position of taxpayers with what their position will be after all of the proposed changes have been effected, and that is what they do. It is not really relevant whether the rebates for children would have been indexed if those rebates had not been withdrawn. But even if one were to speculate, as the honourable member does, that if the rebate had not been withdrawn it would have been indexed up to $226, it would be incorrect, and confusing, to use that figure in the tables. If that were done, all that the tables would show would be a comparison between some notional position and the position that will obtain when all of the proposed changes have been effected.
His second point related to the effect that the abolition of tax rebates for children and their replacement with increased child endowment payments would have on a man who is paying maintenance to his wife or former wife in respect of children. As the honourable member correctly pointed out, the husband or former husband will lose any income tax rebates that he would previously have been allowed in respect of his contribution towards the maintenance of the children, while his wife or former wife will receive the benefit of the increased child endowment payments. It is also correct that no provision is made for continuing income tax rebates for children in these circumstances. To have done so would have necessitated fundamental changes in the new system. And it is difficult, on taxation principles, to see why a distinction should be made between the provision of maintenance for children in this way and that provided in ordinary family circumstances.
The fact is that no system can be so constructed as to cater for each and every variant of personal or domestic circumstance. Before introducing the new system of assistance for the maintenance of children, the Government very carefully examined its social consequences, and came to the view that any disadvantages were greatly outweighed by the advantages. It was not considered practicable, or appropriate, to provide special treatment in the income tax law for persons in the situation described by the honourable member who considers that there will be a significant unfair transfer of extra child maintenance from the father to the mother who is looking after the children. The more appropriate course in these circumstances would appear to be for the father to confer with the mother to see whether some reasonable accommodation to the new situation is not practicable and, if there is a court order for the maintenance of the children, to seek variation of the order on an agreed basis.
The honourable member for Prospect also raised a point regarding the health insurance levy. He took the case of a married man whose wife has a modest income sufficient to disqualify her as a dependant for income tax rebate purposes but not sufficient to require her to pay levy. The honourable member said that in such a case the husband, as his wife would not be a dependant, could avoid paying the levy by paying the ‘single rate ‘ premium of $ 1 50 to Medibank. This is not so. For the purposes of the levy, a taxpayer’s spouse will be a dependant of the taxpayer irrespective of the spouse’s income if the couple are residing together or the taxpayer contributes to the maintenance of his or her spouse. A husband in such a case would thus need to pay the ‘married rate’ premium to Medibank or take private insurance at the ‘married rate’ to avoid being required to pay the levy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
Question put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. 0’H. Giles)
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-MrG.O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
-Because 9 Bills were debated cognately, I would like to remind the Committee that the Health Insurance Levy Assessment Bill amends the Income Tax Assessment Act to provide for the payment, in appropriate circumstances, of the health insurance levy and for its collection in conjunction with income tax. The Bill provides exemptions from the levy for low income earners. It grants exemptions to taxpayers who, in respect of themselves and their dependants, if any, pay an appropriate premium to Medibank or who nave appropriate insurance cover with a registered health benefit organisation. Relief is provided for certain repatriation beneficiaries and defence force personnel. That is what the Bill deals with. It is really the main Bill which introduces the changes to Medibank.
I would like to make a number of points on this Bill. The first point is that the Opposition has decided to oppose this Bill, even though we wanted to introduce a 1.35 per cent levy in 1974. In other words, there has been a reversal of position, superficially at least, in that the Government when in Opposition opposed the introduction of a levy but is now in favour of it. The position is not simply that the positions have been reversed, because our proposal was for a 1.35 per cent levy on everybody to a maximum, at that stage, $150 premium per family. There was no method of contracting out under our proposal, as the Committee may recall. There was no provision for people to contract out, which would divide the Australian population into those who were covered by and contributed to Medibank and those who joined one of the private health insurance organisations. That is, of course, a major part of the new proposal. That is the reason why we are opposing it.
I think that there are important issues to be raised in this regard. There are 2 aims, I would think, as far as health insurance is concerned, which must be taken into account by the Government, by the Opposition and certainly by the people who make the decisions. I think the basic aim must be to provide the best possible health care at the least possible expense. I think most people would agree with that. Our objection is that we do not think this will happen. The two may go together. I believe that in our case they did. People in the Government rant about the way in which the cost of Medibank has got out of control. I make one point to them. It is an important point. The cost of Medibank this year is $80m to $90m less than was estimated. There has been a reduction. A week or two ago the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) produced a table which showed certain savings. The saving in Medibank was the main saving, but it was not a saving on the part of the new Government because of specific changes which it had introduced. It was a saving because the cost of Medibank was less than had been estimated. I think that is an important point.
The second point which I would like to emphasise is to some extent directed to the supporters of the Opposition, both inside this Parliament and outside this Parliament. It is important that we do not suggest that the public ward sector of health care is second class. It is not.
– I never suggested it is.
– I am not suggesting that the Minister has done so, but there are people outside this Parliament who have. People are saying that there will be 2 sectors of health care. To some extent, of course, there have always been 2 sectors of health care because there was nothing to stop people subscribing to private insurance funds for private or intermediate hospital care until now. There will be now encouragement for people to do so, and I think that is wrong. What it basically amounts to is this: If you took this to its logical conclusion you could say that in the field of education everybody in the community pays an education levy so that they can have their children educated at school, but once a certain point is reached you can contract out and not pay the education levy but instead pay to have your children educated at a private school.
– That is not a bad idea.
-The Minister may consider it to be a good idea; I do not think the Australian population as a whole would necessarily agree with him. I do not think that is the policy of the Government at this stage. It is a similar sort of proposition. I also want to compare the health care situation with that of education, because very few people in the community would now argue aggressively that public school education is second class education, that state school education is not as good as private school education. I certainly take the opposite view. Obviously there are people supporting one or other side of the argument and who feel strongly that the particular system they support is better or that the other system is worse, but you would not get unanimity on that.
I think the same argument applies in relation to health care, but I think it is even more important to realise that public ward health care which is in fact public hospital health care, is better than private hospital health care. If a person had some major health problem which required a major operation and he finished up in an intensive care ward, I am sure he would not like to be in a private hospital and he would not like any members of his family to be in a private hospital. All the important and difficult operations and treatments are in fact carried out in public hospitals; they are carried out by public hospital salaried personnel. Very few people would argue that they would rather obtain that treatment in a private hospital.
I therefore would argue very strongly that public ward care- standard care, as it is called in the legislation- is better care. If my child were seriously ill and had to be admitted to a hospital, I would much prefer my child to be in a public ward of the children’s hospital. I would much prefer my child to have the treatment and the facilities of the public sector in that hospital. It may be that a person who does not have very much wrong with him or is recovering from some illness, may prefer to be in a private ward so he can have a telephone, so he can read, so he is not disturbed, so he can have visitors. But if a person is seriously ill and needs all of the facilities that modern science and modern medicine can provide, I am sure that he, and most of us, if we think about it, would much prefer to have public hospital care.
The Minister for Repatriation (Mr Newman) who is at the table has heard me ask a question relating to the exemption for repatriation beneficiaries who are completely covered for all medical treatment. There is no exemption for those who are covered for all medical treatment. There is no exemption for those who are covered for only some treatment, and they do not any longer get any benefit. In fact, they have lost the benefit of free treatment for a particular condition or for a number of particular conditions.
I want to make one final, but nonetheless important, point. It is concerned with people insuring themselves for private care. I urge those people who want to be covered for private care to think about the matter on a logical basis. They will be much better off staying in Medibank, and in many cases they will be much better off not taking out any private insurance. After all, if you work it out on any sort of actuarial basis, which the funds must do, you will find that if you join a private insurance fund- contributions to private insurance funds will no longer be a tax deductionyou are paying for the chance of taking advantage of that insurance cover, plus the admininstrative expenses of the fund. You are paying for the lot. You are paying more than you are likely, on the average, to have to pay. On the other hand, if you cover yourself by staying in Medibank and take the risk that you may have to pay out of your own pocket if extra private care is needed, you are not paying for the administrative costs of private funds, and the Government will subsidise you to the extent of 40 per cent because actual hospital expenses will be deductible from tax liability in future and you will receive the 40 per cent rebate.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to respond to 2 points. Firstly, the honourable member for Prospect ( Dr Klugman), whom I know has a genuine interest in this matter, was trying to liken the provisions of the Medibank levy to education expenses. He surely must know that one of the reasons the Government has taken this decision to impose a levy on those who wish to pay it- there are alternatives at both ends of the scale- is that the control on the expense of running the national health Medibank scheme became so great that the growth of public expenditure was totally open ended. My figures may be a little out, but I believe that this year we are spending something like $ 1,400m on the scheme and that figure will rise, perhaps next year, to $2,000m. Heaven knows to what level it will rise after next financial year. The point is that no government, with the open-ended scheme which exists now, has any control on that growth rate. We do have control over expenditure on education, of course. We can draw the line. We can say that certain things can be done in a certain order of priority and so on. So really there is no parallel between the two. It is unfair to draw that sort of comparison.
The second matter raised by the honourable member was in relation to repatriation. Let us take the situation before 1973. A repatriation patient or veteran, whatever one likes to call him, who had a specific disability certainly was looked after by the repatriation system, whether we are talking about medical care by his local doctor or whether we are talking about his admission to a hospital. He had to look after himself as regards expenses outside those incurred because of that specific disability. Whether he met that cost by paying his doctor direct or by insuring privately was up to him. The situation has not changed. The Repatriation Department will pay his local medical officer and any hospital for treating his disability but, like any other citizen, he has to make the choice between the levy, if he has not reached the plateau, or paying if he has reached the plateau, or privately insuring.
-I wish to make a couple of comments on the remarks made by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Newman). He justified the change to Medibank by saying that growth of public expenditure is out of control.
– I did not justify it; that was one particular argument.
– All right. One argument was that the growth of public expenditure is out of control. The answer in the Government’s view, therefore, is to push people out of Medibank into private insurance so that their expenses are not covered by Medibank. In other words, the Government can appear to reduce the cost of the public sector because many people will insure themselves privately. But the irony of it is that it is just a bookkeeping trick on the part of the Government. It has nothing to do with the total cost of health services for the community. People still have to pay for it. They can pay either by paying the doctor directly or they can insure themselves in a voluntary health insurance fund and pay via that. They still pay only the doctor’s bills, but if they do so via an insurance fund, they pay in addition the administrative costs of the voluntary insurance fund. Alternatively they can pay via a Medibank levy in which case they are still paying the doctor’s bills and the administrative costs of Medibank. In the Government’s own Nimmo Committee inquiry report which was presented in 1969 it was shown that the open voluntary health funds were inefficient administratively when compared with closed funds. The closed funds are the ones into which people have part of their pay automatically paid as contributions No advertising is involved. The contributions are paid out of an employees salary.
Medibank, if you like, is a closed fund for the whole of Australia. In its case there would be no need for advertising or for nonsense competition. Medibank could have the virtues of the closed system because that is precisely what it was. The Nimmo Committee report indicated that the administrative costs of the open funds ranged from somewhere between 15c and 20c in the dollar collectively, that the administrative costs of the closed funds were from 7c to 10c in the ‘dollar, and that as a result they were much more efficient. The costs of Medibank, I understand, are proving to be less than 5 per cent of the administrative costs. So in that case alone, if you were honest with yourselves, dear supporters of the Government, you would concede from a businessman’s point of view that the Australian community would be better off if all its health funds were collected via Medibank, purely on the grounds of efficiency.
Honourable members opposite complain about the cost of Medibank going up. The cost of Medibank is not going up. What is going up is the cost of health services. Medibank might pay for them. The voluntary health funds might pay for them. The individual might pay out of his own damned pocket. But the costs that are going up are the bills that doctors submit to patients and the bills that hospitals submit to patients. The changes to Medibank will do absolutely nothing to that. All that is happening is that the Government is forcing people to pay out of their pockets in, now, 3 ways.
– If they choose.
– Of course if they choose. They are forced if they choose. But where is the choice? One has to pay the levy or one has to contribute to a voluntary fund. Therefore what is voluntary about the system? In any case whether one pays via Medibank or the voluntary funds one still pays income tax and some income tax also will go to pay for hospital and medical costs. So the Government’s scheme is a fraud. What the Government is in fact doing is forcing people to choose an inefficient system- a voluntary health fund system- which will have a higher administrative cost and, I can assure honourable members, much nuisance value when we try to work out all these bits and pieces to check on who is in and who is not in the funds. It is going to be an administrative nightmare, whereas Medibank was so simple, straightforward and automatic. The Government is going to have to carry the can. I can assure the Government that the total cost will go up. When we add up the costs and document them at the end of the first year we will find that there will be hospital and doctors’ costs and, in addition, the Government will have to count the costs of running the benefit funds and weigh against or add to them the cost of Medibank. The cost of Medibank will be roughly the same no matter what happens because with the computer system it will not make much difference whether half the population, threequarters of the population or all the population are covered by Medibank. Basically its costs will not go up much at all. But it will make a big difference to the voluntary funds. I can assure the Government that it is ensuring an increased cost for total health care for the community; it is forcing the people to indulge in the voluntary health insurance funds.
I wish to come back to the inequity of the levy proposal. The Labor Government was in favour of a levy, but not a levy so high that there was need for a point at which people could opt out. There was a ceiling, but everyone had to pay the levy. The Government has proposed a ceiling, but if people choose to do so they can opt out and not pay the levy. Let me tell honourable members what will happen. The people who pay income tax- that is everybody- and the people who pay the levy together will maintain the basic public hospital services and the services which are used in cases of emergency. When an emergency arises one does not go to a private hospital. In a critical situation one is taken to a public hospital. The maintenance of the public hospitals system will depend upon the contributions of the taxpayer and the people contributing to Medibank. Those few people who choose to take out private insurance with private benefit funds and who choose not to use standard wards in public hospitals but only private wards and intermediate wards which they think are better- they are wrong, of course; these wards are inferior- do not take into account that when an emergency arises they will scuttle as fast as the ambulance can take them to a public hospital. This person will not be charged as an emergency patient in the standard ward of a public hospital. It could be that such a person is suffering from a near fatal illness or accident resulting from his being bowled over by a motor driven by a driver who is drunk, because most of them are. Most of the fatalities on the road are caused by drunk drivers. But that is another debate that I will enter into at some other time. I think in this sense we oppose the levy because of that inequity. Our levy was to include everybody and for the additional cover for private treatment people could take extra insurance. That would be more reasonable.
Finally, I come back to the point of quality, the thing we all crave for, the right to have private treatment from the doctor to one ‘s own choice in a private hospital, in a private bed or an intermediate bed. Dear brothers and sisters, I was asked the other day what am I going to do. I will tell you straight: Stay in Medibank. I would not trust the standard of medical care in small private hospitals. The Americans have done a survey in respect of hospitals. I gave the figures last night but I cannot remember the exact details. The survey conducted in respect of 2 000 or more hospitals in America showed that the mortality was 40 per cent higher in those smaller hospitals of 100 beds or less than it was in public hospitals when balanced in terms of the nature of illness. We have no measure at all of the quality of health care in the luxurious motels that masquerade as private hospitals. If one suddenly becomes seriously ill or something goes wrong after one has had what seems to be a simple gall bladder operation in a private hospital- this might be a small nice comfortable private hospital, not an impersonal institution like these great big monstrosities, the public hospitals- what can the nursing staff do? They have to chase and find the consultant who may be over the other side of the city. What happens if one is in a public hospital and the same dilemma arises? In such a case a resident medical officer can be on the spot within the minute. That is the difference.
What is the position with regard to nursing standards? Private hospitals, of course, are always scrounging to find nurses and trying to make do with the smallest possible staff because they have to make a profit- that is what they are in business for. Public hospitals have nursing staff laid on because they are teaching young people so they have to be sure to maintain the standards. For my money, fellow citizens of this country, I will stay in Medibank and I will ask to go to large public hospitals for my treatment. I am just -
– People have the choice, persuade them.
– I am trying to persuade them that if they want the best of quality they should opt for the public hospital system.
-The fallacy of expounding the advantages for patients in being able to choose their own doctor has by now, I feel sure, been very well established to the satisfaction of most people in Australia. An opinion poll was taken within the Parliamentary Labor Party as to who was the best doctor. A number of names were thrown in. I can recall that they included Dr Cass, Dr Klugman and Dr Everingham. When the result came out the winner was Dr Cairns, who is a doctor of philosophy, and Dr Patterson, who I think had a degree in Agricultural Economics, was the next most favoured choice of the Opposition. Their bedside manner is admirable. I think that typifies the situation around Australia. The fact of the matter is that patients have no capacity in the area of determining a doctor’s skill. Bedside manner may be an enticement in improving a candidate’s rating, but it is no factor at all in a critical diagnostic situation. It is certainly no factor when one is on an operating table.
The implicit faith that some people have in one doctor for all purposes, whether it be an obstetric condition, a renal condition or a cerebral condition is quite sad to behold these days, because there is no doctor who is the man for all cases, the be-all and the end-all of the entire medical spectrum. In my view, too many doctors seek to exceed their capacity, often with highly deleterious consequences to the patient and the public at large. Yet the Government trades on this fallacy. It perpetuates this myth that it is an important consideration that people should be free to choose their own doctor. As the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) has pointed out today, and as he pointed out yesterday with the support of statistical evidence from overseas, the more this is done the more the patient suffers. There is a very great differential in a situation where on the one hand people put their lives in the hands of an incompetent doctorthat is probably in a private hospital situationor on the other hand they put their prospects and their destiny into the hands of a total medical complex of expertise. Such situations are occurring around Australia. If people insist on the right to choose a doctor, if they insist on the right to private accommodation they could just as easily in any case be financed through Medibank. The point that I really stood up to make is that there is no case for resurrecting this albatross, this monstrosity, this private health insurance fund system which, was discredited a long time ago.
The Minister for Repatriation (Mr Newman), who was sitting at the table, is obviously more skilled with howitzers than he is in the consideration of health policy. He seems to be just appalled by the fact that the estimate of expenditure on health this year is in the vicinity of $ 1,400m. If it had been $800m he might have been just as scared. It is a lot of money. But the honourable member for Maribyrnong has pointed out that all these things are paid for anyway by the community. For some reason or other the Minister and the Government have this obsession that it is a totally bad thing for too much of this inevitable burden to come through the public sector. We are talking about 6.4 per cent of the total Budget outlay in this particular situation. That is a lot of money, but we will not reduce it by the process that the Government has enunciated. The likelihood is that the situation will be seriously aggravated. As the Minister said earlier during the second reading speech back in 1973, the entire ramification of voluntary health insurance contributed only 14 per cent to health costs. Then in 1976, the current financial year, 8 per cent of total costs will be contributed from that source. This system has been exposed previously. I took a part in exposing it a decade or so ago. There was public revulsion when all the facts were made known, when it was realised that such a large number of funds were in existence. I can remember at one stage there were 1 88 hospital and medical benefit funds all competing. They had duplicated resources, great skyscraper buildings, duplicated computers, duplicated managers and all the staff competing with one another. Masses of money were expended in respect of public relations. Honourable members will remember the scandal at the time that some of the funds were acquiring aeroplanes. As I say, the public became very concerned about this massive and unnecessary rip-off. As a result, the decision was taken to minimise the involvement of health funds.
The fact of the matter is that this entire concept, this great, cumbersome concept of voluntary health insurance is unnecessary. It can be likened to a steamroller assailing an elephant. It does a lot of huffing and puffing, it costs a lot to run, it deflates everything it touches and it never hits the main trunk route anyway. It simply represents an obsession on the part of this Government. No wonder there are confusion and disenchantment. People are now going to be driven off into this area of voluntary health insurance which will sap the viability and the vitality of the funds that are available for health purposes in Australia. The Minister said that he wanted to emphasise that the only difference between coverage by Medibank and coverage under the standard private health insurance tables would be that Medibank will provide cover for treatment in public hospitals rendered by doctors engaged by the hospital, whereas the standard private insurance tables will relate to shared accommodation in public or private hospitals with treatment by doctors engaged by the patient. Apart from that, he said, there would be no difference in entitlements, for example the medical benefits for treatment by a private practitioner outside a hospital would be the same. So that is where the difference lies- in respect of the choice of a doctor and a person’s right to go into a private hospital.
There is no doubt that a patient is disadvantaged if he chooses his own doctor without knowing the doctor’s relevant merit in the specialised field that concerns his particular ailment. A patient is certainly disadvantaged if he goes into an all-purpose hospital that lacks equipmentand this is often the case with private hospitals. Where are the renal facilities, where are the x-ray facilities, where are the facilities that one would see in a normal intensive care ward in a decent regional public hospital? We are not talking in terms of bricks and mortar, we are talking about the capacity of a hospital to save people’s lives. I think it is to the eternal disgrace of this country that the Government is seeking to mesmerise the Australian community with the fallacious idea that there are advantages in going into such a gloppy situation. There are proper obligations on the part of a government and they are, to make certain that in every regional hospital there are salaried and sessional fee doctors, that there are adequate elements of equipment. But instead of that situation we find that it is off to the local quack who, the Government wants people to believe, is capable of performing every service. It is off to the local privately run hospital which in terms of medical audits has shown its capacity to keep people in hospital longer and to end their lives earlier. If we look at the Royal Newcastle Hospital which was run for many years under the administration of Dr Chris McCaffrey, we find the high principles which have motivated the objectives which the Labor Party pursues on health. It is a shame that honourable members opposite, particularly the Minister, did not take the opportunity to see the alternative. Medibank is capable of accommodating all the handling of financial considerations. We do not need to turn the people over to this great conglomeration of health funds, which will cause confusion. It will wreak havoc in the hospital and health delivery system of Australia.
– I think that the atmosphere and the air must get clearer the further one goes down the south coast of New South Wales. Obviously just out of Sydney in the area of Hughes the atmosphere must be particularly confused if it has any impact on the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who has just given a most confused and curious speech on this matter. It is not in any sense possible to argue with any degree of reality that this Medibank package, this Health Insurance Levy Assessment Bill, in any way prevents people, discourages people, induces people not to go to public hospitals to get the best treatment they can.
I totally agree with the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), who has the benefit at least of knowing what he is talking about, unlike the honourable member for Hughes. The honourable member for Maribyrnong was totally correct in saying that the best medical treatment a person can get is in the great public hospitals. The fact that the honourable member for Hughes is apparently incapable of grasping is that what we are presenting in this package enables everyone to get the benefit of public hospital service. For heaven’s sake, a person can, if he likes, accept the Medibank package and take the medical treatment from the doctor nominated by that public hospital. He has that choice. He also has the choice of going to the great public hospitals, in particular of New South Wales, with their magnificent traditions of excellent medical service and saying to them: ‘I would rather have the specialist that I nominate ‘. That will cost him an additional fee. The choice is up to him. He can get the best of all worlds. Under our system a person has the choice and the capacity to get the best of all worlds. Under Labor’s system he was not given the choice of the best of all worlds. Honourable members opposite cannot understand the concept of freedom of choice because basically they are opposed to it.
Let me say for the benefit of the honourable member for Hughes, who obviously is still confused, that if a single person wants public hospital treatment and the right to nominate his own doctor in whom he has confidence it will cost him an estimated $68 extra a year. It will cost a married person an estimated $135 a year for the right to select the doctor of his choice for his family. Again for the benefit of the honourable member for Hughes- obviously his only involvement with psychology and psychiatry has been at the wrong end of the machine- I submit that confidence in the doctor treating you is a major factor in your rate of recovery, in your capacity to recover from an operation or any severe trauma I am certain that the honourable member for Maribyrnong would be well aware of that. Confidence is a major part of the recovery process. Psychology plays a very important role.
I submit to the honourable member for Hughes that if he were prepared to put the same degree of fervour, violence and excited arm waving into finding out the facts of this scheme before damning it, without knowledge, concern or involvement in what is best for the people of Australia, the Opposition would not be maintaining the absurd propositions and the ridiculous and unknowledgable attacks that have been going on against this excellent, outstanding program. I can speak with some experience. The honourable member for Maribyrnong referred to a simple operation like a gall bladder operation. I had that operation last year. So proficient were the doctors at the public hospital at which I had that operation that within a month I was fighting a successful election campaign. I remain indebted to the doctors and nurses of that public hospital for what they did. I stress that I was in a public ward. I got very good public hospital, public ward treatment. But I wanted my own doctor.
The Government scheme provides that, at a very moderate cost to a single personsomething like $1.30 a week- he can insure so that he can have his own doctor. It may not be the doctor who is his local general practitioner. It is absurd for honourable members opposite to say: ‘You might pick the wrong sort of doctor’. A person’s general practitioner or his own knowledge of who are the experts, specialists or top people in this arena will encourage him to pick the person in whom he has confidence. It is confidence that matters. Many doctors are excellent technicians. Maybe they are all the same. Maybe there are not some who are better or worse. The fact is that a person’s recovery rate depends on his psychological response to that operation. I think that it is about time that members of the Opposition recognised that the people of Australia are not automatons, digits, or people whose lives are completely encompassed by a Medibank computer. They are not people who can be pushed into corners or shovelled around. They are people who want to make their own choice. In medicine in particular the capacity to make that choice is vital.
It is essential for the people of Australia to realise this fact through the flak, the nonsense, the barrage of misstatements and deliberate distortions, particularly the nonsense coming from the New South Wales Minister for Health whose approach to his portfolio might simply be summed up as being sick. I suggest that if the honourable gentlemen opposite and their cohorts who are setting out to destroy this magnificent social advance, this terrific improvement on the shambles which they created, continue to create the sort of uncertainty, disturbance and unhappiness in the minds of people- particularly the migrants whom they pushed into rushing into Medibank offices fearing that Medibank was being destroyed, because that is the nonsense coming from honourable members opposite- I believe that they will be doing a disservice not only to the great medical services that exist in Australia but also to the people of Australia. The people of Australia had 3 years of being misled and lied to by honourable gentlemen opposite. That is why honourable gentlemen opposite are opposite.
The facts are very clear. If a person wants his own doctor, if he wants the doctor in whom he has confidence to treat him, if he wants the best doctor in Australia to treat him, if he happens to choose that way, he can insure for it if he so wishes. If he does not wish that, if he is content with the very high quality doctors, the outstandingly high quality doctors, who are available in the public wards of public hospitals he can do that. The salaried doctors are first rate doctors; no one is denying that. AH I am saying is that we take the strong view that people should have the right of choice. I am intrigued to see a continual denial and continual rejection of this concept by honourable gentleman opposite who refuse to give the people of Australia the right of choice, who deny our attempts to do so, who disregard the wishes of the people of Australia in this area. We will have- we do have- the people of Australia behind this project. We will have their support when the waters- deliberately muddied by honourable gentlemen opposite for political purposes- are eventually cleared. The health system is far too important to be played with politically by honourable gentlemen opposite. I hope that the people of Australia recognise that.
– I begin on an entirely different note from that which has dominated the speeches so far. If time permits I will revert to the points made by previous speakers. But I begin by pointing out the fact that by allowing rich people to opt out of Medibank we are introducing into legislation a principle that is extremely bad. We are moving away from the long accepted principle that those who can afford most should pay most. We are moving away from the principle of progressive income tax.
– Survival of the fittest.
-Yes, survival of the fittest. We are moving away from the principle that those who get most out of society should be forced to put most back into it. The rich are the ones who should pay most in tax to meet the general cost of keeping the whole of our population in good health, as they are now required to meet a greater share per dollar earned than the poor meet, for the cost of defence, roads, schools, and the other items of public expenditure. Progressive taxation for all questions and all items of government expenditure is the correct method of raising revenue. The decision of the Australian Labor Party Government to wipe out television and radio listeners licence fees was a decision taken deliberately because it meant that people were compelled to pay the same amount of money per annum for the right to listen to a radio or look at a television set, irrespective of their income. The poor were made to pay exactly the same sum of money as the rich were required to pay. It would not surprise me if this Government followed the course it has now taken to allow the rich to opt out of paying the extra amount which progressive taxation we had proposed would require them to pay, and allow them to opt out of television licence obligations as well. For political reasons I hope that it does because if this Government does reintroduce television and radio listeners licences, then the Labor Party will tell the people at the next election that the election of a Labor government will mean the abolition of those licences again. If this Government imposes upon the people of Australia a tax in the form of radio listeners licences, we will tell the people that we will do away with them again. We will let every one of the 3 ‘A million television viewers know that a vote for the Labor Party at the next election will mean $40 or $70 extra in their pockets each year.
