House of Representatives
2 June 1976

30th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.

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The Clerk:

– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:

Underprivileged Schools

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 public schools in the inner city of Sydney are in desperate need of special grants and provisions, viz., the maintenance of current expenditure; the allocation of smaller classes; the absorption of unemployed teachers; the provision of more specialist teachers, such as bi-lingual and remedial teachers; the provision of special grants for disadvantaged schools; the provision of cash grants for aid and equipment, and the implementation of building programmes to improve the deplorable conditions in these schools.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to ensure that Grants to UnderPrivileged Schools in the Sydney Inner City are retained, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Stewart.

Petitions received.

Aurukun Community: Mining

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

  1. initiate a Commission of Enquiry into the whole matter
  2. insist that no mining take place on the Aurukun Aboriginal Reserve until a full environmental impact study has been made by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development
  3. refuse to grant an export licence to the Consortium until detailed negotiations are held at Aurukun by Consortium representatives with the Aurukun people, the traditional owners of the land and advisers of their choice, and an agreement satisfactory to all has been reached.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly and Mr Neil.

Petitions received.

Social Security Payments: Indexation

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 pharamaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.

Update the State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act of 1974, 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 Les McMahon and Mr Morris.

Petitions received.

The Dairy Industry

To the Honourable Mr Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That the Dairy Farmers in Victoria and Tasmania are suffering as a result of a collapse of world markets in milk products, in particular the skim milk powder market:

That the farmers, their families, the communities and the businesses which depend on a viable Dairy Industry are experiencing extreme economic depression;

That the social consequences from this depression will result in many hard-working and responsible farmers surrendering their farms and seeking other employment;

That it is incumbent on the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia in the short term to guarantee an economic return for the Dairy Farmers, who produce milk for manufacture into butter, skim milk powder, casein, and cheese, and in the long term to determine whether the Government supports the Dairy Industry which will produce for the export market;

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to take immediate steps to support the Dairy Farmers in the crisis they are currently experiencing until the stabilisation of the Industry and the determination of long-term Government policy is concluded after consultation with Industry leaders and the State Governments.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burr.

Petition received.

Metric System

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Capricornia respectfully showeth:

That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.

That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.

That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take steps to repeal the Metric Conversion Act and restore the traditional and familiar weights and measures.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Carige.

Petition received.

Australian Heritage Commission

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:

There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man made.

That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.

That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.

That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organizations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.

That a proper balance between the Government programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.

Petition received.

Woodchip Industry

To the Honourable the Speaker and House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

  1. That Australia is not well-endowed with natural forest areas only amounting to 4.5 per cent of the total land area.
  2. That very little of this forested area, is reserved in national parks, most of the remainder being directly (as State forests etc.) or indirectly (as Crown lands, over which forestry exercises timber extraction rights) under forestry control.
  3. That most of this remainder is liable to be totally destroyed by woodchip projects, due to soil erosion, nutrient loss, fire damage to young saplings in artificial forest regeneration projects.
  4. That many forms of arboreal wildlife are thus threatened with extinction.
  5. That grossly inadequate consideration has been given to the process of recycling packaged paper.
  6. That it is not in the long-term interest of the Australian people that these forests are converted into material for short-term use of excessive packaging.
  7. That it is a severe abuse of democraticrights to subsidise forestry practice with public money without adequate consultation of public interest.

We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that you will:

  1. Immediately cancel all current woodchip export licences.
  2. Immediately provide more funds into research for the recycling of used packaged material.
  3. Ensure that any future applications for woodchip leases be preceded by an environmental enquiry, to be conducted by a panel of environmentalists and public-spirited conservation bodies independent of the Australian Forestry Council or any State Forestry Commission.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.

Petition received.

Income Tax: Land and Water Rates

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.

Petition received.

National Library

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:

  1. . That as of the 29 March 1 976 opening hours of the Australian National Library have been reduced to the following times: Wednesday and Thursday, 9.30 a.m. to 10.00 p.m.: Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Public Holidays, 9.30 a.m. to 4.45 p.m.; Sunday, 1.30 p.m. to 4.45 p.m.
  2. That the expenditure cutbacks and consequent reduction in the hours of opening of the Australian National Library has seriously disadvantaged part-time students who are able to devote only evening hours to study.
  3. That because of the reduced hours of operation, students, particularly those in the Arts Faculties, have a very limited time available in which to consult primary source material held at the Australian National Library.
  4. That the suspension of purchasing of books on an individual basis, and of university theses on micro-film will seriously disadvantage research students.
  5. That the Australian National University Library and the Canberra College of Advanced Education have only limited collections, both requiring to be complemented by the Australian National Library collections.
  6. That the lowering of educational standards as a consequence of the restrictions on educational facilities, would result in immeasurable non-economic cost to the community.
  7. That scholars from interstate who have only a limited time to spend in the Library will be seriously hampered in their research.

We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that the Australian National Library be accessible to readers 9.30 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. daily.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.

Petition received.

Age Pensions: Means Test

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 those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.

The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.

We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.

To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.

Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garland.

Petition received.

Taxation: Home Mortgage Interest

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:

  1. That the proposal to exclude all persons from the benefit of tax deductibility for mortgage interest rates other than first home buyers in their first five years of home purchase is a repudiation of the Government’s election undertaking to maintain the scheme.
  2. That the effect of the proposal will cause hardship to many current beneficiaries of the scheme, in that existing benefits will terminate, thus putting housing loan repayments beyond reach.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:

  1. that the Government reconsider its decision to drastically curtail the scheme;
  2. that the principles applying to the scheme as introducedby the Labor Government be maintained; and
  3. that benefits be upgraded by indexation to take account of the effects of inflation.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.

Petition received.

Income Tax

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-

  1. be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
  2. find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
  3. require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.

Petition received.

Newcastle Dockyards

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth-

That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.

That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that 50,000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.

That stability is at present in jeopardy , as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.

That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.

That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and cut unemployment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.

Petition received.

Overseas Development Assistance

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 $21 million and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.

We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:

  1. as a matter of urgency, reverse the decision to cut the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote so as to ensure that the full amount appropriated by Parliament for Overseas Development Assistance is spent this financial year to meet the pressing needs of those in the developing countries:
  2. reaffirm Australia’s commitment of Overseas Development Assistance being a minimum of 0.7 per cent of GNP, and
  3. establish a fully independent statutory authority to administer Australia’s official Overseas Development Assistance.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Antony Whitlam.

Petition received.

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– I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. It relates again to the Adelaide-Crystal Brook standard gauge railway agreement. Will the Minister explain to the House and to the people why he has engaged Mr K. Aickin, Q.C., of Melbourne, to advise him and his Government on how to welsh on the Railways Agreement (South Australia) Act, in defiance of the decision of the Parliament and without the courtesy of advising either the Australian National Railways Commission or the South Australian Government of his actions? What fee is being paid to Mr Aickin for his services? Why was the advice sought not available from the Government’s own law officers?

Minister for Transport · GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · LP

-The first point to make is that it is not necessary for the Government when it takes advice from lawyers, whether they are from the Attorney-General’s Department or from outside, to advise either the business authorities of the Government or any State government as to its action. The second point is that I must reply to the assumption in the honourable member’s question by the use of the word ‘welsh’. Having in mind the doubt about the Medibank agreements, the Government is properly seeking to know that status of current agreements between it and the States. In the light of the previous Government’s carelessness in these matters I would have thought that the honourable member would welcome such a checking process. Thirdly, I am not in a position to advise the honourable member of the fee that Mr Aickin, Q.C. will be paid. The matter was looked after by the Attorney-General himself and, if he feels like it, he can advise the honourable member after question time. I think that answers all the points raised by the honourable member.

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-Has the Minister for National Resources seen reports that the Federal Government is refusing to honour commitments to construct natural gas pipeline laterals from Young to Wagga and Lithgow? Are these reports accurate?

Deputy Prime Minister · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

– I have not seen the reports that the honourable member for Hume has mentioned but I would like to say that any request to build the laterals which link in with the main Moomba-Sydney pipeline will come from Australian Gas Light Co. It is my understanding that, once the request is made, there is a contractual obligation on the Pipeline Authority to build the laterals or any spur lines. However, no request has been made at the moment and it is not possible for the Commonwealth to anticipate when any such request is likely to be made. That is the reason no allocation has been made in the estimates for the Budget expenditure for the year 1976-77. It is very much a matter for Australian Gas Light Co. and the New South Wales Government to resolve whether they will make a request to the Pipeline Authority.

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-The Prime Minister will recall that on 27 May in this House he stated that the legal advisings he had received from the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General were so clear and firm that the invalidity of the hospitals agreements with the States was beyond question. Will the Prime Minister again assert that the invalidity of the hospitals agreements with States is beyond question, despite the advising received by Mr Hamer?

Prime Minister · WANNON, VICTORIA · LP

– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question because it certainly will enable some additional information to be provided which I hope the honourable gentleman will welcome. The legal advice that came to the Government from the SolicitorGeneral and the Attorney-General is clear. I have sent copies of that advising to all State Premiers and, as the honourable gentleman would well know, a copy was tabled in this House. I have not had a copy of the advice that might have come to Mr Hamer. I will certainly be asking him for a copy of it. But I do not really think that these matters are particularly relevant to the nature of the discussions that have been taking place between the Commonwealth and the States. In any discussions I have had with the States, there has been a recognition that the intermediate and private ward charges in public hospitals ought to be increased.

In every State with which I have had discussions, not deliberately on these particular matters but in the course of discussions on other matters- and it might be noted that one of the Premiers concerned was from New South Wales- it had been indicated that that particular proposal would mean a good deal to the revenue of the States concerned. It would prevent the levy payers and people who are content to have, or who choose to have, standard ward treatment in public hospitals from continuing to subsidise those who choose to make some additional provision for themselves. Yesterday my colleague, the Minister for Health, advised me that if the proposal were accepted State Budgets would be saved to an extent of $75m and the Commonwealth Budget would be saved an equal amount.

So if there are States that wish to argue against the proposal, they are arguing that the levy payers and those in standard wards in public hospitals should subsidise those in intermediate and private wards to the tune of $ 150m a day. If that is the proposition the Australian Labor Party wishes to support, it is not one this Government is going to support. People should be prepared to insure themselves if they wish to do so. I thank the honourable gentleman for giving me an opportunity to make that situation plainer.

Also, in conversation with Mr Hamer I explored with him the concerns we had about the open ended arrangements in relation to hospital financing and their recurrent expenditure. The Premier told me that he was concerned also with the fact that since the introduction of Medibank, the control of the recurrent expenditure of hospitals had virtually disappeared. Certainly there is no control from the Commonwealth according to the advice that has come to us from our advisers. Because of the nature of the hospitals agreements I am advised that the States’ control has also been weakened.

What we want to do is to make sure that appropriate means are sorted out between the States and the Commonwealth which would enable the proper level of recurrent costs of hospitals to be ascertained properly. The Premier of Victoria was in full agreement with that objective. We spoke about some mechanisms that would enable us to do it. We were in agreement also about the broad thrust of the mechanisms but that can wait for another day or another question time. I thank the honourable member for Hunter very much for his question.

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– I ask the Minister for Construction whether he has seen reports of recent statements that the construction industry is suffering its severest recession since World War II as a result of the recently announced economic measures by the Government. I further ask the Minister whether, in view of the very serious conditions existing in the building industry in New South Wales, he can inform the House whether the allegations of the severest recession throughout Australia are in fact true.

Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence · BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– I saw reports in several newspapers on Tuesday of a statement issued by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in which he said, for example, that the building industry, particularly the non-residential sector, was already reeling. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a lot of other statements which I can demonstrate are false. On the day that he issued this statement, had he taken the trouble to look at the figures put out by the Bureau of Statistics, which is the only official source of figures, he would have found that they put the exactly opposite position. The total of non-residential approvals during the period February to April has shown a steady increase. In February the total was $117m, in March $147m and in April $182m. The private sector has also shown a steady increase from $65m to $81m in April. These are the most recent figures.

The honourable member asked about New South Wales. The same position applies in that State. I have the building approval figures for New South Wales up to the end of March only. They also show a steady increase. The value of approvals totalled $92m for January and $ 105m for March. The value of all building approvals, which include home building, also has improved over the last 3 months. In February the value of all building approvals amounted to $426m and in April it amounted to $53 lm. The number of housing approvals also is on the increase. In February there were 12 000 approvals in the private sector and in April there were 12 800 approvals. So I put the view that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is quite inaccurate in the figures he has published. The Government’s economic policies are starting to work and an increasing number of individuals and corporations do have confidence in the future.

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Mr E G Whitlam:

– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Has he or the SolicitorGeneral advised that any Federal-State agreements other than Medibank are invalid? If so what agreements has he or the Solicitor-General advised are invalid? Has he or the Solicitor or any other counsel been asked to give advice on the validity of any agreements other than hospital Medibank and the Adelaide-Crystal Brook railway?


-I cannot, of course, speak for the Solicitor-General who may be asked to advise independently. I have not, from recollection, given any advice other than in relation to the hospital Medibank agreement. I will, however, be looking at other agreements including the agreement in relation to South Australian railways. If any other agreements which were entered into during the term of office of the previous Government are brought to my notice they also will have my attention. The only agreement that I can recall in relation to which I have given advice is the one to which the honourable gentleman referred.

Mr E G Whitlam:

– Do you recollect whether any other counsel has been asked to adviseother than Mr Aickin on the Crystal Brook railway?


– No. I cannot help you on that at all.

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– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Resources. I refer to the Government’s policy on foreign investment in mining. I ask: What will the Government do in cases where it proves impossible for Australian interests to find 50 per cent of the capital needed for new mining projects? Will failure to meet the Government’s requirements of Australian equity mean that some projects will be prevented from going ahead?


-There does seem to be some misunderstanding of the guidelines which have been laid down by the Treasurer in relation to the development of our natural resources, whether they be oil, natural gas or other minerals. The misunderstanding comes either from people who do not want to accept the guidelines or from people who have not studied them closely enough. The whole purpose of our 50 per cent rule which applies to those minerals is to allow Australians to participate fully in the development and exploitation of our vast resources, but if it is shown that Australians are not prepared to participate in these developments we do not wish to see projects unduly delayed. If there is not sufficient Australian participation because Australians consider a project is not a worthy one or maybe the size of the project is too great, profitability is too low or the risks are too high, then the foreign interests can make an application to the Foreign Investment Advisory Board and if they can show that there has been a genuine effort to obtain Australian equity but that this has failed the project would proceed.

I have said on a number of occasions that I can well imagine the development of the North West Shelf being an example in which because of the magnitude of the project it is impossible to obtain 50 per cent Australian equity, but I would not want to see the project delayed because of that. I also can imagine that there might be some projects which would be of such a doubtful nature to Australian investors that we would not get any Australian participation. But, provided the development was in the national interest, we would want it to proceed. There could be a case where there might be even 100 per cent overseas investment. It would have to be looked at by the Foreign Investment Review Board, which would make a recommendation to the Government on whether the project should be accepted. Our whole thrust is to see development projects proceed, because in the long run that is in the best interests of this nation.

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-Will the Minister for Health confirm that the Medibank pamphlets produced by the honourable member for Macarthur state that private health insurance funds will offer full medical and hospital coverage for a family at a cost of $350 a year? Will the Minister also confirm that private health insurance funds in Western Australia have stated that intermediate ward coverage for a family will cost $417 a year and private ward coverage $500 a year? Will the Minister agree that these pamphlets are adding to the growing confusion about the Government’s Medibank proposals and that $160,000 has been wasted in producing them?

Minister for Health · GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

– I want it to be made perfectly clear that I and other Ministers sought the advice of a number of members of the Parliament. The honourable member for Macarthur was one whose advice was sought, because of his experience in the area of public relations. I can assure the honourable member for Bonython that the pamphlet itself has done a great deal to erase some of the confusion that may have existed in the minds of a number of people. When the new Medibank agreements come into force on 1 October people will be given the opportunity to insure with private insurance funds if they so wish. It is anticipated that there will be, generally, 2 groups of people who will want to insure in this way. Firstly, there will be those who want to stay in Medibank but want intermediate ward accommodation in a private or public hospital with a doctor of their own choice. Such people will be able to take out private insurance cover for themselves and their families for what we have estimated to be $135 per annum, or approximately $68 per annum in the case of a single person. Those amounts will be over and above the Medibank levy which they will have to pay-

Secondly, we anticipate that people in the highest income groups- that is, those receiving $12,000 a year or more, and that would include the honourable member who asked the question -will have 2 options. They will be able to buy a Medibank package at $300 to cover them and their families rather than pay the levy, or they will be able to take out with a private fund private insurance to cover themselves and their families against medical costs. Private fund insurance will be required only by those people who want to secure for themselves what they consider to be more comfortable accommodation in public or private hospitals, and to choose their own doctor. It will be a matter for the people themselves to take that decision. We anticipate that within the next two or three weeks the actuaries of the private funds will be able to estimate the premiums that people will be required to pay for coverage for intermediate ward accommodation with a doctor of their own choice for a hospital only package or for medical and hospital cover.

The whole arrangement will not come into operation until 1 October, so there is a lot of time available for the funds and for the people to be able to make an intelligent choice of the type of health cover that they want to adopt for themselves. There is a simple item that honourable members should remember, and that is that all those people on income levels similar to ours have 2 choices: We can either pay a Medibank premium to cover ourselves for standard ward accommodation and for 85 per cent of the scheduled fee or we can take out private insurance. That opportunity is also given to the lower income earners who want to take out ‘hospital only’ cover. In the very near future the funds will be announcing their premiums. We have made an estimate at this time. We expect the funds to be very close to it.

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– The Minister for Overseas Trade will no doubt be well aware of the ban on beef imports by the European Economic Community and the effect it is having on Australian beef producers. Can the Minister give the House an assurance that the Government is doing all it possibly can to persuade the EEC countries to lift such a ban?


-Since this Government took office- since the Australian people put us into office convincingly- the Government has been extremely active in continuing its effort to try to get greater access for primary products to the European Economic Community. As far as beef is concerned, the EEC has been extremely limited for us since 1974. In 1973 we sold 85 000 tons of beef to that market, but in 1975 sales dropped to less than 14 000 tons and that market is still very restricted. In fact, the EEC is the single most important factor in the depressed world meat market today. The EEC is the only big importer which still has its market virtually closed to outside countries. We are doing everything possible to keep pressure on the EEC to relax the restrictions which have been imposed.

There was a high level meeting in Brussels on 6 May between representatives of the major beef exporting countries and the EEC Commission. My officials were told at that meeting that the EEC intended lifting its restrictions towards the end of this year. They were also told that in the future the Community would again provide a continuing market for large quantities of beef. If that does happen, it will be a most encouraging move in strengthening the whole depressed world beef situation. It will mean that virtually all the big markets around the world will be available to Australian exporters. I certainly hope that what our officials were told by officials of the EEC Commission will come true.

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Mr Antony Whitlam:

-Has the Foreign Minister seen reports that the Government of Singapore has demanded the deportation of 3 Singapore students from Australia? If such a request has been made, is he able to assure the House that those 3 persons, or any other foreign students in Australia, will not be deported for the mere expression of private political opinions?

Can he further assure the House that any overseas embassies making requests in such circumstances will be directed to cease the harassment of and spying upon their nationals in Australia?

Minister for Foreign Affairs · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP

-I think the latter part of the question relates more to allegations that were made against the Indonesian Embassy in writing to students soliciting information about the campaign for an independent East Timor. I have said previously in answer to questions asked outside the House that there is probably a fine line between the right of embassies to write to their own citizens in a given country and the area in which they could be accused of spying. I could not condone the latter. In regard to the earlier part of the question, I have seen some reports that the Singapore Government has detained a number of people since early this year on charges relating to subversion and terrorism. One Press report I have seen stated that the Singapore Government may wish to have sent back to Singapore 3 persons who are alleged to have been deeply implicated in a number of activities. There was some publicity about an Australian trained Singapore ballet dancer. The Government has not been approached by the Singapore Government about this matter and we are not contemplating any action in this regard.

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– I address my question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is one of the biggest musical entrepreneurs in the world? Is there any truth in persistent rumours of cuts in this activity? Would the Minister consider making a special allocation for this activity in the ABC budget so as to avoid the possibility of restrictions on the ABC budget, which are intended to be carried by reductions in the lavish staff overheads, being made instead in production activities such as musical entrepreneuring

Mr Eric Robinson:

-It is true that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been a very large and successful entrepreneur by world standards. Not only has it brought many overseas artists and productions to Australia but also as honourable members know it does a lot to stimulate productions and encourage art within Australia. I want to *ike this opportunity to say to the House that there is no question of any of the State symphony orchestras being under threat because of reductions in the expenditure of the ABC.

Mr Hurford:

– How do you know that?

Mr Eric Robinson:

-Because I have had the assurance of the Chairman and the General Manager; that is the only way I would know that. As to the other part of the question, of course the ABC is allocated an amount for expenditure and up till now the Commission has used its own discretion as to how that expenditure is made. We are all aware that a substantial amount of that expenditure is for staff. We are also aware, of course, that a lot is spent on education. We do not know exactly- no doubt the ABC knows exactly- what amount is contributed towards the area of musical entrepreneuring

I find the honourable member’s suggestion interesting. It might well be helpful to the Parliament, to the Government and to the ABC if this suggestion were included in an understanding in the allocation of funds for the Commission. It would be the sort of suggestion in which the present inquiry into the broadcasting system would be interested. I will make certain that the inquiry gets to hear about it. The suggestion may form part of some appropriate submission that the ABC may make.