If this Government is going to let people opt out of Medibank because they find it profitable to do so by calculating the amount they would have to pay in progressive income tax against what they would have to pay by going into a private hospital, the Government might as well let banks, insurance companies, big property owners and rich people living in residential areas who have their own private guards, have the right to opt out of paying a portion of the tax they would normally pay. The Government might as well say to people who use their private motor cars to go to work that they ought to have the right to opt out of paying that portion of the income tax that is now set aside for public transport. The Government might as well say that people who do not use air travel ought to have the right to opt out of the obligation to pay that portion of their income tax that is used to meet navigational charges and to construct airports. The Government might as well do the same thing in respect of people who do not use boat havens or people who do not use public parks or recreational grounds.
The Government’s proposal is 2-pronged in design. Firstly, it is really designed to destroy Medibank ultimately. That is the long term aim of the Government- to destroy Medibank. We have always known this. There have been the more articulate and more honest members on the Government side who have been prepared to say that this is the grand design of the Liberal Party.
-Who said that?
-A lot of your colleagues have said it. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has said it. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who has not said it, is nonetheless doing it very effectively. It is an attempt to slug the poor. I read in the newspapers a couple of days ago that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has decided to opt out of Medibank. He has 30 000 reasons for opting out of Medibank. On $30,000 a year as a Minister of State he, of course, has a very good reason to opt out. Let me examine the Treasurer’s financial position and the financial reasons- the hippocket nerve reason- for the Treasurer deciding to opt out.
– That sort of thing does not do you any credit.
– It is so true, and it does do me credit to tell the truth. It would do you credit to tell the truth occasionally and to try to follow my example. If the Treasurer were forced to pay the amount of money that he ought to pay- that is, 2.5 per cent of his total income- he would be paying $900 a year in tax towards meeting the cost of Medibank in providing services for the people who are not getting $30,000 a year. But no, the Treasurer says: ‘I am not going to do that. I am going to opt out of it and lam going to get my own private insurance ‘.
– You used to get that sort of money when you were a Minister.
-That is right, and when I was getting that sort of money I never once asked anybody to let me opt out of my obligation to pay my whack into the Treasury to make it possible for the poor to get some benefit from what I was paying. Under the scheme we proposed for a 1.35 per cent levy the Treasurer would be paying $400. Under cur proposal a person on $150 a week would have been paying only $78 a year. Under the Government’s proposal that person will have to pay $195 a year. Let us turn now to the situation of a very rich man on $50,000 a year, and there are a lot of people getting $50,000 a year in this country. There should not be, but there is a great disparity in the incomes of people in this country. A person on $50,000 a year can opt into Medibank and get for $300 a year the same benefits from Medibank as a man on $12,000 will get, but the man on $ 12,000 is required under this legislation to pay a 2.5 per cent levy on his income whilst the man on $50,000 pays a levy of 0.6 per cent on his income in order to opt into Medibank and to get all of the benefits. A man on $50,000 a year gets all of the same benefits for a levy of 0.6 per cent whilst a man on $ 12,000 a year has to pay a levy of 2.5 per cent.
I am convinced, having listened to the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), that the public hospitals are the best. I have maintained my subscription to the private medical fund, but when I go back to Adelaide I am going to consider writing a letter to the fund cancelling my subscription. I am going to take the honourable member’s advice and opt into Medibank instead. I did not know until I heard the honourable member and the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), 2 learned medical men, tell me that public hospitals are infinitely better than private hospitals. All of us are being led by the nose into joining the private medical funds because we have been mesmerised into believing that private hospitals are the best. I thank those 2 honourable gentlemen for the excellent advice they have given me. Not only will I consider changing, but I will do everything I can to tell the people of the electorate of Hindmarsh that they ought to do the same.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Having listened to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) it is obvious that the old Medibank health system is a complete failure. He has failed to come to grips with the pertinent facts in relation to this legislation. It is apt to remind my friend that over 1 7 members of his own Party in the House of Representatives decided to retain membership in the private health funds. There are only about 36 in this place now so it is safe to say that almost 50 per cent of Labor’s representatives in this place have retained private health insurance membership, and the honourable member for Hindmarsh is one of them. All the talk he goes on with about the rich being given the break at the expense of the poor is nothing but piffle. The facts are that the Australian Labor Party originally proposed a health insurance levy of 1.35 per cent on income. Like our scheme which has an upper contributory limit, so too the Labor Party’s scheme had an upper limit on how much a taxpayer would contribute. So much for the argument of the honourable member for Hindmarsh that we are devising a scheme to protect the rich.
It is apt to remind the honourable member for Hindmarsh that a person who is earning $500 a week should pay the same weekly contribution as somebody earning $150 a week or $200 a week because the person on $500 a week is paying straight out in taxation to the Federal coffers about 62l/2C of all dollars earned. So if honourable members opposite want the equalisation of contributions and want the rich to contribute to the provision of services for the less fortunate in our society, that system is already inbuilt. The honourable member for Hindmarsh said that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), as well as paying, say, $18,000 tax on a $30,000 income, should pay another $900 towards Medibank or to a private health fund.
– Hear, hear!
-You are saying he should?
– So he should.
-You do not think $ 1 8,000 is enough?
– Of course not.
-At least we understand the honourable member for Hindmarsh. It shows the truth of what I said about the old health scheme being a total failure.
- Mr Chairman, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Griffith is telling a complete untruth about the tax system. He is talking about a 62 per cent tax levy on people with a $25,000 income. He does not understand.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect is not raising a point of order, and I am sure he is aware of that fact.
-Perhaps the honourable member for Prospect, being a medico, might know what a $45,000 income is all about. I live on less than half of that and therefore I might be slightly inaccurate in the tax rates I give. I am not being inaccurate intentionally. The scheme the Government is proposing is fair and equitable. It ensures that the contribution the Australian people are making through the Federal coffers is more in line with assisting the poor rather than upholding the rich. Honourable members opposite conveniently forget that the Australian people, by their contribution through taxation, will still contribute $ 1,000m to ensure that the Medibank scheme continues. They are suggesting that the Government is introducing a Medibank scheme under which the users will pay the complete cost of the scheme. Certainly users will pay indirectly through taxation, but over $ 1,000m of the taxpayers’ money will be used to ensure that the scheme continues. The 2V4 per cent levy will raise $330m. The saving that will be effected by people opting out for private insurance will be approximately $450m. There will be an additional saving of $30m on the cost of administering an entirely national scheme. The total savings will be $8 10m.
Those of us who have been here for a number of years can recall vividly the repeated hangup of honourable members opposite in their attitude towards private health funds. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) looks up in a querulous style, knowing darn well that I am referring to him also. The truth is that the Nimmo report of 5 or 6 years ago stated that a proliferation of private health funds in no way increased the cost of administering health care in this country.
-The honourable member, who is a doctor of medicine and not a doctor of economics says: ‘Aw’. But the fact is that the Nimmo Committee reported that this did not add to the cost of providing people with health care. The Labor Government did have some good ideas, but unfortunately it continued to indulge in excesses. Fred Daly, when he wrote about the Whitlam days, said:
We spent money like it was going out of fashion.
-Who said that?
-Mr Fred Daly, the former highly respected Leader of the House and Minister for Administrative Services said that in his articles that were printed in newspapers in all States. The Labor Government introduced a health scheme which ended up costing $ 1,800m. The Liberal-National Country Party Government was faced with the responsibility of bringing these excesses to heel and devising a scheme which was more realistic and practical to fit in with the economic needs of the country and, no less important, the health needs of the people. The Liberals are not dismantling Medibank. They are ensuring that it does not grow and grow and become such an albatross that it completely cripples this nation and reduces our ability to look after the sick. The Liberals have proposed a realistic scheme. Because people will be given an option of joining private funds or continuing in Medibank, it is a scheme which together as a nation we will be able to afford. It is timely that we should embark on this endeavour to bring this scheme into more realistic boundaries. I hope that the Bill will be passed as soon as possible.
-The content of the statements of the honourable member for Griffith bears an inverse relationship to their length. Within one minute he established that the content has disappeared. He went 10 times longer than necessary to prove it beyond any doubt. The proposals on Medibank are a destructive sledgehammer attack on the concept of Medibank as the Labor Government introduced it. The purpose is to undermine completely its credibility, the efficiency with which it has functioned, the comprehensiveness and efficiency with which it has given universal coverage and the equity of the nature of the Medibank concept.
The system of levies and of private health insurance funds is carefully structured in a way which will literally force people, by coercion, out of the Medibank side of the scheme. Let me illustrate that with a few figures. I gave them the other day. They bear repeating, and they will be repeated by me many times yet. As honourable members know, the family premium cover under Medibank is $300. If one wishes to exercise an option and take out private health insurance for intermediate hospital cover the extra cost is $135. That is a total of $435. For those people who may be listening on the radio I point out that the Medibank cover covers only public ward attention in a public hospital and private medical care. If one wishes to go beyond that, that is into intermediate or private ward cover, one has to take out additional insurance. I repeat that the total cost for Medibank cover, $300, plus private health insurance for intermediate cover, $135 extra, is $435. However if one opts out of the Medibank program and takes out cover with the private health insurance funds private medical and intermediate hospital insurance cover the total cost is $350. The difference is $80 a year- a penalty, a fine, a burden people would have to bear if, through some sort of moral commitment, they felt they should stay in Medibank but wanted to exercise the option of having intermediate ward cover. Why do people who want to stay with Medibank have to pay an extra $80 if they want to take out intermediate ward cover? It is quite clear that this is a plot, a conspiracy designed for one purpose and one purpose alone- by coercion, to force people out of Medibank into private health insurance.
I take up another aspect. To stay in Medibank and to take out intermediate ward insurance with a private hospital fund will cost an extra $135 under the new arrangement, but under the present arrangement it costs in New South Wales only $75. Why is the cost of intermediate insurance, if one wishes to remain with Medibank. and to take out that extra insurance, $60 dearer than it is currently? Yesterday in this House I used the word ‘outrageous’. This is outrageous and immoral. It is totally dishonest. The whole exercise has been drawn together to bludgeon people out of Medibank and to destroy the whole concept. The exercise given to the people comprising the Medibank Review Committee was based on a proposition, discreetly worded to them and not in the written instruction, that they were to bring about a conclusion which would result in about 50 per cent of the population leaving Medibank. That is the nature of the coercion injected here and the Government is dishonourable and dishonest for wanting to do this.
– The honourable member for Macarthur should be the last to talk. I understand he is going to help.
– Order! I suggest that the debate be kept to Medibank and health matters.
– I understand that the honourable member for Macarthur is to assist in writing the prospectus on the new Medibank concept. I hope it is written with more intregrity than was ever the case with any of the prospectuses that came out of Patrick and Partners, the firm with which he was associated. The dishonourable nature of this whole exercise is that the Government does not give a damn about the way in which people meet the cost of health services. All it is interrested in is a bookkeeping exercise- in somehow fiddling with the books to make it look presentable to the public on the basis that the Government somehow has reduced their liability; but there is no saving to the community when the cost is transferred from one account to another account, when the cost is transferred from the public account, the Budget, into people’s pockets. Then it becomes discriminatory by its nature. When the cost of Medibank is covered, as it is now, by general revenue the concept is much more equitable. There can be no comparison between the levy we proposed and this system.
I want to move quickly to the matter of choice. We expanded the opportunity of choice under our program. The honourable member for Macarthur indulged in some sentimentality about people’s freedom of choice, about people who want to use their own doctor and have him go into public wards in public hospitals. That is a choice that does not exist and has not existed, by and large, and through no fault of Medibank or of any Federal Government. That is a choice that does not exist and has not existed because of the requirements of State Governments. It will not exist under the new program. In that sense the new program is no different because people will be forced, if they want to take a private doctor into a public hospital, to take out intermediate or private ward insurance. That happens under the present Medibank system but it is much cheaper and the total package is much cheaper. We are not opposed to private doctors but we do desire to give people a greater range of choice. Let there be no doubts about that fact. Already in Western Australia and South Australia public ward utilisation bed days have gone up to 70 per cent of the total bed days. In Queensland and Tasmania the figure has been about 80 per cent for a long time because of the nature of the systems there.
With luck I will have sufficient opportunity in the few minutes available to me to respond to some of the comments by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this morning at question time. He said that he had suddenly received advice that at law the Commonwealth-State hospitals agreement is invalid. I am afraid that I cannot put my hand on the quote at the moment, but he said that this had turned up suddenly. I think he indicated this morning that some comment had been passed to the previous Government about this matter. Let me put the record straight. Firstly, I have to refer to section 30 (2) of the Health Insurance Act which states:
An agreement referred to in sub-section ( 1 ) -
That is the sort of agreement I have been talking about- shall be substantially in accordance with the Heads of Agreement specified in Schedule 2 but may include provisions with respect to other matters.
I remember having a discussion with senior officials of the Department of Social Security who were connected with the development of the Medibank program when I was Minister for Social Security. At the latest this would have been in the first half of the last calendar year, well before 1 July. I make that observation because quite a deal of time had elapsed before the Prime Minister suddenly discovered yesterday the alleged drafting weakness in what had been done in the agreement. In the discussions I had with the departmental officers it was indicated to me that the Crown Solicitor who was drawing up the legislation, on instructions, had expressed a qualified view that some of the heads of agreement may not be substantially in accord with the heads of agreement as specified in Schedule 2 but that it was very much a matter of opinion. It was not a strong opinion. It was a most equivocating opinion. The strong advice to me was that we should proceed, especially in the light of section 30(2) of the Act which contains the words: but may include provisions with respect to other matters.
What the Prime Minister is about is quite clear. He is seeking to exploit what was to me a highly qualified opinion, and I do not see how it could be strengthened in the interim, in an effort to badger the States into conceding much more than they are prepared to do or should be required to do. I challenge the Prime Minister to release the advice upon which he is acting, but more especially I query, and I am sure any questioning and responsible person is querying, why after nearly a year he should suddenly have this advice giving such a firm conclusion. I do not believe the advice does give a firm conclusion. I believe it is a very highly qualified opinion. I do not believe that anyone in any of the States is going to challenge it at law, nor would it be challenged by anyone except the Prime Minister who ideologically is opposed to the concept of Medibank and wants to destroy it. At least he wants to use this opportunity to impose on the States conditions which I think by and large they are not going to tolerate easily. I repeat that I challenge the Prime Minister to release that advice.
-This debate has really degenerated so far as contributions from the Opposition are concerned. Talk about hypocrisy. I think the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has left the chamber now but he is one person of, I understand, something in the vicinity of 70 per cent of Australians who have kept private health insurance fund contributions going since Medibank was introduced. Yet he just stood up here and said that he was going to advise the people of this country and the electors of Hindmarsh to opt out of the private funds and stay with Medibank. I do not think more hypocrisy has been spoken by any member of the Opposition in any debate in this House in the 2 years that I have been here.
I want to enter this debate and refer to the issue brought forward by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) about public hospitals vis-a-vis private hospitals. I do not think anyone would dispute that in the main the equipment and facilities available in public hospitals are better than those provided in the majority of private hospitals. But there may be among us people who want to go into public hospitals for severe operations that are going to require a great deal of technical equipment that may not be available in the private hospitals.
Good heavens, hundreds of thousands of Australians are hospitalised in private hospitals, as the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) knows only too well, without serious complaints or ailments and they are very happy to go there.
– Does he know that, though?
-I do not know that he does know. I would like members of the Opposition, not only the four or five in the chamber at the moment, to indicate whether the are insured with a voluntary health organisation. I would say that the majority are so insured, if not fully then at least partially.
– Not even partially.
-I would like to see the figures. I believe they would be quite interesting. I want to move on to the Canadian system. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was the great designer of this Medibank scheme and I would like him to tell us a little more. I wonder why he has not talked about the Canadian rip-off. I ask honourable members to look at this headline which states: ‘Billions in Medicaid Ripoffs Can anyone stop it?’
– The AMA Gazette.
-No, it is not. This headline is in the U.S. News and World Report. The honourable member has missed again, as he missed the boat so frequently when Minister for Social Security and when Treasurer in the previous Government. I will quote part of this article. It says:
Federal officials estimate the loss in tax-supported healthcare programs runs into the billions, perhaps as much as $ 1 in every $10 spent for medicare and medicaid. That would mean waste of more than 3 billions a year in programs that cost 32.4 billions this year and will approach 40 billions in 1977.
– What is the point you are making?
-The point I am making is that there is nothing free in this world and people have to be kept honest. The voluntary health organisations have to be kept honest- the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in his second reading speech on this Bill mentioned this- and of course also the doctors have to be kept honest. If we look at the figures we see- this is to refute the comments that were made by previous Opposition speakers- in actual fact, that in a full year there will be savings of $8 10m. The rich and the high income groups will be contributing largely to these savings. Contributors to private insurance will contribute $470m and the levy of 2Vi per cent will raise $3 10m. The savings in administration and costs recovered from workers compensation and third party will amount to something like $30m. I think members of the Opposition fail to realise that the Liberal and National Countries Parties in Government are indeed interested in, and in actual fact have done more for, the lower income and disadvantaged groups than the Opposition did. The biggest subsidy will go to pensioners and the lower income groups. I believe that point ought to be emphasised and re-emphasised.
I want in the few minutes remaining to me to refer to the medical profession. The honourable member for Maribyrnong and the honourable member for Prospect I hope will agree with the general comments I make and be in sympathy with what I have to say. I hope also that colleague from Western Australia, the medico who interjected, will agree. At the root of most of the evil of the existing Medibank scheme, and indeed in the future scheme, has been and will be the medical profession. I am going to say this at the risk of attracting the wrath of the medical profession. I have had a lot to do with doctors over the years. To begin with, I say in their defence that I have a great admiration for the medical profession. Of course, in the main doctors are decent, honest Australians doing a great service to our community. All of us know that in time of need we call them. It does not matter whether it is the family doctor, the specialist, the ear nose and throat specialist, the pediatrician, the obstetrician or a member of that branch of the medical profession that is providing diagnostic services, we all appreciate exactly what is being done by the profession. Nothing is more important to anybody than his health. Whether a doctor is providing straight health care or is acting, as doctors often do, as a social worker, a comforter of people in a time of stress- indeed in distress- we need doctors, one could say, before the cradle to the grave.
But having said that and having placed emphasis on the importance of doctors to people-be it for that little old lady of 80 or 85 years who looks forward weekly to the visit from her doctor for her comfort and the repeats of her medicine and so forth and the comfort he brings to her- I want to say that doctors are not immortal and they have been largely responsible for a great deal of the rip-off that has occurred under Medibank to date and no doubt they will be responsible for some of it in the future. I do not know what can be done about this. We have heard about peer review committees. I commend the Minister for Health for this. However, I can quote cases- I know there are others who can also quote such cases- of doctors who had incomes somewhere in the vicinty of $25,000 to $30,000 a year pre-Medibank who now have incomes of from $80,000 to $100,000 a year since Medibank began operations. It is all right for the honourable member for Prospect but he knows as well as I do that it is the indiscriminate exploitation within the ranks of the medical profession- I do not include the majority herewhich has caused the problems. I emphasise the point that this does not apply to the majority but it does apply to a lot of doctors. It is to be hoped that the medical profession will take a long hard look at those members who are not doing the right thing by this scheme.
I return to the question of people who receive the services. We find that members of the public have a tendency to go to their doctors and worry them for drugs and for services that are unwarranted and if their doctors do not give those things to them the patients tend to go to other doctors. But in the final wash up it is the medical profession which in many instances determines the cost to this nation of this important branch of health care.
I do not think there has been much discussion in this debate in relation to the unions, but I am appalled at the reports of recent days, since the announcement of these important changes to the Medibank scheme, of the attitude of the unions of Australia. Frankly, if we see strike action by the unions over this issue I think it is time for a head-on confrontation with them. I notice the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) looking at me. This is a serious matter. We have seen disruption by unions over trivial matters in the past. Who runs the Government? The report in yesterday’s Australian was indeed apt, in particular the cartoon which shows the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) asking: ‘With unions like this who needs an Opposition?’ I sincerely hope that the unions show restraint in this area and we do not see union action over this matter.
-The Bill before the Committee will have an effect on the Income Tax Assessment Act and as the spokesman for the Opposition in that area I should like to explain that this Bill is part of a package of 1 0 Bills going through this chamber, four of which affect the Income Tax Assessment Act. The Opposition has done its homework on the details of the Bill. So far in this Committee stage the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) have dealt mainly with the principles of this Bill and have expressed the indignation of the Opposition in relation to what so likely will turn out to be the dismantling of Medibank and certainly will result in grave harm being done to Medibank. However, I want to raise a couple of questions about the detail in the hope that if not on this Bill at least when the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) is replying in relation to another Bill in this package we may have some answers.
My first question relates to the matter of the $300 Medibank package. A few of us have gone through the details of this Bill. We notice that there is a provision for exemption from the 1.875 per cent levy during the year 1975-76 and exemption from the 2.5 per cent levy in the following financial year for those who are- if I can put it m a cryptic form- prescribed. But so far we can see only where those cryptically described as prescribed would be those contributing to the independent private health insurance funds. We cannot see where a limitation is written into the Bill in relation to those who pay a $300 maximum levy.
This sort of research work has been done by the Opposition on all the Bills. I hope it also has been done on the part of the Government parties. It is significant that at this late hour we have been given long lists of proposed Government amendments on some of the Bills which will be dealt with later. I should take this opportunity- I know you will allow me, Mr Lucock, to say this- to mention that similar work was done on the 3 income tax Bills that went through last night. We did not delay the House on those Bills; we allowed a cognate debate on them. They were mainly in relation to indexation, as you know Mr Chairman. We would have liked to have expressed in greater detail our horror at pensioners now having their incomes liable to taxation. But we went along with the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) for the convenience of the House in debating in a cognate form and raising specific matters at the Committee stages of the Bills.
That brings me to the second question which I want to raise arising out of our detailed work, and that is the right of those who opt out of the Medibank package to be treated in standard wards of Public hospitals. It seems to me that new provisions must be made in public hospitals for charges for standard wards. We have not been able to find anywhere in the second reading speeches on the 9 Bills any reference to this matter. It would seem to us inequitable that people contributing to private health insurance funds are not being charged if they use standard wards in public hospitals. I have agreed with the Leader of the House to take only 4 minutes. My time is up. I hope that anybody who reads the reports of these debates or who listens to these debates will not think that the Opposition has not been looking at the detailed legislation in the very short time that we have had to do so.
– I am glad that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is present, because I would like him to hear what I have to say. He has been so proud of the Medibank scheme. He was largely responsible for its introducion I would like to talk about the way in which Medibank has affected some of the little people in the community. There has been so much hogwash today from the Opposition about the great advantages of Medibank and about the way in which it will not be improved but ruined by the present Government. I had a constituent- he is no longer a constituent unfortunately- who was a pensioner. Some 7 years ago he had a stroke. Although he made a quite remarkable recovery, he was still partially paralysed. Other than staying at home and watching television, he could do very little. When Medibank was introduced by the Labor Government he was advised- he thought he was quite safe in doing so- to cancel his hospital insurance. He did so. About a month ago he took a bad turn. It was necessary for him to be taken to the Box Hill hospital which is in my electorate. He was told: ‘We are sorry, we do not have any beds. They have been taken up by people in Medibank who perhaps normally would have gone to private hospitals or gone into intermediate or private wards. Now they want to get their money’s worth out of Medibank. We are sorry. We can put you into Casualty for a couple of days, but at the end of that time you will have to go home’. He was sent home, despite the fact that his wife, who was suffering from cancer, was the only one at home to look after him.
He went home. A visiting nurse came to wash him each day. He deteriorated gradually, until he died a week or so ago. I was at his funeral. I could not help but feel that if it had not been for Medibank and the fact that he had been talked into cancelling his hospital insurance in the belief that he was completely covered by Medibank that he could have got decent treatment in an intermediate ward or a private ward at a private hospital. He might well have been alive today. I feel that this story should be told to the House because Medibank and health insurance deal with people. The important thing is the effect that Medibank has on individuals.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Eric Robinson)- by leaveproposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I wish to correct a statement which I made yesterday. Speaking in the cognate debate last night, I congratulated the Government on abolishing gap insurance, which is insurance covering the 15 per cent gap up to a $5 maximum. I understood that that insurance had been abolished. It should never have been introduced. I am informed by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the departmental advisers that that insurance will still exist. It is a great pity. A prospectus for that insurance could be produced by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) in his previous capacity. The maximum amount which a person can receive from that insurance is $5. That is the maximum amount for which one insures oneself. The health funds have been charging $1.86 a week for that. A person would need to have an operation every 3 weeks to come out square. Nobody needs that type of insurance. It is a great pity that the Government will continue to allow that sort of gap insurance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is opposing this Bill and the Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill (No. 2), but we do not intend to take the time of the House by dividing. We want it clearly recorded and acknowledged that we are opposing these 2 Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
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 Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 20 of the Principal Act is amended-
– I move:
The existing arrangement, under section 20 (2) of the Health Insurance Act, authorises, where a person claims medical benefits but has not paid medical expenses to which the claim relates, a cheque is to be drawn in favour of the practitioner which is forwarded to the claimant. That . arrangement has caused administrative difficulties for the Health Insurance Commission and for some practitioners, and those difficulties are reflected in the additional administrative costs. Further, some doctors have refused to accept the cheques because they are Medibank cheques. Provisions were therefore included in paragraphs (a) and (b) of clause 6 of the Bill to terminate the arrangement. However, the Government has given further consideration to the effects of the alternative arrangement that would result, that is, to pay cheques in the name of the claimant to the claimant. That alternative arrangement could encourage the situation where the claimant may not pay the practitioner’s account notwithstanding that medical benefits have been paid. That would be an unsatisfactory situation, and the Government is therefore proposing that the existing arrangements be retained. The possibility of achieving greater efficiency through administrative modifications to the existing arrangements will be explored. So what the amendment does is to go back to square one, where we were previously, in respect of pay doctor cheques.
– It was quite obvious when we looked into this matter- clearly the Government has accepted this propositionthat the grizzles of the doctors are far less significant than the inconvenience which would have been caused to patients. I am glad that the Government has seen fit to revert to our scheme. As difficult as it may have been, the proposal that it had put initially would have been far worse and the burden would have been placed on the poorer sections of the community. I think the doctors can suffer. In fact, if there are doctors who are refusing to accept Medibank cheques, then to blazes with them; they can do without the money.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 10- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 1 1 omitted.
Clauses 12 to 16- by leave- taken together.
– It is difficult to pick exactly the specific clause to which I should relate my remarks, but I refer to the Minister’s comments in his second reading speech on section 18, 1 think it is, of the principal Act. He makes a number of points:
A number of cases have been revealed where services are being charged to Medibank which, because of the circumstances in which they are provided, do not warrant the payment of the usual Medibank benefit. The Bill provides that the Minister may refer such cases to the Medical Benefits Advisory Committee. If the Committee recommends that medical benefits should not be paid in particular circumstances, regulations may be promulgated to provide that the benefits are not payable.
I support that proposition and draw the attention of the House to the rackets that have obviously been started by medical practitioners. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) referred to some of them. I understand that the Valentine health studios in Sydney was bought by a medical practitioner. Before a person is enrolled for his slimming course or body building course, he is put through all kinds of involved medical tests and the cost of all of those tests is charged to the Department. That, of course, can still be done under the present proposal. I am happy to say that the Minister will be able to refuse payment. I am not sure whether the funds will be able to refuse payment. I have no objection to the funds paying Valentine studios, as long as the taxpayers do not pay Valentine studios. Maybe from now on health studios will give preference to people who are covered under the private health insurance scheme. I sincerely hope so. Maybe that will be an encouragement for people to join private health insurance schemes, because in addition to their health insurance cover they will also be able to get cover from body building studios.