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Mr E G Whitlam:

– I ask the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development a question. Last Friday the Minister who was then acting gave me a written answer that no payments had been made against nearly 90 recreation projects for which the Minister for Tourism and Recreation announced grants in the week after the election and that no formal contracts had been signed for over 40 of these projects. Does this mean that no grants will now be paid against the projects for which no formal contracts have been signed? Have any State sports or recreation Ministers agreed, as Senator Greenwood asked them all by letter on 22 April, that no further action should be taken on such projects? Also, why have no payments been made against any of the projects for which contracts have been signed?

Minister for Repatriation · BASS, TASMANIA · LP

-I am afraid that I cannot answer the substance of the honourable gentleman’s question. I will find out and let him know as soon as I can. But as a general response, as I understand it the commitments to programs that were initiated by the former Government were frozen at the end of January 1976. But that does not mean that we are going to discontinue to fund all on-going programs. I am advised that that means we will be making $lm available to fund on-going programs. This will extend into the next financial year as well. I cannot tell the honourable gentleman the particulars of how that $ lm is to be used but, as I said, I will try to find out for him.

The only thing I can say about the question, which is related to one that the honourable member for Lang attempted to ask yesterday- I will try to answer part of what he was getting at- is that we have a commitment to community development projects. We understand that they have a direct effect on the quality of life of Australians. We believe that despite the enthusiasm of the honourable member for Lang, who had a deep interest in this subject which we all acknowledge, the programs that he initiated lacked cohesion and that national purpose and direction simply are not there. We will look at the programs but will look at them in the context of the responsible fiscal management of this country. We will make sure that the involvement of the States, local government and voluntary organisations will also be taken into account. That means that we are going to conduct a review of the whole program. It will be looked at in the budgetary context as well.

page 2795




– Has the Treasurer seen a statement made by the Labor Party spokesman on economic affairs that the investment allowance should be abolished? Can he give the House any indication of the recent level of investment spending by business?


– I have seen statements attributed to the honourable gentlemanstatements made in this House and also on various media programs- decrying one of the Government’s major initiatives to get business recovery under way again. That initiative, of course, is the investment allowance. The Government believes that that allowance is certainly required by the business community at the present time in order to seek to initiate and maintain that form of incentive which business needs to get investment under way once again.

I do not have the latest figures before me at the present time but they are not without encouragement although, as I have mentioned on many other occasions, the signs of recovery which are clearly emerging are not unequivocal. This is no different from any other economy in the early stage of recovery but the Government is confident that investment is again taking place against the background of the stimulus provided by the investment allowance and that that stimulus, together with a greater increase in stimulus to consumers as a consequence of the Government’s recent economic statement, will certainly set this country further on the way to recovery.

page 2795




-I ask the Attorney-General whether it is a fact that he, together with the Solicitor-General, has given an advising to the Government that the authorities for offshore exploration are of highly doubtful validity following the recent High Court judgment? If so, what steps has he taken with regard to the persistence of the Western Australian Government to continue to invite applications for such exploration? Will he make available to the House any such advising for its information?


– It is a fact that the SolicitorGeneral and I have given advice flowing from the decision of the High Court on the Seas and Submerged Lands Act. In accordance with usual practice the advice has not been published and no decision has yet been made to make it available except to those who are interested. A summary of the views which the Solicitor-General and I have formed in relation to the matter has been made known to the States.

page 2795




-Is the Minister for Primary Industry able to advise the dairy farmers of Australia what assistance the Federal Government intends to provide after 1 July to prevent any possible collapse in the price for manufacturing milk? Have any of the State governments urged the Commonwealth to continue the present cost-sharing price support arrangement and indicated their willingness to continue to contribute?

Minister for Primary Industry · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

-There is obviously a very real concern amongst dairy farmers about the position that will apply after 1 July. The present arrangements that the Federal Government entered into, having in mind the serious plight in which the collapse in skim milk prices in particular has placed dairy farmers, prevail only until 30 June. Several States have asserted quite vehemently that they would not be prepared to extend their assistance beyond that time. Nonetheless, the Federal Government is quite determined to see that the dairy industry and all the communities dependent upon it do not collapse. I hope that within a very short time the Federal Government will be in a position to make a firm approach to the States which will enable some certainty and confidence to be maintained in the industry until the Crawford report, now scheduled for presentation by 31 August, can be considered.

It may be of interest to the House to know that, as a result of drought conditions in Victoria and the general poor economics of the industry, there are already some significant signs of a reduction in overall milk production in Australia in the next milk production season. But even with that reduction- the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has assessed it as being only between S per cent and 6 per cent- there obviously will be a very large amount of milk which, if transferred to manufacturing milk purposes, will not be able to find profitable markets. This is a matter which must be of great concern to both Federal and State governments, for whole communities are entirely dependent on the industry and it would be a great tragedy if people were to be forced into receiving considerably less than the Australian average weekly wage, as unfortunately many of them now seem likely to be.

page 2796




– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is it true that the decision of the Fraser Government to reduce the amount of money allocated to the Australian Housing Corporation for defence service homes purposes from the $ 122.5m appropriated in 1975-76 to $110m in the next financial year means that the waiting period will not be reduced from one year but, in fact, will be increased?


– I must observe that questions on environment, housing and community development seem much more popular than questions on repatriation. I am advised that the waiting list of 1 1 months will be the same for the next year; it will not be extended.

page 2796




– Did the Minister for Foreign Affairs see recent reports that all foreign news agencies in Saigon, including Australian Associated Press, Reuters, United Press International, Time and Newsweek, have been ordered to close down from 7 May? Has he confirmation of or information about this? If it is true, does such total censorship give the Government concern for the lives of Vietnamese, bearing in mind reports of atrocities in Cambodia?


– I saw reports regarding this matter some weeks ago, and the Government has received information that the offices of foreign news agencies and international humanitarian agencies in Saigon will be closed. We have no confirmation that this has yet taken place. We have had reports also that most consulates have not been resumed in Saigon since they were closed at the time of the North Vietnamese success in the Indo-China war last year. The expulsion of foreigners from Saigon, however, cannot be said to be complete, because at least a French consulate remains. In part, I suppose, the moves could be interpreted as being consistent with the Vietnamese authorities’ decision to make Hanoi the capital of a unified Vietnam. Vietnam would then be no different from other communist countries, in that foreign establishments are generally allowed only in the capital of the country. It would be impossible to answer this question without expressing at least regret at the move which will have the effect, to a great extent, of concealing from the eyes of the world the processes of communising South Vietnam. To put it mildly, it would have been to the credit of the Vietnamese authorities had they allowed international scrutiny of their actions to continue.

page 2796




– The Prime Minister will be aware that heavy retrenchments will occur at Australia’s main shipyards at Newcastle and Whyalla unless new orders for ships are received soon. He will also be aware that the Australian Shipping Commission and Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd have delayed placing new ship orders pending the announcement of a new Government shipbuilding policy. In view of the critical situation at Whyalla and Newcastle, will he announce the Government’s shipbuilding policy before the House rises this week? If not, when will the announcement be made?


– I regret that it will not be possible to announce future policy before the House rises this week, assuming that it does rise this week- which depends upon the restraint of members. The Government is greatly concerned at the cost of shipbuilding in Australia. I think the honourable gentleman would certainly be aware of the excess cost of building ships in this country compared with the cost of buying ships overseas. Obviously the cost has a follow through effect on the general cost of transport and freight, which adds to costs for many different industries and which adds indirectly to household costs. The cost of shipbuilding in Australia is something that must concern the Government. However, the Government would wish to be in a position to enable shipbuilding in Australia to continue if it is at all possible.

As a first step, we are seeking to list the problems related to this industry in the agenda of matters that could be discussed with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and see what efforts might be made and what undertakings might be entered into to help lower costs, increase productivity and establish the circumstance in which a viable industry in Australia could continue. There can be no guarantee of it at this stage, because the extent of the change would need to be significant, but this may well be an opportunity where firm commitments entered into by the unions concerned, backed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, would enable a significant and important Australian industry to be saved. Otherwise, the additional cost to the general taxpayer of subsidising the industry might well become intolerable.

page 2797




– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government yet made a decision on the future of the Children’s Commission?


– Yes. A decision has been made not to proclaim the Act. We believe that it is more appropriate for an Office of Child Care to be established under the Minister for Social Security, as part of the Department of Social Security. It will be a separate office with its own Director. The philosophy of the Government in relation to child care will be to see that the funds which the Commonwealth makes available provide facilities for child care for those who need it, especially for single parent families. About 75 to 80 per cent of the funds that the Commonwealth presently spends in this area through the Interim Committee for the Children ‘s Commission pays salaries for pre-school teacher training. That Interim Committee was established under an Act which the previous Government did not proclaim.

This Act tends not to meet the major objective, as we believe it should be, which is to establish opportunities for child care in areas of need and areas of particular hardship. So I hope the thrust of the new office would enable this objective to be achieved.

I also have great pleasure in indicating, if the House is interested, that Mrs Marie Coleman, the Chairman of the Social Welfare Commissionwhich the previous Administration indicated that it wished to abolish- will be the first Director of the Office of Child Care.

page 2797




– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. In order to allay doubts and fears of Service personnel generally and particularly of the staff and students of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, will the Minister give the House some indication of the Government’s intention regarding the establishment of the proposed triservice academy? Will it be established in the Australian Capital Territory and when is it planned to commence?

Minister for Defence · MORETON, QUEENSLAND · LP

-In reply to the honourable gentleman I might observe that the question relates to a matter of policy. Nevertheless I take leave in the first place to give him a categorical assurance as to the future of the staff of the Duntroon military college. I inform the honourable gentleman that studies are currently under way relating to what one may describe as a tri-service academy. Those studies have not yet been completed. When they are completed the Government will consider any proposal that may result from them. If and when a decision is taken, that decision will of course be placed before this House for its consideration and scrutiny.

page 2797




– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I ask: What is the reaction of the Government to the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum? When may we expect any decisions as a result of that Commission for an industry that requires urgent attention, especially in regard to cut price petrol?

Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

-The Government tabled the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum only a couple of weeks ago. An interdepartmental committee comprising representatives of the Department of National Resources, my own department and other interested departments has been established to examine the report. At this stage it is not possible to give any firm indication as to what is the Government’s overall reaction to the report but it is fair to say that the report deals in great detail with all aspects of the petroleum industry in Australia. The report is extemely critical of some of the activities of the companies in the petroleum industry in Australia. Equally, the report points out the problems experienced by independent dealers in motor spirit. It also refers to the activities of some trade unions relating to bans on the sale of discount petrol. These are all very complex issues. To make dogmatic public statements about them without very careful examination and consideration would be a mistake. Overall, in reaching conclusions on the report, the Government will endeavour to achieve a proper balance between the legitmate right of the oil industry to operate profitably and preserving the position of independent dealers in the marketing of petroleum products, and also will look to the right of consumers to have reasonably priced petrol available in reasonable quantities.

page 2798


Prime Minister · Wannon · LP

– For the information of honourable members I present volumes III and IV of the report of the Committee to Advise on Policies for Manufacturing Industry- the Jackson Committee. Volume II of the report, containing statistical material, is expected to be available in about 2 weeks.

page 2798


Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations · Corangamite · LP

– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation for the year ended 30 June 1975.

page 2798


Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · Bennelong · LP

– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on copper ore and concentrates.

page 2798


Ministerial Statement

Minister for Foreign Affairs · Kooyong · LP

– by leave- I wish to inform honourable members of the stage the Government has reached in its further inquiries into the deaths of the 5 television newsmen at Balibo in East Timor on 16 October 1975. Previously I have said in the House, in looking forward to the visit to Timor of a team from the Embassy in Jakarta, that I would be prepared to discuss the findings of this inquiry with the next of kin of the 5 newsmen, with the Parliament and with the Australian Journalists’ Association. I have since received reports from this team and from the departmental officer who interviewed Mr Jose Martins in Melbourne. Mr Martins of course was formerly identified with the pro-Indonesian group in East Timor. My Department is communicating both reports to the next of kin and, at my direction, the reports are being closely studied with a view to establishing what light they shed on the deaths and what further action may be necessary. I shall make both reports available in the Parliamentary Library after the next of kin have been appropriately informed.

Meanwhile, I have received a submission from the Victorian branch of the AJA. The Association contends that the Government should seek financial compensation for the next <of kin. Honourable members will recognise that this submission raises complicated questions not only of international law but also as to whether many of the claims made can be verified as facts. I have directed my Department to also put this full submission to careful study.

In its approach to all these questions, the Government has been guided and will continue to be guided by 2 prime considerations: the first is to establish the facts, as far as it is possible to do so; the second is to cause as little distress as possible to the next of kin, who have already suffered more than enough.

These considerations dictate that we should proceed with determination, but also with care and caution. There has already been enough saddening and inconclusive publicity, without the Government contributing unnecessarily to it. The parents of two of the newsmen have already made known their distress at the continuing public canvassing of the fate of their sons.

Formidable obstacles have stood in the way of decisive government action in establishing the truth. The deaths occurred in foreign territory, during a period of undeclared hostilities. They occurred during the term of office of the previous Government. They occurred some time agomore than 7 months- yet it was only last month that we were able to get an Australian investigating team into the area. This fact must be stated clearly and its consequences faced clearly. It means that the trail has grown, if not cold, then at least cool. It means that the task of establishing the facts is even more difficult.

Mr Martins has given us an account of the events at Balibo. But he has also made it clear that he did not witness the deaths; he was not at Balibo when the men died. His account is based on what he was told by others. He said that his principal source of information was Tomas Goncalves the commander of the Apodeti forces at Balibo. In the event the Australian investigating team which visited Balibo conducted a detailed interview with Mr Goncalves and, as will be seen from the report, Mr Goncalves account did not bear out Mr Martins ‘ statements. I wish to stress that this is not to assert that Mr Martins is wrong. But clearly there is already an unresolved difficulty in regard to the authenticity of these 2 rival accounts. The situation becomes even more clouded when other accounts are considered. I am having a summary of these other accounts prepared and I shall also make these available in the Parliamentary Library. It is to be borne in mind, however, that in all cases we are dealing with somewhat circumstantial and often uncorroborated evidence. I regret that it is still not possible to come to firm and final conclusions as to the circumstances and manner of the deaths of the newsmen.

Mr Martins, however, has opened up some possible channels for progress. He has mentioned the names of certain Indonesian officers and an Indonesian official as having been in the area at the time. He has alleged that the S men were killed by Indonesian troops in Balibo. We are examing these claims in the context of the report of the mission from the Embassy. If this examination identifies a real prospect of moving forward, the House may be assured that the Government will pursue that prospect without hesitation and to the limits of its ability. One possibility is that there may be value in placing Mr Martins’ material before the Indonesian authorities and their allies in Timor and seeking their reactions to the pertinent questions that it raises.

I have instructed my Department to complete its immediate investigations as soon as possible. I want to be able to reach conclusions about this matter at an early date. I have set out the reasons why this regrettably has not yet been possible.

Mr Lionel Bowen:

- Mr Speaker, I wish to move: That the House take note of the paper.


-The honourable member is not entitled to move that motion.


-I seek leave to make a short statement.

Mr Peacock:

– Leave is granted.


– Leave is granted.


– The statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is inadequate and it is window dressing after such a long period of time has elapsed. It continues to attempt to provide a smokescreen, a cover-up of the truth about the sad circumstances surrounding the death of the 5 newsmen in East Timor. With Machiavellian hypocrisy this House is presented -


-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.


-I withdraw that remark. This House is presented with an alleged concern for the distress of the next of kin of the journalists in an attempt to evade unpalatable facts.

Mr Peacock:

– We have done something which you did not do when you were in office.


-The facts of Balibo are known. Mr Foreign Minister, I say quite clearly that mistakes can be made on both sides of the House. We are not trying to evade any question at all. If I have made mistakes then I will be prepared to face up to them, but all we are trying to do is to get Australians as a body of people to come together to try to get the truth about these incidents in East Timor, and we have to look at this on a long term basis. I say, through Mr Speaker, that I am not trying to lay the blame on you, Mr Foreign Minister. I believe that in many respects you have been a man of goodwill, but in many other respects I think you have been a little false in your accusations against my Leader. Because I have personal commitments in this matter I have seen copies of documents about which accusations have been made against my Leader. May I say that the accusations against the Leader of my Party which come from the Government side of the House are completely false. I wish to goodness that these smears and innuendos would stop and we started getting together as a team. I put this to you, Mr Foreign Minister, because I think on this issue you are man of goodwill and we want to work with you, not against you; but there are elements within your Department which I do not think you are facing up to. You know that I have confided in you in correspondence because of my concern about the personnel carrying out the inquiry into the deaths at Balibo.

I say again: The facts of Balibo are known. The Government’s intelligence agency and the Minister’s own Department know the truth- and I stress that, Mr Minister- yet this House and the Australian people continue to get evasions from the Government and lies from the Indonesian generals. What sort of inquiry was this? It was a Foreign Affairs Department inquiry. It was Caesar examining Caesar. Yet, as has become abundantly clear in the last few days, senior Foreign Affairs officials have been acting over Timor in a manner at least sympathetic to the Indonesian Government’s brutal and unprovoked annexation of East Timor. The Government’s inquiry comprised officers from our embassy in Jakarta. One would have thought that the subordinates of an ambassador noted for his appreciation of Indonesia’s desire to annexe East Timor would hardly constitute a serious inquiry. We know what has happened. Dubious denials of Jose Martins’ account by Tomas Goncalves a virtual prisoner at best and a quisling at worst, are not evidence. We ask the Australian Government what action it is taking. This statement does not tell us. There is too much care and caution and not enough determination.

In my view the way in which the 5 young people were ill-treated and the attitude of the Indonesian authorities will have an enormous influence on our relationships with the Indonesian Government in the future. I stress again that the Minister knows that the Leader of my Party wrote to President Suharto on 7 November expressing concern about these deaths, but proper consideration has not been given to that communication. We cannot accept the proposition that Australia’s relationship with the Indonesian people will be destroyed if we take a moral stand on the rights of the people of East Timor to independence and seek the truth about the death of these S young men. Australia has had good relations with Indonesia for over 25 years. The Indonesian people remember our support for their struggle for national independence. I point out that it was our Government that gave great support to the Indonesian people for independence and self-determination. They would understand our support for national independence for the Timorese people. People are dying in Timor and the Australian Government does very little because it does not want to offend the militarist elite of the Indonesian generals.

Our position should be clear. We call upon the Indonesian generals to acknowledge responsibility for the death of these 5 young journalists. Also we support the claim of the Victorian branch of the Australian Journalists Association for compensation for next of kin. They should be only the first steps in the move towards establishing the truth about East Timor. I stress this to the Minister If he feels that my words have been hard he should understand that I do not want to be personal about this matter. We want to work with any member on either side of this House to get the truth, to work for self-determination for the people of East Timor.

The Minister knows, and honourable members should know also, that the people of East Timor were wonderful and gallant allies of ours in the Second World War. Bear in mind that out of a population of something like 600 000, over 50 000 people died in the Second World War. Many of them died because of their actions in supporting and defending Australian troops. I was a prisoner in Timor. I was on the western end of the island. If any of our people escaped from prison camp they were handed over to the Japanese authorities by the indigenous people of West Timor. But that was not the case on the eastern end or Portuguese side of the island. It was only because of the great moral support of the East Timorese people that our troops were able to survive for several years in the mountains fighting a rearguard action and holding their position against the Japanese. It was only the East Timorese people and their great courage which enabled our troops to continue fighting and to survive for so long. So we as Australians owe them a great debt.

I would like also to stress, because it has not been stressed before, that the whole cultural background of the East Timorese people has to be examined. They have a background that goes back 300 to 400 years during which time they were led into the Roman Catholic faith. Most Indonesians of course are Moslem and the Indonesian generals’ attitude to the Christian faith has not been a very generous one. Therefore we have to understand the background of the East Timorese people. So in interrelated ways I would like all Australians both inside and outside this Parliament to work together so that there will be a fair go. We have to stop this hypocrisy; it has been going on for too long. We have to be more frank and firm in our attitude to the Indonesian generals in respect of their aggression and their determination in East Timor. We want to know the truth, particularly about these 5 young men and possibly the outcome of the position of another Australian journalist in East Timor. We do not know whether he is alive or dead. With those remarks I conclude my response to the Minister’s statement.

page 2800


Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission entitled Review of the Community Health Program, together with a summary of that report.

page 2800




-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Road Safety I bring up the first report of the Committee on passenger motor vehicle safety. A limited number of copies of the report are available from the Bills and Papers Office and copies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. Additional copies will be available for general distribution in the near future.

Ordered that the report be printed.


– I ask for leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with that report.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


– I thank the House. The report on passenger motor vehicle safety which has just been tabled is the first report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety established in the Thirtieth Parliament. The purpose of this report is to place before the House the results of a major inquiry undertaken by the Committee in the Twenty-ninth Parliament. The present Committee decided that rather than reopen the inquiry it would appoint a sub-committee, consisting of 3 members who were members of the previous Committee, to consider the draft report. The sub-committee report has been adopted by the Committee as the report on passenger motor vehicle safety. In adopting the sub-committee report, the Committee points out that the report does not necessarily convey specific views of Committee members not being members of the sub-committee. If I may divert for a moment, I wish to pay particular tribute to the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) for the monumental job they did with me, as the members of the subcommittee, in checking through the report. Let me add that the Committee extends its sympathy to the honourable member for Parramatta on the loss of his father and of course to the State of New South Wales on the loss of a great citizen.