– Do you regard that as an ancillary benefit?
-An ancillary benefit to the medical benefits fund. One point I wanted to raise also refers to section 18 of the original Health Insurance Act. I must admit that I cannot quite follow the argument of the Minister. In his second reading speech he states:
Section 1 8 of the Health Insurance Act at present prevents the payment of benefits for diagnostic services- pathology and radiology- to private patients in recognised hospitals. This section was a product of the previous Government’s vendetta -
That is the way in which the Minister put it- against private practice in hospitals and has caused serious anomalies. As a result the provision of diagnostic services has been impaired in many public hospitals. The Bill provides therefore for the repeal of this section.
I have no objection to visiting radiologists, pathologists and others receiving a reasonable remuneration for treating private patients in public hospitals. What I would like to point out, however, is that it would be completely unfair for visiting pathologists and radiologists to be able to collect huge fees for work done by hospital staff. I hope that some equitable method is found by which to avoid that situation, because the work is actually done by hospital staff who are paid by the State governments or the Hospitals or Health Services Commission, or whatever it may be. It would be quite silly and quite unfair if, in addition to that, the taxpayer in this case or, in the other cases, the funds, had to pay the pathologist and radiologist as if all the work had been carried out by him in his own laboratory or in his own radiology setup. I hope that the Minister will look into this matter. I am not sure exactly what the proposal is in relation to the rate people will be paid in this regard.
I congratulate the Government on its introduction of a proposal to charge certain amounts of money, both for medical and hospital services, to workers compensation and third party insurance companies. It was completely unfair that we were not able to do that because of the opposition of the then Opposition which refused to allow us to change the legislation. At the same time, the same point arises which arose on the general arguments in relation to Medibank levies, and that is the question of increases in the consumer price index. In New South Wales a commission is dealing with workers compensation insurance companies, and that commission has in fact reduced the levy on employers because the insurance companies no longer had to pay that benefit Now, I take it, if we collect money from the insurance companies, the insurance companies in turn will collect it from the employer and the employer in turn will collect it from the consumer; and therefore it will be added to the consumer price index. I note that in principle it is obviously unfair for the insurance companies to get away with it. At the same time, if the net result is just an increase in the consumer price index, which spreads throughout the whole community, I am not sure that there is any benefit to be gained. That is one of the points I raised yesterday when I urged the Minister to put the Bill on the table, so to speak, and perhaps have one of our committees look at the proposed legislation in greater detail.
The final point I would like to make on this Bill in the Committee stage is to congratulate the Minister on another proposal; In his second reading speech the Minister states:
Morever there is a clear need to control cost escalations that are not related to benefits and to ensure that as much value as possible is obtained for the money spent in both the public and the private sectors. Doctors play a key role in determining overall costs because it is largely they who make the decisions to put patients into hospitals, the length of stay, the need for and nature of operations or other courses of treatment.
It is a terribly important point that has to be emphasised and re-emphasised. In that sense, because there are medical practitioners very prominent in the running of some funds- for example, the Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales- one would hopefully see arising out of the changes some pressure by the funds on the medical profession to restrain themselves as far as expenditure is concerned. It is terribly important to emphasise again and again that the main unnecessary cost in Medibank by far is doctor induced, either for good reasons or for bad reasons. By that I mean it is just a waste of money, or doctors are trying to line their own pockets.
As far as the taxpayers are concerned, I do not suppose it matters what the reason for the rise in cost is, but it is important to try to prevent it as much as possible. Last Tuesday, I think it was, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) and I, as members of the Opposition’s welfare committee, met with delegates of the Australian Hospitals Association. The Association made a submission to the Medibank Review Committee in which it pointed out that 90 per cent of unnecessary medical treatment and so on was doctor induced. I am sure that, if anything, that is a conservative estimate.
– The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) raised a couple of matters to which I would like to refer. He raised the question of visiting diagnosticians’ services attracting payment of medical benefits and hospitals in the utilisation of hospital staff. He might recall that the Government set up a committee under Dr Sax. The membership of the committee was drawn from the Australian Medical Association, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia and the Practising Society of Private Pathologists plus a couple of other people. I am expecting to receive the report from the committee on short term measures that are necessary to try to overcome the current embarrassing situation both to the profession and, I am sure, to the taxpayer. By the end of the year we hope to have a report on the longer term measures that are necessary to overcome some of the anomalous situations that have been developing in the diagnostic area generally and also in the pathology area in particular. Obviously the honourable member for Prospect is well aware of what has been going on.
Increases in the cost of health in Australia have been a problem that has been of concern to us and, as the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) said last night, to most western countries. What has been going on in Australia today is being repeated elsewhere. I think that by modifying Medibank to the extent that we have we may be able to put some of the brakes that are necessary on rising medical and health costs in Australia. The estimated health cost for Australia next year which will affect all governments, State and Federal, and the private sector is of the order of $5,000m. This cost is rising at a very rapid rate. For instance the Commonwealth’s share of the burden has increased by 1000 per cent in about 12 years.
Under our proposals people can do 2 things. They can choose to remain in Medibank. All Australians can remain in Medibank because this system is being retained. Families on higher incomes can, if they so wish, obtain the type of services that the honourable member for Maribyrnong mentioned- the services available in our great public hospitals- and can take out, in approximate terms, a $300 family premium or package that will cover them for the cost of treatment in standard wards of public hospitals with hospital staff engaged by the hospital. Most of our larger hospitals, of course, have outstanding salaried staff. The family will also be able to recoup 85 per cent of the scheduled medical fee.
Those people who want to do their own thing and decide to insure themselves so as to have the choice of doctor to attend them in the hospital and also be accommodated in what they might regard as more comfortable accommodation in public hospitals or private hospitals in intermediate or private wards can do so by insuring with a fund. We understand that this service will cost somewhere of the order of $350 a year for a family or $175 a year for a single person. What this is doing, of course, is creating a situation where if doctors’ fees in the fee for service area rise faster than the average increase in average weekly earnings it will tend to push people back into Medibank by their hundreds of thousands because if the standard Medibank package proves to be -
– It will be much more expensive than the 2.5 per cent.
– Well, if it proves to be so much cheaper than private insurance which offers feeforservice the competitive situation will be such that people not only will start to think about having the choice of doctor but also they will start to think about the desirability of staying in Medibank from a financial point of view. So the system does, I think, provide a sense of discipline within the medical profession itself. I am sure that the medical profession as a body is conscious of it
– Can you tell me why Medibank and intermediate private insurance is so much dearer than private insurance for medical and intermediate ward cover?
-So much dearer?
– It is $80 dearer on the figures you have quoted.
-It is $300 plus $135 which is more than $350.
-It is $300 plus $135 which is $435, if you stay in Medibank and take out intermediate ward cover, but if you opt out and take private medical and intermediate ward cover it is only $350. It is $80 dearer to get the same cover out of Medibank plus private insurance.
– The reason for that, of course, is that people on lower levels of income are getting a much greater subsidy contribution towards their Medibank health cover than do people in the upper levels.
– How do you work that out?
-A family on the $13,000 to $14,000 income level can take out a $300 standard Medibank premium which is very close to cost.
– So what you are saying is that the high risk high cost cases are forced on Medibank and the private funds therefore get a subsidy.
– Order! The honourable member for Oxley has asked a couple of questions of the Minister. I allowed him to ask those questions. I am sure that he will appreciate that if this course of action were opened up on too wide a sphere and everyone was allowed to ask questions we could be here not only until the middle of June but also we could be sitting possibly until the day before the next Budget session. I suggest that perhaps the Minister could answer the honourable member for Oxley ‘s questions to this point. We can then go on from there.
– The honourable member for Oxley has asked a very good question. I will discuss it with him later. But let me say that the $ 1 35 family premium for hospital only insurance is an estimate only. This is the premium which will be set to cover the cost on average for those who opt to take intermediate ward accommodation in public hospitals. That is a decision that they make, and they should not be subsidised to make it. We would assume that the full standard intermediate ward package for those who insure privately would be at cost. We have endeavoured to ensure that the subsidy component of the whole thing is directed in 2 areas. The first is to the lower levels of incomes in Australia so that those in the higher income areas are paying closer to cost for health care in Australia.
There are 2 options facing us as parliamentarians on our income levels. If we are married, with a family we can either take out a standard Medibank premium of approximately $300 a year or we insure privately for $355 a year. In so doing we are paying very close to cost. Those down the lower end of the income scale are getting the service free as pensioners wholly dependent on pensions and the people in the lowest income area are getting their service without cost, as indeed they should. So the subsidy is directed to that area. A $50m subsidy will be going into a reinsurance pool to help cover the costs of those people with chronic illnesses.
I return to the other point which has exercised the minds of a lot of people who are interested in health costs in Australia. That is this need for creating a situation where doctors have to be mindful of their fees and mindful of their costs, as patients also need to be mindful, and indeed the Australian people have to be mindful. If we consume too much of the social dollar on health we are left with insufficient resources for education, for helping the underprivileged in the community and for providing assistance to the needy. So there has to be some check and balance in the whole exercise. Hopefully the peer review will open a whole new area of research into the standards of medical practice in Australia. I have every reason to believe that the Federal Australian Medical Association is anxious to participate and anxious to undertake this review over the next 3 years. Of course in the process over the next year or two we have to reexamine the whole schedule of fees in Australia. People do not really know that whilst there are a lot of private practices in Australia, 40 per cent of doctors are salaried.
– That percentage is increasing.
– As the honourable member for Prospect says, the percentage is increasing. So one of the great advantages of the modifications we have made to Medibank is that we have still maintained the essential universality of cover and insurance which was a highly desirable objective achieved by the former Government. But I do believe that the advantage in having the optional type levy is this: We are not just putting a levy right across the system and letting the cost explode beneath it. We are creating a mechanism whereby there will be a competitive situation. This will make not only doctors, not only hospitals and the health insurance funds, but people generally conscious of health costs in Australia. I am hopeful- one can only be hopeful in these things- that we will see a much greater improvement in this area.
-I should like to join with the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) in congratulating the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and also the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) for facing some of the problems in this area that have only been vaguely referred to in the past. The honourable member for Prospect and myself have talked about this matter at length at various times but not many people have understood it enough to take much notice. I am glad that the Minister has now recognised the basic problem which is, first of all, the sort of minor loopholes by which the various organisations and institutions were sliding out of their financial responsibility and sponging on Medibank. The Government is closing those gaps. But most important and significant is the question of the quality of health care in the community.
Again I congratulate the Minister for his answer to the question of the increasing cost of health care. He is not saying, as some of his colleagues and many people in the community are saying, that the cost of Medibank is becoming prohibitive. That is not what is becoming prohibitive; it is the cost of medical care. The Minister is conceding that this is largely a result of the excess services, the unnecessary services ordered by doctors. True, patients can make some unnecessary claims. I do not deny that. They can go along to doctors seemingly unnecessarily. One could argue that if a person does that it is because he needs psychological support, and that is perhaps something that we are not too good at coping with. But all such people can do is run up a string of general practitioner consultation fees which is chicken feed compared with the areas in which major costs are being increased.
The Minister’s experiment is to offer the possibility that if doctors’ fees go up too fast and if voluntary health insurance fund premiums have to go up too fast, people will be forced back into Medibank. I hope that does happen. If I had my way, and if I could persuade people, they would not leave Medibank in the first place for the sorts of reasons I gave earlier this afternoon. I repeat briefly that I am firmly convinced that the best standards of medical care are available in the public hospital system, not outside it. That, of course, does not cover general practitioner services. We started to nibble at this problem by establishing the health centres- not a revolutionary concept. I refer to the Australian Medical Association publication General Practice and its Future in Australia put out by the AMA study group on medical planning. It discusses the future of general practice in Australia and makes very cogent arguments in support of the concept of health centres. But I have not got the Minister’s confidence that this is what will happen.
I fear that unfortunately, despite all the remarks some people make- and maybe I have been terribly critical of the medical profession too- there is still a certain amount of witchcraft associated with doctors. There is still a certain awe in which an individual member of the com.munity holds his personal doctor. The ordinary person may consider that doctors as a group are a terrible lot; they make too much money and they sponge off the community in a variety of ways. But their own doctor is beaut. Sadly, therefore, they are not likely to question their own doctor’s increasing charges. They are still likely to feel that the increasing charges imposed by their own doctor are somehow justified and they will just grit their teeth and bear it. Because the Government does not want to establish too great a discrepancy- at least that is what has been said; I hope it goes back on this actually- of Medibank payments below the prevailing cost for people in private insurance, it will increase the upper limit of the Medibank levy. I think that that also will defeat the purpose of the Minister’s experiment.
I refer again to some figures I mentioned last night. I referred to a study done for the American Government in 1967 on costs in America and a study of the Kaiser system, which is a sort of salaried medical staff health care organisation. The study found that in the years 1960 to 1965 there was an increase of total expenses per member for services provided by the Kaiser doctors of 1 9 per cent. In the same period the national per capita private consumer expenditure for comparable medical services increased by 44 per cent. In my view the secret was the system under which the doctors worked. The report makes the claim that these doctors were no better or worse than the general run of doctors in the community. They did not have better techniques of treatment or new revolutionary approaches. The only difference was the way in which the doctor was rewarded for his effort. Ironically it is quite contrary to the generally accepted view that the only way to get the best out of a doctor is to have him charge fee for service. I think this study proved that is not the case. In the view of this manpower commission which made the study, the quality of salaried doctor service was at least as good and perhaps better. The cost was very significantly lower than in the general community where the doctors charge fee for service.
The Government’s experiment is placing the onus on the patients to exert pressure on the doctors. That was the situation before Medibank was introduced. If there was to be any curtailment of increases in costs it would be because patients would complain about the increasing amount of money they had to pay out of their own pockets as the combined medical benefit from the Commonwealth and medical benefit refund from the benefit organisations covered less and less of the doctor’s fee. That is what used to happen. What was the result? The community complained: ‘Why does the Government not pay more?’ People did not ask the question: ‘Why do the doctors keep charging more?’ They simply asked ‘Why does the Government not pay more or why do the benefit funds not pay more?’ So, sadly, costs would continue to go up. The Government would be embarrassed. An election would be held and the Australian Labor Party or the Liberal Party- whichever was in Opposition -would say: ‘We will come up with a better offer; we will cover medical expenses at a higher level than was the case before the pressure was put on.’
I fear that the only way out of the dilemma will be for the Government to stick to its intention of trying to achieve some assessment of the quality of services and so on. I hope that the Government is able to stick to that intention and I compliment the Minister for Health for saying it. I hope that he sticks to the threat contained in his comments that failure to have workable systems in operation within 3 years could result in the introduction of mandatory systems. I have spoken to doctors quietly, outside the political arena, and most of them agree with this sort of scheme. Sadly I had doctor colleagues who forever ribbed me about the introduction of Medibank while we were the Government. When it was finally introduced I asked them how Medibank was going and whether they were enjoying it. They said: ‘Yes. We are afraid that the other mob- the Liberals- will get in an destroy it’. I was surprised because I know that they are Liberal supporters. I said: ‘Really?’ They said: ‘Yes, because some of our colleagues will misuse the system and make enormous rip offs from Medibank. ‘ That is precisely what is happening. I think that most of the doctors are sincere, are not making a rip off and would be quite happy to have the sort of system about which the Minister is talking. But I fear that the Government’s moves may not succeed and it may have to introduce the mandatory system which it foreshadowed.
– Before I call the honourable member for Oxley, I should like to say one thing. A Chairman of Committees is never popular. If he allows honourable members to wander, the honourable member for Corio and the Leader of the House object strongly because they are not sticking to the Bill and because of the time factor involved. If the Chairman asks honourable members to stick to the Bill he is not popular with them because they want to talk about everything else except what happens to be in the legislation under discussion. I remind the Committee that we are discussing clauses 12 to 16. 1 have been fairly tolerant and we have had a general debate on matters which have not been covered specifically by those particular clauses. I now ask honourable members to confine themselves to the clauses that are before the Committee.
-Mr Chairman, I can assure you that, no matter what happens, you are always popular with me- providing you do not curtail what I have to say. There are 3 questions I want to ask the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). I would like you to hear me out, Mr Chairman, before you stop me because I think that my questions will be fairly relevant. The first one concerns the new reinsurance pool. I understand that the Government is putting $50m into the program.
– However, if the Government is successful in doubling intermediate and private ward fees in public hospitals and if private hospital fees increase following that it would seem that, to hold down contribution rates to private funds, that amount should be doubled otherwise there will be at least a 20 per cent increase in contribution rates, if my recollection of ratio relationships in these sorts of matters is correct. I am relying on my recollection. I do not want to labour that point too much. It is a good political point. If the Government does not do that, I must say that I admire its courage in not doing so. I think that the special account has been a monumental rip-off. Does the Minister want to answer that now?
-The difficulty is that if the Minister answers now the first call for the honourable member for Oxley ceases.
– My second question is this: If I apprehend the situation correctly in relation to the premium contribution for Medibank of $300 for a family or $350 to opt out and take private health insurance cover for private medical service and intermediate ward accommodation, if contributions to the private funds increaseaccording to my rough estimates from papers which I have kept concerning utilisation rates I calculate that the amount will not be $350 but will be closer to $400- do we have an undertaking that the $300 will not increase? My suspicion is that that $50 margin has been set to keep the private insurance for medical and intermediate ward cover just marginally ahead of Medibank, to make it with the additional private insurance more expensive and therefore to discourage people to stay in Medibank.
The final point I make arises from an observation which the Minister made to me. I feel genuinely disturbed about the implications of it in terms of equity. He said that the higher costs for people who stay in Medibank but who take out private intermediate insurance arise because of higher risk ratings. The implication is that there will be high utilisation, higher charges, and people contributing less in some cases because there are low income earners not making a contribution. Let me put it another way: It is my estimate that if 50 per cent of the people leave Medibank, utilisation will go down only by about 40 per cent because the aged, the invalid and the very sick people on low incomes will be staying in it. If the objective is to make those people collectively in Medibank who do contribute, contribute more in total with their private insurance to cover the higher total cost of people who stay in Medibank, that is extremely regressive because it means that the extra money contributed by these people is relatively falling more heavily on them than on people outside Medibank. It is making a redistribution from people who are modest income earners to the lower middle class groups who stay in Medibank, back within Medibank to cover people who are not contributors.
I may have misunderstood the Minister but that seemed to be the implication because he was asserting that there are higher costs involved, for a number of reasons, in retaining the people in Medibank. I suggest that if that is the motive for the amount of $300 being struck for Medibank, in equity that is quite wrong and the level should be much lower. The redistribution should take place from general revenue and not from a flat percentage tax. However, if he is asserting something different altogether- that is, that those people in Medibank who also take out private insurance will be a greater risk rating to the private insurers- I ask: When did this principle come into private insurance, because risk rating has never been part of private insurance before and it does not seem to be part of private insurance for those who opt out of Medibank?
– First of all, in reply to the questions from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden ) let me say that the approximate $300 premium that was set for a standard Medibank package, as it is called, provides a family with standard ward accommodation in a public hospital and also with benefits involving 85 per cent of the scheduled fee. In other words, people receive Medibank benefits. A single person will pay half that amount. The $300 not only goes very close to meeting the cost of providing that service but it also provides an effective ceiling. In other words, if there were not that sort of arrangement whereby people or families on the $13,000 to $ 14,000 income level could opt out of Medibank, people earning $40,000 a year would be paying enormous amounts, far beyond what would be judged to be fair, to remain in Medibank. Those people would be forced out of it. So the arrangement serves 2 purposes. It does not provide a tremendous subsidy to a man or a family on a high income and it goes pretty close to covering the cost of services.
The next question relates to the amount of $135 for a family or approximately $68 for a single person for hospital only insurance. We are talking about levy payers where the family’s total income is about $9,000 net. At about that point it will pay that family to insure privately for medical and hospital attention, but below that point if the family wants to exercise the right to ave their own doctor in a hospital in a standard ward accommodation it will pay the family to pay the 2Vi per cent levy on the joint or aggregated income and pay approximately $135 a year- that is our estimate- to a fund to obtain that sort of cover. The reason hospital only insurance is higher today is that we have allowed for an increase in bed charges in private and intermediate accommodation in the public hospitals in the States because we can see no justification for keeping bed charges down at a very heavily subsidised rate in private and intermediate wards for the benefit of those people who choose to insure themselves for what they may regard to be more comfortable accommodation and the right to choose a doctor. If we allowed that situation to occur what we would be asking the levy payers and the lower income people to do would be to subsidise a person who chooses to insure himself and his family for what he regards to be more comfortable accommodation in a hospital with choice of doctor. That is the reason we estimate that the hospital only insurance premium will be higher, it is because of the day bed charges in public hospitals.
– Higher against what?
-Higher against the present $20 and $30 a day heavily subsidised private and intermediate ward accommodation in public hospitals in the States.
– Could I ask a quick question to clarify this? It is not quite what I am getting at. I will use my second opportunity to speak in the Committee stage.
– The difficulty is that there is no standing order that allows for this. Perhaps the honourable member can ask the quick question. We will deal with any further questions that arise later.
– I thank the Minister and the Chairman for their reasonableness. I hope that it is sustained. If I stay in Medibank and take out intermediate ward insurance the total cost is $435-that is, $300 plus $135-but if I opt out and take private insurance for intermediate ward cover and medical cover it is only $350, a difference of $80. What I am getting at is this: Regardless of whether charges go up, there should be some relationship between the 2 total levy or contribution rates. I understood the Minister to say earlier it had something to do either with risk experience of heavy loadings.
– I am sorry. I just do not understand why there should be that disparity between the two, and that is the question I was asking. Will the Government in fact allow Medibank ever to overhaul, in a relative or some sort of comparative sense, private health insurance for the reasons which two of my colleagues mentioned, or is it the intention to maintain this relative disadvantage in favour of private health insurance as against staying in Medibank and taking out intermediate insurance.
-The point here is that the ceiling or the premium, if you wish to call it that, is to be determined in consultation with the Treasurer and guidelines for the method of determining the increase have not yet been determined, but I would not see the need to review the premium except say once a year. I think it would have to be reviewed about once a year. There are 2 factors in it. The $300 that a family will pay will be fairly close to the cost. It does look as though it is out of parity when you go down the line to people on a lower income level who will pay only $150 and then add the $135. But with the subsidy down the line there are 2 cost components coming out of general revenue to assist people. I think honourable members need to know that the levy itself will raise somewhere of the order of $330m according to our expectations. We expect about another $440m to be saved in outlay as a consequence of people opting out to insure themselves privately. The balance of the $8 10m that we expect to save in a full year will come from administrative savings, recouping of money from insurance companies for workers compensation and third parry cover and so on. So the biggest contribution we would hope to relieve the pressure on Government expenditure will be from the people who opt out to insure themselves for full medical cover.
The other point raised by the honourable member for Oxley related to the re-insurance pool. An amount of $50m will be put into that pool. One of the conditions that will apply to the funds will be that they will have to participate in that pool before they can get registration. The purpose is to ensure that chronically ill people are not disadvantaged. We are not going to allow pre-existing ailments to prevent them from getting existing benefits. This will make some contribution to ensuring that the funds do look after those people with chronic illnesses, which are defined as those illnesses which keep people contained in hospitals for 60 days in a full year.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 1 7 omitted.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Mr Hunt)- by leave- proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
-We eliminated the clauses dealing in effect with money going to the States under the hospitals agreement because of certain information which was given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this place this morning. I have been given, an assurance privately, but I would like the Minister to give an undertaking in the Parliament that legislation will be introduced to deal with this in the near future.
-A Bill will be introduced to ensure that no State, no hospital, or more importantly no people or patients will be disadvantaged as a consequence of omitting those clauses and the whole Schedule which have proved to be invalid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Hunt:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second rime. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 33- by leave- taken together.
-The Opposition supports this legislation. It is very similar to legislation which we introduced ourselves and which was rejected by the Senate the year before last and again last year. Specifically it makes it possible to have some influence on the private so-called non-profit health insurance funds without actually deregistering them. Honourable members who participated in the discussion on this matter previously will probably be aware that under the current legislation which is about to be amended the only power that the Minister has to deal with a fund is to deregister it completely. This is an awkward thing to do. Potentially it could be unfair to the contributors, and chaos could be caused if a fund were suddenly deregistered. Yet certainly the previous Government got no co-operation from many of the administrators of these funds.
I compliment the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) on introducing this legislation and on taking notice of what the Australian Labor Party tried to do in the past. Under this legislation it will be possible, if in the opinion of the Minister it is necessary to do so, to apply to the court to appoint an administrator of a fund. I think ‘judicial manager’ is the term used in the Bill. This will enable a fund to be taken over without interfering with the benefits to the contributors. I have some reservations, for example, about the Minister for Local Government in New South Wales having such power over municipal councils because those councils are elected by the residents of the area. This does not apply in the case of the health insurance funds. Many of them in New South Wales, certainly the two main funds in New South Wales- the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia- and similarly in the other States, have no provision for contributors to have any say in their running. There was a specific exclusion clause preventing contributors to the Medical Benefits Fund, for example, knowing when a general meeting is to take place.
The only people who have a say in electing the council of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia are the so-called medical contributors. The medical contributors are defined as medical practitioners who are members of the Medical Benefits Fund and who additionally have been chosen by the council of the Medical Benefits Fund to be medical contributors. In other words, the present council of the Medical Benefits Fund decides which doctors should be entitled to have a vote in the next election for the council. It is not surprising that there has been no opposition in any of the elections. When I was a member of the Medical Benefits Fund, surprisingly enough I was never invited as a medical practitioner to become one of the medical contributors. The important thing is that the only people who can nominate for election and the only people who can vote are those medical contributors.
This is obviously ridiculous, and it is terribly important that the Minister have some control over the funds. He will be able to do this if he applies his good faith to the task and puts pressure on the funds by saying: ‘If you are not going to let contributors have a say in the running of the fund or if you are running the fund unsatisfactorily’ the way the Medical Benefits Fund has been run up to now- ‘we will apply to have an administrator appointed to the fund’. I will be very happy to act as an administrator in a nocharge capacity.
-My comments will be brief, but I could not let the opportunity pass without making an appropriate observation. As the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) pointed out, this legislation is almost mirror legislation of legislation I introduced as Minister for Social Security, I think for the second time, in February 1975, having introduced it, I believe, in 1974. It was objected to strongly, if not passionately, by members of the then Opposition. I am not sure whether that was one of the occasions on which the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) threatened to go to the barricades and leave his carcass impaled if necessary in defence of the private health insurance fund, but it was one of those celebrated occasions of emotional opposition to the propositions we were putting forward. If the Minister wishes, a little later in private I will show him the deep weals that cut into my soul as a result of the laceration I endured at the hands of the then Opposition. It is great to see redemption arrive, although I would rather have had redemption when we were sitting on the other side of the chamber.
The hard fact is that administration of private health insurance cannot be adequately or responsibly discharged unless the sorts of authority set out in the BUI are available to a Minister. When I was Minister for Social Security I was always at a loss to understand the emotionalism injected into the Opposition to what we were proposing, because I knew full well from private discussions I had had with honourable members who had served as Ministers with previous Liberal-National Country Party governments that they had difficulties with the private health insurance funds not enormously different from the problems we had. For what it is worth, I think if perhaps we could close the Parliament down for a day or two when something emotional looked like cropping up and called people back after having had about a 24-hour cooling down period to discuss some of these problems, there would be more evidence of a common sense of responsibility in responding to problems than we sometimes get when we rush into the Parliament in head-on conflict. My mind races back rapidly to the days when we were in Opposition and the then Prime Minister, John Grey Gorton, was having trouble with the medical profession. Honourable members may recollect that I staunchly defended the firm action in defence of the public evidenced on that occasion by Mr Gorton, who as Prime Minister was one of the first Ministers in a very long period of government in this country prepared to oppose a very powerful vested but minority interest group in the form of the Australian Medical Association in the interests of the community. I am glad that this legislation has been brought in.