This report represents one of Australia’s most comprehensive inquiries into vehicle safety and as such its importance is paramount. During the life of the Twenty-ninth Parliament the Committee, under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Robertson, undertook its task in a bipartisan manner and the report is a tribute to him personally as well as to all other members of that Committee. Evidence was first taken in September 1974, and submissions were received from over 100 individuals and organisations and 130 witnesses appeared before the Committee at 27 public hearings in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Over each of the last 3 years more than 3S00 people have been killed on Australia’s roads and both the human cost and the material cost of such carnage make it imperative that the recommendations of this report be acted upon.

The report contains 52 major recommendations dealing with all aspects of passenger vehicle safety in Australia, but there are 2 matters in particular that I wish to raise today. The first of these is the need for greater co-operation in road safety matters between State governments and between the Federal Government and the States. The need for such increased cooperation became apparent in matters such as the need to avoid duplication in the formulation of standards in each State, the need for safety related draft regulations as approved by the Australian Transport Advisory Council to be enacted in each State, the need for a complete rationalisation of data collection and distribution throughout Australia, and the fact that the proposed Bureau of Road Safety, or as the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) may otherwise title it, within the Federal Department of Transport, will require detailed figures on matters such as the results of periodic motor vehicle inspections in relation to safety related defects.

The second matter is that of consumer protection and is one that is of great importance to me personally. I am pleased to see that the Department of Transport has established hot lines to deal with consumer complaints. I hope that those hot lines run hot. I hope that the public of Australia realise they exist and they are to be used. The Committee has recommended that this hot line concept be extended to ensure consumer protection in the vehicle safety area. The Committee also recommended that the details of consumer items related to road safety be made public regularly. As part of its role as a standing committee, the Committee in the future will be looking at a number of matters arising from this report which it regards as of very great importance. The first of these matters is the proposed replacement of the Road Safety and Standards Authority. The Committee intends to look at the functioning of the non-statutory body- whose title, as I said, has yet to be determined and which it is understood will be established within the Department of Transport- and to reexamine the question whether such a body should be a statutory authority after it has been functioning for a period of time. Another matter the Committee will be reviewing is the provision by manufacturers of information relating to the cost of safety related design rules and their provision of recall information to the relevant bodies.

Finally, I should like to thank members of the Committee of the Twenty-ninth Parliament for the contribution they made in gathering the information upon which this report is based. Also on behalf of the Committee I should like to thank Mr Porter, Mr Dee and Mrs Morony who provided valuable assistance as the secretariat to that Committee. I should also mention to honourable members that at this stage only limited copies of the report are available. They have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office and the Parliamentary Library. Due to the limited time available to produce these copies of the report, the highest quality reproduction has not been possible. I commend the report to the House.

Leader of the House · New England · NCP/NP

- Mr Speaker, I suggest that the House might consider this report when the House debates the Road Safety Standards Authority ( Repeal) Bill 1 976, which is order of the day No. 1, later this day. I shall allow time for that purpose.


– There is a standing order which states that reports should not be discussed on presentation. It is true that the first order of the day under Government business is the Road Safety Standards Authority (Repeal) Bill. There could be an argument that it would be out of order to discuss this report in debating that Bill. I rule the opposite way. The purpose of this House’s committees is to assist consideration of Bills. Therefore, it would be quite wrong not to allow discussion of this report in the consideration of the Bill, even though it will be separated by only a matter of minutes. Therefore, as a ruling, I state that there can be reference to the report in the second reading debate on that Bill.

Mr Katter:

- Mr Speaker, I merely wish to ask, should this course be adopted by the House, that precedence be given to the honourable member for Robertson and the honourable member for Parramatta in the ordinary machinery of the list of speakers.


-The honourable members for Kennedy intercedes on behalf of his 2 companions on the Committee. The honourable member for Robertson has been known for his contribution on this subject for some time; likewise the honourable member for Parramatta. The honourable member for Parramatta is not here today, following the death of his father, the Hon. Max Ruddock, a member of the State Parliament of New South Wales and a former Minister of that State. As to the honourable member for Robertson, I am provided with a list which informs me as to who might stand when a Bill comes on for debate. I notice that the honourable member for Robertson is listed to speak on that Bill. In fact, 2 honourable members from the Australian Labor Party side are listed before him. I tell the honourable member for Kennedy that I, or my Deputy in the chair, will call the honourable member for Robertson in that turn unless we are informed by the whips that the order of speaking has been changed.

page 2802


Discussion of Matter of Public Importance


– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government’s failure to observe the requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974-1975 before granting the British Airways permission to fly Concorde to Australia.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)


-Australians have heard over the last 6 months that the Fraser Government is the only possible government that can guarantee that proper procedures of government are followed. The Government has implied, by smear and innuendo, that the Whitlam Labor Government did not and could not administer this country properly. That was a lie, just as the claim that the coalition government would always follow the correct procedures was a lie. Today we are going to highlight just one example of this Government’s incompetence and its inability to follow the procedures laid down by statute.

On 28 May- last Friday- the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) announced that approval had been given to British Airways to introduce the supersonic aircraft Concorde to the Australian run. In making that announcement the Minister for Transport failed to comply with the requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974-1975. His colleague, the then Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr MacKellar) also failed to comply with the requirements of the Act. The failure of both Ministers to comply with those requirements, coupled with the events of the past 6 months, makes me doubt whether this Government will give environmental matters the priority they deserve.

Let us recount some of those actions. There was, in the first instance, the abolition of the Department of the Environment. It was amalgamated with 3 other Labor Government departments to form one conglomerate department. That not only entailed the abolition of many positions in the former Department of the Environment, but also meant that the role the Federal Government was playing in environmental matters had decreased. The failure of the

Government to appoint commissioners to the Heritage Commission, the low priority it has given to the preservation of the National Estate as evidenced by the budgetary measures announced 10 days ago, and its failure to appropriate any money at all for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the Supply Bills last week are just a few of the other reasons why all Australians must doubt this Government’s integrity on environmental issues.

One of the other more startling actions of this Government in relation to the environment, and a matter which is indirectly related to the subject of the debate today, was its high-handed action in directing Mr Justice Fox to complete the Ranger uranium environmental inquiry by May this year. That direction, like the decision last week, was in complete contravention of the legislative requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. In that case Mr Justice Fox quite rightly ignored the direction and is ensuring that the inquiry is conducted in a proper manner- a manner that is laid down by the legislation.

It is my opinion that this Government not only does not have any commitment to the preservation and improvement of the natural and built environment but also does not even understand the most important environmental Act it has to administer. This Government does not understand the purpose of this Act, nor the procedures that have to be followed by the Minister responsible or the Acting Minister. The enactment of this legislation by the Whitlam Labor Government is the only example of formalising environmental assessment requirements into statuterequirements that most Australians want followed, not ignored. In New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland such requirements are enforced on an administrative basis without specific legislation. The Whitlam Labor Government made those requirements mandatory. The Act defines the environment to include ‘all aspects of the surroundings of man whether affecting him as an individual or in his social groupings’. The purpose of that definition was to ensure that the use of the Act was not to be confined to matters affecting the physical or natural environment only. Matters like Concorde flights to Australia are covered by that definition. Not even the Government would dispute that interpretation. The Act also requires Ministers to comply with the Act’s requirements and regulations. That is what the Minister for Transport and the former Acting Minister have failed to do.

Section 6 of the Act provided a framework for the introduction of the details of the environmental assessment procedure requirements by regulation. These regulations were ignored by both the Minister for Transport and the then Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. These regulations were gazetted and approved by both Houses of this Parliament and the Governor-General last year, and they were supported by the then Opposition. The regulations are quite explicit. Regulation 8.1 states that if any written comments are received on the draft environmental impact statement those comments must be taken into account by the proponent in the preparation of a final environmental impact statement. Regulation 8.2 provides that the final environmental impact statement, when prepared, will be circulated to interested bodies, including the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development and those people who made comments on the draft. Regulation 9.1 provides that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development shall examine the final environmental impact statement on behalf of its Minister. The Minister can then, if he wishes, ask the proponent to provide any further information that he thinks necessary.

Those are the requirements of the administrative procedures that this Government has ignored. There is no dispute over whether an environmental impact statement was called for on Concorde flights. It was called for by the Whitlam Government. There is no dispute over whether British Airways, through its agents, was prepared to comply with the requirements of that legislation It in fact submitted its draft environmental impact statement to the appropriate Minister late last year. The Minister at that stage was following the requirements of the Act and he circulated that draft in accordance with the regulations. Subsequently comments were received by the proponent, British Airways, on its initial environmental impact statement. The same comments are in the possession of the Government. British Airways then proceeded to prepare a final impact statement- a statement in which it would have attempted to present arguments against the unfavourable comments received.

In a letter to the Minister for Transport the proponent’s Australian agent said, among other things, that the final environmental impact statement would have only minor editorial changes to that submitted originally as a draft and that it was its intention to prepare an addendum to the environmental impact statement which would be its reply to the comments received as a result of the public circulation of the draft environmental impact statement earlier this year. After receiving that letter the Minister for Transport said-I use his own words- ‘It seemed pointless to me to

Postpone a decision any longer’. In point of fact, y saying that the Minister has said that it is pointless to follow the requirements of the legislation; it is pointless to take into account the views of responsible Australians who fear the environmental damage that Concorde may bring. The Minister does not even give the courtesy of waiting to see what arguments British Airways uses to refute the criticisms made on the environmental aspects of Concorde by concerned Australians. In the Minister’s opinion, no final environmental impact statement is needed.

The Minister’s actions, unless otherwise proved, are in direct conflict with regulations 8. 1 , 8.2, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4 and 9.5. Those regulations, as I have already said, require the proponent to prepare and circulate a final draft environmental impact statement. That has not been done. After it has been circulated, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development must examine the final statement on behalf of its Minister. This has not been done. The department or the Minister may then seek further information from the proponents or make any comments, suggestions or recommendations concerning the conditions to which the proposed action- in this case Concorde flightsshould be subject. This has not been done. It has not been done even though I am informed that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development had many questions to ask British Airways if its final environment impact statement did not satisfactorily dispel many major doubts raised by concerned Australians such as the Society for Social Responsibility in Science.

Each Minister is also required to ensure that these procedures, designed to . ensure that full consideration is given to both sides of the case for allowing Concorde to fly to Australia, are followed. They have not been followed. The major fault undoubtedly lies with the Minister for Transport who has deliberately and quite blatantly and unashamedly ignored these provisions. But some blame must be placed on the former Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Minister responsible for the administration of the Act. He had a responsibility to ensure that the procedures were followed. He should have insisted that the Minister for Transport carry out his duties under the Act. He did not. As a former Minister who was closely associated with the departments that now form the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, I have no doubt that the officers of that department advised the former Acting Minister to ensure that the procedures were followed. If the former Acting Minister agreed to this course of action, and knowing the Minister for Transport’s attitude to the Concorde- an attitude that he has made public on many occasions in the past- I have no doubt that the former Acting Minister was intimidated into agreeing to this decision and this disregard for the laws of Australia.

If the Minister for Transport maintains that his actions were legal and that the former Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development agreed that there was no need for these procedures to be followed, I call on the Minister for Transport to table the letter that is required under the legislation to have been sent to him by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development under regulations 11.1 and 1 1.4. This is the only thing he can do if he has followed the legislation. If he cannot he has broken the trust placed in him as a Minister of the Crown. Even if the Minister can table such a letter it will not absolve his actions.

There is one more requirement that had to be followed if exemption from these procedures was granted in this way. The legislation is quite specific if this exemption had been granted. It requires the Government to make a public statement giving a summary of the reasons for granting the exemption. This has not been done. The Government has blatantly ignored the legislative requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974-75. It has ignored the requirements of regulation 1 1.5 and at the worst it has ignored regulations 8.1, 8.2, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4 and 9.5.

Minister for Transport · Gippsland · LP

– At the outset let me say that I am rather surprised at the complaint lodged by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). 1 am sure that if he looked at the matter slightly more closely than he has done at this point he would find that we are not in breach of the Act at all. In my view we have been very careful right through the whole of the problem of Concorde visits to Australia to follow impeccably the way in which the Act sets out our responsibilities. I will come to the details of his complaint shortly. I have been approached literally dozens of times by the Press since 13 December, when I became Minister for Transport up till the last couple of weeks, about my attitude to Concorde and the problems that the environmentalists saw in it.

Right through the piece I have maintained a silence about my own attitude to Concorde flights to Australia. I have said all the time that the position had to be watched carefully. I took the view that environmentalists were making submissions, that a decision had to be made as to whether or not there was to be a public inquiry and until that point was reached I was unable to comment.

Let us look at the history of the matter. First of all, as the honourable member for Reid said, the British Government, the British Aircraft Corporation and British Airways produced a draft environmental impact statement on Concorde operations in Australia dated December 1975. In point of fact it was I as Minister who made this statement available to the public and invited submissions on it. This was done completely in accordance with the Act. Some 50 submissions came in. I have read every one of them. I would just say as an aside that although I am not qualified to make a technical judgment on the submissions it came through to me clearly that the information provided in the submissions did not make a case for the banning of Concorde. This view was supported eventually by my colleague, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and former Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. The Minister wrote a letter to me in which in part he said:

I am writing to confirm the agreement we have reached today following our consultation in accordance with the Administrative Procedures of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act-

This is the Act that the honourable member for Reid says was not followed- on the necessity or otherwise of holding a public environmental enquiry on the operation of the Concorde aircraft into Australia, in particular to Tullamarine Airport.

The former Acting Minister went on:

I agree that the key environmental problem for Australia, insofar as it can be determined at this time, is the noise impacts in the vicinity of Tullamarine and upon occasion at any alternate airport to which the aircraft might be diverted.

I will not read the whole letter but I will make it available to the House.

Mr Uren:

– Incorporate it in Hansard.


– I seek leave to incorporate the letter in Hansard.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600

My dear Minister,

I am writing to confirm the agreement we have reached today following our consultation in accordance with the Administrative Procedures of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act of 1974-75 on the necessity or otherwise of holding a public environmental enquiry on the operation of the Concorde aircraft into Australia, in particular to Tullamarine Airport.

I agree that the key environmental problem for Australia, in so far as it can be determined at this time, is the noise impacts in the vicinity of Tullamarine and upon occasion at any alternative airport to which the aircraft might be diverted. I understand from preliminary discussions between our respective officers that this can be minimised by the selection of appropriate flight paths. This is a matter that I believe should be pursued further between our officers and as appropriate with representatives of the Victorian Government.

Setting this aspect aside, the wider consequences on the global environment have been well canvassed in enquiries in other countries and at this time I do not believe that further knowledge would be gained by traversing these issues again in an Australian environmental enquiry. What is required is for us to set up and maintain a general monitoring and study programme on supersonic aircraft operations which will permit us to take any action necessary if deleterious effects become evident.

In summary, in the light of the foregoing observations, I agree with your contention that a public enquiry is not warranted and I am prepared to recommend to the Government that Concorde operations into Australia in the form described in the environmental impact statement be not opposed on environmental grounds subject to:

  1. a continuous monitoring and study programme being maintained on the effects of supersonic aircraft operations in general with provision for revision of our agreement should adverse effects become apparent: and
  2. a study programme being undertaken between our officials and if desired by those of the Victorian Government on the immediate noise impacts in the vicinity of Tullamarine arising from different Concorde flight paths.

I have copied this letter to the Prime Minister and subject to your concurrence propose that we ask him to agree to this course and so inform the Victorian Premier and appropriately announce the Government’s decision.

Yours sincerely, M.J. R. MACKELLAR

The Honourable P. J. Nixon, M.P., Minister for Transport, Parliament House, CANBERRA A.C.T. 2600

Mr Morris:

– What is the date?


– I regret to say that my copy of the letter does not have a date and I will have to get that for the honourable member. But it was some time last week when Mr MacKellar, as the then Acting Minister, and I had discussions about this matter. He goes on- and this is the important paragraph:

In summary, in the light of the foregoing observations, I agree with your contention that a public enquiry is not warranted and I am prepared to recommend to the Government that Concorde operations into Australia in the form described in the environmental impact statement be not opposed on environmental grounds subject to-

And these were the arrangements that I proposed to the then Acting Minister to which he agreed-

  1. a continuous monitoring and study program being maintained on the effects of supersonic aircraft operations in general with provision for revisions -

This is important because I was keen to make sure that there be some means of revising the agreement- of our agreement should adverse effects become apparent; and

  1. a study program being undertaken between our officials and if desired by those of the Victorian Government on the immediate noise impacts in the vicinity of Tullamarine arising from different Concorde flight paths.

That is an important letter because it deals with the question of the need for a public hearing as laid down in the Act. I have been advised that the date of the letter is 27 May. The letter is important because it makes clear that we were properly following the procedures set out in the Act. The letter confirms that in the judgment of the then Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, on the information that had been made available there was no need for a public inquiry.

A letter was received from the British High Commission which I read to the House in answer to a question yesterday. I will not go through it again. The British High Commission again confirmed that the draft impact statement with some minor editorial changes will be the final environmental impact statement on the question of Concorde visits to Australia. That is important because it goes very much to the heart of the allegation made by the honourable member for Reid. In other words this is the impact statement, with an addendum covering the submissions that have been made on it by Australians, upon which the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development and the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development made their judgment that there is no cause for a public inquiry. It shows that there is no case against Concorde. That becomes the final environment impact study and it has been available since December. Everybody concerned has a copy of it. Therefore there is no case to support a charge that we have breached the Act. The impact statement has been available since December and the British have said that there are no changes to it apart from minor editorial changes, and an addendum carrying the submissions and their comment on them.

Mark you, Mr Deputy Speaker- this is importantfrom all the statements the Department and the Acting Minister have already made a judgment that no case exists for stopping Concorde. I submit, contrary to what the honourable member for Reid said, that we are not in breach of the Act. We are still in a position to present the 5 copies of the final draft of the study when it comes to hand. There is nothing in the Act that says it has to be done before a decision is made on Concorde. That is an assumption made by the honourable member for Reid and it is not correct. The final decision on Concorde can be taken subject to the provisions of the Act that I have stipulated and to which I have referred. In my view we have been impeccable in coming to a conclusion.

It seems to me strange that the honourable member for Reid should make this allegation against this Government, pretending that it is acting improperly and suggesting that I acted improperly, as the Minister for Transport, in permitting Concorde into Australia. He went to some lengths to try to prove his case but let us compare its merit. I have proved that we are right but let us compare our actions with allegations about the sort of things done by the previous Government. Let us compare my actions as against those of a certain group of Ministers in the previous Government who approved the right to go overseas and raise $4,000m in loans contrary to the constitutional requirement. Let us compare the severity of the charge against me on this issue- I have proved I am right anyway but the honourable member raised it- against the background of those sorts of errors and then we can get this case into some sort of perspective.

The fact is that there is no case against the Concorde as supplied by the evidence. There has been no breach of the Act, as alleged by the honourable member, and in my view there was no point in delay. The fact is that it is going to take months to gear up for the Concorde to come to Australia. If account is taken of the environmental issues and the decision can be made that it can come here on its trial run, the sooner we can let the British know about it the better. I did so and I did so properly. The British have a lot of work to do to clear the way for Concorde to come to Australia. They have to reach agreement with Qantas Airways Ltd and there may be a necessity for government to government agreement.

There has to be an agreement between the British Government and the Singapore Government, maybe with the Indian Government and perhaps with a number of other governments. There is a lot of work to do. They have to bring spare parts to Australia and a lot of training has to be undertaken by Concorde crews. It seemed to me that as nothing in environmental terms stood in the way it was proper that the British be advised as soon as possible of our decision to allow Concorde to come to Australia.

The Concorde project is a commercial operation and whether it succeeds or fails will be a commercial judgment subject to the continuous monitoring of the environmetal impact that Concorde will make when it comes to Tullamarine. I make that point quite clearly. We did not accept, as the Americans did, a fifteen or eighteen months trial period. We put Concorde on trial right from the start and it will remain on trial. If at any time, in the opinion of the group that will be studying Concorde, there is a need to revise our decision on its coming to Australia we will take that decision. We did not just select an 18 months barrier and say that we would let it operate for 18 months and inform the operators then. We will give the operators notice, under due process, when we are satisfied about the environmental impact. I submit most strongly that no case exists on the allegations made about any breach of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. We have followed it through carefully and I submit the case of the honourable member for Reid fails.


-In reply to my question yesterday to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) he quoted a letter received by him from the Department of Environment in the United Kingdom.

Mr Nixon:

– I must apologise for that; it was a letter from the Australian Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. May I explain this point: My understanding was that I had received the letter from the Department in the United Kingdom. The letter was described as coming from the Department of Environment. I took it to be a letter from the United Kingdom Department but in fact it was from the Australian Department.


– I must admit that that changes the argument slightly but I still think the point I want to make is valid. The letter, whether from our Department or the British Department, indicated that the proponents of Concorde, British Airways and Air France, had been asked to prepare a final environmental impact statement. In other words, no such final environmental impact statement is yet available, at least not at the time the letter was written. The writer in the DepartmentI thought it was the United Kingdom Department but apparently it is our own- indicated that in the view of the Department only minor editorial changes would be made to the draft. That is a tendentious statement if ever there was one. What does editorial mean? Does it mean that there are a few spelling mistakes or that the grammar is not quite correct, or that the content, the line, the meaning, needs to be clarified, modified, changed, just a little? Does it mean, in short, that the meaning, the argument, the justification, is to be changed? No matter how slight the change, it is still a change. Does it mean that the final statement will not say and will not mean what the draft said? The editorial line is the significant line or argument in any document. It is up to the reader to make his assessment of the significance of the change and this will depend not only on the changes but on how the reader perceived the original argument.