Not only are we seeing mirror legislation which was emotionally opposed on a couple of occasions; we are also talking about levies to fund Medibank. Put to one side the difference in concept and the differences between us on those issues; the fact is that the levy has been introduced. Honourable members, and the public, will recall the vibrant moments of drama in this House and outside as people declaimed their preparation to lay down their bodies and souls in defence of the right of the people not to have a levy imposed upon them. The fact is that part of the problems associated with the level of the deficit arose because the levy we sought to have introduced, at a much lower level than this levy, was rejected. Now the Government is facing problems; it requires revenue on one side and so it imposes a levy. On the other side it is reducing costs where possible and so it is squeezing other people out in order to avoid some of the liabilities. This is all related to the budgetary exercise.
I think those were rather unpleasant days. They did not embellish the stature of this Parliament, as we will realise when we consider the history to be written about that period. I rather think that this was an unpleasant feature of much of the behaviour in the Parliament at that time. I have nothing much else to say. I have a rather warm feeling, not intensely warm but mildly warm, because even though it takes time for wisdom to seep through, eventually there is no force greater than the force of an idea whose time has arrived.
– I want to echo the comments made by my colleague the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I would Uke to congratulate the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) for having the guts to proceed with this legislation. It is quite clear that this sort of thing was necessary. It was obvious to us. Let us put aside the arguments we had previously. This legislation is vital if we are going to get anywhere in trying to make sure that the rights of ordinary people are protected. This reinsurance scheme designed to make sure that the funds do not offload their responsibilities for the chronically ill is certainly something that had to come some day. What was happening was what had happened in America where organisations like Blue Shield issued insurance for all comers, the young and the very old among whom there is a very high incidence of illness, and had to try to compete with the insurance sharpies who came in later and offered package deals for those above the age of 15 and below the age of 40, or below my age. I am getting to the stage where my likely dependence on the medical profession is going to increase. The sharpies picked the age group among which by and large the incidence of illness was low. These sharp insurance groups were able to offer very competitive insurance rates feeling confident that they would never get anybody with any sort of demanding illness, or very rarely. The people in this age group left Blue Cross or Blue Shield, whatever it is called, and made the burden even worse and more difficult for people who were forced to support those organisations.
In Australia, because of these subsidies which were operating before this Bill was brought in, the people in the community with chronic illness, the people who were rather a larger burden on the medical services, were carried by the general taxpayer.
– The special account.
– That is right, the special account, and the benefit funds got off scot-free, in essence. It is time the funds were called to heel and forced to recognise that they have a responsibility for the total spectrum of people in the community, not just Medibank. For that reason it is a commendable move. Given that the Government has taken steps to allow people to stay in Medibank up to the premium level, and if they then want cover for private or intermediate treatment, they can take that cover outside. I do not understand why the Government does not allow people to take that cover with Medibank.
The purpose of the exercise seems to be to get more money out of the pockets of the people. That is what it means. People can stay in Medibank and pay the $300. Then if they want cover for private care they have to pay an extra contribution to a voluntary fund. That means that more money is coming out of their pockets and the voluntary funds are paying the extra to have them go into a private hospital or into a private bed. I do not see why, for administrative simplicity, the Government does not allow people who want to stay in Medibank to take out the extra cover with Medibank on the same basis as they can do so within the private organisations. This would save a lot of administrative nonsense. After all, if a person wants to take the Medibank cover because he believes it is best, for the general arguments which I would support, but wants private insurance, he has all the membership requirements for Medibank. In addition there are the further administrative costs associated with joining and paying extra money to the voluntary funds. I am talking about a good business principle, not Labor Party policy. I hope I am talking plain common sense.
Surely it would be sensible to let people pay the extra premium, over and above the $300, specifically for private hospital treatment. If that is what they want, let them pay it to Medibank. I would be interested in the comments of the Minister for Health on this point. For all that, I repeat that we completely endorse the other aspects covered by this legislation because it is time the voluntary health funds were forced to be honest.
– I think the debate on this Bill is the appropriate place in which to raise the problem of those persons who left their old private health fund following the introduction of Medibank. Many of these people had been members of the private health funds for a number of years. During their membership of those funds many developed chronic illnesses which made them a burden on the private health funds. However, because of their long membership they were protected. Following the advent of Medibank many of these people severed their connection with the private health funds. Now many will be in the position that it will be cheaper for them to opt out of Medibank and to rejoin those private health funds. I hope that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) is listening to what I am saying while conversing with the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron).
– I am caught between the Cameron clan.
– Well, the Minister could be a lot worse off; at least he can trust them. I was saying that I hope there will be provisions to protect people who have developed chronic illnesses. I hope they will get protection when they rejoin the private health funds and that the funds will not simply be able to say: ‘Look, you left us 18 months ago and we are no longer going to provide cover for that chronic illness’. I notice that the Minister is taking notes. He probably will answer this point when he gets the opportunity to speak.
– I ask the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) whether he has considered the position of people with preexisting illnesses who have opted out of Medibank and joined private funds.
– People with chronic illnesses.
-Chronic illnesses or otherwise. Under the rules of the funds as they exist those illnesses are not covered.
– That is the same question.
– I do not think it unreasonable for members of the Opposition to adopt the approach of ‘I told you so’ about this legislation. I thank them for doing it ~so graciously. One would wonder whether they have lost their sting. Perhaps if they get a new leader in the near future they will regain the vigour that we know they have.
– Where do you buy your shirts?
-If the honourable member for Port Adelaide would like a personal fitting I will oblige. I want to refer to our approach to this legislation when we were in Opposition. When we were in Opposition we were hopeful of preventing this legislation from proceeding. We adopted this position because we knew of the great escalation of costs involved. I think we ought to recall those debates. We opposed the levy because we opposed the scheme in total. At that stage it was fairly well documented that about 8 per cent of the population was not covered by voluntary health organisations. Indeed, the figure was estimated to be even as low as 4 per cent. That is why the Opposition of the day- we in the Liberal and National Country Parties- did not want to see this legislation proceed. We knew of the dangers in allowing this sort of scheme to come to fruition and we opposed it vigorously. But we are with it today. It is a fact of life. We have recognised that. I just wanted to make that point in answer to the claims by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) that this is in fact mirror legislation of that which he introduced when the Opposition was in government.
I take up the point that was made previously by the honourable member for Maribyrnong ( Dr Cass). I think he did it so well that he added considerably to this debate. He mentioned the way people tend to hero worship their local doctortheir family doctor. I can understand this. He is the one to whom they go in times of trouble to themselves or their families. Families get their local doctors out at all hours of the day and night. However, I think we have to look to the controlling of fees. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in his second reading speech makes specific mention of this fact. If the demands of the medical profession proceed as they have in the past obviously something will have to be done. In view of the remarks that have been made by the Minister and members of the Opposition I feel that the medical profession will be on trial from now on. I sincerely hope that it is proven conclusively and strongly to be not guilty, wish to finish these few comments by quoting from the Minister’s second reading speech because I believe this is something that should be pursued. It states:
In the United States of America health insurers have made substantial progress in developing methods of monitoring the usage of services, in co-operation with the medical profession, in order to eliminate unnecessary expenditure and so restrain costs to contributors. In Australia these developments have, so far, been totally neglected. The Government intends that this situation should now change.
I think that that is one of the most significant sections of the Minister’s speech. As I said earlier, I think that the contributions in this area of this debate have been extremely valuable.
– I want to respond quickly to three or four points. In respect of the comment by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) that he did not see why we do not allow the Health
Insurance Commission to provide a private insurance package for intermediate ward accommodation and also for private ward accommodation if necessary, the Government considered this aspect but ultimately decided against it. It was felt that it may not have been as efficient as all that at this stage. We do not have a proposition before us at the moment but, as the honourable member would know, the Health Insurance Commission could at any stage be able to provide that sort of cover if necessary.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) raised two very important points. Those honourable members quite rightly expressed concern for those people who have suffered chronic illnesses. They well remember the exclusion rules that used to apply in respect of pre-existing illnesses. Of course there was a long wait before people could get cover. I hope those days will never return. To an extent, this legislation ensures that it will not happen. Clause 73BF of the legislation contains a provision that directs the funds to admit a person as a contributor to a registered organisation. In other words, the fund cannot reject a person because of his previous medical history. But if a person decides to opt out of paying the levy or decides that he wants to opt out of the Medibank premium there will still be a 2 months waiting period in which he will be covered by Medibank. If he chooses to leave a fund and decides that Medibank is good enough for him and that he will be happy enough to be a Medibank contributor, there will be a 2-month period in which the fund will continue to be liable for benefits to cover that person as a quid pro quo exercise. The 2 months waiting period is designed to some extent to overcome a problem which would be obvious where people could just hop in and out of funds like crickets. But no person suffering chronic illness will ever be discriminated against again and people can take comfort from that. Honourable members may give that assurance to all those people they represent in their electorates, that under this legislation anybody who suffers from a chronic disability or illness need never feel afraid that -
– Are you quite sure of that?
– Yes, positive. Nobody need be afraid of not being covered under this legislation.
– I have a brief question which was sparked from the comments made by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) when he quoted the second reading speech of the Minister for Health ( Mr Hunt) dealing with health insurers in the US having made substantial progress in developing methods of monitoring. I thought one of the strengths of Medibank was that since it covers everybody statistics will be readily available to allow the monitoring the use of medical services. That relates to the Minister’s observation about what happens in America. With the present proposal, with people being able to opt out of Medibank and go to the voluntary funds clearly the statistics will no longer be listed in one place. Some will be listed with Medibank and others with the voluntary funds. My question simply is: Does the Minister anticipate- not hope for it setting up procedures with the voluntary funds so that we will still be able to get those statistics? I would think that would be fundamental to the Government’s objective.
– There is provision in the Bill that ensure-, that the Minister can give a direction to a registered organisation with respect to any matter-, listed. There is no doubt that there is provision which will require funds to provide statistical information and also other information to the Director-General of Health. He will be the central point and he will be able to call upon the Health Insurance Commission to provide statistical information. We are still very concerned about the question of privacy, as was the former Government. It introduced a Bill which has now been referred to the Law Reform Commission. As soon as the Law Reform Commission has reported on it we hope to introduce legislation thai not only will protect the individual’s privacy in respect of the HIC but also in respect of the insurance funds. Perhaps it will not be as easy to collect information if there is a range of medical funds. One of the great features of Medibank. according to a lot of medical authorities and research workers is that there is a complete range of statistics coming in, being collected and collated that is available for research workers and others and it was an efficient way to collect the information. Although the new system may be a little more cumbersome we hope that we still will be able to get a general picture of health standards in Australia to ensure that we are spending the health dollar in the most effective way for the health care of Australians.
Clauses agreed to.
After Pan VI of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: ‘PART VIa-CONDUCT AND SUPERVISION OF THE AFFAIRS OF REGISTERED ORGANIZATIONS ‘82v. (1) Where an inspector empowered to investigate the whole or a part of the affairs of a registered organization believes on reasonable grounds that it is necessary for the purposes of his investigation to enter land or premises occupied by the organization, he may, at all reasonable times, enter the land or premises and may-
Penalty: $ 1 ,000 or imprisonment for 3 months.
Omit proposed section 82v, substitute the following section: ‘ 82 v. ( 1 ) An inspector may, with the consent of the occupier of any premises, enter the premises for the purpose of exercising the functions of an inspector under this section in relation to the organization concerned. ‘(2)Where-
Penalty: $ 1 ,000 or imprisonment for 3 months. ‘(6) The functions of an inspector under this section in relation to the organization concerned are to search for, inspect, take extracts from, or make copies of, any records that relate, or that he believes, on reasonable grounds, to relate, to the affairs of that organization. ‘(7) In this section- “inspector”, in relation to a registered organization, means an inspector empowered to investigate the whole or a part of the affairs of that organization, and “the organization concerned”, in relation to that inspector, means that organization; “occupier”, in relation to premises, includes the person in charge of the premises. ‘
This amendment inserts a new proposed section to substitute for the original proposed new section 82v. It is to permit an inspector appointed by the Minister under proposed section 82 R to enter premises for the purposes of his investigations. The reason for the amendment is to provide protection to an occupier of premises which an inspector wishes to enter. It provides that an inspector may enter the premises with the consent of the occupier of the premises. Where the occupier does not consent, an inspector is required to obtain from a magistrate a warrant to authorise his entry to the premises. I believe that it is a proper provision which will safeguard the civil rights of occupiers of premises. The way in which the Bill was worded, I felt, gave the Minister too much authoritarian power. The Government certainly took that view. The same provision applies, I think, in the Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill. It is a provision which protects the rights of people to that extent. An inspector can be appointed by a Minister. It is his job to go into premises, to go through all the records, to do what he wants to do and then to report back to the Minister. As a point of principle, we feel it is necessary in the legislation.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 41-by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Where the Minister, after consideration of a report made to him under sub-section (5) in relation to a registered organization, is satisfied that-
– I move:
Insert after sub-clause (6) the following sub-clause: ‘(6a) Where the Minister is satisfied that a registered organization has failed to comply with sub-section (1) or with a notice served, under sub-section (3), on the public officer of the organization, the Minister may cancel the registration of that organization and that cancellation shall take effect on I October 1976.’.
I move this amendment in view of the changed obligations that registered medical and hospital benefit organisations will be required to meet from 1 October 1 976. Clause 42 provides that the Minister may review the registration of all organisations presently registered under the Act. Where the Minister is not satisfied that the organisation will be able to meet the requirements, he is empowered to cancel the registration of that organisation. An organisation which has had its registration cancelled will be able to apply for registration at any time, from 1 October, when it claims it will be able to meet the requirements for registration. In accordance with clause 42, an organisation can avoid review by the Minister by not complying with the requirements in sub-clause (1) of clause 42 that the organisation give a notification or with a notice served under sub-clause (3) of that clause. The purpose of the amendment is to provide a power of sanction in these situations to ensure that organisations which are currently registered comply with the provisions of clause 42. In other words, the amendment is there to close a loophole that occurred as a result of earlier drafting.
– I have not thought the amendment through completely. Is it proposed that organisations which are presently registered as appropriate organisations and which are not prepared to give the complete cover that is requested under the new proposals or do not have the capacity to give that cover will be deregistered and will not be allowed to provide any part of those services? How does it affect some of the very small organisations? As I recall the annual report some funds have only 1000 to 2000 members. Some of them are lodges. Some of them are in relatively small mining towns. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) is present. He would know that some organisations on the west coast of Tasmania at Queenstown would fall into this category. They would be very small organisations which may not be able to provide all the services that are required. Are they automatically deregistered, or is it at the discretion of the Minister?
– I do not think the occasion will arise because, in the past, all organisations have been able to meet the requirements. In any event, a lot of the smaller funds are very efficient. By 15 August they must submit to us a notice of compliance with the Act and certify with us before they will be able to register to provide cover. The other point raised by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) is contained in the Bill. In the event of a fund believing that a decision that the Minister has taken has been arbitrary and unfair it can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which will be operative as from 1 July. The fund will be able to appeal against the decisions both of the Minister and of an officer of the Department.
– I wish to raise another point on the same issue. I can see some difficulties. Let us take a small fund covering a small area such as a mining town which is going out of existence. It has a large proportion of elderly people, and very few of the young people who are the good risks as far as health insurance is concerned. Compare the would- be obligations of such a fund with the obligations of a large fund in a metropolitan area where a large proportion of the people would be those between say 16 and 25 years who would require hardly any medical services. There are not many of those sorts of contributors in some small mining towns. Funds in these sorts of towns could easily get into difficulties. I was wondering whether any discretion could be vested in the Minister. I do not generally support such a proposition. We should not eliminate some of these very efficient funds which will not have the capacity, because of lack of contributors who will be non-receivers of insurance benefits, to perform the services which are required under this legislation.
– The principal requirement is that the funds provide the standard cover for intermediate ward accommodation and cover for 85 per cent of the scheduled fee. They will have to provide to the Minister a nominated premium for that cover. The other ancillary benefits they may offer is their business.
– Funds in smaller towns can charge more than the funds in the cities, can they?
– It is up to them. We are interested in the standard cover. We are interested in the conduct of the operation. All funds will have to comply with the conditions which are laid down in the Bill. They will be rigidly enforced. I have no reason to believe that the enforcing of those conditions will militate against the funds to which the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) referred which, in the past, have had no difficulty in providing a good and efficient service to their contributors.
-The fund which the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) had in mind was the Montague Medical Union on the west coast of Tasmania, which is in the electorate of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom). There is a similar fund in the Denison electorate, which has members from that electorate and from the electorate of Franklin. I refer to the Electrolytic Zinc Company Community Council. I support what the honourable member for Prospect said and what the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) said. As I understand the amendment and the effect of it, there will not be any hasty decision taken at ministerial level which would in any way jeopardise the continuation of these funds. As the honourable member for Prospect said, both funds are connected with the mining industry. They are small funds.
As the Minister, I think, is well aware from Mr Judd of the Electrolytic Zinc Company Community Council, who saw the Minister last week, members of those funds have a particular pride in being part of those funds, and they have no desire to be forced into a larger fund. On my reading of the amendment, what the Minister proposes is that there certainly will not be any precipitate action taken against the smaller fund, providing it is a sound operation. Both of these funds have operated very successfully for many years. It is my belief, from what the Minister has said, that the continuation of these small funds will not be endangered. For my part, I think that small funds such as these play a very important role. I do not agree with the proposition that the bigger a fund, the better is the service provided. I will do everything in my power to ensure the continuation of small funds. I believe that the Minister’s statement should clearly indicate that they are not at risk.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– 1 indicate that the Opposition is opposing the Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill 1976, but we do not intend to divide the House on it. We simply want our opposition recorded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3, which reads in part:
After Part II of the Health Insurance Commission Act 1 973 the following Part is inserted: ‘Part IIa- MEDIBANK. CONTRIBUTORS ‘(3) The date of effect of an approval of an application under this section is-
where the application is made on or before 30 November 1976-1 October 1976 or such later date as was requested by the applicant; or
in any other case-the date requested by the applicant, being a date not earlier than the date on which the application was made. ‘(4) A person to whom an approval under sub-section (2 ) relates becomes, or shall be deemed to have become, a Medibank contributor on the date of effect of that approval. ‘(5) Where a person becomes a dependant of a Medibank contributor, the Medibank contributor may make application, in accordance with the approved form, to the Commission for that dependant to become a Medibank contributor. ‘(6) The regulations may prescribe rates of contribution under this section in respect of classes of Medibank contributors.
Omit proposed sub-section (3), substitute the following sub-sections: ‘(3) The date of effect of an approval of an application under this section is-
Omit proposed sub-section (4), substitute the following sub-section: ‘(4) a person to whom an approval under sub-section (2) relates becomes, or shall be deemed to have become, a Medibank contributor on-
the application to which the approval relates is made under sub-section (5) after 30 November 1976 and the applicant has, by reason of an earlier application (whether made under subsection ( I ) or sub-section (5)), a dependant who is a Medibank contributor, the date of effect of the approval; or
In proposed sub-section (6), omit ‘Medibank contributors’, substitute ‘persons’.
– What is the effect of the amendments?
– The effect of these amendments is as follows: The existing provisions in the Bill do not clearly indicate the dates of effect of approvals of applications under proposed subsections ( 1 ) and (5) of proposed section 8a. The purpose of the amendments is to specify clearly the dates of effect of those approvals. The amendments also provide for a person who contributes to the Health Insurance Commission in respect of himself and a dependant or dependants, to have an application for a further dependant to be a Medibank contributor approved with retrospective effect to the date the person became a dependant. The Government recognises that there are other circumstances in which it would be desirable for the Commission to be able to approve applications with effect from dates earlier than those upon which applications are lodged.
I should point out that no person will be disadvantaged before 1 December by the absence of provisions enabling retrospective approvals of applications. The overall question of retrospective approvals is a very complex one and it will be the subject of further detailed examination. If, following the examination by a working party, further legislation is necessary there is sufficient time before any person becomes disadvantaged to enable its introduction by 1 October. New subsection (3a) specifies the commencement period in respect of which contributions are to relate. The amendments really correct a drafting problem in the former Bill.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Ellicott
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-In the absence of the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen), I indicate that the Opposition does not oppose the Remuneration and Allowances Amendment Bill 1976. The Bill merely puts into legislative effect the decisions of the Remuneration Tribunal in respect of judges of the Family Court who at this stage are being paid at a lower rate than they should be. The date on which payments will commence is specified in the Bill. There appears to be no reason to delay the Bill. In fact, I think the Opposition would not be adverse if the proposal had a wider spread.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Assent to the following Bills reported: Roads Acts Amendment Bill 1976. Acts Citation Bill 1976.
Debate resumed from 25 May, on the following paper presented by Mr Lynch:
Fiscal Policy Decisions- Ministerial Statement, 20 May 1976- and on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the House take note of the paper.
-Much has been said by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and by Government spokesmen about the fact that the statement delivered by the Treasurer last Thursday was designed to inspire Australia into a new confidence, that it would solve all the economic problems of this country, and that no longer would those who are unemployed have a dark future confronting them. The Liberal Party was in fact hell bent on turning on the lights, as we were told for the 3 weeks prior to 13 December.
I carried out what I thought was an honest exercise in politics by comparing the 2 major statements of the Liberal and National Country Partiesthe one that they made as the lead-up to the election of 13 December and the one that has just been made in respect of economic policy. The first statement was made by the Prime Minister as he is now, or the Prime Minister as he was then after being installed as Prime Minister by the Governor-General. The policy statement on the economy was made by the Treasurer. I compared the policy speech and the economic statement and found that they were quite different statements. One would have thought that they came from different parties. One would have thought that the parties were not in fact in Government at all.
I do not know how anyone in Australia is going to be inspired into a new confidence when they can read into these 2 documents the gigantic fraud that has taken place in Australian politics in terms of what the people were told when their votes were up for grabs and what they are being told not 2Vi years before the next election. It is of interest that the Supply Bills are now before the Parliament. There are no irresponsible spokesman on this side of the House saying the same sort of things that were said by Liberal and National Country Party spokesmen during our term in office. What the Liberal and National Country Party people are going to find, of course, and as they have included in so many of their statements, is that if we are to have responsible government in this country, if there is to be proper economic planning in this country, if we are to avoid many of the problems which are thrust upon other countries, when a government is elected it must see out its term of office. The problems which this Government is now trying to overcome and which in fact we tried to overcome during our term in office were accentuated by the tactics of the then Opposition which was able, because it had the majority in the Senate, to reject many of the decisions which were to go towards overcoming those problems whilst we were in office.
It is extremely difficult for anybody on this side of the House- and I would think judging by their actions outside the House, the citizens of this country- to regain any new confidence in this Government. One would have thought, if the Government is so close to the powers that be in this country, if it has the confidence of the captains of industry in this country, that all that confidence would have come flowing back on the night of 13 December when the Government gained its enormous majority in the House of Representatives and significant majority in the Senate. What has occurred subsequently? There has been no evidence, in spite of the 40 per cent investment allowance, that all industry has taken up the slack. There has been no enormous shift from unemployed to employed. In fact, the problems that the Government is facing today are even greater than the problems that were confronting the Liberal and Country Parties whey they were installed in office, again by the actions of the Governor-General, on 1 1 November. So let us rid this chamber of the myth that confidence just happens and depends upon who sits to the right of the Speaker. It is not that at all. Confidence depends on the policies and the actions that are taken by a Government to overcome the problems so that the people outside the Parliament of Australia can perhaps have some confidence in the individuals here and the policies they put forward.
I raise this question because the 2 major documents that have been put before the people of Australia by this present Government are, as I say, the policy speech of the Prime Minister prior to 13 December and now this economic statement. In so many areas they contradict each other. A promise now becomes something that cannot be done. From a reading of almost every page of the policy speech one can see that when the Government wanted the votes everything could be done. There were to be no cuts. The Prime Minister when being interviewed on the television program Monday Conference last Monday said that the promises that were made before the elections in December last year had to be seen in the election context. What does that mean? It means, of course, that when one goes to an election one can say anything so long as one can get the votes. It means that one does not have to worry about what one says because after the election there is a completely new set of circumstances and the promises that have been made can easily be gone back on.
The first thrust of the economic planning of the present Government is to win the trust of the trade unions in respect of wage claims. The Government says that wage claims have to be repulsed in order that we can get inflation down. That was the story prior to the election. We find on page 8 of the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister in December- and there was no equivocation about what he said- that the Prime Minister told the people of Australia: ‘We will stand by wage indexation’. This statement was made prior to 13 December in the policy speech of the present Prime Minister. What was the position of wage indexation when he made that statement? Indexation had not been introduced by a series of measures. Indexation had been introduced by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on the basis of the views put forward by the parties. It was introduced on the basis of the consumer price index applied to all wage and salaries throughout Australia. It was not plateau ‘d at the minimum wage; it was not plateau ‘d at average weekly earnings. There was no plateau at all. It was applied to all wages and salaries. As I have said, the Prime Minister said that we would stand by indexation.
What is the Government’s policy now in May? The Government has had 3 other goes at indexation since December. Now we are to apply indexation to the minimum wage. So it will plateau at that point and there will be a flat rate above that. Who in Australia receives the minimum wage? Combined with the 2.5 per cent levy to Medibank that the Government is trying to apply- this is another question that I shall get to shortly- it is asking the people of Australia to take a cut in their real living standards. That is not what the Government asked the people to do in its so-called economic statement before 13 December but it is what it is asking them to do now. The trade unions have very good reason not to trust this Government. They have very good reason not to inspire confidence in what may be the outcome of the policies of this Government. The Government has now put forward its policies in its own ingenious way and has acted right outside of the guidelines of the Arbitration Commission. The Government is asking employees to accept an impost which was not placed upon them when the guidelines were set down by the Arbitration Commission. The trade unions are now asking employers to include in their industrial conditions the payment of the 2.5 per cent Medibank levy. This matter will have to be sorted out as an industrial relations exercise because of the actions of this Government. It is legitimate action which has been taken by many of the major trade unions. Some of the unions involved include the Vehicle Builders Union which is negotiating a new agreement and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union which is also negotiating several new agreements throughout Australia.
This action has been taken because the wage and salary earners were not told before 13 December in the policy speech of the Prime Minister that the Medibank levy would be imposed. On page 1 8 of the policy speech the Prime Minister, again without any equivocation, said: ‘We will abide by Medibank; Medibank will stand’. As I said in respect to indexation, what was the position of Medibank prior to 13 December? What was Medibank when the Prime Minister made his policy speech? At that time Medibank did not have a levy placed upon it. People did not have the opportunity to opt out of Medibank. Medibank was established for every citizen of this country including the 1.3 million people who had no health insurance cover prior to the introduction of the scheme. But nothing was said to the people of Australia about what the Government intended to do. The Government did not say: ‘Let us wait until we see what happens after the elections; we are going to have another look at Medibank’. As I said earlier, when the votes were up for grabs, say anything at all. The Prime Minister in his policy speech said: ‘Medibank will stand’. As I have said, the trade unions have a legitimate argument when they say: ‘We are not going to accept 2.5 per cent of our salary being chopped off or cut oft our living standards’. As the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has said on a number of occasions during debates over the past week, the taxation structure in the last Budget was such as to cover the Medibank charges being taken out of general revenue. So not only has the Government gone back on its word and the promises that it made leading up to the election in 1975 but also it has caused a grave breakdown in industrial relations.
If one compares what the Prime Minister had to say about Medibank in his policy speech and the statement of the Treasurer on Medibank which is contained on page 43 of his speech, we see again the great contradiction about what the Liberal and National Country Parties would do in just 6 months of government. This again is something to inspire confidence! In the policy speech of the Pnme Minister again there is no equivocation about what he was going to do in the field of Aboriginal affairs. Let us have a look at what he said. He said:
We will maintain present levels of assistance to Aboriginals,
Just a quite simple statement. That is contained in the policy speech of the Liberal and National Country Parties when, as I say, the votes were up for grabs. What does the Treasurer say now, 6 months later? His statement is another great contradiction to inspire confidence in the Aboriginal people of this country. He said:
Unfortunately, some of this expenditure does not appear to be achieving the results intended.
So the Aborigines have to sustain a $32m cut in the appropriations for Aboriginal Affairs. The Prime Minister, when interviewed on Monday Conference, used as his argument the fact that there is some evidence somewhere unstipulated, that seven or eight houses built by the Aboriginal people cost $700,000 or $800,000. So the $32m cut takes place as a result of this very vague accusation. But no one looks at the Aboriginal housing projects. In my own State of South Australia alone, if we went to Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta, Ernabella or Davenport, we would find that the building of homes for Aboriginal people involving the training of Aboriginal people in the work- the work is carried out basically by Aboriginal people- compares very favourably in price with the prices being charged by local contractors doing private work. Again this is to be demolished as a result of the Government’s intention to see that the deficit is cut. One of the great features of the Treasurer’s statement is that we are going to cut expenditure by $2,600m. We now have half of that figure and we want Ronald Biggs to find the other half. Where are the other $ 1 ,300m in cuts to take place? At a time when we are asking Australians to have confidence in the economy, and co-operate with the Government, will someone on the other side of the Parliament please stand up and tell us where the cuts adding up to $ 1 ,300m are going to take place?
– The Government has just created confusion.
-It has done more than create confusion. Look at the policy speech of the Prime Minister in relation to the question of urban and regional development. Again he promised that there would be no cutbacks in this area.
If honourable members read the Treasurer’s statement about what is going to happen to urban and regional development they will see that virtually the whole Department is wiped off the map. Four hundred million dollars is wiped off urban and regional development as is work being done on the environment which was initiated by the former Government. But according to the policy speech of the Prime Minister, nothing was going to be cut. Again, as he said on Monday Conference: ‘You have to see it in the election context’. I do not know what seeing things in the election context means unless it means that you are able to tell lies, unless you are able to say to say to the people of Australia: ‘Here are all the things we are going to do. We want you to vote on these, but as soon as the election is over at midnight on 13 December, forget about it, because then you have a different ball game. Then we are really going to stick the boots in’. This is the Government whose actions were dictated so much by the market research people in 1975 during the threat to block Supply and in the blocking of the Budget. They worked on the fact that a poll showed that the then Government was unpopular. A poll yesterday showed a sharp decline in the popularity of this Government. I should have thought that if the decline continues until the publication of the next Bulletin, the Prime Minister has no other option than to go to the Governor-General, his dear friend, submit bis commission and resign, because that is the way it is done. The statement of the Treasurer compared with the policy speech of the Prime Minister just 6 months ago does nothing else but destroy confidence. The sharp contrast between the 2 major statements of these Liberal and National Country Parties in just 6 months is beyond anybody ‘s understanding and /or trust.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– A week ago the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced a number of major measures designed to take Australia a further substantial step towards prosperity and to help in securing that prosperity for all Australians. The strategy expressed through these measures has been stated by the coalition Parties on many occasions -in Opposition, during the election campaign and in government. Our constantly reiterated strategy has been to bring government spending under control, to free resources to the private sector and to individuals, to pursue a responsible monetary policy with clearly announced goals and to generate a climate of national responsibility in which wage and salary restraint will be possible and in which both business and unions will act with a principal regard for the national interest.
The debate over the past week has shown that the Australian Labor Party has no coherent alternative to offer- and it has no members in the chamber at the moment. The debate has shown that only the Opposition is still unable to face the realities of responsible government, and it will not be given an opportunity to exercise that responsibility, I suggest, for some time. When the Liberal and National Country Parties were overwhelmingly endorsed by the Australian people last December we faced a set of economic circumstances which should never have occurred in Australia. They were circumstances in which the opportunities of hundreds of thousands of Australians had been curtailed and destroyed and in which the weaker sections of the community had suffered most of all. That is not a political statement; it is a statement which echoes the views of Professor Henderson who conducted the inquiry into poverty.
The fundamental reason why we faced those problems, why so many Australians were damaged, was the approach to policy making of the previous Government. For 3 years the former Government took- and encouraged- the attitude that the old restraints on government spending, the limitations on the resources available and on the pockets of taxpayers no longer applied. Difficult choices no longer had to be made between alternatives because anything that anyone wanted was immediately granted by the Government of that time and by the Treasurers of that time. The attitude was that if something was desirable it was fair enough to print money to pay for it. The final report of the Social Welfare Commission noted this very attitude when it said:
There was an expectation that expert commissions could put forward proposals for expenditure which would be automatically adopted.
Exactly the same attitude of mind was exhibited by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in this debate on Tuesday. Again he demonstrated a total incapacity to understand the basic fact that responsible governments must set priorities, must make choices. Now he regards all the expenditures of the previous Administration as essential. This is evidence not of real concern but of a characteristic unwillingness to face reality. The Leader of the Opposition went so far as to describe our package as an attack on the living standards of Australians. He is the very man whose government achieved the first real decline in Australia’s gross national product for decades. That is some achievement and some epitaph for a man who may soon leave this Parliament, a man whose stupid policies created more unemployment than had been seen since the Great Depression.
To the previous Administration individual spending was not essential. What families wanted was irrelevant. What governments determined to spend was all that mattered. It did not seem to occur to the members of that disastrous Administration that other Australians did have priorities, that individuals also had needs, and that they were entitled to some certainty in the proportion of their earnings that they could retain to meet their needs. The shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), showed precisely the same frame of mind. I am glad to see that he has now entered the chamber. I need refer only briefly to one part of his notable speech which demonstrates that frame of mind. His speech was notable for the ignorance it demonstrated. In discussing a package of measures which might have been acceptable to the Labor Party he stated:
Caution with the money supply, personal tax indexation, and increased child endowment might well be part of that package -
Implying that he would have done all that we have done- . . . but so too would be the continuation and expansion of the effective expenditure programs begun by the Labor Government.
In other words, he now accepts the historic reforms of this Government’s package but refuses to accept the expenditure restraint that alone made them possible. In fact he wishes simultaneously to expand Labor’s programs. That would be a disaster for Australia and would lead to more and higher unemployment. According to the shadow Treasurer’s statement the Labor Party is apparently prepared to contemplate a deficit of $6,000m or $7,000m next year.
– What is wrong with that?
-That remark typifies the genius, the honour and the integrity of the Australian Labor Party at the present time. It demonstrates its abysmal ignorance and utter irresponsibility of that Party in the management of this nation’s affairs.
-Who said that?
– It was said for their Party, in the name of their Party, for all of their Party. Let no one of them try to claim honour for that statement because it typifies the attitude of them all. The Labor Party is apparently prepared to contemplate a deficit of $6,000m or $7,000m, required to finance an expansion of Labor’s programs together with the introduction of full personal income tax indexation and other measures we have introduced. This is the program which the shadow Treasurer imaginatively describes as spending our way ‘gently but firmly* out of stagflation. What honour to the shadow Treasurer. The Opposition has failed to understand one cardinal fact: When there is high inflation and high interest rates the Government cannot spend the nation out of unemployment. A strategy based on greater government spending is relevant to conditions of high unemployment, low inflation and low interest rates. These are the circumstances for which the Keynesian pump priming approach was devised- and in which it has succeeded and can succeed. But they are not the circumstances that face us today. To apply that approach to a situation of high inflation and high interest rates is a recipe for disaster. Labor tried that and failed. It made our problems worse.
– Jim Cairns tried it.
-They all tried it. Their spokesmen are still advocating that approach. They have learned nothing except how to get to and stay on the Opposition benches. To make possible the introduction of full personal tax indexation and to lay the ground for a responsible Budget very major reductions on forward estimates have been necessary. Ministers have outlined in detailed statements savings in excess of $ 1,500m. Additional Budget savings will arise from the Administrative Review Committee, from the on-going attack on extravagance and duplication and from other more detailed savings from departments. Medibank savings on the expenditure side will further relieve the Budget. In all, savings of $2,600m, as indicated in the Treasurer’s statement, have been achieved as a result of a new ranking of government priorities in expenditure. This exercise has been one of the most wide ranging and comprehensive of its kind performed by any government. I give all due credit to the Treasurer, his officials and colleagues for their work that involved more preparation than any Budget involved over the last 20 years.
Imposing restraints on government spending has inevitably meant that many desirable programs can move ahead only at a slower pace than we might have hoped. There has been no alternative to that. In making choices we have been concerned to protect areas such as welfare payments where people are affected as individuals or areas especially important to opportunity, such as education where real growth in expenditure will be encompassed especially in areas related to the trades which have been so much neglected even under the previous Administration.
Our Medibank reforms show our concern that the poorest people in our community should have access to high quality medical care. The Medibank scheme requires no payment at all from those on lowest incomes. It places the burden of medical costs on the shoulders of those who can best afford to meet them. The Government has acted to restrain government spending because only in this way can resources be freed to individuals and to companies.
– I think you really believe that.
– No, he is only reading it.
-We do believe it, and the honourable member for Oxley, who is sitting in the place that should be occupied by the Leader of the Opposition, should well be silent because he was advised that the hospital agreements with the States were contrary to the laws passed by this Parliament, but he proceeded nevertheless. He was advised to that purpose and the Public Service advised him. He ignored the advice because the scheme had been part of a double dissolution measure. He had hung his false fortune on being able to sign such agreements and he knew that if the imperfections in the agreements were revealed at that time his own reputation would have been utterly destroyed.
– Let him deny it.
– He cannot deny it because the evidence is there and his previous adviser knows it. The Government has acted to restrain Government spending because only in this way can resources be freed to individuals and to companies. The package of measures brought down by the Government will give certainty to many people in many ways. The expenditure restraints mean that for the first time in several years, individuals and business can have confidence that public sector spending is at last under control. Full personal tax indexation at last provides an assurance to all wage, salary and income earners that there will be no increase in the tax burden without deliberate and public decision. The family allowance scheme shows the Government’s determination to work in the interests of all Australians. It shows above all our concern for the disadvantaged in the Australian community in a way the Opposition never even dreamt of. These are solid foundations for confidence in the future.
A guarantee that wages will be protected from unlegislated increases in taxation has been a major concern of the trade union movement. The trade union movement has taken a consistent view that the certainty provided by tax indexation would be a major factor in wage restraint.
– He is sounding like Peter Sellers.
– Or Spike Milligan.
– Listen to the people without a leader. Where is their Leader at the present time. He will be overseas for 6 weeks and their Deputy Leader will be overseas for a month. Why do not they all go overseas and let Australia be better governed? A responsible control over Government spending can be only one element in a national effort to restore prosperity. There is a growing awareness that in recent years excessive increases in wages and salaries have imposed too great a cost on many businesses. The result has been the elimination of jobs and more inflation. Wage restraint is necessary so that people’s jobs can become profitable in the interests of job opportunities and price stability; otherwise there will continue to be high unemployment and there will continue to be price inflation. Bringing inflation under control is not just a job for the Government. It is a job for all Australians, for the trade union movement and for businesses to exercise restraint and responsibility towards each other. The people of Australia want the merry-go-round to stop. The approach of the previous Government, reinterated in this House this week, has not worked. It has instead been a principal cause of the problems we now face. The Government’s strategy is working. The present measures will help to sustain and support the economic recovery which is now occurring. With goodwill on all sides they will provide a solid basis for national co-operation. I now welcome to the Parliament the Leader of the Opposition who has just come from a place where he may well have been enjoying himself more.
-Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to rid himself of the mug. It is not a practice of the House.
-I will do that at the next election.
– I will be glad if an attendant will take the mug out of the chamber. The House will come to order. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that there are standards to be observed in the Parliament. One of them is not bringing into the House a mug, containing whatever it does, for the purpose of some demonstration.
-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made a rallying call to the nation to stand behind him. As you would attest, Mr Speaker, that is the only place where you are safe standing with the Prime Minister. The peregrinating Prime Minister should be the last to make any critical observations about trips overseas by anyone else. His comments about the advising received by me as a Minister would be as reliable and have as much integrity about them as other comments he has made from time to time about scandals, staffing disclosures and so on, none of which could stand, all of which help to wither away his own stature in the community.
The final observation I want to make specifically in relation to his comments relates to his complete incomprehension, as is displayed so often at question time, of the simple mechanics of Government operations, of the way public finance is shifted about or of the way costs are met in the community. He says that under the Medibank arrangement the Government is introducing poor people will be better off. It has never occurred to him that the best poor people could expect is to be as well off under the new arrangement as they are under the present one. They make no contribution now. They will make none under the new arrangement. Everyone else will be worse off and, to the extent that Medibank pushes up the consumer price index, poor people will be worse off to the extent that they are disadvantaged by the increased cost of living.
We are watching the Prime Minister’s new applied theory of economic managment by Iraqs. We have had the whole gammit put before us from the election campaign up to the present time. He proposed at one time there should be an investment led recovery; that we would all have to tighten the belts. On other occasions he has said it will be consumer led and we could all have comfort. Then he has given undertakings that programs would be preserved. Then he said that expenditure cuts would be necessary. Now we get the lot all at once. The only thing not kept is promises of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister of course is finding his way, but as he stumbles the community pays. Unemployment is preserved at high rates. Business profits are depressed and remain depressed. Household security is jeopardised and national confidence is completely undermined. It is an expensive course for beginners, and the community has to pay. The more I look, at the statements of the Government and more specifically at the statement on economic management by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) the more convinced I am that the Government is proposing a formula for prolonging the recession. It is a package deal for more social and economic distress. Let me outline what Australia can expect in the next 12 months, and it is nowhere near a comprehensive outline of the sorts of problems that are arising. It can expect little improvement in inflation; wage movements possibly higher than this year, if not a hike in indirect tax; sustained high unemployment; at the very best, a modestly insignificant advance in production but in per capita terms no real advance; a government provoked jump in the cost of living; a sustained squeeze on the private sector; industrial disruption to a very worrying extent; and worrying complications from the international economic scene. In short this is a black blueprint for the economic strategy of the Government over the next 12 months.
Let me substantiate each point, if I can fit it into the time available. I deal first with high inflation. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) gave the game away. Honourable members opposite need not believe me. On Tuesday he said there would be a 5 per cent real increase in defence outlays in the next financial year. He pointed out that in money terms the increase would be $300m. That means a 10 per cent deflator in terms of defence expenditure. But let me tell honourable members how that deflator is applied by Treasury. It is an average for the year. It is not the rate at the end of the year. The rate at the beginning of the year is lower; the rate at the end of the year is higher. On the information inadroitly given out and from what can be extracted through simple arithmetic, one presumes that at the end of 1976-77 we can at least expect no reduction in inflation. Conceivably there could be an increase. That is the sort of confusion being fed into the community at present.
There will be wage movements at least as high as, if not higher than, we have seen in the current 12 months or, if not, an increase in indirect taxes. It is quite clear from the sort of deficit implicit in the framework of the Budget- we can extract these figures fairly accurately from the Treasurer’s statement- that the Budget -
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I may not agree with what my honourable friend is saying, but could we please hear what he is saying, and would the honourable gentlemen of the Opposition please put away their newspapers?
-Order! The honourable gentleman has made his point of order. There is no substance in it.
– For the sort of deficit which the Government is talking about to be achieved within the framework of the Budget that the Government obviously has in mind without any increases in indirect taxes, average weekly earnings would have to increase by 16 per cent. That is a higher rate than we have had in the current year. If they increase by more than that, of course the deficit will be lower. But that is not on. If in fact it is argued by the Government that average weekly earnings will increase by less than that, then it means that receipts from other sourcesthat is, pay as you earn income tax- will be somewhat less. To make up the shortfall indirect taxes will have to be increased. Let us look at the implications of a shortfall of perhaps one or 2 points. Where will it fall? It will fall unevenly. It will fall on the remainder of the sources that provide receipts. A shortfall of one per cent in the average weekly earnings increase of 16 per cent will mean that $120m will have to be collected from some other area. That is equivalent to an 8 per cent increase in sales tax alone. That is equivalent to an increase of 45 per cent in the company tax rate. What does the Government have in mind? Am I creating unnecessary fear in the community? If anyone thinks that, let him explain why at present the Treasury has a working party functioning as an exercise on tax options for the forthcoming Budget? Indexation has been introduced on personal income tax. Clearly other forms of receipts are to hike along. Treasury is not doing this for practice or because Treasury officers suffer from insomnia. Indirect taxes increase the cost of living as fed through the consumer price index.
I say there will be a sustained high level of unemployment in the coming year. Let us refer to the May 1976 issue of Business Indicators put out by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. It shows a consistent deterioration in the rate at which advertisements for employment appear in the major capital city newspapers. This has been a fairly handy and reasonably reliable forward indicator of how the employment market is going. In February there was a reduction of 1.8 per cent, in March a reduction of 1.7 per cent and in April a reduction of 3.9 per cent. The deterioration is worsening. In Sydney the fall-off in April was 6. 1 per cent and in Brisbane 1 1 . 1 per cent. That is the position in the capitals of the worst affected 2 States in the Commonwealth.
The Government’s economic package will aggravate this situation by cutting Government expenditure at a time when the level of Government expenditure is necessary to maintain private activity. As a result of programs being substantially cut back, private construction contractors, the professionals associated with the construction industry, the people responsible for sewerage supplies for local authorities, will have a fairly grim year ahead of them.
I mentioned that there would be feeble productive output. I reaffirm that there will be little, if anything, in per capita terms. Expensive gimmicks such as the investment allowance at a cost of about $2,500m over the full period of the program- $460m in the first full year- will do nothing to stimulate an economic recovery. When 20 per cent of productive capacity is not being used in industry it is clear that no one will invest until a fair proportion of that slack productive capacity has been taken up. No one will invest in those circumstances. All of the economic analyses, not only in this country but also throughout the world, show that there is no correlation between the provision of things like investment allowances and the rate of improvement in investment.
There will be Government provoked increases in the consumer price index of a most substantial nature. In the December quarter Medibank alone will contribute an increase of between 3 per cent and 4 per cent in the consumer price index. Indirect taxes, which the Government clearly has in mind, will add further to this. All of this will feed into pressures in the economy. There will be a sustained squeeze on the private sector. In terms of the economic situation in the forthcoming year, the deficit of $3,250m will mean an increase in the money supply, M3, of about 10 per cent at a time when average weekly earnings will increase by about 16 per cent. That alone represents a severe squeeze in the money market for business. Where will the extra money come from? Where will the addition in the money supply be provided from? It will certainly not come from foreign capital inflow because of the fears of a devaluation. It looks as though the Government will go out into the money market competing against the private sector. It will crowd out the private sector. It will push up interest rates. The Government has already taken steps in that direction by forcing about $200m of the loan money required by the Australian Telecommunications Commission and Australia Post into the open market. That pushes up interest rates. That competes against private enterprise. That makes overall costs in the economy higher and makes it very difficult for the private sector to function. Clearly within the parameters which the Government obviously has in mind, interest rates will increase in 1976-77.
Of course all of these unhappy circumstances will feed into industrial disruption. The Treasurer has already indicated that it is his objective to obtain a reduction in real income for wage and salary earners in the community. The Government has said- I have not noted anyone pick up or co-join these 2 statements- that the multiplier used for wage indexation movements should be reduced by the effects of indirect tax increases. The Government is also proposing to reduce the benefits of tax indexation by the amount of indirect tax increases. Those measures will have a 2-way pincer effect on reducing the real improvement which would otherwise go to wage and salary earners. Accordingly the Government will reduce living standards. Throw in the Medibank neutralising effect on any benefits from child endowment and tax indexation, and you find that the leaked Treasury document is probably understating the situation when it says that over half of the work force will be worse off as a result of the Government’s deal. Wage and salary earners, whether they are blue collar or white collar workers, cannot be expected to tolerate this situation for a minute. This package will convert the industrial scene into a pressure cooker of discontent and conflict.
Let us talk about the international complications which are clearly impending now. We still suffer a high rate of inflation, and in the expectation of the Government as inadroitly revealed by the Minister for Defence on Tuesday, we will still have a high inflation rate next year at a time when just about every other advanced industrial country in the world has brought inflation down to reasonable levels and when their economies are recovering. One of the effects of this is that consumer demand in this country will feed into cheaper imports, and the Government will be subjected to even greater pressure for devaluation, increased tariffs and other forms of protection. It will give in on these things, no doubt, and the result will be to force up prices even higher.
This economic statement leaves anyone who understands simple economics in total despair. It frightens us enough for what it says, but it terrifies us all for what it seems to imply. The Government is trying to back out of an economic pothole at high speed, but because of a lack of skill, vision and understanding it is likely to run into the English economic bog and it will find that damned hard to get out of. In the meantime it is reversing over consumers, employees and business, and is flattening out productive enterprise. It destroyed the 1975 Budget strategy by its fiscal clumsiness and by its monetary bumbling, as evidenced most recently by a movement from an M3 money supply increase of 1 8 per cent on an annual basis in December last year down to 6 per cent in March, and that can only evidence pressure on the private sector. This statement adds credibly and disturbingly to the widespread and growing belief in the community that there is more seventy to come, that we have amateurs handling the affairs of this country. All this is overshadowed by the grim reality of pressures for devaluation succeeding, no doubt, while the present Treasurer is out of the country.
– I seek leave to table certain papers.
-The right honourable gentleman is entitled to table them.
-They are: A joint opinion by the Attorney-General and by the Solicitor-General; a statement by Mr Daniels concerning advice given to a certain Mr Hayden.
– You will also hear my version of it, if it is at variance.
– Your version would be very strange.
– Your version would be as dishonest as you have been ever since you have taken office.
– Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– Your record is -
– Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– Your record -
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will withdraw.
– No, I will not withdraw. You can put me out.
– If the honourable member for Oxley wishes to be ejected there is nothing I can do to prevent it. The honourable member is well aware that he transgressed the rules of the House. I asked him to resume his seat and he failed to do so. I asked him to withdraw and he has failed to do so. I again ask him to withdraw.
-Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister has been deliberately provocative in this matter. The Prime Minister is asking leave to table documents -
– I should correct the Leader of the Opposition. He is not asking leave to table documents; he was tabling documents.
-Oh, well -
– I take a point of order.
-Order! The Leader of the House will resume his seat. A point of order is being made by the Leader of the Opposition and I will hear him first.
- Mr Speaker, you are quite aware, of course, of the practice followed when a situation is developing which is likely to result in you asking that a member be disciplined. You are aware that it is the usual practice for the Leader of his Party to address a few words to the Chair in order to defuse the situation. You have done it in the past; I have done it in the past. We have both done it in the interests of the decorum of the proceedings of the House. Sir, I put it to you that you should take into account the particular verbiage that the Prime Minister used. He said that he was tabling a document from Mr Daniels, who is the departmental head, to a certain Mr Hayden who, of course, was the Minister of that Department at that time. Sir, it is a sufficiently unusual procedure to table -
– He was not the Minister of the Department at the time.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will remain silent.
– My colleague the honourable member for Oxley asked that the opinion to which the Prime Minister referred this morning as having been given by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General concerning hospital Medibank documents - (An incident having occurred)
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Minister for the Capital Territory will resume his seat. The honourable member for Oxley will apologise to me for the action he just took. The apology to me is through me to the House.
– There will be no hesitation about apologising to you, Mr Speaker.
– I call the Leader of the Opposition. You have made your point? The point made by the Leader of the Opposition was that leaders of parties intercede when it is necessary for the Chair to discipline a member. As he said, he has done it before and I have done it. On each occasion this has resulted in an apology from the honourable member concerned so that the decorum of the House can be preserved and the business of the House can go forward. The Prime Minister, in tabling the documents, certainly did use the words ‘a certain Mr Hayden’. There may have been some irony in that remark but it did not warrant the response of the honourable member for Oxley for which I am calling for a withdrawal. I call upon the honourable member for Oxley to withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, I do withdraw but he did say something else which apparently you did not hear and which I found offensive I hope it turns up in the Hansard record.
-Order! The Prime Minister was in the midst of tabling documents. Has he completed the tabling of those documents?
-Mr Speaker -
-Are you raising a point of order?
- Sir, I seek your indulgence. I think it would be appropriate for the Prime Minister also to withdraw the form of words that he used. Sir, I would submit that the ordinary way -
– Let me interrupt the honourable gentlemen. Will he be precise about the words he wishes withdrawn?
-Certainly. As I understand it, the decorous way -
-The words, please. Which are the words you wish withdrawn?
-He said something to the effect that my colleague’s conduct would be strange.
– At variance with -
– Some phrase such as that.
– Order! The honourable gentlemen will resume his seat. I call upon the Prime Minister to table the documents formally and without comment.
-May I describe the documents, Mr Speaker?
-Yes, describe the documents but make no comment other than the description.
-The document is signed by Mr Daniels and is dated 27 May 1976. It concerns a telephone conversation with Mr Hayden about events of the past. The joint opinion concerns the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General and is dated 25 May 1976. It relates to matters that became public this morning. The other documents are one dated 1 8 April 1975, signed on behalf of Alan Neaves, the Crown Solicitor, concerning public hospital agreements and the Medibank program, and the last document, dated 2 May 1975 and signed by Mr Corrigan for Mr Daniels, is directed to Mr Frey of the Crown Solicitor’s office and concerns the Medibank hospital agreement.
– A point of order. I raise a short point of protest before I say what I was going to say.
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to a point of protest. If he has a point of order I will hear him.
– I have a point of order. I think I am entitled to be treated as any other member of the House when he raises a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member will remain silent. I will hear his point of order but will not hear him otherwise. Does he have a point of order to raise?
– Yes. The right honourable gentleman is tabling documents.
-Does the honourable member have a point of order?
– Yes. My point of order is that the tabling of these particular documents is out of order. It is completely outside the practice of the House. Perhaps you, Mr Speaker, ought to see that there is some procedure by which whole files are tabled in these instances rather than selected documents being used in a quite improper way.
-There is no substance to the point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance on this matter. The statement from Mr Daniels, as I see it, reading it quickly, is reasonably accurate.
– I raise a point of order. On what basis is the honourable member speaking- by leave or by your indulgence? Under what standing order is he now speaking?
– On the point of order.
-The honourable member for Oxley has not raised a point of order; he has claimed my indulgence. I am prepared to grant him my indulgence while he speaks about one sentence until I hear what this is about. Therafter he will have to have some basis under the Standing Orders for speaking.
- Mr Speaker, I am concerned that this document will go out to the public. I want to say that as I read it quickly it seems reasonably accurate as far as it goes but it does not cover the whole discussion. I do not want to encroach on your generosity. Can I fill that out quickly -
-Order! I cannot permit the honourable gentleman to go further than that. The honourable member for Oxley is entitled to ask for leave to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the paper which has been tabled.
-Is leave granted?
Government supporters- No.
-Leave is not granted.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I submit that it is not appropriate to table documents of this character. As I understand it the Prime Minister- not an ordinary runofthemill Minister but the Prime Minister himselfhas tabled a record of a telephone conversation made by one person that that person had with another person. Ordinarily, one would think that one would also seek to know what was the record made by the other person, if a record was made at all. The propriety or the decency of the procedure appears from this: Here, a document is tabled giving a record of a telephone conversation made by one person and presumably not imparted to the other person. When the other person, now having seen it a month later, seeks to make a statement to the House upon it, he is refused the right to make that statement.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not now making a point of order; the honourable gentleman is arguing his case. I am afraid that the Standing Orders do not permit him to do so. Therefore, I must ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat. The fact is that the Standing Orders entitle the Prime Minister to table the documents. The Leader of the Opposition may have a reaction to it which is adverse or in support or whatever it might be, but the Standing Orders permit him only to debate the matter when there is facility in the House to do so. There is no such facility now.