So the final statement will not be the draft statement which is all that we have seen. The final statement was not prepared at the time the letter was written. In addition, the Department informed our Minister that an addendum to the environmental impact statement would be prepared by it and it would reply to the comments received as a result of the public circulation of the draft environmental impact statement. Thus that addendum will become an integral part of the total final statement. That addendum, not prepared at the time of despatch of the letter to our Minister, will be an integral part of the final statement which is still clearly some way off preparation since presumably it must await the arrival of the statement on editorial changes from the proponents.

Thus, on the basis of a promise of a statement from the proponents of Concorde incorporating unspecified changes in content and meaning compared to the draft statement, and with the assurance that an addendum will be added by the Department to that document when it is received, to answer the queries and worries of those who questioned the original draftwhether the addendum will satisfy those worries is open to question- the Minister, on the basis of this conditional document not yet written, decided that it was ‘pointless for me to postpone a decision’.

Magnificent, brilliant, just what we want! That is why we bothered to bring in our legislation when the Labor Party was in government. That is why we discussed the details of the legislation with many groups in the community and with members of the then Opposition, the present Government. That is why the Liberal Party and the Country Party supported the legislation- so that it could be ignored, so that we could just take the word of someone else for how something they want to do is going to affect us. The Minister for Transport must be joking or he must be a fool or a knave.

Let us examine our legislation which was supported by the whole Parliament and which is the law of the land. Section 5 of our Act specifies ‘that matters affecting the environment to a significant extent’ should be fully examined. The fact that the United Kingdom and the United States of America required an environmental impact statement would confirm that our own legislation is not excessive on this score. Next, in section 6 it is indicated that, in order to fulfil this requirement to examine fully and take into account environmental effects, certain administrative procedures must be followed. Section 8 (b) indicates that each Minister shall do all that is necessary, consistent with relevant laws, ‘for ensuring that any final environmental impact statement’- I emphasise the words ‘final environmental impact statement’- ‘formulated in accordance with those procedures, and any suggestions or recommendations made in accordance with those procedures, are taken into account, in matters to which they relate, in the department administered by him and by any authority of Australia in respect of which he has ministerial responsibilities’.

The Minister for Transport claimed that there was no need to wait, according to the terms of the Act; but the terms of the Act are quite specific. We have to await a final environmental impact statement. But no final environmental impact statement has yet been prepared by the proponents. We called for an environmental impact statement and the draft was received and distributed as required by the administrative procedures, as the Minister pointed out. In the United Kingdom and, I think, the United States of America there were public hearings on the draft EIS, but for some reason Australia’s Ministers considered that we Australians are less intelligent and less interested than people in those countries and therefore decided that there was no need to call for a public hearing on Concorde in Australia. They can make that decision. Despite this assessment of our inadequacy, a large number of submissions were received- I think the Minister said fifty- examining, discussing and dissecting the draft EIS.

According to section 8. 1 of our procedures, if it is intended to proceed the proponent shall revise the draft EIS to take into account any written comments, reports and comments on reports received at public hearings. Of course a public hearing was not held. The revised draft EIS becomes the final EIS and, according to section 8.2, the proponent is to provide 5 copies to the Department of Environment, a copy to a commissionerif there had been a public hearing-and copies to any department, authority of Australia, State, State authority, local authority or any person or body which has submitted written com: ments on the draft EIS. Finally, under this procedure, copies of the final EIS are to be available to the public by sale or otherwise. None of this has been complied with. But, on the Minister’s own admission, the final EIS has not yet been received by the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. I was going to say that it had not been received by the United Kingdom department; but, from what the Minister said, our department has not yet received it. In fact, it may not have been written yet.

Section 9.1 of our procedures requires the Department of Environment to examine the final environmental impact statement. This is a bit difficult when it has not been written yet, let alone received by the Department; or is there someone in the Department with extra-sensory perception? After all that, section 9.3 requires the Minister and the Department to make comments, suggestions and recommendations concerning the proposed action. That would include, if appropriate, for the benefit of our enthusiastic Minister: ‘Aw, you beaudy lederrip’- or should I say ‘roar’? Forgive my Strine. Perhaps I should translate this, slightly freely, as: ‘Oh, jolly fine show, let her fly! Never mind the noise. After all, it will affect only the proles. Who else would live in that part of Melbourne?’ I am not saying that that is what the Department would say. It is not what I would say; but, by implication, it is what the Minister has said. He also has said: ‘But wait, patience please. Of course we thought of everything’.

The procedures allow for an exemption from their application, in section 11.1. The Minister for Transport could have asked the former Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development for an exemption from the requirements of the procedures. Could either Minister table the correspondence, or was the communication by telephone or mental telepathy? Perhaps, in accordance with section 11.2, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development consulted the Department of Transport concerning the request for exemption. The Minister for Transport said that he had talks, but he did not mention exemption. He talked only about a public hearing, not exemption from all the procedures. Of course, I would have presumed that these documents could be tabled by someone; but clearly they cannot be tabled because they do not exist. Again, in accordance with section 11.5, ‘unless the Minister is satisfied that to do so would be contrary to the public interest, an exemption and a summary of the reasons for granting the exemption, shall be made public’. When? Or is it all so top secret that the Minister cannot answer that either? He should stop insulting the intelligence of the Australian community. He should stop insulting the Parliament and his own back benchers.

I note the letter that the Minister for Transport received from the former Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, which says, in part:

In summary, in the light of the foregoing observations- which really related to whether there would be a public hearing; it was always the Minister’s right to deny a public hearing- 1 agree with your contention that a public inquiry is not warranted and I am prepared to recommend to the Government that Concorde operations into Australia in the form described in the Environmental Impact Statement be not opposed . . .

It looks to me as though the former Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has made the mistake. He has not obeyed the law because he had not had a final EIS made available to him. He is the one who has absconded from the proper requirements. He could have got out of the obligation by suggesting that the requirements of the Act be not observed, but he has not done so. I do not care which Minister takes the blame, but one of them is to blame for not adhering to the Act which they supported enthusiastically when it passed through the Parliament. Shame on them!

Minister for Repatriation and Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development · Bass · LP

– In rising as the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and therefore the one concerned in the application of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, I have certain difficulties. Firstly, the Acting Minister who made the decisions of course is not here at the moment. Secondly, I have had only a short time to acquaint myself with the provisions of this Act and the responsibilities of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) more than adequately answered the rather spurious evidence that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) produced. Therefore, I see my main role as defending the Government, if it has to be defended, but certainly answering the accusations of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) in particular. I am tempted to answer some of the other comments made in the preamble of the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but I do not think I will have time to do so.

I think it is important, first of all, to summarise the administrative procedures that are required under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. The situation is simple. There has to be, first of all, a draft environmental impact statement. That has to be made available for public scrutiny. That was done. Secondly, public comment has to be asked for. That was done. As the honourable member said, we received about 50 submissions. As I understand it, only about half of them were against the proposal. Lastly, there has to be a final EIS. This is the point around which the whole of the argument that has been going on for the last 30 or 40 minutes revolves. Technically, I suppose we have to admit that there is not a final EIS. But, as my colleague the Minister for Transport has made perfectly clear, the draft EIS and the final EIS will be, to all intents and purposes, except for very minor modifications, exactly the same. The letter on which this is based comes from the civil aviation adviser to the British High Commissioner. It is dated 28 May 1976 and is addressed to the then Acting Minister. It states:

Your Department have asked that we, as proponents, now proceed with the preparation of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. Having studied the submissions received as a result of the procedure for public comments we do not anticipate that any other minor editorial changes to the Environmental Impact Statement are required.

Perhaps that answers the honourable member’s point. They are only editorial changes. The letter goes on: . . . subject to these editorial changes, the draft will become the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Our intention is to prepare an Addendum to the Environmental Impact Statement which will be our reply to the comments received as a result of the public circulation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement earlier this year.

I am quite happy to table that letter, if the honourable member likes.

Dr Cass:

-What date is that letter?


– It is dated 28 May.

Dr Cass:

– It was written after the letter to the Minister for Transport.


– Yes. But advice of the letter had been received.

Dr Cass:

– Mental telepathy again.


– It is not mental telepathy. Would the honourable member like to see the letter?

Dr Cass:

– I would love to see it.


-Let me deal with the next stage- public inquiries. Let me assure honourable members opposite that the Government considered whether a public inquiry should be held. First of all it was put to Senator Greenwood, before he become sick. That was on 1 April. Then it was put to Mr MacKellar, when he was the Acting Minister. The case that the Department put to those Ministers was examined and it was decided that an inquiry should not be conducted; that there was no need. There are many reasons for that, but I will not have time to discuss them. That dispenses with that part of the argument. Therefore, the real question now is whether we complied with section 9.5 of the administrative regulations.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Before I suspend the sitting for lunch, let me clear up one point. The Minister said that he was prepared to table a document. Does he intend to table it, or does he want it incorporated in Hansard?


-I do not mind if it is incorporated in Hansard.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

Civil Aviation Adviser to the British High Commissioner CML Building 330 Collins Street Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Telex 30660

Telegraphic Address Civatt Melbourne Telephone 6021877 (9 lines)

The Hon. M.J. R. MacKellar Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community Development Canberra 28 May 1976

Dear Minister

Concorde Environmental Impact Statement

Your Department have asked that we, as proponents, now proceed with the preparation of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. Having studied the submissions received as a result of the procedure for public comments we do not anticipate that any other than minor editorial changes to the Environmental Impact Statement are required, and that, subject to these editorial changes, the draft will become the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Our intention is to prepare an Addendum to the Environmental Impact Statement which will be our reply to the comments received as a result of the public circulation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement earlier this year.

Yours Sincerely

page 2810



Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.


-Prior to the suspension of the sitting I established that an inquiry was not warranted under the administrative procedures. The second point to which I referred was that the draft EIS, because of the very minor editorial amendments required as a result of the submissions made, would be almost, and except for those editorial amendments, exactly the same as a final EIS. Having established that, all else follows. We were accused by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of not observing section 8.1 of the procedures. That is an absurd statement. We have been not only to the Premier of Victoria and his departments and received comments which have been incorporated in our final judgment but we have also received comments from the 50-odd people who bothered to present submissions. So section 8.1 was followed.

As for sections 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3, because we were dealing with what amounted to a final EIS, all the procedures that the Minister is obliged to follow were followed. The Acting Minister, Mr MacKellar, followed exactly what was required. He considered all the points in sections 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3, and made his judgment. As to the point in section 8.2- that is, the provision that the proponent, the Department of Transport, supply copies to my Department- I am assured by my colleague that the 5 copies will be forthcoming. I am told that copies of the final EIS will be made available for public scrutiny. Those people and those States which made submissions will receive a copy, in accordance with section 8.2. Finally we come to section 9.5. Having established that the draft EIS and the final EIS will be substantially the same, I believe we have followed completely the spirit of section 9.5, although we have perhaps not quite followed it technically.

I must comment on the complaints by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and, I think, the honourable member for Maribyrnong that the Minister had not produced a public statement explaining why he had not followed all the procedures. For the edification of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition-I thought he would have known better, having had a claim to producing this Act-the this section refers specifically to section11.3 (i) of the exemptions section and has absolutely no bearing on this case. I think that concludes what I have to say. In trying to summarise what my colleague the Minister for Transport and I have said on this matter, I am having difficulty infinding the appropriate words. The matter was brought into this House. It was absurdly based. There was not one tittle of evidence to substantiate the assertions implicit in the matter. It is very difficult to believe that the 2 honourable gentlemen opposite were even serious. It is an insult to members of this House that such a matter was presented. I can conclude only that honourable members opposite have little else to do and that the matter seemed to be something out of which they might be able to make some political excitement. The Government utterly rejects the matter.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The discussion has now concluded.

page 2811


Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · Bennelong · LP

– I move:

This Bill provides for the validation until 31 December 1976 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 7 to 13 introduced into the Parliament during this Session and not enacted to date. Under section 226 of the Customs Act the collection of duties in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals is protected against legal challenge for 6 months or until the close of the Session of Parliament, whichever first occurs. The introduction and passage of a validation Bill is therefore a necessary machinery measure which takes over from section 226 pending the introduction of a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill which will formally enact the tariff changes contained in the proposals. It is anticipated a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill will be introduced during the Budget Session to cover the Proposals included in this Bill.

It may be appropriate at this time to recall for honourable members the method by which tariff changes are made. Any proposed change is embodied in a Customs Tariff Proposal which is introduced into the House and which can be debated by honourable members at the time of its introduction. It is normal practice for a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill to be introduced during each year which consolidates all the Proposals introduced into the House since the previous Customs Tariff Amendment Bill, and honourable members have an opportunity at that time to debate the proposals or any general questions of Government tariff policies.

The tariff changes validated by this Bill relate to the following reports by the Industries Assistance Commission:

Motor Vehicles- Import Restrictions

Commercial Motor Vehicles, Parts and Accessories

Miscellaneous Industrial Machinery ( Injection Moulding Machines)

Welding Consumables and Flux Cored Solder

Precision Ground Steel Ball Bearings

Filament, Fluorescent and Other Discharge Lamps

Spectacle and Sunglass Frames, Sunglasses, etc.

Other Electronic Equipment

Superphosphate Production

The changes relating to motor vehicles and commercial motor vehicles were set out in the statements made by myself to this House on 30 March 1976 and by my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) in another place, and were further considered by the House on 6 and 7 April. All the other changes covered in the Bill have been the subject of speeches on their introduction. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.

page 2811


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 6 May, on motion by Mr Nixon:

That the Bill be now read a second time.


-The purpose of this Bill is to repeal the Road Safety Standards Authority Act 1 975 which provided for the establishment of an independent statutory authority to spearhead a major drive on road safety in Australia. It was an initiative taken by the previous Government which had been long overdue and which was welcomed by everyone concerned with road safety matters. Even the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) welcomed the establishment of the road safety and standards authority just over a year ago. It seems obvious now that the Minister was speaking with his tongue in his cheek when he applauded the establishment of the authority. Reduction in the carnage on our roads is a major priority of the Australian Labor Party. The Opposition views this legislation as a measure that will result in the loss of additional Australian lives on our roads. It is another example of redirection of expenditure by this Government under its smokescreen of expenditure reductions. The Opposition opposes the Bill. Since the Minister assumed office one central theme has become clear in his actions. He is prepared repeatedly to risk human lives to divert funds to the sectional interests which his Government represents, to risk human lives and cause heartbreak and disaster to thousands of Australian families to obtain funds to pay the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) $5,000 per annum as an inequitable superphosphate bounty. But then this is a pro-farmer, anti-city government. Sheep, cows, pigs and horses rate a higher priority than urban Australians with this Government.

We witnessed recently the increased hazard to air travellers that arose out of the cancellation of the regular monthly issue of airworthiness directives by the Department of Transport, because of the Government’s freeze on the Department’s finances. Did the Minister object? No, the Minister did not object. He supported the freeze. We witnessed the transfer of $ 13.2m away from the national highways program and urban local roads to rural arterial and rural local roads. The bulk of that money went to the Minister’s own State and it will result in additional lives being lost on urban roads and national highways. It was a brutal exercise in buying rural votes at the expense of the lives of urban motorists and causing distress to urban families.

Now we witness the abolition of the Road Safety and Standards Authority to save a miserly $700,000 in the current year, a sum which represents 0.003 per cent of the total Budget outlays. The families of the air travellers, motorists and road passengers whose lives are to be risked unnecessarily by the actions of this Minister and his Government should know of his callousness. This legislation is typical of the retrogressive regime under which this country is now labouring. It can be described only as centralist and reactionary. I am astounded that a government, even as reactionary as the present one, could treat motorists’ lives with such contempt. Road safety is one of the most distressing problems currently facing our society, with thousands of Australians dying every year, and countless others being injured and maimed for life. Yet here we have a government actively demolishing one of the most important means whereby that problem can be efficiently and thoroughly analysed.

The Minister glibly says that the return of the Authority to the fold of his department is only a cost saving measure and that the work of road safety will be maintained. But I ask: ‘Will it?’ How can that possibly be? Of course, the answer is that it cannot be maintained. To explain that it is worth looking at the rationale behind the establishment of a national authority in the first place. Basically, the reasons were ones of enlightenment, progress and concern for the welfare of our fellow man- sympathies which the present reactionary forces opposite only glimpsed uncomprehendingly in the previous 3 years. They do not realise that Australia is now an homogenous nation with common problems which once did not exist. As is evident from their federalism policy, they still believe that Australia is a rough conglomerate of 6 independent colonies which should be left to follow their own paths regardless of the national interest. Honourable members opposite are turning back the road safety clock. Unfortunately many more Australians will die on our roads before the folly of the present Bill is realised.

The establishment of the Road Safety and Standards Authority was widely acclaimed throughout Australia as a tremendous breakthrough. One of the greatest difficulties in the research and development of road safety standards was the fragmentation of authority between municipal and State bodies, with only the most minute assistance from the national Government. Obviously such fragmentation had to be overcome, and naturally enough the initiative was taken by the newly elected Labor Government. The Authority was established in such a way that it could independently scrutinise and analyse all the associated problems of road safety in Australia. The Authority was to have its own facilities and staff and, independent of the motor industry, was to develop standards of safety for vehicles, standards of highway engineering, of traffic management and of town planning policies. It was to develop a uniform traffic code and, most importantly of all, it was to collect and disseminate research and information. While ever the Authority existed there was at least some guarantee that such work would be pursued uninterrupted. But what are we faced with now? At best we are faced with an emasculated group of disillusioned people forced back within the constraints of the bureaucracy and this phoney new federalism. Gone is the reassurance that something was being done by Government and, as we will no doubt see, we will have instead the 6 States again going it alone in the old, totally unco-ordinated fashion of the past.

Let us return to examine further the merits of an independent authority. It is clear that had road transport been of any importance late last century our Constitution may have given the Federal Parliament the same powers as it did over navigation and shipping. Yet, incredibly enough, after 76 years of the automobile we have a system of horse and buggy arrangements for the supervision of road safety. What is needed is national action and national co-operation coordinated by experts who can give the lead. How many learned and expert groups have to recommend such initiative before action is taken? This is not to say that such co-operation is totally nonexistent for, as we all know, there are many examples in Australia of uniformity having been achieved. What I am asking though is: Just how efficient is that co-operation and how may it be improved? It is true that we have the Australian Transport Advisory Council. We have had established, though long overdue, the Australian design rules. We also have a national road traffic code and other codes and standards attempting to regulate and improve upon road safety. It is piecemeal and painfully slow. Surely in these times with the expertise available it should not be too difficult to do better.

Road safety is a highly complex problem and it will never be improved by disjointed measures such as these. They are a start but we have a long way to go for I am afraid that even on the fundamental requirements of data collection our degree of standardisation is appalling. I need only cite as an example the difficulty being experienced in having police accident reports standardised. What is needed is a focal point for our work on road safety. We need a body with the power, influence, expertise and stature to be able to gather in all the reins and make all the agencies progress in a proper direction, free of political patronage. We are already many years behind in our research and consequently even further behind in our road safety standards. We need a body which can conduct research and gather information without interference, one which can formulate recommendations for remedial action on a national basis. Moreover, we need a body which can defend and advertise its activities free from political and other influences. We need a body accessible and responsive to the public. Regrettably, all these advantages are now being sacrificed. It is absolutely essential for the road safety of Australia that there be a national body with some bite, not a group of aimless, unco-ordinated bureaucracies working in circles without cohesion of any kind.

Let us look at the experience overseas, which cannot responsibly be ignored. For example, in the United States of America- a federation quite similar to ours- there is a National Traffic Act and a National Motor Vehicle Safety Act. What is more, they have already been in operation for over 10 years. By those Acts there was set up a National Highways Safety Bureau answerable to the equivalent of a federal Minister. That body, with its independence, is free to recruit people with all the necessary expertise and skills, free of the cumbersome mediocrity of the public service system. Automatically it was a body of some stature, respected by all, including the motor vehicle manufacturers who, let us face it, comply only because they have to comply. The difference in safety standards of our own vehicles and those of the more advanced countries where legislative compulsion exists is all too obvious.

So there we have it. The Authority was a national body capable of being awed and respected, a body which the States eventually would greatly appreciate as they came to learn the advantages of unity and now a body deprived of its independence, back in the bureaucracy where it will be choked and stultified by the whim and fancy of the Minister and financially crippled by his colleague the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). The Minister admits so much himself. He says that it is simply a matter of economy. I ask: Have he and his advisers stopped for one moment to consider the real economics of the matter? For example, what value do they place upon the lives of all those whose blood will be spilt as an indirect result of inadequate protective measures? What value do they place upon the savings created by efficient use of time and effort in the establishment of road safety standards? Obviously the answer is none or, at best, a value lower than that of the sheep, pigs, goats and cows which I mentioned earlier. I very much regret that in this Bill we are witnessing the absolutely senseless result of mindless pennypinching. I wish to reassure the people of Australia that the Opposition considers that Australian lives are worthy of such an investment, even if the Liberal Party and the National Country Party do not. It is so patently obvious that we have returned to the bad old days of stopgap ad hocery which, with the exception of the years 1972-1975 has plagued the progress of this country.

Yet another progressive Labor initiative is to be destroyed by this Government and by this Bill which, I regret to say, is of some insult to this

House. I say this because it was the Select Committee on Road Safety of this House under the chairmanship of my colleague, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), which recommended the establishment of an autonomous body. This recommendation was not made lightly. As honourable members might recall, the report of that Committee was one of unanimity and in fact also received the blessing of the Minister for Transport, who is at the table. I shall quote his words as they appear in Hansard of 15 April 1975. He said:

I am delighted that the Bill has the support of the Parliament and indeed, of the House of Representatives Select Committee . . .

Again he said:

This Bill is welcomed by the Opposition. It flows out of work that commenced under the last Liberal-Country Parry Government.

So what is it that we have before us this afternoon? It seems that at last we have a public admission by the Minister that we have presently a government worse than the one before in which he also had the dubious pleasure of serving. It is difficult to imagine that actually being possible, but at least the former Liberal-Country Party Government was concerned to some extent with the safety of our citizens. I think it is appropriate to bring to your attention, Mr Deputy Speaker, a politician’s prayer that was shown to me at the weekend. It was displayed in the residence of one of our New South Wales ex-ministers. If I can recall it correctly, it said:

Oh Lord, help me to make my words gracious today for tomorrow I may have to eat them.

I think that is rather an appropriate prayer to bring to the Minister’s attention in this debate.

Mr Martyr:

– It would be better if the words were true though.


– They are the words of one of the honourable member’s colleagues. The recent report, Vehicle Inspection Results 1975, issued by the Australian Automobile Association emphasised the urgent need for a strong, independent authority, free of political and industrial patronage to oversee vehicle design and performance.

The Canberra Times editorial of 26 May was aptly timed and aptly titled A Blow to Road Safety. Its content was pertinent to this Bill. I am confident that it reflected the mass of opinion of road users. It stated:

The reasons given by the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, for the abolition of the Road Safety and Standards Authority established last year by the Labor Government betray a failure on his part to understand the function of the authority. The small saving in administrative costs, the avoiding of ‘unnecessary duplication’, the more efficient use of staff are quite irrelevant to the concept that led to the creation of the authority. It was an essential part of this concept as Labor understood it, and as it was further developed at a Transport conference held in Canberra this month, that the investigation of major transport accidents be conducted by u body independent of departmental constraints, that would make its findings public, and report directly to Parliament. The authority set up by Labor did not go as far as that but it was autonomous and responsible only to Parliament through the Minister for Transport. Under the stimulus of pressures like those which led to the holding of the Canberra conference it would probably have developed into a body like the United States National Transportation Safety Board, which the conference held up as a model for Australia.

The editorial went on to say:

One of the greatest advantages of having an autonomous statutory body in the field of transport safety would be its power to publicly report its findings and thus to give the people essential information it would not get otherwise. Maximum publicity on the causes of accidents, whether these concern the manufacturers, the roads or the road users and the drivers, is a necessary step to effective control of the havoc wrought by the motor vehicle.

Until the facts prove the contrary, the present Government’s decision to abolish the authority must be regarded as a turning back of the clock.

Let me also quote from a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 May. Again it is aptly titled Need for a safety body ‘highlighted’.

It read:

The survey of new cars by the Australian Automobile Association last week highlighted the need for an independent organisation to investigate the safety of all forms of transport, it was claimed yesterday.

Mr G. A. (Peter) Lloyd, the managing director of Stack and Co., car distributors, and a prominent pilot, said that if such an organisation had been set up earlier ‘the causes of many accidents would have been sheeted home to the car manufacturers years ago’.

An example of the effectiveness of an independent authority can be seen in the success and wide acceptance of the Bureau of Roads established under the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1964. This Bureau has achieved success because it gained acceptance and creditibility as an independent, expert nongovernment body by other governments, agencies, organisations and interested parties. But I fear also that it is about to lose its independence and to be returned to the octopus-like embrace of the Department of Transport.

The Minister’s scant 5-minute speech on this Bill indicates the scant regard his Government now holds for road safety and saving Australian lives. If the House was discussing the lives of cattle he would wax lyrical and long. But ‘cattle before people’ is apparently the catch-cry of this Government.

Mr Fisher:

– Grow up.


– The barnyard door is open again over there. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said that the key to the whole situation was the efficient use of staff. The Road Safety and Standards Authority would have had a full-time chairman and two part-time commissioners plus a staff of two hundred. Its annual cost in terms of total budget outlays would have been minimal. The savings it could have achieved in terms of human lives are incalculable. This corrupt Government that came to office as a result of the grand conspiracy, the sordid events of which Mr Wiley Fancher and Mr Richard Todd are now revealing for public examination, has a paranoid fear of independent authorities and commissions. Why? It is because independent authorities and commissions report publicly and because they remove the opportunity for political pork-barrelling. In this Bill, pork-barrelling at the expense of human lives is in reality the exercise being undertaken by the Government. Independent committees and commissions always recommend action- things to be done that involve expenditure and social reforms that incur responsibility; whereas departmental sections report to department secretaries and to Ministers in private and their reports are secret. Such is the report of the Medibank Review Committee which the Prime Minister refuses to release to the community or to the Parliament.

This conservative Government, in accord with past performance, is opting out of its proper responsibilities in respect of road saferty as it is opting out of so many other of its responsibilities under its so-called federalism policy which I believe should more properly be labelled ‘colonialism policy’. In turning back the clock this conservative Government is turning its back on social responsibilities that successive federal governments, irrespective of political complexion, have seen fit to support since Federation. Honourable members opposite ignore the fact that people set up governments because they expect governments to solve problems they cannot solve themselves. Road carnage is one of those problems. No matter how hard the Prime Minister tries to pretend he is Australia’s George Washington, the Australian voters will remember his growing list of repudiated election promises and Australian road users will recall the folly of this Bill. Governments cannot and should not opt out of their social responsibilities hoping that private enterprise will take up the load because private enterprise’s objective is profit, not social reform.

Mr Martyr:

– You mean socialist reform, do you?


-I mean social reform. If the honourable member is not concerned about saving people’s lives he should stand up and say so. It is painfully obvious to everyone that road safety is a matter of great national concern. It has been estimated that the annual cost in monetary terms exceeds $1 billion, that is, about 2 per cent of the gross national product. As well, in the 10 years to 1975 it cost the lives of 35 000 Australians, while in 1974-75 90 000 Australians were injured, many of them to the point of being permanent invalids. In the 12 months to April 1976, 3618 deaths occurred on our roads. The tragedy and suffering this causes reaches everyone in our community at some stage or other. 1 believe it behoves every government, of whatever political complexion to do its utmost to ensure that this suffering is minimised. Moreover, I believe that money spent on this will never be wasted and unfortunately will always be insufficient. I only hope that the responsibility for this incredible piece of legislation is sheeted home to this callous Government, to this callous Minister, before many more Australian lives are aimlessly destroyed, before many more Australians are maimed.

Earlier this afternoon we saw the tabling of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety. I hope that in the debate that is to follow the tabling of that report some of the recommendations contained in it will be brought to the attention of the chamber. As I recall them, one of the recommendations dealt with in the speech made by the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), called for greater cooperation between State and Federal governments, and that is the kind of co-operation that could best be encouraged by an independent statutory road safety and standards authority. The report mentioned the need for a complete rationalisation of the collection and distribution of road safety data. I mentioned that earlier in trying to get some kind of standardisation of police accident reports. I was also interested to hear the honourable member for Kennedy say that the Standing Committee on Road Safety will be closely vetting the operation of this Road Safety Bureau, which is the term I understand it is to be given, when it is withdrawn back into the octopus embrace of the Department of Transport. Obviously there is concern by members of the Committee- I think I assume properly by both Government and Opposition supportersthat the cause of road safety in this country would be best served by having an independent authority.

I take the opportunity to say also that in line with the withdrawal of that authority back into the Department we have seen since this Government came to office what I choose to term an iron curtain of secrecy descend on the activities of the Department. It is almost criminal that reports that relate to human lives are being denied to members of this Parliament. I am thinking of the Bureau of Roads report for 1975. The report was tabled not so many weeks ago. Two copies were available in the Parliamentary Library for use by members. Admittedly I sought out the Minister for Transport and obtained a copy for myself, but it was a strange situation when ample copies of these reports were available in the State departments. There were ample copies there, but this Parliament was denied copies. Likewise with the Nimmo report- and I am sure the Tasmanian members who sit opposite are concerned about that report- copies were denied this Parliament when the report was tabled. Again information and public discussion on the recommendations was stifled. A similar position obtains in regard to the report of the inquiry into proposed extensions to the Brisbane airport. As the Opposition spokesman on transport I am still unable to obtain a copy of that report. All these things are being done under the smokescreen of economy. What is going on is a return to closed-shop government, a return to what I call the iron curtain of secrecy which is the normal way of operation for Liberal-Country Party governments, as their past record so clearly shows.

At the same time a blitz has been conducted within the Department itself because information was supposed to have been given out to people who should not have had it. I do not know of any public evidence advanced to support that contention. There has been a security blitz on the members of the Department. There were threats to call in Commonwealth police to investigate officers of the Department. If that is not iron curtain secrecy I do not know what is. Obviously that sort of action must have an impact on the morale of the people within the Department. Quite properly the Minister referred to it in his second reading speech when he said: . . . I am extremely anxious to maintain morale and team spirit which exist within that group when it is returned as part of the organisational structure of the Department.

Quite clearly the Minister is concerned about the morale of people who are associated with road safety and those who are working within his Department. It has been a deplorable sequence of events that people should have been threatened with interview by the Commonwealth police about having given to somebody informationsuch as that contained in the reports I mentioned earlier- that ought properly be available to this Parliament. This Parliament and the community should not be denied information under the smokescreen of an economy drive. I draw attention again to the Bureau of Roads report which was readily available in the States but unavailable to the Australian Parliament. In conclusion I simply say, whilst the present Minister reflects in so many ways the actions -

Mr Martyr:

– A wonderful chap.


– I am sure you will agree this is wonderful. I hope you will stand up and say that also. Whilst the present Minister reflects in so many ways the actions of his predecessor- I do not think he minds my referring to him as Charlie Nixon because I thought that was rather a compliment to him- I am quite sure that his predecessor the honourable member for Newcastle, Mr Charles Jones, would not have brought in a Bill such as this. The Opposition opposes the Bill.


– It is disappointing that the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) should use this opportunity to make cheap political comment about the activities of the present Government. He could not avoid, in this important debate on the vital subject of road safety, referring to Mr Fancher and Mr Todd and the old bogey of the superphosphate bounty. I cannot quite see the relevance of that subject in this debate. He could not refrain from attacking the Government’s genuine support for the people who live in the country areas of Australia, and I am surprised that he should take this sort of stance in debating the Bill. He seems to be suggesting that all the credit for the Commonwealth Government’s involvement in road safety should go to himself and his colleagues in the Australian Labor Party. Frankly, that is total nonsense.

I will endeavour in the short time available to me in this debate to be as objective and as fair as I can. The legislation, of course, abolishes the Road Safety and Standards Authority. On the face of it it might appear to be a negative stand, but it will appear to be a negative stand only to those who know very little about the operation of that Authority, only if they forget the express assurances which have been given by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), and only if they ignore the significant initiatives which have been taken by the Liberal and National Country Party coalition when last in power prior to December 1972. If they turn their back on all those matters, as obviously the honourable member for Shortland has, then they may be a little uneasy about this piece of legislation. But I do wish to remind honourable members of the Minister’s expressed assurance which was given on 6 May 1976 in this chamber and reported at page 2027 of Hansard, when he said:

This move to have the functions and activities of the Authority carried out by the Department of Transport does not in any way signify a lessening of our commitment to road safety.

I have no cause to doubt the expressed undertaking given by the Minister. If I did, I would not be supporting this piece of legislation. The decision to carry on all the functions of the Authority within the Department of Transport will save wastage and excesses. I know that is not something which the honourable member for Shortland is concerned about, but this Government is concerned about it. In the long run it is quite likely that the saving of money will mean that more money can be spent on road safety.

Attitudes are important and I venture to say they are as important as the black type on any piece of legislation. A government, for example, could retain an authority like the one we are now concerned with and by making surreptitious changes in financing and administration render it totally ineffective. If one is concerned with attitudes one could question why it took a government elected in December 1972- that was the Australian Labor Party Government- until May 1975 to create this Authority which of course honourable members opposite will say is so essential. Some light is thrown on the attitude of the present Government if we look quickly at the history of this piece of legislation. From November 1970 we have seen significant progress, following the Commonwealth Government’s entry into the road safety field. At that time an expert committee was formed by the then Liberal-Country Party coalition Government. This Authority is really a child of that original committee, although not created until May 1975. So, my submission is that the intitiative was taken originally by our Government, not the Labor Government.

In March 1971 the expert group to which I referred ran a national symposium on road safety. That was well before December 1972. At that symposium some 70 papers were delivered by experts from within Australia and also from overseas. After consideration of those papers and after further detailed study and consultations, it was decided to establish a national office for road safety. It was important that the Commonwealth should involve itself directly in road safety. There was a need, and of course there still is, for the Commonwealth to promote a more vigorous and rigorous national approach to the complex factors which contribute to accidents, to death and to injury on our roads. Since 1970 there has been this growing involvement by the Commonwealth Government and an increasing number of Commonwealth officers have been actively concerned in providing a broad national approach to reducing the road toll, to reducing the number of conflicting interests and to eliminating the diverse fragmentation of the institutional framework which had existed previously.

I mentioned some of the steps that have been taken. Of course, the Road Safety and Standards Authority with which we are now dealing was created, and I am quite happy to concede that other significant initiatives were taken by the previous Labor Administration. For example, a program of traffic engineering and road safety improvements was implemented, with supporting grants to the States. A central road safety information service also was set up. The road safety research program also was greatly expanded under the previous Administration. I concede all of those matters. But let us recognise, and let honourable members opposite recognise, that the original initiative was taken in 1 970, and there was not a Labor government in power then. The Opposition cannot claim all of the kudos and cannot take all of the credit. If one accepts, as I do, the assurance of the Minister for Transport, one understands that this legislation is machinery or administrative in nature. The Authority is to be abolished. But its functions will not cease; its activities will not cease. The national road safety program will continue unabated.

Our road toll is tragically high. However, since 1 970 there has been a significant improvement in our road safety record. There was a gradual increase in road fatalities up to 1970, when we had 3798 deaths on our roads-certainly a very tragic year. In 1971 there were 3590 deaths; in 1972, 3422- which was a drop of 376 on the 1970 figure; in 1973, 3679; and in 1974, 3569. In the 12 months ended 30 April 1976- the lastest figures available to me; that is, up to about a month ago- 3618 deaths occurred on our roads. Of course, that was still less than the 1 970 road toll. I was interested to watch the Australian Broadcasting Commission program Four Corners last Saturday night- that is, 29 May- in which a spokesman for the National Roads and Motorists Association in New South Wales commented on the improvement in the road toll over recent years. He indicated that, from the figures available to him and the research that his organisation has done, in fact the road toll has halved in the last 15 years, taking into account the number of miles travelled by drivers and passengers in motor vehicles and the number of motor vehicles on the roads. It was indicated in that program that if the trend before 1970 had continued an additional 9000 lives would have been lost on our roads. That is certainly a staggering figure. Those involved in road safety should be applauded for the fine record those figures indicate.

The reduction from 1970 onwards, I believe, has been due to a significant extent to seat belt legislation, which in my view has been the most effective road safety legislation ever introduced in Australia. Let us give credit to the Victorian Government for leading the world in promulgating compulsory seat belt legislation. Of course other States have since followed. The United States of America now has similar legislation. I noted with interest an article which appeared in the Canberra Times of 3 March 1976 and which indicated that the British House of Commons’ had passed a Bill making the wearing of seat belts compulsory and suggesting that that would save 1000 lives in the first year of operation. So the British Parliament is now catching up. Britain is still behind its former colonies, as it has been in many social reforms of this century.

I am pleased to say that Tasmanians- I am a Tasmanian- rate very highly indeed as safe drivers. This is confirmed by the figures issued recently by the Bureau of Statistics. Tasmania is the top State.

Mr Goodluck:

– That is right.


-My colleague from Franklin agrees with me. Tasmania is the top State and the figures are there to prove it. In Tasmania we have 475 accidents for every 100 000 of our population, compared with Victoria, which has 481; Queensland, 539; Western Australia, 570; the Australian Capital Territory, 574; New South Wales, 848; the Northern Territory, 939; and South Australia, 1040. The figure in South Australia is 1040, compared with 475 in Tasmaniaapproximately two and a half times the Tasmanian rate. I suggest that this might be consistent with the friendly nature of the people in Tasmania and the slower pace of life in that State. But, despite the good figures in Tasmania and despite the improvements since 1970, the figures are still tragic and we have to do all we can to reduce the road toll. 1 refer to a comment made by Dr B. J. Campbell, chairman of the United States National Motor Vehicle Advisory Council. At a road safety conference in Adelaide on 25 February 1976 he was reported as saying that traffic and vehicle engineering were the most promising areas of increased safety and that advertising campaigns telling people to drive safely or not to speed were expensive empty directions. Frankly, I see a good deal of sense in Dr Campbell’s comment. We need to look to improving our roads, our cars, our road signs and our road engineering rather than improving the physical reactions of the person or his state of mind. We can never change the basic fundamental nature of a person. Training in skills and trying to improve judgment will not provide an answer. The report of the expert group to which I have referred, entitled Road Accident Situation in Australia 1975, suggests that this type of training will not be effective.

I refer also to the editorial in the Canberra Times of 29 October 1975 in which the same point is made about driver training. I recommend that honourable members opposite read that editorial. Similarly, I do not see the breathalyser solving the road safety problem. I recognise that its use will have to continue, but it is not the complete answer. Certainly the evidence plainly indicates a connection between drink driving and fatalities. It is suggested by experts, following research, that alcohol is a causative factor in more than 50 per cent of fatal accidents. However, the real problem is not alcohol but an underlying recklessness or carelessness which causes a person to drink and drive.

If we are to stop people drinking and then driving, we need to look at our social values. It is quite lawful to drive to a hotel. The publican provides a large car park. There is social pressure upon a person to drink. Is it surprising that drinking and driving are linked? I am not one to suggest prohibition. People enjoy a glass of beer or whatever, and they are entitled to have one. We must change our attitudes to the use of motor vehicles in and around hotels. Certainly we need to continue to attack these vital problems. We need to continue to use the breathalyser. We must have driver education programs, despite what I have suggested, and advanced driving schools. But the main thrust of our program to improve road safety should be directed at better roads, safer vehicles, ‘and also having more stringent tests to obtain a driver’s licence.

It is scandalous that the carnage on our roads, the predictable violent death of some 3600 citizens annually, does not become a major political issue. How can it be explained that this appalling and widespread violence which kills a disproportionate number of young men is not recognised as a major national disaster? Our attitudes to death and disaster are hard to explain. The Darwin tragedy, and the Tasman and Westgate bridge disasters evoked great public emotion. Yet the loss of life was small compared with the horror of the road toll.

The present Liberal and National Country Party Government has a definite commitment to a continued improvement in road safety. I fully accept the assurance given by the Minister for Transport- he is a man of his word- that the administrative changes resulting from this present legislation will not detract from that commitment. My support for this piece of legislation is based upon that assurance that the Minister has given. I am afraid the problem of road safety will remain with us. We cannot solve it, but hopefully the Commonwealth Government can continue to make a significant contribution towards controlling it.


– I want to confine my remarks today primarily to the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety which was tabled by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). I believe that that report is the most important report on road safety ever brought down in this Parliament. The inquiry which resulted in that report represented the first occasion on which the automobile industry has been placed under close scrutiny. I believe it has immense implications for those who use the roads and those who build the cars which are driven on them. Although we are debating cognately that report and the Road Safety and Standards Authority (Repeal) Bill, I shall be devoting the majority of my comments to the Committee’s report on passenger vehicle safety.

Before I do that, however, I want to pay tribute to the work of the Committee and of the Committee staff in particular. I know that it is normal procedure to do so, but I cannot speak highly enough of the work done by John Porter and Bill Dee who were on the staff of the Committee, and many others, including the consultants to the Committee, Mr Graham Alexander, Mr Jim Bell, and Mr Peter Wherrett of Australian Broadcasting Commission television fame. The Committee had completed its hearings and was prepared to consider that draft when the Government was so ignominiously dismissed on 1 1 November last year. As Chairman of that Committee I was extremely impressed with the work of its members. I refer to Mr David McKenzie, the former member for Diamond Valley, Mr Dudley Erwin, the former member for Ballaarat, Mr Adrian Bennett, the former member for Swan, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), the honourable member for Kennedy and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock).

During the 18 months from the tabling of our second report on roads and their environment, the Commitee held 27 public hearings and took more than 5000 pages of evidence. More than 120 witnesses were heard. It was, by any standards, an extremely hard working committee, and I believe that the report it brought down is first class. If its recommendations are implemented this will have the effect of reducing the road toll significantly and keep Australia in the forefront of reducing death and injury on the roads. The report, like its 2 predecessors, is unanimous, but the Australian Labor Party will vote against the decision to repeal the Act which set up the Road Safety and Standards Authority which was to be establised at Albury-Wodonga. Its establishment was a unanimous recommendation of the first report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety and it was fully endorsed and supported by the Liberal and National Country parties when in Opposition. Our objection to transferring the functions of the independent statutory authority back to the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, under the control of the Minister for Transport and his Department, is that we believe that the fearless investigation and capacity to report without favour on every aspect of road safety will not be possible unless the Bureau is an independent statutory authority. The shadow Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), and the next speaker in the debate, the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), will deal with that matter in greater detail.