- Mr Speaker, you yourself have given an interpretation of or made a gloss on the word ‘papers’ or the word ‘documents’ when appearing in the Standing Orders. You will remember that there have been submissions to you on whether a Minister is required to table a document from which he is quoting. Although the Standing Orders would seem to require that he had to do so unless he declared them to be confidential, you have made a restriction on his obligation to table them. Here I am putting it to you, Sir -
-Order! Allow me to interrupt just to correct the honourable gentleman. I have placed no restrictions at all. If a Minister, during the course of an answer, quotes from a document my first question to him is: ‘Are you reading from the document?’ If the Minister says: ‘Yes’ the question arises whether it is confidential. I then put the second question: ‘Is it confidential?’ If he says: ‘Yes’ under the Standing Orders he has no obligation to table the document. The fact is that under the Standing Orders Ministers are entitled to table documents at any time when they receive the call. That has been done by the Prime Minister tonight.
- Mr Speaker, might I recall to you that you have allowed the Prime Minister to tear off part of a document and table that portion from which he said he was quoting; that is, you have not required him to table the whole document, despite the -
– I am not aware of the circumstances to which the Leader of the Opposition refers. It is not part of the Speaker’s function to examine every document from which an honourable member reads. I must rely upon the member himself to say: ‘This is the document from which I am reading’. If I call upon him to table it he must do so.
-I put it to you that it would be a reasonable interpretation of ‘papers’ which a Minister is entitled to table to say that those should be documents of an official character, not just a note of a telephone conversation, particularly when it is an ex parte note. There can be no limit to the mischief which can flow from a Minister, without notice to another member, tabling a document concerning that other member for which there is no better authority than a note made by another person, albeit a head of a government department. Sir, you will be opening the floodgates if you allow Ministers to table any document at all for which there can be no official status or no vouching. I submit that you should restrict documents which a Minister is entitled to table to such as those to which there is no objection, of course, the opinion by the AttorneyGeneral and the Solicitor-General on the hospital and Medibank agreements.
-Order! The plain fact is that a Minister is entitled to table a document if he chooses to do so. He can table any document he wishes. The House would then give it probative value according to its own judgment. If the document adds nothing the House will see that it adds nothing. If the document contributes to the debate or the understanding the House will so judge it. But it is absolutely impossible for a Speaker first to see each document and make a judgment as to whether the Parliament should have it. I am sure the honourable gentleman would not want me to start that practice, and I assure him I am unwilling to do so, not only because Standing Orders do not permit it but also because it would put an impossible burden upon a Speaker. The Prime Minister has tabled the documents. He is entitled to do so. That is the end of the matter unless somebody takes a point of order. If it is a valid point of order I shall hear it and if it is not a valid point of order I shall ask the honourable member to resume his seat and to be silent.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley)-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, I do.
-The Prime Minister in his statement to the House earlier tonight made a very strong and, I felt, personally objectionable statement to the effect that as Minister for Social Security I had knowingly proceeded with agreements with the States in relation to the Medibank program that were then developing.
– You say that but -
– Will you keep quiet for a minute? I regard this as rather serious.
- Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I wish to hear this personal explanation in absolute silence and I expect all members of the House to co-operate with me. I call the honourable member for Oxley.
– The Prime Minister suggested that I did this knowing full well that what I was doing was unlawful, that I had been advised that the heads of agreement I was proceeding with were outside the authority of the relevant Act. Mr Daniels’ statement, rather than damning me, bolsters the point I had been making earlier today outside the House. In paragraph 3, in the last sentence, after talking about advice received from the Crown Solicitor mentioning that he thought it probable that the document had been shown to me- I have no recollection of that but it is more than 12 months ago- he said:
So far as I could recall we had in the end advised the Crown Solicitor that in our view the provisions were substantially in accordance with the heads of agreement. ‘Substantially’ is the operative word in section 30 (2) of the Health Insurance Act. The heads of agreement must be substantially in agreement with Schedule 2. That is the advice on which I proceeded. Furthermore, although it is not included in this document, it is my recollectionalthough I will not be dogmatic about it, and Mr Daniels also recalled today when I spoke with him- that the advising from the Crown Solicitor was highly qualified. The view was put that it was a matter of opinion that could not be settled dogmatically, that if we really wanted to establish it beyond any doubt it would have to be tested, and could only be tested in court. The balance of opinion given to me was that I should proceed with the heads of agreement as we were proceeding. In each case the agreements went to each of the States- I suppose to the SolicitorsGeneral of each of the States -
-Or Crown Solicitors.
– Or Crown Solicitors, whoever the law officers happened to be. There was never at any time any question about the propriety or legality of those agreements in terms of the Act. Mr Speaker, I found the Prime Minister’s statement offensive -
-Can I just conclude on this point. It explains why -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to argue the point. He has made his explanation and he is not entitled to criticise the maker of the statement. He has made his point clear.
-Mr Speaker, I apologise to you and to the House. I found the statement offensive. It left me a little heated. Integrity is something which I think most of us value. Accordingly, I apologise for my behaviour earlier. I think, in the light of Mr Daniels’ statement and in the light of what I have just said, there is at least some small explanation which, helpfully, is added to if Hansard records what the Prime Minister said to me.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon-Prime Minister)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, by the selective quotation of one part of Mr Daniels ‘ note.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will cease interjecting.
- Mr Speaker, I think you are wrong. I think you are probably alluding to a remark that I made in a conversation with a colleague when I said: ‘I think the Prime Minister-‘
– All right. The honourable member for Hughes. Every other member in the House has co-operated with me and has listened to this issue in silence. I ask the honourable member for Hughes to do the same.
-The record will show that the honourable member for Oxley quoted selectively from one part of the minute by Mr Daniels. As a result of the tabling, the documents will be available. I would have thought it rather odd for any Minister of the Crown to place the advice of his Department, not being the law department, above that of the law department. That is precisely what the Minister did at the time. He ignored the advice of the law department.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is not entitled to argue the point.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley)-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented again. The Prime Minister is drawing conclusions which cannot be justified either from Mr Daniels’ note or from what I have said. The Prime Minister was not present when the advice was received by me from departmental officers.
-Order! The honourable gentleman has made his point.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented by yourself, when you suggested that I interjected. Could I suggest that you might do better if you did not wear that silly wig; you would be able to hear what is going on.
-Order! I can hear well enough now to order the honourable gentleman to resume his seat. I am well aware that I did call the honourable member for Prospect. I was about to ask him to co-operate. It was the honourable member for Hughes who spoke. He sits immediately behind the honourable member for Prospect. I thank the House for listening in silence to the issues that were before the House. As to my wearing the wig, I think this is a suitable opportunity to say that the Speaker represents, in a very real sense, the right of freedom of speech in the Parliament, which was hard won from a monarchical Executive centuries ago. The Parliament must constantly be prepared to maintain its right of freedom of speech. I regard the symbolism of the wig and the gown as reminding all honourable members of our purposes here- freedom of speech, without fear or favour. Because I regard the wig as an important smybol I shall continue to wear it. I call the honourable member for MacKellar.
– I commence by saying a few words about the conduct of the Opposition tonight. The country might well fear that the Opposition could ever become the Government again. The country should resolve that the Opposition should never become the Government again.
I turn my mind to the statement of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). It certainly has some good features. It is a good feature that waste and extravagance be cut. It is a good feature that private enterprise be encouraged. It is a good feature that tax indexation be brought in. It is a good feature that family allowances be liberalised and modified.
Having said all those things, I must say that I thought that the general thrust of the Treasurer’s statement went awry. I say that in all seriousness and I understand the import of what I am saying. I feel the statement gave insufficient stimulus to the economy when it needed that stimulus, that it took insufficient recognition of the level of unemployment and that it did not appreciate how fragile the state of business was or how unsatisfactory the low productivity in our economy, due very largely to an under-utilisation of plant and resources, really was.
In total, it gave no real tax relief if account be taken of the new Medibank charges. The cuts were without compensation. They will reduce employment in certain directions and there might be a case for that but there was no compensation of quality capital expenditure to take the place of those cuts. Therefore I feel that the whole thrust of the statement was awry.
I come back to a point which I have made previously and which I will continue to make in this House and eleswhere until the significance and the correctness of this point are established and understood. The Government is still obsessed with a mythical deficit, and it has closed its options on taxation reduction and stimulation of proper capital works. It has become too much obsessed, I repeat, with this mythical deficit. I would like members to consider the details of the April return for the first 10 months of this financial year which has been published by the Treasury. That return purports to show a deficit of $4,369 billion. That has been the figure naively quoted by members of the ministry, including the Treasurer.
-What should the figure be?
– I will come to that. This so called ‘deficit’ seems to have eaten its way into the thinking of the Government. Let me quote from the last table in the April return. It is headed ‘Financing Transactions’. It shows that almost all of this ‘deficit’ has been financed through normal loan raisings or through cash inflow. Let me quote the details. It shows a $1.45 billion borrowing from the Reserve Bank. Against that it shows $ 1.096 billion repayment of Treasury Bills. The net borrowing from the Reserve Bank is not, in round figures, $4.4 billion, but only $3 50m.
The table shows a credit of $34 billion from net loan raisings overseas. It shows 2 rather peculiar items at the end. It shows $676m which it calls ‘Other Financing Transactions in Australia’. I have looked at this figure. The Parliamentary Library kindly gave me a view upon it. I believe that view to be correct because it is substantiated at least in part by a letter which I received from the Treasurer. A little over $ 100m of the $676m is cash inflow, receipts from the Post Office Superannuation Fund and profit on the coinage. I read what the Library says about the bulk of the remaining amount:
Virtually all the rest is explained by sales of securities to the Reserve Bank from Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve to enable the Bank to resell them as part of its open market operations. This is the first year there has been a big figure for this item. This is not included in borrowing from the Reserve Bank because the sale of securities was at the initiative of the Reserve Bank to continue its open market operations rather than at the initiative of the Treasury to finance the deficit. What that means is that a little more than $S00m in loans was ‘washed ‘ by the Reserve Bank for the Treasury. We had what was, in point of fact, a $S00m raising from the market which was not brought to light; but which was done secretly.
Then we had this matter of the use of cash balances of $696m. As far as I know, no details are available about that because the Treasury does not release the figures. A great part of that money is obviously cash inflow coming from sales of the surplus of wool, and a great part of it is cash inflow coming through the normal superannuation funds and things of that character, which are raisings from the public. So it looks as though, as at the end of April after 10 months operations, the net drawings were only something of the order of $500m-$0.5 billionand not the $4 billion odd which Treasury quotes.
How is this overdrawing inflationary? Sure, it would be inflationary if there were full employment and there was competition with private enterprise, or anybody else, for labour and resources. Sure, it would be inflationary if it had encouraged speculation so that there would be increased capital expenditure. But neither of those things has happened. We have not got too much capital expenditure. Indeed the Government is trying to induce further capital expenditure by means of its investment allowance. And we certainly have not got full employment.
The Treasury seems to be obsessed with what I call ‘Flat-Earth economies’. It is obvious commonsense, when you look at it, that the earth is flat. Just look at it. It is obvious commonsense. Yet what seems to be commonsense is, in fact, almost precisely wrong. The Treasury keeps on saying things which look to be commonsense but are almost exactly wrong- ‘Flat-Earth economies’.
What are we to do in the circumstances? The first thing is that when the Loan Council convenes, which it will do shortly to consider the year’s program, we should have a very massive increase in loan allocations and authorisations so as, through capital works, we can take up some of the slack. We have got rid of some of the wasteful and duplicated expenditure, and that is a good thing. But once you have made those resources available, now when private enterprise is not taking them up, and is not being encouraged to take them up, and is not being given the circumstances in which it can profitably take them up, then we have to do a little bit of governmental spending on good capital works. It is much better that our men should be engaged on sewerage works, for example, which we need in the cities, rather than that they should be sitting idle and drawing the dole. It is much better that we should put some of our transport facilities in order to provide the infrastructure for future private enterprise. That is the first thing that we must do. When the Loan Council convenes there must be a massive increase in loan authorisations.
We should not be bemused by a mythical deficit which does not exist, because not only is almost all of the so-called $4 billion covered by normal loan raisings; but also all of it has already been used for capital expenditure. If the accounts were properly presented we would have a loan account financed by loan raisings. That is the point and that is the reality which seems to be obscured by this gobbledegook from the Treasury.
Secondly, we have to do something to give business confidence. One of the things which really worries enterprise is our present level of internal costs, so that if there is to be any revival of consumption it would be taken up by the inward spill of imports.
Among the very grave mistakes which the previous Whitlam Government perpetrated, perhaps one of the gravest was the 25 per cent tariff slash. That opened Australian industry to all sorts of perils and troubles. We must ensure that this flood of imports does not recur. But it is not good enough just to wait for it and then stop it. What is needed now is to give to business which wants to invest, the assurance that when it does invest it will not find itself pressed out of profitability by a flood of imports. We need now a tariff policy enunciated by the Government. We need now a tariff policy which will ensure that for the future we do not just import unemployment. So those are the 2 things that I would ask for and which I believe should follow on and flow out of the Treasurer’s statement. We have had bad advice from the Treasury. The advisers seem to have got an ascendency over the Cabinet. Our twin diseases seem to be Rattiganitis and the Stone.
-The House is discussing the Government’s economic policy. On 20 May the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) enunciated that policy. The Government has hoisted its own flag by now as a government. Up to this point the Government has lived under the Labor Budget, but now it stands alone. As its flag goes up we can already see that it is tattered and mottled. Indeed, the Government is unprincipled. We have heard statements preceding that made on 20 May by the Treasurer. We have had several- maybe three- in the last 2 months. People are talking about the Treasurer’s statements now as Lynch ‘s economic roulette; you never know where the dice is going to land. We have this stab in the dark at the present time.
The Treasurer said that he was concerned about reining in growth in the public sector. It is always the public sector. The magic formula is that you can spend what you like and make a quid out of it as long as you are not spending in the public sector. That is regarded as a crime. The Treasurer talks about lightening the load on the Budget by moderating Medibank to the tune of some $800m and cutting many other services -‘cutting’ is hardly the word to use; ‘slashing’ would be more appropriate. Some $2,600m has been hived off the forward estimates but of course they are selective services which have been cut. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister, with all his discernment for high principles, will shortly announce that he too will be participating in the sacrifices that have to be made- he will not take the $5,000 handout in the form of a superphosphate bounty.
– He does not get it. Stop the lie.
-No, of course he will not! An amount of $ 100m has been allocated in the form of this sort of handout. I have no doubt, even if the honourable member for Riverina does not appreciate it, that the Prime Minister will be making a sacrifice as well in the future. 1 have confidence to that effect. There is to be a smaller deficit. This is an achievement that the Government sees as virtuous.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! I think the honourable member for Riverina is carrying on a little bit. I think that we should tone things down a little bit.
-Of course, this deficit is to be achieved by distorted priorities. Even the harbouring of the idea of a deficit is said to be good for the economy. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said:
There are sufficient signs now for believing that economicrecovery is under way . . . The real threat to a sustainable, long term recovery is . . . inflation. If inflation continues unchecked, … at its present crippling rate, businessmen will continue to place first emphasis upon survival and the avoidance of any risk. They will postpone investment and pare inventories and employment to the bone. Consumers will save rather than spend.
To my mind this is as intimidatory as it is possible to be. He went on to advise and advocate wage restraint. It seems as though this Government has two punching bags- the workers’ wages and Medibank.
For a long while now the principles of wage indexation have been advocated. They were advocated by the former Labor Government; indeed they were initiated by the Labor Government. But now, of course, this principle is embraced by the present Government, but its attitude, unfortunately, has lacked consistency. The Government has lacked consistency in the national wage case through its intervention, and its advocacy of a bastardised wage indexation concept. The Government has destroyed the hope of winning worker confidence. What does the Government in fact stand for in respect of wage indexation? Does it stand for total indexation regardless of salary level? Does it stand for a plateau on wage indexation? Does it stand for some sort of anaemic indexation which is going to set aside the movement in government charges watered down to exclude the Medibank levy? The Prime Minister, I believe, has to face the fact that the ordinary people do not trust him in respect of this matter. The worker is to become a punching bag in the Prime Minister’s pursuit for solvency and for the assault on inflation.
The unions have become tolerant and cooperative. But the Government has to level with them somwhere along the line. The wages of workers over the medium and long term are entitled to increase as they did under Labor. There are many anomalous wage situations in many industries which ought to be redressed. But there is no sign that the Government is going to face up to these matters. But these matters cannot be swept under the carpet if the Government is to have the co-operation of unionists throughout Australia. Of course people are concerned about the assault on their employment and the threat to their livelihood. They are starting to get the sneaking feeling that the Liberal emphasis, which has prevailed over the years and which is along the lines of workers being lined up outside the gate, is the basic philosophy of this Government.
Let us look at what has occurred in respect of economic curtailment. This afternoon, of course, we talked about Medibank and the very drastic mutilation that has occurred in respect of that program. The fact of the matter is that the Prime Minister gave an unequivocal promise to maintain Medibank and to ensure that the standard of health care does not decline. But it is declining. So far as Medibank is concerned there is uncertainty on the part of the health funds as to their capacity to participate. There is heavy handedness with the States which have not been consulted and may not yet co-operate. There is a bewildered medical profession. There is a proliferation of anomalies and injustices which will take years to remedy.
Then, of course, there is an assault on the general health area. However, before I deal with the area of health may I say that the Government’s policy on Medibank is the greatest political somersault of all time. The Liberal and Country Party controlled Senate in the lifetime of the Labor Government rejected and tossed over the proposed Labor Government levy of 1.35 per cent. After that we see the innovation of a 2lA per cent levy. The entire area of public health has become the victim of this Government’s misguided economic policies. The so-called fiscal policy decisions in respect of the health budget, excluding Medibank, contained in the Treasurer’s package deal has been slashed by $100m. The hospital development program has been reduced to $107m- a chop of $43m. This will have highly deleterious consequences to the people in many regions. Not only are existing buildings inadequate but also more are needed. Old ones need replacement. Hospitals are desperately deficient in modern equipment, in x-ray, pathology, and heart equipment and other facilities. Few hospitals have sufficient salaried and sessional fee medicos and most lack the constant availability of the medical expertise that is needed.
Out-patient services are running down and are virtually non-existent except for the most serious emergency cases. Why, in New South Wales the Willis Liberal Government all but abandoned the out-patient hospital system. Domiciliary services are the subject of almost total indifference and mainly notable for their non-existence. The community health services and facilities program, barely lifted off the ground, has now been slashed by $2 4m. Curtailments will bite into the family planning activities, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories expansion program, the fight against tuberculosis which has been waged since 1948 and which has now been slashed by $9m, the school dental scheme and many others. There has been a massive cutting of pharmaceutical benefits. Some 150 items to the tune of $9m have been cut in recent months. Any honourable member here who makes himself available to his electorate would have been confronted by a constituent who has been told by a doctor that it is essential to take a drug or medicine which is now off the list. As I have said, 150 such items have been removed from the list in the last few months.
The Government’s measures have affected even the pharmacists themselves. I will not dwell on this matter, because it is sub judice. But a High Court action is concerned with the fact that pharmacists believe that they have been taken for a ride, that the Government has been trying to get them on the cheap and is robbing them of millions of dollars. So it goes on. The Government bemoans a modest increase which health expenditure is incurring as a percentage of gross national product. Why, 25 years ago health services represented 5.2 per cent of gross domestic product, which is the term now used. Today health services represent 6.5 per cent. This, of course, is the subject of all this resentment.
I have made some reference to health and I will turn now to some other areas. In the housing area the mortgage interest tax deduction scheme is going to be abandoned. Something like half a million families are going to be deprived of tax deductibility on their mortgage interest rates. The housing commission area, which deals with housing for the low income people, is now under review. It is obvious that there is going to be a curtailment of something like $100m in expenditure for the State housing programs. As a result rents will soar to astronomical levels. As well there will be a reduction in the number of houses being built.
In the urban affairs area the estimates of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development have been reduced by $400m. What about the land commission which were the hope of the land hungry people? The only prospect of getting land prices down is now on the skids. The sewerage program has been slashed from $145m to $50m. There are many other exotic ideas affected. For example the Glebe project has had its budget reduced from $5m to Sl.lm. The allocation for the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been reduced. Then there are the cuts in the allocation to the growth centres. Heavens knows where people are going to live in the future.
We have seen the slashing of $45m from the growth centre program. The Albury-Wodonga growth centre looks like becoming a decadent, dead sort of a place- a future that was never fulfilled. Then there are the cuts in the budgets for Bathurst-Orange, Campbelltown, Holsworthy, Monarto. And so it goes on. In the transport area, following the 1 5 per cent increase in air navigation charges, air fares will rise. Road programs have been cut from $453m to $220m. In the Territories there is an appalling story to be told. There will be massive increases in all sorts of licence charges, car registrations, fares, water services, power costs and stamp duties. Look at the social welfare area. For the first time in Australia’s history unemployment, sickness and supporting mothers’ benefits and pensions will be subject to taxation. This will also involve widows’ pensions and service pensions.
This Government has no principles at all. It has abandoned the Federal grants for the senior citizens program. It has cut into the aged persons programs. The Australian Assistance Plan has been abandoned. The Federal Government is going to leave it to the States. The students who are stacked up for their second or subsequent degree will now have to pay fees. Of course fees were abolished for all students under a Labor Government. There are massive cuts to the education program. The Government construction program has been cut by $60m. The Budget allocation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been cut by $ 10m, and the allocation to the Department of Post and Telecommunications has been cut by $250m. There have been cuts in the allocation for Aboriginal Affairs. How could this Government dare to think of slashing into the allocation for Aboriginal Affairs? Prior to the Labor Party coming to office, the previous
Government was spending $30m on Aboriginal Affairs. We raised that figure to $190m. But now the innocent, the weak, the most harmless people, the most needy people will be the victims of this program which tonight the Prime Minister was so intent on eulogising. One could go on. All we can say is that the people of this country can now see the chickens coming home to roost. It is an appalling program and one of which all honourable members opposite should be ashamed.
-The economic statement by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) on behalf of the Government was possibly the most responsible and important single action taken by either a State or Federal Government in many years. Since its coming into office in December there has been a continuing effort by the Government to produce such a positive and worthwhile foundation for good management. The basis has been established for a willing and confident cooperation by all sections of the Australian community to arrest inflation and restore economic and social stability.
It would be as well, however, to take particular note that the measures announced provide only a foundation for economic recovery. Anybody who sits back now with a sigh of relief, confident that the problem has been solved, is doing himself and the nation a grave disservice. It is more than a little disconcerting to hear from some few, of whom one would expect better, that there is no bounty for them in the economic policy. If they expected an outpouring of governmental munificence as they experienced during the last 3 years of the previous Administration, they clearly have not grasped the magnitude of the problems that beset Australia. This is not the time for the maintenance of expectations at an unrealistic level, nor the perpetuation of the notion that the Government should provide, without limit, the requirements of a society which with increasing emphasis demonstrated its abandonment of the work ethic.
What this economic policy has done is give people who are of a mind to help themselves the opportunity to take part in getting this country back where it belongs- to a position among nations where a country of incredibly rich resources, free from significant ethnic or cultural vicissitudes, should belong. Taxation indexation, to a sweeping extent, has remedied what for long stood as a indictment of governments for their immorality in profiting by inflation at the taxpayers’ expense. In the incidental acquisition by government of thousands of millions of dollars in income tax revenue resulting from the movement of taxpayers into higher income brackets under the impetus of inflation, for a period the previous Administration was able to embark on ambitious open-ended programs. Many of these programs were laudable in concept, but ignored the fact that a government is required to live within its means.
The massive transfer of funds to the public sector during a period of declining gross domestic product produced the inevitable result, and the Government now faces the herculean task of restoring the economy. This economic policy as delivered by the Treasurer paves the way. Taxation indexation must be seen as a device to bring justice to taxpayers in an inflationary situation. Therefore final control of inflation will be heralded by a reduction in, or abolition of, the need to index on other than virtually a token basis. Wage earners will be encouraged in their efforts to work their way out of their dilemma by the knowledge that in future tax increases can be made only by legislation. Governments will be required to introduce taxation increase Bills into the Parliament where they will be subjected to debate and public scrutiny. The Government will be required in the public forum to justify any intention it may have to increase taxation. The adjustment of income brackets by 13 per cent will substantially offset the most recent effects of inflation on tax rates. In addition, the $540 general rebate introduced last year increases automatically to $610, whilst rebates for dependent relatives will also be indexed from $200 to $226.
The Government’s approach to Medibank is a bold attempt to come to terms with a monster which, left unattended, could consume the economy and exacerbate the problems of any Australian Government long into the future. There may be those sections of the community which still insist that Medibank should be totally free. But on serious thought it must be obvious that the Government, by its savings of $800m on projected expenditure, has demonstrated that nothing is free. Under ordinary circumstances the people of this country one way or another finance the expenditures of the Government. If we are to move into schemes of national compensation and national disaster insurance it must be abundantly clear that as a nation we must earn the financial resources to fund such programs. This will call for a maximum effort from all sectors of the community, a willingness on the part of trade unions to respond to Government overtures directed towards accord and increased prospects for employees to derive a fair share from such prosperity as the Government’s policies may attain. The employer sector carries an equally heavy responsibility in taking up the challenge of special investment allowance provisions provided by the Government at a cost of an estimated $500m forgone taxation revenue.
– The allowance will provide a lot more jobs too.
Mr MILLAR As the honourable member for Darling Downs indicates, this provision should and, I have no doubt, will provide many employment opportunities for those otherwise without prospects. The Government’s major drive into the areas of poverty through tax indexation and family allowances is almost breathtaking in its magnitude. Members of the Opposition in speaking in this debate have stated that they in government would have introduced such measures. Whether or not this would have been done is inconsequential. The fact remains that the Liberal-National Country Party Government has implemented the measures, and general acclaim has been its due.
The extent of the measures in substantially meeting the problems of low income and disadvantaged Australians stunned those who regarded the present Government as one not so intensely concerned with those groups. The estimate of $ 1,020m in family allowances for the ensuing year is clear proof of the Government ‘s sincerity. In future every mother will be able to plan for her family’s welfare, more confident in the knowledge that a Reserve Bank cheque will be paid direct to her in accordance with the scale. A family with 4 children will now receive $20.50 a week under the new scheme as against $5.75 under the old. These payments will not be taxable and will be without means test.
In its efforts to service the huge overdraft inherited on coming to office, the Government has cut forward estimates of expenditure for 1976-77 by $2,600m. It was unavoidable that some programs have had to be curtailed. Establishing priorities occasioned more than a little anguish but unquestionably at the first opportunity, consistent with an improved economy, those programs of merit may well be reactivated. At such time the new federalism will determine future roles and responsibilities. In conclusion, I express the hope that, whilst the Government must pursue its policies with determination and confidence, it will not prove so inflexible as not to consider alternative proposals for economic management. We witnessed benefits accruing to a hard pressed motor industry by graduated relief from sales tax over a period. There are many attracted to the proposition that we will have to step outside orthodox economic measures to break the nexus.
There are vast problems confronting those involved in producing Australia’s primary wealth. Unless those problems are readily resolved, many of the options open to this country to restore economic and social stability will close. However, in the meantime the Government deserves credit for diligent application since coming to office and for producing this policy indicative of a sense of responsibility to all Australians.
– I shall concentrate on the effect of the mini-Budget on the Australian Capital Territory because it is obvious that the Government is making a vicious and vindictive attack on the citizens of Canberra and has deliberately set out to cut Canberra back to size. The people of this city are being used as guinea pigs for the Government to demonstrate its conservative and reactionary economic management policies which can be used to political advantage outside the national capital. The people of Canberra are particularly unfortunate in that not only do they have a Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who is a reactionary, who believed in the survival of the fittest and that life is meant to be harsh and mean, but they also have a Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) who is one of the Prime Minister’s closest henchmen, who can be totally relied upon not to deviate one inch from his master’s philosophy nor to make any concessions to the people of Canberra. He is the Prime Minister’s most valued numbers man and naturally he wants to retain that position. So the people of the Australian Capital Territory can rely on him not to fight for their interests.
– Who is this mystery man?