In its report the Committee, half of which is made up of new members elected to the Parliament in December 1975 and who have not heard the evidence placed before the 3 members of the sub-committee and the former Minister for Transport, notes the Government’s action and proposes to review the Bureau’s work after a period of time. The Committee has made in its report 52 recommendations in all. I seek leave to have those recommendations incorporated in Hansard.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The recommendations read as follows)-


The Sub-committee recommends that:

The Federal Government, in establishing a Bureau of Road Safety provide maximum assistance to the Bureau to enable it to become fully operational as soon as possible. (Paragraph 54)

The Design Rule Committee come within the Bureau of Road Safety’s jurisdiction and that the Bureau of Road Safety be developed as the principal body for formulating standards and recommend proposed Australian Design Rules to Australian Transport Advisory Council for approval. (Paragraph 78)

The Australian Transport Advisory Council in its review of the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design give careful consideration to its membership and make provision for consumer representation. ( Paragraph 82 )

Design rule proposals be publicised and comment invited during the 90 day period. (Paragraph 86)

In general Australian Design Rules should follow overseas standards but the making of unique rules should not be precluded where considered desirable but particularly where justified by Australian conditions. (Paragraph 97)

Draft Regulations should be immediately called up into Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory legislation and enforced through the inspection system in the Australian Capital Territory. (Paragraph 111)

-A complete review and rationalisation of the relevance and adequacy of the Draft Regulations be made by the Government as soon as practicable.

The Bureau of Road Safety co-ordinate the functions of the Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance, the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design and the Standards Association of Australia to avoid duplication in the formulation of standards.

Australian Transport Advisory Council endeavour to ensure that safety related Draft Regulations it approves are enacted in each State and Territory. (Paragraph 118)

-Australian Transport Advisory Council recommend to its constituent members legislative proposals to ensure uniform compliance of Australian Design Rule throughout Australia requiring the fixing of compliance plates to all vehicles and that penalties be included for failure of manufacturers to affix compliance plates.

The Bureau of Road Safety institute procedures for the thorough testing of vehicles to ensure satisfactory compliance with Australian Design Rules. (Paragraph 133)

The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design make a formal approach to individual vehicle companies requesting detailed cost information and other relevant information whenever necessary for the purposes of design rule formulation. Manufacturers should also be requested to provide assistance in evaluating the effectiveness of safety features in vehicles. (Paragraph 188)

The Department of the Treasury review its advice on the proposal for a reduction of sales tax on vehicle safety components in the interest of obtaining increased vehicle safety at a reduced cost. (Paragraph 192)

The Bureau of Road Safety monitor television, radio and newspaper advertisements of manufacturers and bring to the company’s attention advertising which, in the opinion of the Bureau, is not in the interest of road safety, requesting appropriate rectification. (Paragraph 20 1 )

– The Bureau of Road Safety investigate means by which all appropriate bodies which inspect new vehicles, including State governments, will be required or requested to formally advise the Bureau of detailed results of their inspections in relation to safety related defects.

The Bureau of Road Safety communicate to manufacturers evidence of serious or recurring safety related defects and seek their co-operation with regard to their correction.

The Federal Government establish a stricter procedure for the comprehensive inspection and recording of safety related defects in new vehicles and that the testing of vehicles be conducted by the Army Quality Assurance Service on behalf of all Federal Departments and Instrumentalities on a costshare basis. (Paragraph 227)

– The Bureau of Road Safety investigate the establishment of a committee, representing all relevant organisations, as a form of mediation between manufacturers and others to:

monitor defect information,

monitor manufacturers’ action with regard to recalls,

regularly publicise all defect and recall information, and

The Federal Minister for Transport report to the Australian Transport Advisory Council on the success or otherwise of this problem over a period of time with the view to obtaining by co-operation a legal framework in which to operate if this is found necessary. (Paragraph 258)

The Bureau of Road Safety establish formal access to vehicle company plants for quality control observation and develop a system of monitoring quality control standards. (Paragraph 272)

Australian Design Rule 3 1 be reconsidered with a view to ensuring that overall braking performance will at least be maintained. (Paragraph 30 1 )

The Bureau of Road Safety undertake or commission and supervise a test program over a range of surface and load conditions with a view to establishing braking performance requirements based on the statistical mean performance of present vehicles. (Paragraph 30 1 )

The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design investigate brake response time with a view to incorporating reasonable standards into a design rule. (Paragraph 307)

An educational campaign be conducted by the Government to inform the public, particularly mechanics, of the need for proper attention to the handling of brake fluids. (Paragraph 3 16)

The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design investigate the severity of the problems associated with brake fluids with a view to specifying a performance standard for brake fluids to ensure that only high quality brake fluids are utilised. (Paragraph 318)

Force and performance requirements of Australian Design Rule 3 1 be reviewed with respect to the development of a partial compensating master cylinder to establish whether less degradation of performance is now practical at a low cost safety benefit. (Paragraph 323)

The Bureau of Road Safety should investigate the appropriate labelling of retreaded tyres (including tread depth indicators) and maximum recommended vehicle speeds when fitted with retreaded tyres. (Paragraph 337)

The Bureau of Road Safety provide a facility for approved marking of replacement wheels shown to comply with appropriate strength and durability standards. (Paragraph 338)

An Australian Design Rule be developed to ensure that Australia obtains at least the degree of standardisation of controls and instrument panel achieved by overseas legislation. (Paragraph 343)

A stop lamp indicator requirement be considered by the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design to inform the driver of the correct functioning of brake lamps and that the provision of a brake failure indicator be investigated for its effectiveness and possible standard use. (Paragraph 344)

Immediate steps be taken to develop an Australian Design Rule to prevent less conspicuous colours being applied to vehicles. (Paragraph 358)

All Federal and State Government Departments and Authorities ensure that vehicle colour selection is made on the basis of safety . ( Paragraph 361)

A no less demanding design rule for field of view be substituted for Australian Design Rule 13, to ensure that advantages already gained are not negated. (Paragraph 367)

Australian Design Rule 15 be upgraded to include demisting of the rear window. (Paragraph 376)

The fitting of 4-way flasher warning lights be subject to Australian Design Rule formulation without further delay. (Paragraph 379)

Developments in human tolerances, vehicle aggressivity and cost-benefit, be closely monitored, supported by local research where possible, with the objective of drafting performance specifications for crashworthiness. (Paragraph 399)

  1. The method of data reporting for rollover accidents be investigated. (Paragraph 4 1 9)

The Federal Government ensure that the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory immediately legislate for the retrofitting of seat belts based on the Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance draft code of practice. (Paragraph 444)

The Federal Department of Transport in conjunction with the State and Territory registration authorities, immediately initiate a program to notify all pre- 1974 model vehicle owners, at the time of registration renewal, of the inherent dangers associated with the incorrect wearing and fitting of seat belts. (Paragraph 454)

The Government investigate the practicality and feasibility of incorporating an outside device on vehicles to indicate whether seat belts are being worn. ( Paragraph 465 )

An Australian Design Rule be developed to ensure that vehicles are fitted with a ‘fasten seat belts’ warning light on the dashboard operated in conjunction with the ignition switch. (Paragraph 466 )

The Government immediately investigate the present reasons for granting exemptions from seat belt wearing and encourage State and Territory authorities to amend their legislation according to the result of the investigation. (Paragraph 468)

The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design investigate the desirability of passive belt restraints with a view to design rule implementation. (Paragraph 473)

The Federal Government promote the beneficial effects of Australian seat belt wearing law in overseas countries. (Paragraph 478)

The Federal Government ensure that the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory legislate to ban the sale and fitting of unapproved child restraints. (Paragraph 490)

The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design undertake research with a view to designing vehicles, particularly family type vehicles, to enable the fitting of approved child restraints. (Paragraph 49 1 )

Immediate steps be taken by the Federal Government to ensure that legislation is enacted to require the wearing of restraints by children in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. (Paragraph 493 )

The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design review Australian Design Rule 10 in line with approved developments and that the angled effectiveness of energy absorbing columns be verified and possibly incorporated into the design rule. (Paragraph 506)

An Australian Design Rule be developed to ensure that vehicles are fitted with laminated windscreens consistent with the latest developments of laminated glass. (Paragraph 524)

The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design “ investigate developing a design rule to reduce fire risks, no less stringent than the United States standard. (Paragraph 531)

Data collection and analysis be modified to more accurately relate pedestrian injuries to various vehicle designs and features in order to determine significant variations in protection performance. (Paragraph 544)

The Bureau of Road Safety urgently review existing information on Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection with a view to urging the States not already using Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection to adopt a suitable form of inspection system to suit their needs.

The Federal Government urgently investigate a form of Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection suitable for the Northern Territory with a view to its early implementation. (Paragraph 567)

The ‘hot line’ concept for dealing with consumer complaints be extended and improved within the Bureau of Road Safety to ensure protection in the vehicle safety area.

The Bureau of Road Safety regularly publish details of consumer items relating to vehicle safety similar to Consumer Protection Bulletins issued by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Paragraph 599)

The Bureau of Road Safety should, in conjunction with all State and Territory police, ambulance and traffic authorities, develop simplified reporting formats and the use of coding information to facilitate data collection by police and ambulance officers. (Paragraph 636)

The Federal Government remove all administrative impediments so that the Aeronautical Research Laboratories can be utilised for appropriate road safety research whenever defence commitments permit. (Paragraph 664)

The Federal Minister for Transport, in co-operation with the Federal Treasurer, request the Insurance Commissioner to obtain relevant information from insurance companies. (Paragraph 687)

The Federal Government, in consultation with State Governments, should investigate implementing a system of variable rating of third parry insurance according to vehicle size and accident record and other matters which encourage occupant safety as well as a system of funding third party insurance by a fuel tax either in whole or in part. (Paragraph 696)

The Bureau of Road Safety, in conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, investigate the usefulness of selecting data from insurance companies and formally seek the co-operation of the insurance industry to assist in vehicle safety research. (Paragraph 704)


– Time does not permit me to comment on all of the recommendations but I do wish to make some comments on the ones which I believe are the most important. The Committee has made a number of recommendations that we believe are essential in this day and age to improve the vehicle itself. Recommendation No. 23 deals with the standardisation of controls. One of the problems that Australian drivers face is that the instrument panel varies from vehicle to vehicle. Most vehicles now have a small intrument stick attached to the steering column. However, the variations on what that instrument can do varies tremendously. On one vehicle the indicator will be on the left side, and on another vehicle on the right. Quite often by pulling the instrument towards you in one car you will find that it puts on the indicators and in another the same action will wash the windscreen.

Dip switch location varies considerably from car to car. There is a great danger, particularly in 2-car families where a driver used to one set of controls, and having to make a quick decision, will make the wrong one. These controls should be standardised to avoid the sort of accident that can occur because a driver makes a mistake or has to think for some time exactly what or where his controls are. To suggest, as some do, that this would restrict the manufacturer is patently absurd. We do not argue about where the brakes or clutch or steering wheel should be, and it is now an Australian design rule that the automatic car has its various gears located in the same place.

Recommendation No. 24 suggests that a stop lamp indicator requirement be considered to inform the driver of the correct functioning of brake lamps and that the provision of a brake failure indicator be investigated for its effectiveness and possible standard use. Recommendation Nos 25 and 26 deal with the colours of motor vehicles and a considerable section of the report, from paragraphs 346 to 358, deals with the immense value of lighter coloured vehicles for safety purposes. Although the Committee was somewhat guarded on its recommendations on colour, it was given evidence- this is detailed in the report in paragraph 350- of studies conducted in Sweden, the United States and Germany, indicating that light coloured vehicles were much safer than dark coloured vehicles. Let me quote from the report. The study in Sweden of 31000 collisions found that black vehicles were involved in 22.5 per cent of these collisions.

As black vehicles comprised only 4.4 per cent of the vehicle population, they were overrepresented by a factor of five. The ‘safest’ colour, according to Viberg, was pink. The report includes some excellent visual aids made available by Mercedes-Benz showing the benefits of light colours and listing in order of conspicuousness the various colours from white, which was the most conspicuous, to dark blue, which was the least. Some 1 9 different colours were tested.

Recommendation Nos 25 and 26 urge that steps be taken to develop an Australian design rule to prevent less conspicuous colours and that Federal and State departments and authorities make colour a basis for selection in the purchase of their own vehicles. I have noted with considerable satisfaction that the black government car is now being replaced by the white government car. Recommendation No. 28 was that the Australian Design Rule No. 15 be upgraded to include demisting of the rear window. I do not think this needs any further explanation. I think most people would understand the value of a demisted rear window. Recommendation No. 29 was that an ADR be formulated for the fitting of 4-way flasher warning lights. As honourable members would know, a considerable number of vehicles now have these fitted and in the event of a car being forced to stop or being involved in an accident, the 4-way flasher can be seen and is a warning for cars coming from either direction to drive carefully.

In my view the most important section of the report with regard to the potential for saving lives is found in recommendations numbers 32 to 41, which deal with seat belts and child restraints. Australians can be justly proud of their record in the reduction of the number of deaths and injuries on the road during the past 5 years. Australia’s dramatic improvement dates from the recommendation of the Victorian Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Road Safetythis was mentioned by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) who preceded me in the debate and who I think must have read my speech because he has taken so much out of itthat all occupants of motor vehicles should be required to wear seat belts within a maximum period of 2 years. The other States, which were fearful of voter backlash, watched the Victorian initiative with interest and when it became obvious that it was an amazing success they eventually followed. The world watched Australia’s dramatic breakthrough and slowly is following our example. I noticed that the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) said that America was doing so. I do not think that is correct. I think that the honourable member should check on that. I do not think that that country requires the compulsory wearing of seat belts.

I have constantly been infuriated by the failure of the Press to highlight the impact of the compulsory wearing of seat belts. I was amused to hear- again this was mentioned by the honourable member for Braddon- Mr Huxtable of the National Roads and Motorists Association when interviewed on Four Corners last Saturday night state that the newspapers had ignored this reduction caused by seat belts because good news did not sell newspapers. I can recall only one major article in recent years that highlighted the dramatic reduction. That was in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 April 1976. The article was headlined: ‘Cars multiply but road death rate falls over 10 years.’ The article listed the various measures that had contributed to the reduction in New South Wales from 8.3 deaths per 10 000 vehicles in 1966 to 5.8 per 10 000 in 1975. That is a dramatic reduction in anybody’s language. Heading that list was compulsory seat belts. In 1970 1309 people were killed in New South Wales. Despite a continuing increase in drivers, vehicles and miles driven during the next 2 years- that is 1971 and 1972- when seat belts were made compulsory the numbers dropped to 1249 in 1971 and 1092 in 1972 which was the first full year for seat belts. The number started to rise again once the full benefit of the legislation had had its effect, but 6 years later is still below the 1970 figure despite the quite massive increase in drivers and vehicles.

The report shows by the use of graphs on Australia and Victoria, where the improvement has been even more dramatic, the massive saving in lives that is occurring through seat belt legislation. The figures are even more dramatic if one looks at vehicle occupants alone. Many people do not analyse the figures that are released in the Press of the numbers killed. The number of pedestrians, which is about a quarter of the total, and motor cyclists, where there has been a tragic increase in the number of people killed in recent years, has not been diminished by the use of seat belts. If one looks at vehicle occupants alone and studies the graphs on persons killed and injured one sees that there was for Australia a 26 per cent fall in fatalities from the prediction limits and for Victoria a massive 38 per cent drop in fatalities. Injuries, which we tend to forget in looking at the road toll, dropped by 21 per cent for Australia and 41 per cent for Victoria. It would be fair to say that there are 4500 Australians, most of them young, alive today and another 90 000 uninjured because of the Victorian initiative. Victoria, and those members of the Victorian Parliament who participated in the report of the Victorian joint select committee, can be justly proud of their achievement. However, there is still more to be done. I want to quote in full paragraph 426 which I believe highlights the fact that an even bigger breakthrough is around the corner if we have the resolve to take the plunge. The paragraph states:

The Committee was informed that the highest percentage of death and injury came from unrestrained occupants involved in vehicle accidents. Dr Henderson indicated to the Committee that, based on studies undertaken by TARU in N.S.W., approximately 80 per cent of fatalities was coming from the 20 to 25 per cent of people who did not wear belts. He reasserted this view in later evidence when he indicated that a relatively high percentage of deaths will always come from the non-wearers of seat belts or from those wearing them incorrectly. A Melbourne study supported this observation. It found that in 1973, only one half of the drivers and one third of the front seat passengers injured in accidents, were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.

With this in mind the Committee therefore made a number of recommendations based on the evidence put before us. Recommendation No. 32 was that the Federal Government ensure that the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory follow the Victorian example of retrofitting cars without belts and recognising the difficulty that some people have in adjusting belts it should notify all pre- 1974 model owners of the inherent dangers associatd with the incorrect wearing and fitting of belts.

Recommendations Nos 34 and 35 dealt with forcing to wear a belt the stupid driver who either refuses to buckle up or simply does not believe the weight of evidence. I even had one idiot write to me recently telling me that everybody knew how dangerous it is to wear a seat belt. There are people in Australia who still think this way. The recommendations were for a compulsory warning light both inside and outside the vehicle which would engage when a driver did not have his seat belt on. The former ought to annoy him sufficiently to put his seat belt on and the latter would alert police to the fact that he was not wearing a belt and they could act accordingly. If we can get the 20 per cent of people who are not wearing belts and yet providing 80 per cent of the deaths and injuries to wear belts, we may go close to eliminating the deaths to vehicle occupants.

The Committee was particularly impressed with one new seat belt design. Paragraph 470 states:

One of the latest overseas developments in seat belt technology shown to the Committee was the passive seat belt developed by Volkswagen. The belt is secured by inertia retractors to the front seat and the other end is anchored to the door pillar. When the door is closed, the belt is automatically applied over the person in the vehicle. In place of a lap belt, mere is an energy absorbing knee bolster which prevents the passenger from slipping out under the belt in a collision.

The belt is available overseas in the new Volkswagen Golf. The Committee was informed that this type of restraint was precluded under the wording of the ADRs. It therefore recommended that this be reviewed.

Because of its deep concern for the number of children being killed the Committee made very strong recommendations on child restraints. I appeal to Australian parents not to be irresponsible in failing to have their children restrained when travelling in motor cars. When I am driving along and see two or three young children in another car being allowed to climb all over the place I feel like stopping that car and really giving the parents a talking to. Such drivers are being totally irresponsible. Children who are not restrained in cars are like guided missiles if a vehicle suddenly has to brake.

As I have said before, this is an extremely comprehensive report and it is quite impossible to deal with every aspect of it in a short speech of this nature. There are a number of matters I would have liked to touch on, including the Committee’s recommendations regarding laminated windscreens; the development of simplified reporting methods and coding information to enable the Bureau of Road Safety to analyse more effectively the faults in numerous makes and models of motor vehicles; the need for the Bureau to have available testing facilities to ensure satisfactory compliance with Australian design rules; the need for automobile manufacturers to provide detailed cost information regarding changes in design rules; and a request for Treasury to review its advice on sales tax on safety related items for motor vehicles and a whole range of other matters. The report covers 450 pages and obviously one could not deal with all of its aspects in 20 minutes.

I think that the thrust of this report is that there is need for governments to legislate. If one looks carefully at the report one can see that Australian Motor Industries, a dealer in Japanese cars, made the point that the only way to get safer vehicles in Australia was for governments to legislate. If the representative of a major world manufacturer can say that surely that is evidence that this is what should be done. General-Motors Holden’s Pty Ltd and to a lesser extent the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd and Chrysler Australia Ltd also made the point that because they are in a cost competitive situation one of them alone could not take these measures. However, it would be a different matter if they all had to install warning lights or do something to the brakes, for instance, because the costs would be the same for everyone.

One of the things about which I was annoyed, and this evidence came out in our hearings, was the question of costs. The manufacturers waged a very effective campaign in the media in support of their assertion that the cost of safety related items was boosting the price of cars. After a lot of very unpleasant to-ing and fro-ing on the Committee they finally agreed to provide us with the figures. I think we almost had to threaten them with a subpoena to get the evidence. We finally got it and it showed that of the 30-odd safety related items the total cost was between $130 and $200 in vehicles costing between $5,000 and $6,000. They proved by their own evidence that what they had said over and over again was simply not correct. The cost of safety related items, and the major one was seat belts, was very insignificant in a car.

The present Committee is a new one. I do not wish the fate of members of the previous Committee on members of this Committee. We had a very high injury rate; I think I am the sole remaining member of the original committee. We have some very interesting areas to look atbuses, trucks and bikes, and then we will move on to the human behaviour side. The past 2 years have been an exciting and exhilarating experience in bringing this report to its completion. I would like to have had the honour, as the previous Chairman, of introducing this report because I chaired the Committee through all its hearings. However the egoes of politicians are unimportant. What is important is that the job is done and I believe that through the work of the Committee staff and the Committee it has been done extremely well.


-The problems of road safety are immense and it pleases me to be able to speak once again on a subject which I consider to be of national importance. Forgive me, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I duplicate some of my earlier remarks. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has assured me that no less importance will be placed on road safety as a result of the administrative change and, let me be quite specific, I will not accept less emphasis. Every day an average of 10 people are killed on Australian roads and to the year ended 30 June 1975 there were 89 782 injured. That is frightening but it is real. Man created the monster but to contain it is the responsibility of government.

During the peak of 1970 some 3798 deaths were recorded. That was an alarming and tragic year and I think it drew attention to the real problem of road safety. Since 1970 we have made great inroads into problems associated with road safety. Despite an increase in population of about one million and an increased number of motor vehicle registrations the staggering death rate has slowed down as a result of concerted efforts in road safety. Seat belts and campaigns stressing safety standards have assisted but more needs to be done.

The motor vehicle industry is the second largest industry in Australia. It employs approximately 254 000 workers in manufacturing, wholesaleing and retailing. Consequently, and most importantly, it is a vital economic growth factor for our future prosperity. We need it but we must be aware of the problems it creates. The motor vehicle is here to stay. Consumers buy to satisfy need and this basic human and important psychological element in the continual purchase of motor vehicles is with us and will never change.

How do we contain this man-made monster? The motor vehicle is a means of transport but it is also a lethal weapon. Much is said about the tragedy of war and the precious lives lost but we, that is the Government, must make a concerted thrust in the area of road safety. Every State has a responsibility but the States must have the support of the expertise of a sympathetic Federal Government which is prepared to back them and make road safety a national priority. Determined and courageous decisions must be made in car design. I refer to such things as standards of safety, road design, compulsory inspections, decisions on behavioural patterns of drivers, alcohol, drugs and eyesight, etc.

The agonising period for parents until a learner-driver becomes competent is nevertheless the beginning of a never ending worry and concern for the safety of their children on the road. We have accepted the ever growing carnage on the roads, the continuing sadness and ever growing frustration that is yours and mine because of the motor vehicle. Much criticism is levelled at dealers and repairers in respect of maintenance etc, but we must be completely fair about the matter. Motor vehicles are driven by various individuals, some careful and some completely irresponsible. I have known cases where new cars have been purchased and never returned for service until virtually the wheels started to fall off. You can leave out a nail in building a house and that does not necessarily mean that the house will fall down but if you leave one split-pin out of a repair to a motor vehicle it invariably means that the car will stop or that it could cause a serious accident.

In the retail motor industry an Australia-wide program has been developed to improve the level of training of managers, supervisors, tradesmen and semi-skilled staff. This has occurred solely as a result of the promotion of training for industry and commerce, commenced by a former Liberal-Country Party Government in the 1960s and continued by the Labor Government. It arose from a national conference in 1971 called by the present Treasurer (Mr Lynch). Growth of the motor industry in postwar years has been exceptional and in the retail sector, which depends far more on skilled staff than the manufacturers, a critical shortage of trained staff has developed. This has been evident not only among tradesmen but in all areas from management down.

It should also be noted that this is an industry dominated by very small businesses. Less than 2 per cent of them employ over 50 employees and the cost and reliability of vehicle servicing, together with a major element in road safety, depend on the standard of skill and the efficiency of the people working in the industry. Owing to their small size individual firms can do little if anything to improve this standard. The trade associations in the industry, however, prompted and assisted by the Commonwealth, have made a vast amount of progress in 4 years in establishing specialised training courses and increasing the efficiency of the apprenticeship system. This achievement could not have been brought about without the prompting and assistance to which I have referred and the entire project is still not viable without Commonwealth assistance.

I see the assistance given by the Commonwealth as a catalyst which already has commenced to generate a massive response by the industry to the advantage of the community at large. For example, I see a need in the apprenticeship system. I visualise the serious effect that a decline in apprentice intakes will have on future supplies of skilled tradesmen. Then there is the adverse effect on employment opportunities for school leavers. The existence of age barriers on entry into apprenticeship is such that low intakes in one year cannot readily be compensated for in subsequent years and school leavers who are unable to gain entry are likely to be lost forever to skilled trades. Currently the situation is reaching critical proportions with young applicants for apprenticeships exceeding vacancies by a ratio of 100 to one. If we are to have skilled tradesmen for the future to work on your car and my car it is the responsibility of government to endeavour to improve this situation.

Today the report from the Standing Committee on Road Safety was presented to Parliament. I must pay tribute to the former Committee which was chaired by the honourable member for Robertson, Mr Cohen. My colleague the honourable member for Kennedy, Mr Katter, is the new Chairman. The same spirit of active participation divorced from Party politics, but with an intense desire to contribute to road safety in Australia, is evident and has revived my faith in the parliamentary system. Road safety should be the most important national priority. No expense should be spared in providing research, training and all the necessary aids to assist in reducing the sadness which is caused by the motor vehicle. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) used this debate today unfortunately to distort the facts and to bring road safety back into the political arena. I compliment my colleague the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) for clarifying some of those distortions in a very fine address. I support the Bill.


-The Bill before the House at the moment will repeal the Road Safety and Standards Authority Act which I had the pleasure of introducing in 1975. The repeal of that legislation is a further example to everyone of the fact that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and this Government lack a transport policy. The Liberal-Country Party Government, during its former 23 years in office, displayed no initiative, no incentive and no real transport policy to endeavour to reduce costs and to make this country an easier one in which to move around. Unfortunately for Australia, we are returning to that era of ‘let us hope that everything comes out all right’. Things just do not work out that way. They have to be planned, and unfortunately that is what this Government does not want to do.

The decision of the Government to return the responsibilities of the Road Safety and Standards Authority to the Department of Transport is an economy measure with which I will deal in some detail at a later stage. I suggest to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that he might also dispense with the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. I know that the Government has announced that it will put them together under one authority. I agree with that decision and, once again, I thank the Government for taking up the decision that had been made before it came into office again on 13 December last year. That is a progressive and first-class decision. Why does the Government not get rid of the Australian National Line, the Australian Shipping Commission, TransAustralia Airlines, Qantas Airways Ltd, the Australian National Railways Commission, the Federal Advisory Committee on Materials Handling and the Australian Shipbuilding Board? Why does the Government not hand the functions and activities of all those authorities over to various government departments? It might save a dollar here and there if it did that. Road accidents claim thousands of lives every year, at a cost of something like $ 1,000m. The Government will save a paltry $700,000 this year by putting the responsibility for the functions intended to be performed by the Authority back with the Department. As I said, that is a matter with which I will deal to a much greater degree later.

The decision to set up the Road Safety and Standards Authority, which was taken by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975, was carefully considered and fully thought through as to just what was required and what we would and should include in the Authority. We referred the matter to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety so that the Committee could give us a report on what it thought. In other words, honourable members who had a keen interest in road safety were asked to give the Government a report on it. I took the opportunity, when overseas on a couple of occasions, to visit various government authorities and talk to them regarding what was being done by other governments in an endeavour to improve road safety. We put together all that information- the Standing Committee’s report, the information which my Department was able to put together and the information which I was able to collect- and we came up with a decision to set up the Road Safety and Standards Authority.

Likewise, we did not determine the Authority’s location haphazardly or by accident. The Labor Government had made a decision to decentralise and to develop growth centres. The Albury-Wodonga growth centre, being located on the main road between Sydney and Melbourne, was the obvious place for it. At the same time, setting up the Authority in that location took it out of a capital city. We planned to locate a new airport alongside it so that these 2 transport facilities- the Road Safety and Standards Authority, with all the equipment that goes with it, and the airport- would be working side by side. We planned on ultimately taking away from Victoria the testing and training of pilots so that that would not create the problem it now does at Little River and Lara- two small towns in the electorate of Corio. That was all part of the overall planning. I hope that the Minister will read the files and put those first-class plans into operation.

I give the Minister and his Country Party predecessor credit, first of all, for having become more interested in road safety than their predecessors were. They were subjected to great pressure from the community because of the increased number of deaths and accidents that were taking place on the roads. I also give them credit for having held conferences and for having brought people together on committees such as the Expert Group on Road Safety, but I am greatly disappointed that after receiving the report of the Expert Group in the middle of October 1972 the Liberal-Country Party Government did nothing about its recommendations. Now, when it has another opportunity to act on those recommendations it is still doing nothing about them. In fact, it has taken a retrograde step. I have a feeling that the Minister for Transport would sooner be sitting on this side of the House today, taking part in the discussion, than sitting on the Government side and having to justify an unjustifiable decision that has been taken by his Government. Two of the 8 major recommendations of the Expert Group which was set up by his Government are worth repeating. One is:

The Commonwealth Government should involve itself more directly in road safety and in other ways promote a more vigorous, co-ordinated and multi-disciplinary approach.

This Bill is a clear example of what that recommendation advocates should not be done. It is a retrograde step, and the Government knows it. I do not propose to go through the 8 recommendations, but another important one that is worthy of mention is:

An authoritative committee should be created to advise the Minister for Shipping and Transport on road safety research and information. This committee should take the place of the Expert Group.

I agree with those recommendations. The Labor Government implemented them. The Expert Group recommended that money should be made available for road safety improvements and the like. In our first Budget we allocated $3m for that purpose. That was the first step. In the new roads legislation, brought in as part of the 1974 Budget, we made provision for$30m over the next 3 years. These were the recommendations of the Expert Group. The setting up of the Authority, the recommendation I readjust now, was another of its major recommendations. We carried out its recommendations, which we considered were first class.

At this point I will give honourable members some information about what the Road Safety and Standards Authority was to do. In cooperation with the relevant State authorities, and other bodies with an interest in road safety, it would have formulated national safety standards for vehicles, highway engineering, traffic management and traffic law. It would have conducted research into factors affecting vehicles, roads, the road environment, road-user behaviour and the inter-relationship between them. It was also to establish a comprehensive information service and to develop a specific, scientifically evaluated, education and publicity program so that when money was allocated it would be spent and used in the best possible way. The specialised facilities available to the Authority would have enabled it to undertake high level research into key areas of vehicle safety, exhaust emissions and consumer protection. The extent and sophistication of the facilities would have been unique for a government authority concerned with road safety. There would have been a test track, impact test barrier, dynamic sled, experimental road system, specialised laboratories and related facilities. I saw a number of specialised road systems when I was overseas. People who had already made decisions on particular types told me that if they were starting afresh they would not adopt the same sort of thing. So one of the first jobs of the chairman of the Authority would have been to go overseas and ascertain the best type of equipment for the Authority to install.

In regard to road environment, the Authority staff and interested bodies would have had access to off-road facilities which would have enabled comprehensive testing under controlled conditions of such things as breakaway poles, guard railing and crash barriers which would yield on impact and reduce the likelihood of injury to vehicle occupants. They were some of the things which were to have been carried out. Consumer protection was another most important responsibility of the Road Safety and Standards Authority. One has only to read the recently released report of the Australian Automobile Association to understand the need for such protection in Australia.

Mr Nixon:

– I have another report which is even more up to date.


-That is all right, but the Government is going backwards. That is what the Minister must understand. He does not agree with what the Government is doing. I believe he would like to be on this side of the House today. The report of the Australian Automobile

Association clearly establishes the need for a body such as the one which we are now rejecting. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) referred to the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety. That report made mention of a hot line. This Parliament has not the constitutional power to enforce a hot line, but when we set up this body none of the motor car manufacturers were game to buck it. They know that there is a need for a body to be established to protect the consumers of this country. Even though we did not have the constitutional power to do it, we got away with it. The manufacturers know that there is a weakness in their set up.

Another important responsibility of the Authority would have been to control pollution. The Labor Government was concerned with the quality of life in the cities. The Labor Party is still concerned with it. Unfortunately this Government is not. Tests which have been taken in all major cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, show that at certain times of the day the level of carbon monoxide and oxidants exceeds by four and five times the World Health Organisation recommendations. We know that the motor car is responsible for 90 per cent of the carbon monoxide in the atmosphere in our major cities, 65 per cent of the hydrocarbons and 55 per cent of the nitrogen oxides. All these things go to creating unpleasant living and unnecessary conditions in cities today. They have an unpleasant effect on people. We were setting out to control this, but unfortunately the Government is putting the clock back.

We know that the 6 State governments have their own road safety authorities, but there is no co-ordination. There is no understanding amongst them. They go their own happy way. There is no clear plan. We were setting out to achieve a plan by setting up an authority. The Chairman, Mr Frank Yeend, was a first class officer of the Department of Transport. He would have been able to do the job of chairman. The second member was Professor Cumming, a university professor, a man who has a personal interest in road safety. The other member was Clem Jones, the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, a most dynamic personality. They would have been members of the Authority and would have been determining its policies. There would have been no political content in it. I believe that public servants can get on with the job. When I was endeavouring to put programs together to improve public transport I ran into trouble with Ministers, but I did not run into trouble with public servants. They were able to work together because they knew that what they were doing was in the interests of the people as a whole. The Minsters wanted to play pontics. There would not have been any playing of politics if the Authority had been running all these things. It was part of our overall policy in relation to transport, road safety and safety as a whole.

The Authority was the first stage. There was before Cabinet a submission which was headed ‘The Creation of a Statutory Authority for Transport Accident Investigation’. I hope that the Minister will take up this Cabinet submission, through the files of the Department of Transport, and get on with the job of creating, as the United States Government has created, a national transportation accident investigation board. The United States body was set up in 1967 to investigate air, sea, rail and road accidents. In Australia the Road Safety and Standards Authority is already established. The Australian accident investigation authority would be charged with the responsibility of investigating air, sea and rail accidents and, in the long term, road accidents. This country badly needs an authority that can investigate in an independent manner accidents which occur from time to time. That was the second stage of our plan. There is a great need for this sort of authority. Instead of having Caesar investigate Caesar, as we have when there is a rail accident- the railway investigates its own accident and obviously endeavours to cover up what is going on or faults on its part in the accident- the Authority would investigate. That is the whole situation as far as we are concerned.

I have a table which sets out the number of road traffic accidents in Australia from 1965 to 1975. 1 do not think there should at any time be a discussion on road safety without the readers of Hansard being given the opportunity to see the figures clearly. Therefore I seek leave to have the table incorporated.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-


-This table was prepared for me by the Statistics Group of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. It shows that in the 10 years between 1966 and 1975, 35 044 people lost their lives in road accidents. In the 10 years from 1965 to 1974, 864 553 people were injured in road accidents. With those figures at the back of our minds, let us look at what this Government is doing by repealing the legislation. This year it will save a paltry $700,000 in the Budget. How does the Government calculate the cost of the lives of people who are killed on the roads? How does it put a value on the lives of the 3691 people who were killed on the roads last year? Does it calculate that it is saving $700,000? I am afraid I cannot agree with the Government’s method of determining the allocation of its funds. There is a need to spend money to save lives, to save people from being injured, to save people from being placed on invalid pensions for the rest of their lives because they have become vegetables, as we know that they do. Some persons do spend the rest of their lives on invalid pensions. Why? Because the parliaments of Australia are not prepared to put sufficient money into researching road accidents or developing a road system which will stand up to the speed and the type of vehicles that are using the system today. Yet to save a paltry $700,000 this Government is prepared to put in jeopardy the lives of the people who use our roads for pleasure or for business, including getting themselves to and from their place of employment.

We estimated that the total cost of the Road Safety and Standards Authority would be $10m. That would set up the organisation to which I

have referred. So we see the repeal of the legislation as a paltry penny-pinching action by this Government. It will kill more Australians, maim more Australians and put more Australians on social security, whether it is an invalid pension, a widow’s pension or just a sickness benefit. I ask the Government to reconsider its decision because there is a great need to ensure a better road safety standard and system in Australia than the system which operates at the moment. Former governments with which the Minister has been associated indicated that they were aware of this need. In their time they could have done something about it. Unfortunately they did not. We did something very positive about it. I am completely opposed to the Bill. I hope that on this non-political issue honourable members will exercise their discretion and vote against the Bill.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– It is unfortunate in the extreme that the Opposition has adopted the obstructionist, misleading and emotive attitude which it has adopted to this Bill. However, I am afraid that that is typical of the Opposition’s whole approach to participation in this Parliament during the entire session to date. I think that the reasons for it stem from the Australian Labor Party’s whole approach to government. Labor seems to argue that there must be big, brand new, separate bodies or organisations if things are to be done. This is patently false, as experience has proved time and again, particularly during the 3 years of the Whitlam Government, during which the bureaucracy grew enormously, especially in the form of new commissions and the like, and it was accompanied by growing economic chaos and, just as importantly, administrative chaos.

What the Opposition appears to fail to understand is that all that is proposed in the Bill now before the House is that instead of having a road safety authority as a separate body, the functions initially proposed for that authority will be carried out by a separate unit within the Department of Transport. That unit, which may be called a bureau or some similar name, will have the same functions as the Road Safety and Standards Authority. I am assured by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that the bureau, for want of a better name, will also have a high degree of autonomy. Let us for a moment have a look at the main functions of the Road Safety and Standards Authority as originally proposed. They were: Investigating and reporting to the Minister on matters relating to road safety and road vehicles; undertaking, or arranging for, research in relation to road safety and road vehicles; fostering the co-ordination of activities in Australia relating to road safety; advising the Minister in respect of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connection with road safety; formulating standards for highways and other roads and proposals in relation to traffic management, traffic laws, road signs and other matters and things relating to road safety; preparing reports for relevant departments and authorities of Australia on the road safety aspects of transport and urban development programs that are or are to be directly or indirectly financed to a significant degree by Australia; collecting and disseminating, or arranging for the collection and dissemination of, statistics and other information relating to road safety; formulating standards for road vehicles; and testing, or arranging for the testing of, road vehicles for compliance with standards and certifying, or arranging for the certification of, compliance of road vehicles with those standards, including certification by means of marks affixed to road vehicles.

There is nothing in those functions which cannot be done effectively and adequately by the proposed new unit within the Department of Transport. Indeed it can be argued that the degree of co-ordination necessary on road safety matters- I think we all agree that co-ordination in this area is of vital importance- will better be achieved by having the unit located within the Department of Transport. This applies particularly to two of the most important functions of the unit, namely, reporting to the Minister on matters relating to road safety and road vehicles, and the question of data collection.

Opposition speakers who have spoken today about increased deaths on the road as a result of this Bill, in my view, stand condemned in the eyes of this Parliament and in the eyes of the Australian people. They have produced an air of hysteria and emotionalism which does them no credit at all and which is deliberately misleading but which, as I said earlier, sadly is typical of their approach in this Parliament in recent months. It is simply untrue to make such wild allegations, and Opposition spokesmen well know it. The facts disprove the allegations. There has been a welcome and highly necessary improvement in Australia’s road safety record since the early 1970s. The Road Safety and Standards Authority has had nothing to do with this improvement. However, we still have a very long way to go in further reducing the carnage on our roads and in improving road safety right across the board. The new unit to be established within the Department of Transport will have an important role to play in this matter, as will the State governments and as will the Standing Committee on Road Safety of which I have the privilege to be a new member. There is also a great need for improved driver efficiency, improved road signs, improved vehicle safetyabout which the report tabled earlier today has much to say and for which I extend my congratulations to the members of the previous Committee which produced that report- better pedestrian education and something that I regard as of fundamental importance, adequate finance for road construction and maintenance.

All Australians have a major responsibility towards road safety. The tragedy wreaked in human lives and human misery is enormous. The cost to the nation is staggering. There is no simple answer to the problem. Australia has made major advances and has led the world in several aspects of road safety- for example, the compulsory wearing of seat belts- but we have a long way to go. The Fraser Government has a major commitment towards furthering road safety in Australia in conjunction with many other bodies. I am confident that the new body to be established within the Department of Transport will play an important role in this overall context. Let me assure the House and the Minister that, as a member of the Road Safety Committee, I will be watching very closely the performance of the new unit. If it does not fulfil the expectations which I have of it then I along with other members of the Committee and no doubt many other people will have no hesitation whatever in bringing its defects to the attention of the Government and in recommending changes to its structure and/or operations. But this is simply part of the normal and necessary process of government. Government must adapt its structures to meet changing needs in the overall circumstances of the times. I am fully confident that the present Government will do that.

In conclusion, I only regret that in their comments today the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) have tried to turn road safety into a political football. Surely even this Opposition recognises that road safety is far too important a matter to justify such shoddy treatment. I support the Bill before the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Third Reading

Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.

page 2831


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 28 May, on motion by Mr Lynch:

That the Bill be now read a second time.


-This is the latest incident in the strategy of the Government to destroy Medibank. It is a further demonstration of its willingness to dishonour election promises. It was a firm commitment frequently undertaken by the now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) during the course of the last election that Medibank would be preserved. The Australian public clearly understood that that undertaking meant that the Government would preserve the Medibank system as the public had come to know it and as they happily had come to accept it. The Government has set about destroying Medibank because of ideological opposition as a result of a miserable concept of budget juggling and because it wishes to make a sell-out to the medical profession.

The ideological opposition is well known. In the years until1972 when we were in Opposition and the subsequent years when we were in government, the opposition of the coalition parties was implacable. There was no way on any occasion in which any weakening of that implacable opposition could be achieved and no matter what principle was put forward it was opposed because it was part of Medibank. It was opposed because of this almost blind ideological hatred of the coalition partners.

This was most unfortunate because it meant that a rational, informed discussion of one of the most significant cost items a government has to bear and a community has to bear did not take place. It meant that the broader responsibilities to which a government must address itself- the way in which health services are provided, efforts to maximise the efficiency with which the health service system functions, a dedication to constantly improve on high standards of health servicesand the opportunities to discuss those things were not taken up. This proposal has been brought about as a result of that long standing hatred of the Medibank concept by the Coalition parties.