-The Minister for the Capital Territory. What the Government is saying about Canberra is that if people in other cities must live in squalid, overcrowded conditions with poor environmental surroundings, inadequate transport facilities, bad roads and lack of sewerage then the people of Canberra should not expect to enjoy the conditions of a well planned city without being heavily taxed for it. The Government is saying that if people pay heavy charges and receive little in return in the relatively unplanned cities and towns of Australia then Canberra people should pay a bonus over and above the cost for the reasonable standards which prevail in Canberra. In adopting this attitude the
Government is denying the economic advantages of good planning and saying that, irrespective of the costs of providing these conditions which people in Canberra enjoy, they should be paying higher charges for them.
Probably the most devastating effect of the mini-Budget proposals in that rentals on government welfare housing will be increased to the level of rental charges in the private sector. Some 24 500 families, or half the number of Canberra households, will probably be adversely affected by this measure together with the decision to increase interest charges to 9 ‘A per cent. This means that people who have secure government housing on a means tested basis and who are already paying in the vicinity of $35 a week for a 3-bedroom or 4-bedroom government house now face the prospect of having that rent increased to $55 or $60 a week. This would probably give Canberra the highest rent, both in the private sector and in the government sector, in Australia. In New South Wales the average figure for a 3-bedroom or 4-bedroom government house is between $25 and $35 a week, and the private sector rental on a similar sized house in Sydney would average $45 to $60 a week. Clearly this is an impossible imposition to place on low income families. This action cannot be supported on the basis of bringing Canberra into line with government rentals in other cities because there has been no indication from the Minister for the Capital Territory or any other Minister that all government rentals throughout the rest of the country will be increased in line with the private sector. I challenge the Minister to deny that this imposition has been reserved exclusively for the people of Canberra.
This policy completely ignores the fact that the private sector rents in Canberra are already extremely high, that rent controls are on the way out and that the Labor Government’s efforts to keep rents down are now being completely sacrificed to the whim of private property owners and speculators in Canberra. The imposition of market value rentals is particularly vicious because it is also being accompanied by higher municipal rates and increased bus fares as well as a threat to increase other revenue producing areas of government service. Despite a demand for more and better bus services in Canberra, the Department of the Capital Territory has approximately 40 to 45 buses in mothballs because of staff ceilings. This belies the Prime Minister’s statement that staff ceilings have been achieved without causing inefficiencies in the Public Service. Everybody knows that that is nonsense. In order to meet the depreciation costs of these unused buses higher bus fares are now being proposed on the already inadequate services prevailing in Canberra. Some of my constituents have informed me that the Minister’s proposed school bus fees would cost them as much as $6 a week.
I understand that other revenue producing areas being considered include the imposition of a charge for occasional child minding centres, the strong possibility of a charge on library services, which in most areas of Australia have traditionally been free, and substantial increases in charges for the use of hitherto free public sporting and recreation facilities. I understand also that a substantial increase in building fees is under consideration. Increases in interest rates mean an increase in the monthly instalment of $25 to $30 for many young couples who have not been given the opportunity to plan for this unexpected imposition.
In the building and construction industry the cutback of $43m in the forward estimates of the National Capital Development Commission is an extremely heavy blow, In many cases the blow has been fatal. Last week the firm of Collis Bros which has been operating in Canberra for many years, mostly in land development work, had to cease operations and put off all its staff, many of whom are skilled operators. Other firms such as Thiess Bros, which have traditionally been substantial employers of labour, are making drastic cuts in their staff. Yesterday I had representations from an engineer who had been employed in land development in Canberra for 17 years, who is now being retrenched and who is not able to find suitable alternative employment. In addition, many engineering consultancy firms, architectural firms and those in associated professions have been forced to reduce their staffs drastically and in some cases to close their firms down altogether. I do not know what these people are going to do because the Government has not left them any alternative. The situation is no better in State capital cities, so where can they go?
In addition, the Minister’s proposal to close down part of Reid House is depriving these unemployed people of the only accommodation which they could afford. Many people who are using the empty blocks of Reid House have been forced into this situation by unemployment inflicted on them by the Government and now the Government is threatening to use the police to remove these people if they do not vacate the building within 2 weeks. I think the Government has an obligation to provide alternative low cost accommodation before forcing people into the streets without any protection whatsoever. The plight of these people is all the more difficult because the action is being taken in the very depth of the Canberra winter.
The building industry claims that in Canberra the output in housing this year will drop by 50 per cent from 4000 units to 2000 units. The Minister’s assertion that reduction in Government spending in Canberra will be countered by increased activity in the private sector simply cannot be sustained. What are the projects which the Minister claims will be undertaken by the private sector? When the whole confidence of the building industry in Canberra has been undermined by Government cuts, when the money available for Commissioner for Housing loans is being more than halved on last year’s figure, how can middle and low wage earners afford to build a house? What retailers are going to expand their operations in the climate that has been created in Canberra by this Government.
The Minister mentioned the Belconnen shopping mall. This project has been underway for 6 months and in fact all this Government has done has been through its supporters in the Legislative Assembly who do their best to delay its progress. There is no doubt that the building industry in Canberra and the private sector generally are very dependent on government spending and whilst some slowdown in the rate of growth in Canberra can be justified in the present climate to cut Government spending on the basis that growth is going to stop altogether is quite unrealistic. The Government also completely disregards the self-generating growth capacity of a city of 200 000 people. Government spending should provide for this normal element of growth and the Government should not embark on a deliberate program of retardation. There are still many thousands of people in Canberra waiting for adequate housing and there is no justification whatever for cutting back on the welfare housing program or on funds available for Commissioner for Housing loans. The demand for houses is there. The materials and the workmen are there to build them if the Government would provide the money.
The Minister’s statements imply that because of the ceiling on the growth of the Public Service there will be no growth in Canberra. The Minister should be aware that only about one-third of the work force in Canberra is represented by people employed under the Public Service Act, together with about 7000 employed by the Government outside the Act, such as teachers, hospital staff, National Capital Development
Commission employees, Government corporation employees, employees of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and other statutory authorities. Government employees make up a total of little more than 40 per cent of the work force. The building and construction industry employs about 30 per cent of the work force, so that Government measures in restricting Public Service growth and in restricting NCDC forward planning is directly affecting 70 per cent of the work force in Canberra. We must ask the Minister: Is this the way he is going to instil confidence into the private sector in the ACT? Does he really expect private industry to expand its operations in this stifled environment he is deliberately creating? Does he really expect that the retailers, the motor car retailers, the furniture retailers or any other retailers or property developers would want to embark on costly expansion programs in this situation?
We sometimes hear uninformed people charging that Canberra does not pay its way and the past record of the coalition Government in exploiting this sentiment is very clear. The fact is that Canberra residents pay more per head in tax than Australian citizens in any State. It is also true that if the Australian Capital Territory were to receive the same per capita grants as the smaller States do such as Tasmania, South Australia or even Western Australia we would be substantially better off in our finances than we are today and we would be more than paying our own way. Canberra people have always paid their way in the same way as other Australian citizens do. The sector in Canberra which does not pay its way in the real sense is the Government itself which pays no rates for all the valuable prime sites which it occupies in the Australian Capital Territory. The Government has never paid rates but it enjoys the general amenities provided largely by the ratepayers of Canberra.
The Government’s mini-Budget now creates the rather sad situation in which the only place in Australia where we did have a vision splendid of what it was possible to do to create desirable living conditions is about to have those conditions eroded by the very severe cuts in Government spending in the Territory. The Labor Government used Canberra to demonstrate the advantages of physical and social planning in providing modern urban conditions in a healthy rural environment, in providing adequate housing, transport and recreation facilities as well as health and education services. The Labor Party did not want this to be restricted to Canberra.
We wanted to extend the same sort of conditions to other parts of Australia and we were well on the way to doing this with the growth centres of Bathurst-Orange and Albury-Wodonga. We wanted to provide conditions which any government should want to provide for its citizens. The Fraser Government is obsessed with the idea that it must create a large pool of unemployed to solve our economic problems and in the process it is quite prepared to sacrifice the standards of Canberra, to cut back the quality of its standards and reduce it to the same standards of mediocrity which were developed by the previous Liberal Government and which were tolerated for 23 years of conservative government in Australia.
-Who built Canberra? Tell us who built up Canberra?
-The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) ended his peroration with the words that his Government wished to provide conditions which any government would want to provide for its citizens. Those words would apply to any government which had the responsibility of ensuring the future of this nation and of its people, but regrettably on 13 December 1975 when the Fraser Government came to office it inherited an economic shambles, the likes of which this nation in its relatively short history of Federation has not seen this side of the Great Depression. We inherited unemployment of approximately 300 000-the highest since the Depression. We had a rate of inflation of some 17 per cent. We had a massive reduction in production and productivity, and investment in plant and equipment had reached negligible levels, while interest rates, which many considered to be one of the major factors of economic progress, had reached the highest levels in Australia’s history. We were heading as a nation towards a deficit of some $4,500m for the financial year 1975-76. In quite simple terms that was a formula for national bankruptcy, the destruction of the socioeconomic base upon which the free institutions of this nation have been built.
The history of the last 75 years of this century shows us too many examples- perhaps Germany was the best of all- of what can happen to a society when it is wrecked by inflation when people literally had to carry bucketfuls of money to buy a loaf of bread with which to feed their children. The previous Government seemed to feel that it could sit back and observe inflation moving inexorably forward. Yet that Government did little in those whole 3 years to counteract what was obviously the cancer in the body politic of the Australian people. We were elected with a comprehensive economic policy. It is comprehensive but at the same time, as has been so eloquently pointed out by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the people of Australia today face no easy options. We all have to tighten our belts. We all have to take the difficult decisions because that is what this Government is here to do and as a nation only after we have done that shall we be able to move forward. Therefore the chief objectives of our economic package obviously are, firstly, to reduce inflation; secondly, to create employment; and thirdly, to restore national productivity. To achieve that, we believe we must have a major increase in investment in plant and equipment.
The economic weapons which we are using to achieve these objectives include a major reduction in the rapacious taxation system. For that reason we have introduced tax indexation. We are reducing the extravagant Government spending instituted by the last Government over the whole 3 years of its period of office. We are carefully monitoring a reduction of the monetary supply because we believe there is no possibility of our being able to print ourselves out of national bankruptcy as the previous Government attempted to do. We intend to restore investment incentives by instituting, as we have already done, the most generous investment allowance which, when added to the existing double depreciation allowance, gives the Australian industrial base the best opportunity it has ever had to spend, to purchase new plant and equipment.
However, we are aware that the business community in its collective and individual judgment will undoubtedly take the view that it will not spend on new productive equipment unless it knows that it will have a market. For that reason we have emphasised on many occasions the fact that to help Australia to get out of the present malaise, it is essential that the Australian people get into the market place, unlock their bank accounts and spend their money because by spending their money they will establish the cyclical effect which will ultimately result not only in increased investment in plant and equipment but also in increased employment- and that is the main objective of the exercise.
In the midst of all this, our major consideration is to re-establish political and economic stability which will automatically encourage confidence in the future of our nation. It is as a nation, as a collective unit, that we must move forward. The selfish attitudes which governments in the past have instituted in this Parliament and elsewhere are as much part of the problem we are facing today. Our foreign investment guidelines, for example, give foreign investment an adequate basis, in partnership with Australian investors, capital and entrepeneurial capacity, to unlock the enormous resources which we know that we, as a nation, have. It is only through unlocking those resources and getting them on the market that we can improve our balance of payments, that we can get a transfer of funds into Australia which in its own way will play a major part in helping us out of the present economic malaise.
Despite the difficulties the Fraser Government has introduced the most radical social welfare reforms since the introduction of the old age pension. I refer of course to the family allowances. There could be no greater act of any government which could emphasise more than this the fact that the present Liberal-National Country Party Government is, in the words of the Prime Minister, a Government for all Australians. We have acted on the basis of the Henderson report on poverty in Australia, which showed only too clearly that over 300 000 families with some 800 000 children live below the poverty line. To assist those people we have carried out a massive transfer of community wealth to those who are obviously most in need- the underprivileged wives, the poor children, the single parents, the depressed minority groups. Incidentally, these are all groups which the previous Labor Government of compassion and concern, to use its own well-known phraseology, ignored and oppressed even further because of inflation of its own making and because of its construction of a welfare bureaucracy which ensured that the minimum of money, in fact, reached those most in need. Let those honourable members and others in the community who are concerned for the Aborigines in Australia take note of this: Of every dollar spent on Aboriginal welfare only 13c ever reached the Aboriginal people. What greater indictment can we have for the absurd proposition that by building a massive bureaucracy it is possible to overcome the very real poverty and the massive social problems we find in our midst.
It is pleasant to note that despite the difficulties of the last year and a half in particular, and certainly the last five or six months since we have been in government, we already see encouraging signs. The economic indicators show that consumer confidence is slowly returning to the Australian people. Business morale collapsed completely over the last 3 years. It was absolutely wrung out. It lost its capacity to invest because it had no capital. It made low, if any, profits because the Government of the day believed that ‘profits’ was a dirty word, forgetting that without profits you get no investment; without investment obviously you cannot build on the industrial and productive base of the Australian economy and create employment. Those days are over. We have pruned Government spending by a projected $2 billion without disturbing essential welfare programs, as we promised in the campaign of last December. We are now giving Australia political stability in which consumers and investors can return to the market place with some confidence that their investments will give them a fair return in the next few years.
The Australian Labor Party Government’s policy led to 2 major results- an explosion of non-productive bureaucratic spending, to which I have already referred, and a boom in land prices. Young married people and pensioners were the ones who suffered from the boom in land prices because they were simply priced out of the market. It is an international fact that when you have massive inflation one of the places where funds are invested, regrettably in the sociological sense, is of course in land speculation. The previous Government’s policies in their own contributed more than anything else to the massive growth in the cost of land, which went up by 200 per cent and 300 per cent in some cases in the metropolitan areas of Australia. As I have mentioned, we have managed to cut back the wasteful expenditure in the public sector, and it is very heartening to see that we have succeeded in halting the land boom.
The wages-prices spiral is undoubtedly the key that unlocks the door to inflation- that Pandora’s box- in whose glories members of the Opposition to this day seem to wallow. We have been consistent in asking the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to take into account the economic and social consequences of its wage determinations. It is worth noting that tomorrow’s decision will probably be the most significant in the Commission’s history. This country can no longer tolerate wage increases of 6.4 per cent as we had in the March quarter and expect to be able to drag ourselves by the bootheels out of the circumstances in which we have found ourselves in the last year and a half. A break must be made, and it must be made in the area of the wages-prices spiral. It has to be done at all levels of the economy otherwise we cannot solve our national problems. The expectation of inflation, which has a built in factor, obviously encourages further inflationary growth and that, in turn, is linked with this inexorable spiral upwards of wages following prices and vice versa.
The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) foreshadowed the economic statement he brought down the other day as far back as the Budget Speech of 1975. Our economic policies, unlike those of the Opposition in government- it now has none whatsoeverhave been absolutely consistent for nearly 12 months. This was further emphasised in our election policy speech in which we made this point:
The six months immediately ahead will have to be a staging post for the major reforms of the three year program. During this time three principal objectives will be pursued: the generation of an immediate lift in confidence, investment spending and job opportunities the elimination of extravagance, waste and duplication in Government spending, and the preparation for the reforms of the 1 976 Budget.
Never before has any government within weeks of its election got down to the job of solving the problems of the Australian economy with such determination- problems not of our making but certainly ones which the Australian people elected us to solve. That is what we will do. Nevertheless success in the war against inflation depends on the co-operation of governments, workers, employers, the arbitration machinery and above all the trade unions. The previous Government made the Australian people believe that governments could do everything. They can not. They certainly cannot beat inflation alone, but Mr Whitlam said he could do so. He said he could reduce inflation by one-third. In fact, he forgot that he had trebled it.
-Who said that?
– A certain gentleman who is now acting as the Leader of the Opposition.
– The one who is going overseas?
– Yes, the one going overseas. He will see the ruins there and perhaps he will give a few thoughts to the ruins of the Australian economy and the social and economic shambles which his Government left for us to inherit.
– It was very noticeable that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) did not endeavour in any way to defend his Government’s action in reducing Medibank to a shell. He kept wide of it. In my view he made some untrue statements to the House. He spoke of land prices rising to an all time high under the Labor Government. Any honourable member, in all decency, would well know that land prices were soaring under the previous Tory Government prior to the Whitlam Government coming to power. It was the Labor Government which stabilised land prices and prevented them from soaring by suppressing and tightening up credit for buying land. The honourable member said also that inflation had risen to 17 per cent. Inflation was a world-wide problem for Western world countries. I should repeat that Britain, America, Japan, West Germany and Canada all had the problems which any Australian Government would have faced, irrespective of its political colour. They faced world wide inflation. The honourable member for Bradfield used to make some good speeches when he came into the Parliament. Usually the speeches of an honourable member improve but his are deteriorating as the years go by. Whether he is starting to interest himself in the stock exchanges or Patrick and Partners I do not know, but obviously he has diverse interests and is not applying the full limit of his mental capacity to his speeches as he did when he first came to the Parliament.
– Yours are getting better.
– It is not due to any assistance from the honourable member. In the limited time available to me tonight I want to follow the example set by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) who pointed out the redundancies in the building industry in Canberra and the grievous shortage of homes. In the last week 3 carpenters have approached me and asked me when the new power station is going to be built in the Hunter electorate at Eraring. They hope to get employment there. I would be most anxious to aid them to get employment if possible. However this is not possible due to the slashing of funds for education and so many other things, as was pointed out so effectively by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson).
I want to refer to some of the problems in my electorate which were brought to my notice very forcibly when the delegation of educationists and teachers visited Canberra a week or so ago. I have here a document which points out that the roofs of the Toronto West Public School are leaking, that the classrooms are far too small and that landscaping is required to make the playground attractive for children so that they can get mental refreshment and enthusiasm to go to school and to study. There is a large flat area in the school grounds at Toronto West that needs filling in order to make it suitable for the children to use for healthy sporting activities. It is pointed out that the staff toilet facilities should be upgraded to meet the council’s health standards. The toilet facilities at this public school are below the health standards required by the local council. Teachers have to wash their hands at a drinking trough or in a kitchen sink. It is pointed out that a covered area for assemblies would help mould school discipline and settle children down. There should be a covered area where students can be addressed without having to stand in the open unprotected from the sun and the rain. There should be more teaching aids for individual, class and group teaching, especially high interest and low vocabulary type readers. There should be a weather shed in which children can take their lunch so that they do not have to go into the classrooms during wet weather. The school urgently needs a properly equipped library and a separate craft room as having these 2 activities in the one room is not conducive to good library tone. They are some of the problems at the Toronto West Public School.
The Wallsend High School-Wallsend is an old coal mining centre- is urgently in need of improvements but its grant has been cut from $9,700 to $300. This represents 12c per pupil per term. The primary and infants schools at Wallsend are to receive nothing. The school authorities point out that it is impossible for the high school to function efficiently on this amount of money. The authorities there wrote to me as follows:
The following represents some of the pressing needs of our schools. Some buildings mentioned below have been promised for the future but others have been promised in years past and have not yet been started.
There is little likelihood of these works being started due to the Fraser Government’s economic policies and its slashing of finance for education. The Fraser Government would sooner look after the squatocracy and improve the lot of some people who are not in need by giving handouts such as the fertiliser bounty. The Wallsend High School authorities I mentioned earlier stated:
Finance in the way of grants is desperately needed for the following:
Money for Special Education Programs, especially in the areas of remedial mathematics and English.
Increased moneys for library and text books.
Money for essential school maintenance- repairs and preparation of sporting fields.
Money for new buildings and alterations to existing buildings.
The writer then goes on to refer specifically to Wallsend High School and says that alterations to A block are urgently needed and were promised some years ago. The work was never started. Increased facilities are required in the physical education change rooms. Adequate library facilities and increased staff accommodation are also required. I would give these things higher priority than the honourable member for Moreton, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), gives to defence.
The Minmi Primary School has an inadequate library and no canteen. The Wallsend South Public School requires extra classroom accommodation for next year and grants to equip the new library. The Wallsend Primary School is also urgently in need of increased staff accommodation, a new administration block and a wire fence to protect neighbouring houses adjoining the playing area. The Jubilee Road Primary School at Wallsend urgently needs a new library, increased staff accommodation, a work preparation room for the teachers aide and security lighting. At the Plattsburg Primary School the lighting is inadequate in the classrooms and it urgently needs money to equip the library and improve the playground which has to be filled in and levelled so that pupils can indulge in healthy recreation.
I have a personal interest in the Toronto High School because my 3 children were educated there. It urgently needs finance and it has little hope of getting it now that the Fraser Administration is in power. The money is needed to build an assembly hall. It is one of the few high schools in the region which does not have an assembly hall and on important days the pupils have to be addressed out in the open. If it rains the children have to scatter for shelter, and in the sun sometimes some of the pupils collapse because of the heat. The gymnastics area is inadequate. At present gymnastics lessons are taken in a concrete playground where it is unsafe and where children could suffer serious injury. The drama room at present is inadequate. The only stage area in the school is used as a storage space. This is at Toronto High School. The provision of storage space for large equipment is inadequate. Parallel bars are stored in the change room.
The Toronto High School is urgently in need of proper library facilities. At present the use of the library is limited due to the size of rooms being used. Two converted classrooms do not make for suitable library facilities for a school of over 1000 students. Only one class at a time can use the library effectively. There are no quiet work areas in the library. There are no facilities for the use of audio-visual resources. Senior study facilities are located in the library but are inadequate for the number of students needing to use them. Senior students are disturbed by other students looking for information. Up to 3 science classes are taken in ordinary classrooms and the provision for science teaching is inadequate. These are some of the problems affecting the schools in my area. I tell the people at these schools that I fear there is little chance of these problems being overcome in the light of the cutback in the economy by the Fraser Administration which gives a high priority to subsidising fertiliser costs and introducing the school cadet system. In my personal view the latter is virtually warmongering, rattling the sabre again. The Government has increased defence expenditure to an all-time high, which the overwhelming majority of my constituents believe should not have that high priority at this time when Australia is not threatened by any enemy and is not likely to be involved in war for many years.
The Government has virtually reduced Medibank to a shell, after promising the Australian people that it would not interfere with it in any way. The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), I believe have effectively pointed out the Government’s betrayal of the Australian people. During the election campaign the Government, no doubt for the purpose of a financial handout, promised the private insurance institutions that once it got into power it would look after their interests. I give the Government credit, if I can, in that regard. It has honoured its promise to the private financial institutions which have made exorbitant profits out of people’s health care. Toryism has not differed much in principle down through the centuries. In conclusion, I should like to read a passage from an interesting book I picked out of the Library this afternoon. It is written by Huberman and Sweezy and is on the anatomy of a revolution. It quotes the remarks of Major-General Smedley D. Butler, who was in a position to know and who leaves no doubt on this score. He said:
I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force- the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to major-general and during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism . . .
Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. 1 helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in … I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. 1 helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honours, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in 3 city districts. We Marines operated on 3 continents.
That is the political philosophy that the Tories opposite uphold today. They are looking after big business instead of the under-privileged section of Australian society. But they will not last forever. At the next election they will be tipped out of power, disgraced and dishonoured as people who supported wealth and privilege and not the true aspect of Australian thinking and idealism.
-After that brilliant exposition of economic theory, and various others, I should like to recommend to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) that if he feels so strongly about the problems in his area and its schools, he ought to ask his Leader (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and Deputy Leader (Mr Uren), who are going on a world junket, to donate the money for that junket to doing something about the schools in the honourable member’s electorate. Every honourable member who moves about his electorate knows that inflation is the most fundamental problem for Australia. It matters not that the Opposition does not seem to see it and does not care about it. The very last vestige of credibility of the Opposition was removed tonight with the performance by the last Labor Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley. He may well be the last Labor Treasurer in this generation. The necessary aims of Government policy are clear and absolute- to curb and eventually halt inflation, to restore full employment and to re-establish healthy economic growth. The next 6 to 12 months will be crucial because in that time we will be implementing a broad plan for economic restoration. As a modest member- even perhaps half again as modest as the lone battler in the Financial Review who will be with us tomorrowI should like to make some observations on the matter.
In the 3 years Australia laboured under a Labor Government there was an unprecedented transfer of resources- from profits to wages and welfare; from the private to the public sector. It was a conscious, classic Marxist manoeuvre to redistribute income along the lines of Wheelwright. The shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said that yesterday.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I ask your ruling on my understanding of the Standing Orders. Is it in order for a speech to be read in the House or is an honourable member allowed to use copious notes, particularly when Mr Santamaria is rumoured to have written the speech.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)There is no substance in the point of order.
-Such a policy took from those prepared to work, risk and invest and created a new class of dependent drones- of which I see one or two examples here tonight- and a bloated bureaucracy without giving any substantial help to the really poor and powerless. One of the Henderson reports on Aboriginal welfare stated: . . . poverty is becoming professionalised and bureaucratised. In the process, it is becoming a lucrative business- for professional welfare workers, administrators, researchers and consultants.
Until Labor came to power ours had been a mixed economy relying on the private sector for the productivity that brought improved standards of living, healthy expansion and a continuous growth of employment opportunities. The more vulnerable groups of society- the very young, the sick and the old- were cared for primarily within the family group. It was Australian Labor Party socialist government manipulation and policies that totally changed this previously totally practical arrangement. The family’s desire and ability to care for its weak ones was fractured by the number of women forced to go into the work force, in so many cases simply because of unindexed tax. The very young and the very old had become a greater charge on the taxpayers along with the army of professional welfare workers, administrators, researchers and consultants, child minding centres and staffs and nursing homes. If Opposition members do not believe me they should look at their own bookshelves. There are reports galore by these people, hardly worth the time let alone the money. Most of it is mayonnaise of the meadow variety of which the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) would be familiar.
This Government would not take the easy Labor way to electoral popularity, that is, buying votes with mass spending which does nothing to solve real poverty problems. How do bike tracks, walkways and environmental nonsense help a mother to stay home to look after her family? Our measures of 20 May, those historic measures, will begin the process. We have begun, I believe, to beat inflation by restoring the private sector after the battering it received from the Labor Government. Business confidence. and with it community confidence, is on the way to restoration. Our measures will be the beginning of the fight against inflation. Unfortunately, there seems little likelihood that 1976 will see more than a marginal slowing of the inflationary spiral, principally because of the critical effects of the 6.4 per cent wage increase awarded by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This, it has been reliably estimated, will add $3,000m to costs in the private sector. It also adds to the cost of the bureaucracy, the Laborinduced cost and size of which is an integral part of our inflationary condition and which this Government, I am glad to say, is setting about reducing.
– Where are the commas?
-They are not in tonight. Some members are concerned that people are beginning to save at an unexpected rate, instead of spending now in the expectation of higher prices as inflation continues. I do not find this surprising or disconcerting, for there has been a real feeling of uneasiness about the future evident among ordinary people. They had comprehended the full measure of what happened under Labor’s violent spending spree and were consciously or unconsciously battening down their hatches to compensate. I do not believe this is bad. It could even do good. It will give way to a healthy balance between spending and thrift as the economy levels and stabilises and as confidence returns. In addition, it could actually help in one of the principal attacks on inflation- strong control over the money supply.
We must get down to a measure that is at the core of the problem- the need to restore the relationship between wages and productivity. There are some- they are to be found on the other side of the House- who say that productivity is only notional. I do not agree. Our productivity increase is at present about 3 per cent a year. We will have to face the economic fact that wage and salary increases cannot be more than 3 per cent a year if we are simply to hold the line on inflation. Even this slight productivity increase of 3 per cent will not be maintained unless business can be encouraged towards new investment, a fact which has been provided for by our investment allowance. The Government is doing what it can at present. It is wisely committed to tax reductions in future. They should encourage both the private sector and the consumer. Sensible unions will see what they can do to stop strikes and delays and unseemly wage demands. The left wing unions- the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) would know a bit more about them than I do- and those under straight out communist control can be relied upon for only one thing, and that is using any political pretext to cause dissension and trouble throughout industry.
The current reductions in government estimates are, I am sure, welcomed by the whole country. I am sure that there will be further reductions in government expenditure. I suppose there are as many ideas about where those reductions should be made as there are members of this Parliament. My view is that we ought to be cutting further on expensive, non-productive entities such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I simply cannot see why the Government should be spending, in a tight situation, on pop radio, current affairs propaganda programs, sex programs of dubious taste and worth, and the other odd assortment, good and spurious, put out by the costly, intransigent ABC. I also believe that social welfare programs such as the Australian Assistance Plan must be pruned to realistic levels before the Australian people lose their initiative and independence altogether and settle for a way of life based on handouts, as they were encouraged to do by our predecessors.
– That is beautiful.
-Thank you. The simple truth is that no realistic system of social services can reach the really poor if inflation continues unabated and if the economy continues to be administered by a battening army of professional bureaucrats who absorb an absurd percentage of moneys intended to help the poor. Such welfare payments as are required to help the genuinely needy should be made in some way that will ensure that they get directly to those who need them, without passing through a chain of bureaucratic middlemen. The Government has shown the way, with the family allowance policies. I would like to see the Government do the same with all other welfare policies. They should be on the needs basis only.
I suggest to the Government that the best thing to do, as a means of helping to solve the unemployment problem, is to encourage more women to stay in the home. Many of them want to do that. Many in my electorate want to do that. Last October Marie Gammon wrote in the Melbourne Age something which I think is worth quoting. She wrote:
If a woman cannot look after her own family then someone else has to and it does then become a matter of dollars and cents-either for the husband or the State or some combination of the two.
It is interesting to note that a well known Women’s Libber, Meredith Evans, said very much the same thing. I am not advocating that the Government pay wages to housewives, but I am suggesting that increased family allowances in future would be a solid means of encouraging women to leave the work force and to do the job which many of them want to do. I suggest that in future this is one aspect of government policy which is deserving of maximum attention.
Debate (on motion by Mr Nicholls) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honourable members will be aware that on 29 April the House agreed to a motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for the establishment of an expenditure committee of that House. The Expenditure Committee is an important part of the Government’s policy of strengthening the parliamentary system to enable it to supervise adequately and review government administration. We consider that the Expenditure Committee will allow a greater in-depth examination of public expenditure than that provided by the Senate Estimates Committees and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. There is, however, an obvious need for close liaison between these committees. It is for this purpose that I introduce this Bill to amend the Public Accounts Committee Act- to enable the Chairman of the Expenditure Committee to be an ex-officio member of the Public Accounts Committee. It is also proposed that the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee be an exofficio member of the Expenditure Committee, but this of course does not need an amendment of the Act. The Bill also proposes to make several formal amendments to the Act in Accordance with current drafting procedures. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
-This Bill contains the reverse provision to that which was contained in the motion establishing the Expenditure Committee in that it allows the Chairman of the Expenditure Committee to sit on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. The only remark I make is that I am concerned at a time when a report from the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System has been introduced and recommends major changes to the Public Accounts Committee- in fact, it recommends an alteration to that Committee to cover procedures which are at present being covered by other expenditure committees- we are having enshrined in legislation a provision that the chairman of one committee can sit on another. The Bill does alter the numbers on the 2 committees. I do not think that it is a terribly great thing, but I think it is regrettable that the Expenditure Committee was established without reference to the report of the Joint Committee. Those who have read the report of the Joint Committee will see that it was not terribly happy with an expenditure committee.
The Bill is a technical one which the Opposition is not opposing. We were opposed to i Insetting up of the Expenditure Committee, on the ground that it was pre-empting the report of the Joint Committee. I think we were proved to Incorrect in that stand. This Bill is purely a machinery measure. I think it would have been better if the Parliament had waited for its Committee u> report, which was only a matter of a couple of weeks.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Street) read a third time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 8 February 1 976, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move:
The Customs TariffProposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff 1966-1974.
The Proposals give effect to the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on spectacle and sunglass frames, sunglasses, etc. The effect of the decision is that initially a rate of 35 per cent will apply to goods previously subject to import restrictions and pans for those goods. This rate will phase to 30 per cent after 18 months and to 25 per cent after a further 18 months. Goods that were not subject to import restrictions will be dutiable at 25 per cent. The Proposals also contain changes of an administrative nature.
The new duties will operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary of the changes is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
– It is nice that the Parliament is informed of these proposals shortly after the Press release has been issued. I merely formally move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1975-76. Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1975-76. Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1976. Customs Amendment Bill 1 976. Live Stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1976.
Live Stock Slaughter Levy Collection Amendment Bill 1976.
Motion ( by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to refer to a matter which has a great bearing on industrial relations, and I hope that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) will be listening to what 1 am saying and will come into the House to give his views on the points that I am about to make. For a long time now, ever since the Whybrow and Co. case, there have been many instances of case law which have indicated that one of the great weaknesses in industrial relations has been the fact that unions have to serve logs of claims on employers that would keep them within ambit during the currency of the proposed award; that is to say, if there is a possibility that during the currency of the award there will be a rapid increase in wages or there will be a change in working conditions or standard hours or annual leave, the union has to make certain that the log of claims that it serves will be anticipating at least the standard of wages and working conditions which might ultimately come about before the award expires. This means that unions, in accordance with the case law as it now stands, have to serve claims which contain seemingly extravagant demands in relation to wages and working hours and working conditions, otherwise they would have to go to the expense of reserving all of the employers bound by that particular award.
When I was secretary of the Australian Workers Union we found that every time we served a new log of claims for a new pastoral award it cost us many thousands of pounds. Goodness knows what it would cost now to serve 27 000 cited respondents to the pastoral award. Just before I was sacked as Minister for Labor and Immigration I was working on a regulation that would allow substituted service for logs of claims so that unions could make claims that were more realistic, by servicing, say, the association of the employers concerned only and that copies of the log of claims could then be published in the Government Gazette.
I appeal to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to give very serious consideration to the regulation I was considering during the first half of last year; that is to say, issue a regulation which will authorise unions to service by substituted service on employers instead of having to serve all of the employers, as is now the case. Because it will not be so costly, as is now the case, to serve all respondents they will be able to make claims that are more realistic. The trouble has been that because the High Court’s ruling has made unions keep within the ambit of the original log of claims before subsequent variations to the award can be tolerated or entertained by the Commission, unions have had to anticipate in advance; they have had to set claims that were quite unrealistic. Because they were set at levels necessary to meet the consequences of High Court law, the members felt cheated when they did not get the full extent of the claim made on their behalf.
Those claims are quite unreal. They set quite unreal levels of expectation for the employees, and when the claims are not met the employees blame the union officials for not having done their job Correctly, or they blame the arbitrators for being biased or not acting in accordance with proper principles. The Minister can strike a very important blow for sensible industrial relations if he will take up where I left off, consider issuing regulations which will make it possible to serve logs of claims on, say, a nominal number of respondents- perhaps the original association of employers which is appropriate to cover the employers that you wish to cover by the log of claims- and then allow the unions by substituted service to cover the rest of the employers by notification through the Government Gazette.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to draw the attention of the House tonight to an article which appeared on page 5 of this morning’s Australian and which was followed up this afternoon in the Sydney Daily Mirror. The heading of the article in this morning’s Australian was: ‘TV unions join forces to fight for local content’. The article went on to say that the television producers and entertainment unions will be joining forces next week to try to force the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to increase Australian program percentages on commercial television. They also intend to thrash out the situation over residual payments for repeat programs. I certainly have no argument with that. Those payments have been argued about for a number of years now and in fact one particular commercial network has already offered to make those payments. I personally believe that those payments for repeat performances are fully justified.
But really it is about time that the unions and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and indeed some of the advisers to the present Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson), whose portfolio covers the electronic media, took stock of the whole situation regarding commercial television and especially took stock of what is described by that much bandied phrase ‘Australian content’. It would seem that there has been almost an obsession during the past few years with getting a big percentage of television programs, and to a great degree it has worked. But the real problem is that we have quantity and not quality in our television programs in this country at the moment. The old tag which was given to television stations some years ago- that they were given a licence to print money- no longer holds water. Right now the capital city stations are, admittedly, quite viable. They have had some pretty lean times these past few years, and the country stations certainly are not in such a happy situation even now. One would hope that the forthcoming inquiry into the media would help to rationalise the situation.
In the meantime I would like to make a suggestion. Firstly, let us decide whether or not we want quality television in this country or whether we want quantity in television programming. Secondly, we have to decide whether we and the television industry should be looking towards an export market for our television production. We have to decide whether we will allow the industry to be rebuilt in that way, just as happened with the Australian film production industry which is now enjoying quite good successes overseas. Incidentally, quite a deal of government assistance has been given to the Australian film industry over the past few years. However, there has been no assistance for the producers of commercial television programs. Perhaps this is a very real way in which we can help with government assistance. Perhaps we should be looking for an export market for our television programs.
I believe that rather than have a percentage quota or points system on programs, perhaps we should be urging the television stations to be spending percentages of their revenue on television program production, because money certainly is a problem in the production of television shows in this country. Perhaps I can give a few comparisons. The average budget for an Australian television drama series of one-hour programs at the moment is between $25,000 and $50,000. We are up against a situation in the United States of America where a one-hour program might cost as much as $250,000 to present.
I believe it is up to the industry to achieve its own rationalisation. I believe also that it is up to the unions to look at their own house. Over the last few years we have seen a big development of the organisation called Actors Equity. I have no particular hassle against Actors Equity except for the fact that it has reached the stage where it has attracted a lot of non-talent to its ranks. It is very easy these days for someone with little experience and very little talent to say that he is an actor and become a member of Actors Equity. I think honourable members will find that so much of the unemployment that is talked about in the acting profession comes from this particular area. Therefore I hope that the union will look at this situation when it is talking about its unemployment problem.
I would hope too that the industry in Australia looks to its own house as well. Rather than running around making these huge percentages of Australian programs, let us look for quality; let us do something constructive and encourage and train Australian writers for television because this is one of the biggest single problems the industry in Australia faces. We have to solve the problem of a lack of professional writers.
So we need writers. We need fully trained production officials and fully trained technicians. If we can get that sort of rationalisation, that sort of quality into our television programming and look towards overseas markets, I am sure we will be building a much better, bigger and viable enterprise and that Australia will take its place in the world as one of the leading production nations in the television field.
-This afternoon in the course of debate in the Parliament a most unparalleled incident occurred. The Prime Minister of this nation tabled a number of documents.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I am sorry, but the honourable member for Oxley cannot discuss during the adjournment debate a debate that has taken place in the House today.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did not table them as part of the debate. He tabled them by intruding into the debate at the end of my speech. They were not related to the debate.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley cannot debate the issue. The documents were tabled during the proceedings of the House this day.
– Very well, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will talk about a general principle. It has always been a well established general principle that Ministers of a government do not divulge confidential documents which pass between the Ministry and the Public Service. This is especially true- and I draw on my own experience of 3 years as a Minister- in relation to the advisings from legal officers of the Crown.
Let me start by giving an illustration of an experience that I had, because I believe that by bringing forth that illustration I can indicate the problems that can arise. When I was Minister for Social Security there were, as there perennially are, problems with the media about unemployment benefits. When you make them reasonably and liberally available the media condemns you because you are too liberal and when you tighten up they condemn you because you are not liberal enough. That is always one of the problems. It so happened that on one occasion the Australian Union of Students contacted me and requested in fairly firm terms that I should release the legal advising to the then Government which justified its excluding university students from unemployment benefits during vacation periods. It so happened that when I called for the legal advising as a matter of information for myself, that legal advising had been prepared not by a law officer of the Crown within the Public Service but by a former Attorney-General who is now the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick.
I had no intention of releasing the legal advising. It seemed to me that there was a well established and well justified precedent that the legal advisings to a government are a privileged document, confidential to the Government and not for general dissemination. One could well imagine, I might add, the sort of problems which would arise if governments were freely and not too thoughtfully to throw about the community the legal advisings which come to them. After all- if I can reduce this to a very personal sort of illustration- if one were to have a court case one would not be likely to provide the full details of legal advice one obtains to one’s opponent in that case. I advised the Australian Union of Students firmly, for a host of reasons which were totally persuasive to me and based on precedent, that it could not have that advising. I had no intention of compromising or embarrassing in any way at all the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia who might very well have been placed in the position of having to deliberate on this important case if it had proceeded further. Legal officers would be placed in the most extreme degree of embarrassment if their legal advisings were released to the public.
The other illustration that I would like to make concerns public servants. It is very well established that when a member of Parliament- not a member of the Government- contacts a public servant, the public servant should advise the Minister. It was done in my time; it was done before my time. It is done properly and I would want none of my colleagues to misunderstand it. Mr Daniels today did that properly. This advice is always treated as confidential. I always treated it as such, although I know that several former members of a Ministry in a previous government would contact Treasury or the Department of Social Security in the course of a week. This action creates extreme embarrassment and makes the functioning of the Public Service- its impartiality, independence and forthrightnessdifficult to maintain if anything but that total confidentiality is to be maintained. Today we saw the total shattering of that precedent by a Prime Minister who by those actions is not worthy of the office.
-Order! I think the honourable member now is coming into an area of a debate which has taken place today.
-This evening I want to speak on a matter that is rarely raised in this House. It is not a matter which concerns the political philosophy of either side of the House. I am sure that honourable members on both sides of the House would support the matter I am about to raise. It is a matter of religious freedom. On 31 March 1974 Mr Georgi Vins, a Soviet Baptist leader, was arrested by the Soviet authorities. He was charged under 3 articles of the Soviet constitution, namely articles 138 ( 1 1), 1 87 ( 1 ) and 209 ( 1 ). No other details were available except that in January 1976 he was tried by a Soviet court and was convicted. Members of his family were not permitted to enter the court room. For that matter neither was anyone else except those who had special passes to get them into the court room. As I have said, he was convicted. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and S years deportation, and his property was confiscated. And what was he charged with? He was charged with speaking about Christianity. He was not charged with speaking about religion of one form or another. He was speaking about Christianity. The Soviet Union today would stand before the world in the United Nations and would say, as the Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs said in Izvestia on 30 January 1976:
We can claim with full justification that our legislation on religious cults comes out as the most humane and democratic in the world.
What a wonderful freedom it is when governments have to legislate for religious freedom. That is the Soviet Union today, which would take a Christian leader from his wife and family because he dared to take the Bible, the scripture in his hand, and go into the Soviet Union and read from it.
This coming Sunday a number of Christians of various denominations will attempt to present a petition with in excess of 40 000 signatures to the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. I hope that all honourable members would join with me in asking that someone have the courtesy to accept that petition. In January 1976, when the petition with 40 000 signatures was presented to the Soviet Embassy, it was refused and put on the doorstep and left in the rain. That was not an insult to the delegation that attempted to present the petition; it was an insult to the 40 000 Christians in this country who took the time and trouble to put their names to the paper. There is a volume of the sacred law, the Holy Bible, within and about this House. Most honourable members would have one. St Mark, chapter 16, verse 15, states:
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
I stand here this evening as an honourable member asking for support for the right of every Christian to speak in freedom. The Soviet Union has but one thought in mind- to stop freedom. Freedom in religion is but one small part of it. Georgi Vins has been taken away from his wife and children for 10 years. The Soviet authorities in this country and throughout the world have refused to accept petitions containing over 350 000 signatures. They stand condemned in this House; they stand condemned throughout the world. There is no place for communism in Christianity and there is no place for Christianity in communism.
– I just wonder why the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) did not read the Bible prior to the New South Wales election. That might have prevented him from making all those attacks upon the new member for Ashfield, because that was not very Christian either. Some of the accusations he made would not stand up to any sort of test at all. I do not rise tonight to talk about the honourable member for Evans, because he will be here for a short time only. We are treating him as a boarding house guest. I rise tonight to talk about -
– His oiliness.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Prospect and other honourable members that the honourable member for Port Adelaide now has only 3lA minutes in which to speak.
– The reason I rise tonight is to talk about what I consider to be one of the great fears of this nation in that a government could ever see itself exploiting the services and confidences of the Australian Public Service. The extent to which an Australian Government can do that, to the extent to which an Australian Government could ever stand over the Public Service or ever impair its neutrality, is quite frightening. We have in the Public Service a quarter of a million people serving what they consider to be the Government of Australia, serving in a very neutral fashion what they consider to be the people who are elected to govern this country. One wonders what would occur whenever that neutrality is broken, whenever those people are intimidated to such an extent that they believe that they have become the servants of one political party. I give an instance of how this could occur. If those of us who serve in the Opposition were to make a telephone call to a senior public servant, of course, we believe, the senior public servant, in carrying out his task, would record the conversation. If that conversation, having been recorded and transmitted to the Minister, found its way to the Bench of either of the Houses of Parliament- the House of Representatives or the Senate- that would be one of the most violent disruptions of relationship between parliamentarian and public servant that this country has ever witnessed.
– You did it over the last 3 years.
-There has never been one instance where the Labor Government has ever prevented the relationship between government and public servant in the way that I have just mentioned. I consider that that would be unforgivable, because no longer could any parliamentarian, be he on this side of the House or on the back bench of the other side of the House, ever talk to a public servant without expecting that particular conversation to be tabled in the National Parliament of Australia. If this illustration were ever to prove to be correct, it is not the Public Service that should be condemned, it is the people in power who exploit such a service. The only people who would do so are those people who would perhaps say things like the Prime Minister said today. The Prime Minister of Australia today has said that during the election campaign the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) stole papers from the Treasury. He then apologised for making that allegation. A person like that might exploit such a service. I think that anybody who does what has been used in the illustration is entitled to be condemned not only by all members of both sides of the Parliament but by every citizen in this country, because that person has set out to destroy a relationship that has been built up since Federation. In such a case, no longer is the Public Service there to serve the nation of Australia, it is there to serve the wants of an individual.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to draw the attention of the House very briefly to some interesting statistics issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on new capital expenditure.The latest statistics for the quarter ending
March were released on 26 May and were reported in the Sydney newspapers this morning. They show a 10 per cent increase, March quarter to March quarter in total capital expenditure. However, I do submit that the Minister should consider a better break-up of these figures because, as the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out, total manufacturing appears to have fallen in investment terms in these figures, whereas leasing, which is included in all other nonmanufacturing, is in fact rising substantially. It appears very strange to me that total manufacturing investment is rising.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I require the debate to be extended. Earlier in this adjournment debate the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) raised an issue relating to the cost to unions of serving logs of claims on respondents to awards. The honourable member suggested that these costs were so high that unions endeavoured to incur the costs as seldom as possible and therefore had to pitch their claims a long way ahead into the future, trying to gauge what working conditions and wages might be at some considerable time into the future. He said that this technique led them to make very large demands which at the time they were made probably appeared unrealistic and indeed engendered unrealistic expectations in the minds of the members of those organisations.
The honourable member has suggested that perhaps another way could be found to serve logs of claims which would avoid this cost, avoid the necessity for unions to make such a large demand at any one time and so reduce the expectations in the minds of union members. As I understand him he suggested that logs of claims might be served by way of substitute service by being published in the Commonwealth Gazette, that because this would be a great deal cheaper unions would be able to serve logs of claims without incurring those huge costs, that they would be willing to do it more often and would therefore moderate the sorts of claims that were made. It is an interesting suggestion. I am not able at the moment to say whether any difficulties are involved but I will arrange for a detailed investigation to be made of the proposals that the honourable member has outlined.
-The House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 1 1.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
In order to reinforce the recovery of business confidence in the private sector of the economy, will he table monthly in
Parliament the capital investment programs of major investment projects in Australia as from 1 January 1976.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details of new capital investment expenditure by private businesses in Australia are compiled by the Australian Statistician on a strictly confidential basis for incorporation in a quarterly statistical release; Reference No. 5.8. Information regarding individual capital investment projects from that source, cannot, therefore, be tabled in Parliament.
Aggregated statistics are available, however, in that release which provide details of past and anticipated future capital expenditures by both selected Australian Standard Industry Classification sub-divisions and by type of asset. For example, the Statistician’s latest survey indicates that, compared with the second half of 1975, the value of new capital expenditure by private businesses in Australia is anticipated to increase by 1 per cent in the six months to 30 June 1976; a 10 per cent decrease in expenditure on new buildings and structures is expected to be more than outweighed by an 8 per cent increase in other new capital equipment.
Other information concerning new capital investment can be obtained from the following unofficial sources:
‘Quarterly Business Survey’, conducted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and the National Bank.
‘Survey of Industrial Trends’, conducted by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the Bank of New South Wales; and
‘Survey of Construction Activity’, conducted by the ANZ Bank with the co-operation of the Master Builders’ Federation of Australia and the Australian Federation of Construction Contractors.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, - upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The new procedures circulated on 15 April 1975 related to bamboo, cane and rattan articles contained in passengers’ baggage, unaccompanied baggage and parcel post. These articles are now inspected and only ordered into quarantine for treatment when found infested by insects. Procedures for handling all other imports of these articles have not been altered.
Procedures for wooden articles and straw articles have not been altered.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
As the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is charged with the development and administration of the commercial broadcasting industry in Australia, who are the present members of the Board, and what are their (a) terms of appointment, (b) qualifications and general experience and (c) prior experience in the radio and television industries.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The present membership of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the requested details areChairman: M. F. E. Wright (full-time).
Continuing terms totalling 10 years 9 months commencing 1 5.3.66 and expiring 3 1.1 2.76.
Journalist, Writer, Theatrical Actor, Producer, General Manager Radio Station 3AW and Member Royal Womens’ Hospital Board of Management.
Producer of radio features. Producer 3AW 1947. Production Manager 1950. Assistant Manager 1954. General Manager 1955-56, President Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters 1962-63.
Vice-Chairman: J. E. Neary, O.B.E. (full-time).
Continuing terms totalling 5 years 7 months commencing 27.6.73 and expiring 31.1.79.
Artists’ Manager, Entrepreneur, Theatrical Promoter, Film and Television Producer. Preparation on behalf of Australian Government of Australian stage presentations at Expo 67 (Canada), Expo 70 (Japan) and Expo 74 (U.S.A.). Administrator of Australia’s participation in United States Bi-Centenary Celebrations.
Extensive experience for more than 25 years in the radio, television and entertainment industries.
Member: Dr G. N. Evans (full-time).
Five years commencing 1.1 1.75 and expiring 30.10.80.
M. Sc. Agric. (Sydney), Ph. D. (Cornell), Research Scientist CSIRO 1967-71, Secretary to Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts 1972-74, Adviser to Minister for Manufacturing Industry and then Minister for the Media.
Secretary of Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which inquired into broadcasting and television. Adviser to Minister for the Media. Member of Working Party on Public Broadcasting.
Member: Dr Patricia Edgar (part-time).
Five years commencing 13.10.75 and expiring 12.10.80.
B.A. and B. Ed. (Melbourne), M.A. (Stanford), Ph. D. (La Trobe), Senior Lecturer, Centre for the Study of Educational and Communication Media, La Trobe University. Author and co-author of publications concerning television programmes and the media. Chairperson of Advisory Committee on Program Standards appointed by the ABCB in September, 1975.
See details in (b) above. Member E. A. Kellan (part-time).
Three years commencing 30. 1.76 and expiring 29. 1.79.
Formerly Managing Director of Dunlop Australia Ltd. and subsidiary companies. Currently a Director of a number of companies including Dunlop Australia Ltd.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( U I am aware of the Queensland Government’s Plan to develop a new port at Fisherman’s Island. There have been no consultations with the State Government regarding the expediting of the project.
It is essentially a State initiative and as such, the project timing and completion dates are entirely the prerogative of the Queensland Government.
Commonwealth involvement has so far been limited to considering whether certain access roads to the new port should be declared as export roads.
Australian Agricultural Attache in Japan (Question No. 476)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Is there an Australian Agricultural Attache in Tokyo or any other Japanese city; if not, why not; if so, what has been done to answer the allegations that our lack of an attache has cost us dearly with market intelligence about beef quotas.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no Australian Agricultural Attache in Tokyo or in any other Japanese city. While the appointment of an Agricultural Attache to the Australian Embassy in Tokyo has been recognised as desirable a position has not been established because of staff and financial restrictions.
The lack of an Agricultural Attache in Tokyo has in no way affected the availability to the Australian Government of information on matters relating to the beef industry.
Australian officials and representatives of the Australian Meat Board in Tokyo are in constant contact with Japanese officials and provide the Australian Government with uptodate market intelligence reports.
It might be noted that one of the senior Department of Overseas Trade officials presently stationed in Tokyo is an officer with substantial recent experience in the Department of Primary Industry.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No decisions have been taken on the Bureau’s Report which makes firm recommendations on road grants to the States through to 1979-80 and an indicative level for 1980-81. The actual attainment of the Bureau’s recommended goal does not of course depend entirely on the decisions ultimately taken in regard to the Bureau’s 197S report but also on subsequent decisions on grants for National Highways to apply for the period 1980-81-1985-86.
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
Who are the Australian Government representatives on the body in each State concerned with the forward planning and development of policies relating to urban transport.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Government representatives on State bodies concerned with forward planning of policies relating to urban transport are:
Mr C. W. Freeland, First Assistant Secretary, Land Transport Policy Division, Department of Transport, on,
New South Wales; Transport Development Committee, and
Victoria; Consultative Group.
Mr J. W. Spencer, Assistant Secretary, Urban Transport Branch, Department of Transport, on,
Queensland; Metropolitan Transit Project Board,
South Australia; State Transport Authority
Western Australia; Perth Regional Transport Coordinating Committee, and
Tasmania; Tasmanian Urban Transport Committee.
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
What is the estimated date of:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Program submitted by S.A. Minister of Transport in 1975 provided for completion in 6 years from January 1975. S.A. were slow to start work on project. Railway expected to take at least 5 years from now to complete.
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
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:
South Australian Department of Agriculture Waite Institute, Adelaide
Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Adelaide
Western Australian Department of Agriculture.
I do not have details of expenditure by these organizations and suggest that the honourable member approach them for such information.
(a) The research undertaken by CSIRO forms part of its program on toxins in plants consumed by livestock, which is currently concerned with annual ryegrass toxicity, heliotrope toxicity, lupinosis, Pharlaris toxicity and pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The effort put into the study of each of these problems has varied, but total expenditure on the study of ryegrass toxicity is estimated at some $40,000 in the five years ending June 1975. New resources were allocated to this work in 1 975-76, when approximately $ 128,000 will be spent.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
Department or such agencies in respect of their annual salaries.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are a number of officers within departmental units who are engaged on recruitment work either in a full time capacity or in association with other duties. Their activities relate mainly to processing requests for staff, issuing of recruitment demands to Public Service Inspectors, inducting new recruits, notifying vacancies and provisional promotions in the Australian Government Gazette and the arranging of interviews with selection committees.
In some special categories of employment e.g., Preventive Officers, the Department does conduct a recruitment campaign with the assistance of the Public Service Inspector. These campaigns are usually conducted once a year and the time involved for the campaign depends on the number of people to be recruited. Because of the intermittent nature of this work and its integration with other management services activities it is not possible to be precise about the number of persons employed in such a capacity. Some 20 officers at any stage would be spending a part of their time at these duties- in aggregate there would be the equivalent of approximately three officers on full time recruitment work at a cost of some $27,000 per annum.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Estimates of deserted wives receiving widows’ pensions are not available but the estimated total number of widow pensioners in the electorate was 1 350 at 23 March 1 976.
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New Hospitals in New South Wales (Question No. 418)
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I would mention, however, that in the first year of the Hospitals Development Program, 1974-75, expenditure on some projects included the following specific Commonwealth grants:
The current estimated dates of completion are as follows:
The fifty bed ward extensions are expected to be completed in June 1976.
Gosford Rehabilitation Unit expected to be completed in October 1976.
Gosford Stage I further extensions- the working drawings are expected to be complete by
The Institute of Clinical Pathology is expected to be completed in September 1 977;
Ward Block No. 1- expected to commence occupancy in September 1978 and to be completed by November 1979;
Ward Block No. 2 -expected to commence occupancy by 1980.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760527_reps_30_hor99/>.