Several steps had been outlined already by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) prior to the introduction of this Bill. Last week it was suddenly disclosed, as a result of an overnight legal advising from the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), that the Government believed that the agreements made with the States for cost-sharing arrangements were invalid. Now that is an arguable proposition. The views put forward by the SolicitorGeneral and the Attorney-General are nothing more than the views of 2 men. They are eminently qualified no doubt, but these views are nothing more than the views of 2 such men. Equally strongly put forward are contradictory views by equally eminent legal practitioners from some of the States. In any case, if the Government is concerned to maintain financial support for the States to allow their public hospitals to continue to function- I want to deal with the problems of maintaining public hospital services in a few seconds- it would be a quite simple exercise for the Government to introduce validating legislation so that the agreements entered into would be valid. They would be valid retrospectively to the dates on which the agreements were signed. They would be valid prospectively to the dates on which the agreements expire. But the Government has not done that. In spite of the fact that it is a relatively simple exercise, the Government has not done that because it wants to exploit the situation that it has contrived in this instance in the hope that it may be able to impose much tougher conditions on the

States in terms of any financial assistance provided for them to maintain public hospital services.

It is well known, for instance, that the Government is dedicated to the introduction of means testing- regulating the entry of patients into public ward accommodation. Means testing is an odious sort of practice. It was used in all States except Queensland and Tasmania before the advent of Medibank. For historical purposes I ought to put on the record that in fact there were no means tests and public ward treatment was free in all States in the 1940s as a result of an initiative of the Chifley Labor Government. But that was destroyed in all States except Queensland by about 1954 by the incoming Menzies Coalition Government. So we see that this is a sort of recidivist action by the coalition partners. They are responding according to their nature, well established in earlier periods of government. I repeat that the Government could easily introduce validating legislation. It would remove all of the turmoil, the confusion and the concern which dominates thinking in the community at present about what is happening to Medibank and what is going to happen to the States’ hospital systems.

Medibank has been a godsend to State governments and their public hospital systems. Public health services in Australia could not adequately function without our public hospital system. The full range of health services which a modern society with the advantages of a high standard of living can provide and expects cannot be contributed by private hospital systems, except at inordinate cost. Attendant upon such a system would be all sorts of oppressive and odious means testing practices, support systems and descriptions of people which would result in characterising them as a sort of needy poor. In case there are a growing number of people in the community who think that they can make it by themselves, that they can be self-reliant and that there is some substance in the frequently expressed philosophy of the Prime Minister in these things that ‘public spending spoils people’ or in the philosophy of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) that ‘it makes them too soft’, I should like to remind them that few actually could afford the cost of extended, expensive treatment in a hospital at present if they met the full market cost of that sort of service. The average cost of a bed day in a public hospital is about $100. If the costing were based on some sort of market rating system for the more difficult sorts of proceduresthe procedures requiring more expensive, complex equipment and the attention of a fairly vast range of professionals- the cost would be much higher. Few people in this country could afford the cost of that sort of crisis if it occurred to them. This is why we need public hospitals. That is why there is a fair bit of redistribution in the public hospital service in the sense that governments do meet and always have met a substantial portion of the cost of public hospital treatment.

Until the advent of Medibank, by and large public hospitals in Australia had moved into a fairly grim financial situation. The accumulated deficits of public hospitals, especially those in New South Wales and Victoria, had reached an alarming situation. The fact is- and I speak from experience-that New South Wales decided rather hurriedly to enter into the Medibank hospital agreements because the State Treasury there advised the then Premier and the State Minister for Health, through the Health Department I suppose, that the State hospitals could not be maintained satisfactorily in the coming year because the financial burden was becoming too great, that Medibank was the sort of agreement that would have to be entered into if the State hospital system were to survive and if standards were to be preserved in some sort of way. In Queensland we found that the State Government pared back on expenditure on its public hospitals to the point that it was running at about only 60 per cent of the national average of expenditure per bed in its public hospitals. There would be a number of reasons for this which would not be related to inferior standards, such as the greater ratio of beds in the State. But that in itself does not explain the level of cutback. Very largely the level of cutback occurred because the State’s budget was finding it increasingly burdensome and too difficult to bear what one would regard as a full cost for an adequate standard of health services being maintained in the public hospitals.

If we put to one side all of the political rhetoric that went on on the part of the States, we discover that the States were in a difficult situation and that without Medibank, and without the assistance of these hospital agreements, the publichospital system in Australia would have been crumbling State by State and the health of the nation would have suffered as a result. I repeat, and it cannot be said often enough, that the best standards of health service come from our public hospitals and that access to adequate health services cannot be guaranteed to a public unless there are adequate public hospital services available in the community.

I want to restate for the record that we are going to oppose this legislation because we believe it is not the most appropriate way to handle this problem, and the restatement is that validating legislation would have been the quickest, most effective and satisfactory way of fixing up this problem. There can be only one conclusion on the part of any reasonable person in the community: That, in the light of the fact that the Government will not proceed with validating legislation, it temporises with interim legislation and states that it intends to negotiate with the States and implies by the way in which it says this that it is going to be a tough negotiation and the States are not going to be as well treated as they were under the arrangements which we as a government entered into with them. There could be no other explanation. Certainly the Government has made clear that it is not going to be more generous and, if it were going to be as generous, then it would be a simple matter, I repeat, of introducing validating legislation. It is part of the general strategy of the Government to try to destroy Medibank. The Prime Minister gave a firm undertaking in the election campaign to keep Medibank. He said we could rely on it. He even reprimanded the then shadow Minister for Health, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who seems to be the only person on the Government side who has ever taken the trouble to understand at least some of the concepts of health services and health services financing in the community. The price he paid for his trouble and his candour was to be sacked from the Ministry when appointments were made.

What the Government did in its latest proposition in funding Medibank was to strike a levy which would exclude 50 per cent of the population from the scheme. It just did not happen that the setting of the levy of 2.5 percent resulted in 50 per cent of the population being excluded, that is, opting out because it is more advantageous financially to go into private health insurance. The Medibank Review Committee was instructed orally to establish the income level which would be the median for about 50 per cent of the adult wage earners. It was then to work out some sums which would result in private insurance being somewhat more attractive for people on that income level than to stay in Medibank and take out additional private insurance for, say, intermediate ward cover. I will deal with the complications of that in a few seconds. Then it was to strike a levy which fitted in with those sorts of results. So the Committee worked backwards to get the son of result it has now presented.

If the Government was worried merely about the presentation of a deficit- the need to cover expenditure- then it could have got the same financial result as it is getting now with the 2.5 per cent levy by striking a levy at anywhere between about 1.8 per cent and the 2.5 per cent level which was struck. This would require different ceilings to the 2.5 per cent levy and varying ones between each level of possible levy. The aim could have been, and I suggest more appropriately should have been, to use the levy in a way to raise sufficient money to equal what the Government now saves, and it saves from 2 sourcesrevenue raised from the levy, and expenditure saved because of the number of people forced out of the Medibank scheme. But the Government did not do that, not because it was too simple, but because it would have meant a much higher proportion of people staying in Medibank, and that of course was quite contrary to the objectives the Government had set itself.

Let me lay to rest a lot of the spurious nonsense that the Minister for Health has put forward in the rush of statistics which he has gushed out at various times in this House. The public is not going to be saved anything at all as a result of these alterations. All that will happen will be that a Budget fiddle will take place. There will be somewhat less expenditure in the Budget and there will be somewhat more revenue as a result of these proposals, but to the extent that expenditure is eliminated from the Budget then that expenditure will be transferred as a burden that people will have to meet from their pockets. Bear in mind the reasons for the introduction of Medibank. Bear in mind why we were returned to office in 1972 and in 1974. We received, among other things, an endorsement of the Medibank concept. In 1969 we very nearly achieved office very largely on the issue of Medibank because the public was dissatisfied with private health insurance as it then functioned, and there are many reasons for that which have been enumerated endlessly in this Parliament and elsewhere.

Let me remind honourable members of one of the major reasons. It was too costly. It was too inefficient. For any given level of total expenditure private health insurance could not cover as many people as the Medibank concept could. Medibank was good. Medibank is good- good because of its achievements in covering everyone in the community, good because of the security it gives to people, good because of the summarisation it has removed from the deserving poor under the old subsidised health insurance benefit scheme which was a total failure, and good most of all because it spread the taxpayer’s dollar further. It provided total cover in the community and it did so at no additional cost. It did that at the same cost as the old health insurance scheme. Now we are going back several years. We are going back to the old system of private health insurance which means it will be more expensive for individuals in the community to cover themselves with private insurance because of the inefficient nature of the private health insurance system. But the Government does not care; it is more concerned about an antiquated preoccupation with 18th century approaches to budgetary management.

In Queensland a situation will be created in which Queenslanders are now going to pay for something they have had for decades at no direct private cost to themselves. We have all acknowledged one way or another in this Parliament that nothing is free in society. If Government provides something at no cost to the user then someone is paying as a taxpayer or as a contributor to receipts in one of the various forms of receipts collection. The fact is that in Queensland for a very long time Queenslanders have been receiving public hospital treatment free of charge, free of means test. About 80 per cent of bed days are categorised within that form of hospitalisation. This is a very emotive issue in Queensland. Queenslanders cherish the system of free public hospitals. By and large they have not appreciated in the past how inferior the standards have become because of the inadequacy of State budgets, but the sort of money we have been able to make available to the States has helped to move progressively towards overcoming that problem. For instance, in a full year an additional total of $120m goes to the States from the Australian Government and in a full year Queensland gets about $60m, if my recollection is correct. It will get between $50m and $60m in a full year, but I am fairly certain it is $60m. I know that the hospital in my own home town in Queensland has been able almost to double its budget as a result of this generous access to not wasted money but needed cash to lift up the services and update equipment to a standard that should have been provided long ago and maintained throughout to the present.

Let us look at what Queenslanders are now going to have to pay, and this is true in respect of anyone in Australia, as a sort of cost burden. Queenslanders are going to pay, I repeat, for something they have been receiving free of charge as users for decades. A man with a wife and 2 children on a gross weekly income of about $ 1 70 will be paying a levy of about $ 1 86 a year. That is, he will be paying more than one week’s ay as his annual levy for Medibank, or about 3.60 a week. If he decides to take out intermediate ward insurance cover with a private insurer the additional cost will be $2.60 a week, making a total of $6.20 a week. On top of that it is a proposal of the Government to jack up public hospital fees for intermediate and private ward services by 100 per cent. We well know the drastic effects that will have on movements in the cost of living, or the consumer price index, and the flow through which will occur in industrial agitation because of that.

Let me do some sums to indicate the sort of burden that now will be borne by people throughout Australia, and in Queensland in particular because there people have never paid for their public ward treatment. The Medibank levy alone will represent a 9 per cent surcharge on personal tax already payable. The total package will represent about a 15 per cent surcharge on tax payable. It will more than cancel out any benefits of tax indexation and, as inflation goes down and therefore the benefits of tax indexation proportionately go down, the tax surcharge which the Medibank levy represents will assume even greater significance as a burden to be paid, as a surcharge, as an addition to personal tax. One of the reasons for the introduction of this measure is that the Government has been exploring ways in which, when it introduces its socal lied new federalism, its double taxation, it can get around the responsibility of allowing the States to share proportionately in all of its personal taxation revenue receipts. It is introducing a system of earmarked taxation in which the States cannot share.

The revenue from this levy, of course, will help the Government pay for its 50 per cent, or whatever it sets upon eventually- I hope that it sets upon something- of net operating costs of public hospitals, and effectively will reduce the proportion it pays by providing a greater additional separate source of income. That is a rather complex way of putting it. What I am trying to say is that in the absence of this Medibank levy the Government provides 50 per cent of the total cost from revenue available; but, because it strikes this special levy, although it will meet 50 per cent it will not contribute as much as it should to the States and to that extent there will be a redistribution away from State revenues which otherwise morally they should have available to them. This will force up the proportion of the burden which will have to be met from available revenues by the States. In that sense the Government will reduce the proportion of the burden which it meets.

Imagine the situation of the trade union movement when its members realise that this sort of package represents for a man on a gross income of $ 1 70 a week a tax surcharge of between 9 and 15 per cent. They will not tolerate that. It will stimulate all sorts of industrial disputation in the community and wage demands. I would not blame the unions for one minute for taking that sort of action. Let us look at the effects of this in terms of tax claw-back and the result it will have on the gross claim the unions will make for increased wages to offset the cost of Medibank and private health insurance. Unions now are aware of the fiscal drag effect, as it is called, or the tax claw-back that takes place when they obtain a salary increase. To cover that amount plus any taxation which would come out of a salary increase- that is, to meet this amount net after tax- they will be seeking somewhere between $9.50 and $10 a week increase in wages, and I do not blame them.

Tomorrow I shall be in Brisbane addressing a protest rally organised by the maritime unions on the matter of Medibank, its future and this assault upon it by the.Government. I will be telling the people there these things, that they should not expect to have to bear this sort of cost increase and that the whole proposition of tax indexation is nothing more than a slick, tricky device to deceive them into accepting a substantially increased cost burden imposed by a government that says it stands for less tax. Of course this will result in increased cost. Look at the anomaly of a person on low income- for instance, a widow with 3 children. On an income of $4,299 a year she would make no contribution to the Medibank levy. On $4,300 a year, $1 a year more, she would be paying $1.50 a week into Medibank. That would represent an 1 1 per cent increase in the tax she would have to pay. That seems a rather onerous, unfair burden to impose on a woman in that situation- $ 1 a year more would mean $1.50 a week, or $78 a year, extra penalty as a contribution to Medibank.

The Australian people, given the opportunity, have welcomed Medibank. They have welcomed the expansion of choice which it has represented. A lot of nonsense has been spoken about choice in the past Assertions have been made quite dishonestly. I refuse to believe that people in the coalition who worked with the Medibank concept for so long and opposed it so blindly- passionately, but blindly- were not aware that they were misrepresenting the situation when they said that it would restrict a person’s choice, that it would force one to be treated in a public ward and that it would prevent one from having one’s own doctor in a public ward. State governments establish whether one has one’s own doctor in public wards. They do not allow one to have one’s own doctor in public wards. We sought to introduce that right, but the State governments do not allow that. They have maintained that practice for many decades, and they would argue that there are sound administrative reasons and sound reasons associated with the quality of health care for them to persevere with that policy. But the fact is that means tests prevented the majority of people in the majority of Statesthose other than Tasmania and Queenslandfrom receiving treatment in public wards if they wished to do so. We have righted that wrong. Public ward treatment is available to all free of charge.

In South Australia and Western Australia already 70 per cent of the public now receive public ward treatment. So much for the emotional indissoluble association between the personal physician and his patient. Given the choice, people exercise it. As consumers they have certain rights and certain sovereignty given to them under Medibank and they are exercising them and displaying beyond any doubt where they want to go. This measure is part of the rotten deal, the pay-off to the medical profession. By squeezing 50 per cent of the public out of Medibank, the result will be that they will be forced into the hands of the private medical profession. The whole formula for the so-called new Medibank is aimed at rewarding private medical practice, destroying the opportunity to exercise freedom of choice, which we provided, and disadvantaging great numbers of people. The rate of utilisation of Medibank services in Victoria has been increasing. In New South Wales because of guerrilla warfare by the medical profession the rate of increase had not been as rapid as one would have hoped. But, given time, there is no doubt that New South Wales would have had the same experience as other States.

Finally, I want to talk about costs. Firstly, I shall deal with the cost of Medibank and the discriminatory nature of the formula which the Government has initiated. If I stay in Medibank and pay the family premium it will cost $300 a year. If I then take out intermediate private ward insurance it will cost another $135 a year. That is a total of $435 for the year. But, if I opt out of Medibank, go to a private health insurance fund, take the same sort of medical cover that

Medibank gave me and cover myself for intermediate ward treatment, it will cost only $350 a year- $85 a year cheaper than staying in Medibank, for the same sort of cover. This is the sort of discrimination to which I was referring. It is part of the tactic to destroy and to discredit Medibank. I turn now to the overall cost of health services which has gone from 5.2 per cent of gross domestic product at the beginning of this past quarter century up to 6.5 per cent. That happened before Medibank was introduced. Medibank has been in operation for scarcely a year. Medibank has shown that it will save costs and improve health services. The sorts of things the Government is doing contribute nothing to moderating the rapid increase in health costs experienced by all advanced countries and are clear evidence of the Government’s bankruptcy of thinking and concepts in approaching this matter.

We oppose this legislation. It is unnecessary. It is clear evidence that the Government does not have a genuine faith with the electorate, following its promise in the last election campaign to preserve Medibank. Most importantly, if the Government had a genuine faith, it would be a simple matter to introduce validating legislation to validate the agreements which the previous Government entered into.

Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

– In replying to the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) I think there are a number of matters that need to be drawn to the attention of the House. Firstly, the purpose of the States Grants (Hospital Operating Costs) Bill which is before the House is to authorise grants to the States to assist with the financing of the operating costs of public hospitals as an interim measure following the Government’s discovery that the hospital agreements with the States are not valid. The honourable member for Oxley said that the Government has ‘contrived’ the situation. I think in fairness it needs to be understood that the blame for the situation in which the Government found itself must be laid right at the feet of the former Government which failed to draft legislation which was legally valid. It was not until last week that the present Government was advised that the legislation upon which the grants were being made available to the States was in fact not valid legislation. So we have inherited from the former Government not only a financial mess but also this illegal agreement. We are looking at the other agreements that have been drawn up to ensure that the funds that were being allocated to the

States during the term of the former Government were in fact being allocated validly.

The firm legal advice available to the Government is that the agreements negotiated by the previous Government are in a form which is not authorised by the Health Insurance Act. Under section 30 of the Act an agreement must be substantially in accordance with the heads of agreement in Schedule 2 of the Act The advice is that clause 4 of the agreement differs substantially from the third head of agreement of the Schedule, and that gave us cause for great concern.

Clause 17 of the Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1976 sought to repeal Schedule 2 of the Health Insurance Act 1973-1975 and to replace it by a revised schedule which would have enabled the Government to vary the hospitals agreements by negotiation and agreement with each State. It also included a provision intended to maintain the agreements despite the repeal of the Schedule. The clause was drafted and the Bill was introduced before the invalidity of the hospitals agreements was discovered by the Government. So even if clause 17 of the Health Insurance Amendment Bill were passed it would not have had the effect of validating agreements that were invalid when made. This Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives last Friday by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), does not validate past payments to the States under the agreements. That is because the Government came to the view that it would be better to discuss these matters with the States to make sure that when validating legislation is introduced later in the year it is done in a way which cannot be challenged in a court of law. It is envisaged that legislation for the new arrangements will be introduced in the Budget session.

I want to make it very clear, as the Prime Minister has made it clear to the State Premiers, that the Government will continue to meet 50 per cent of the approved net operating costs of recognised hospitals. On 1 1 June- that is, Friday of next week- I will be discussing with the State Ministers a new basis for a new, legal and binding Commonwealth-State agreement covering a number of matters, including the way in which the $16 a day bed subsidy is provided to the States; secondly, the manner of arriving at the net operating costs; and, thirdly, the need to increase charges for private and intermediate beds in public hospitals. These are estimated to recover $150m of taxpayers funds. Nobody can say that it is right and proper that the taxpayers and those who will be paying levies under the present scheme should be subsidising those people who choose to insure themselves for, say. more comfortable accommodation in public hospitals- either private or intermediate. Such people should not be subsidised by those who choose to remain with Medibank and who are happy to go into public ward accommodation.

At least 2 States stated that they would not raise the bed charges for private and intermediate wards in the public hospitals to a more realistic level. Of course, that is one matter that we were negotiating and will continue to negotiate with the States. There is just no justification whatsoever for having bed charges in public hospitals for private and intermediate ward accommodation pitched at $20 and $30 a day when the cost of those beds to the taxpayer, to the community, is more in the order of $100 a day. So what we are endeavouring to do is to transfer the burden of that cost to those people who insure themselves for that sort of accommodation. I am quite positive that the State governments will see the sense in that. If they do not see the sense in it they will deny themselves and the taxpayers in their States something in the order of $75m. The increased charges are a cost against the fund with which a person privately insures. So there is no justification in arguing against a need to renegotiate that aspect of the agreements.

In my second reading speech on the Health Insurance Amendment Bill which I delivered in the House on 20 May I said:

The Government also proposes to enter into discussions with the States with a view to establishing a new basis on which the costs of operating hospitals will be shared. The present basis is open ended and does not provide, in the Government’s view, adequate incentive for cost efficiency.

It is not a cost efficiency just to the Government; it is a cost efficiency to the taxpayers. Let us put at rest the idea that there is any such thing as free hospital accommodation, that it is a free service. The community at large has to pay in one way or another for the provision of any service that the Government offers, that the Government gives.

Dr Klugman:

– Including your statement that people will now be paying for Medibank.


-Of course. Medibank will cost this financial year $ 1,400m; next financial year it will cost $l,800m to $2,000m. It is costing the people of Australia that amount

Mr Hayden:

– They pay that in total now.


– In the longer term, because of the arrangements we entered into, the new prospects are that more constraint will be placed upon cost increases in health care than there has been in the past. The private doctors in this country will want to retain somewhere between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of the Australian people as private patients. If their fees rise faster than average weekly earnings and if they make it too costly for people to insure themselves- if premiums become too expensive- what they will serve to do will be to push people back into Medibank, in which case the hospitals will provide the services to the people, mostly with salaried doctors.

Mr Hayden:

– Does that mean that the ceiling of $300 will not rise?


– No. From year to year -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I invite the Minister to address the chair and to ignore disorderly interjections.


– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Government will from time to time be looking at the $300 and pitching it at a level that will achieve the balance that is necessary to get the result for which we are looking.

I understand that some of the detailed matters of procedures that already exist in respect of the agreements with the States are not altogether favourable to them. We, of course, will be giving them an opportunity to introduce areas in which they have a concern, an interest, in the discussions that will be taking place during the winter recess. I want to make it perfectly clear that what we are doing in the modified Medibank proposal is directing the subsidies to the most disadvantaged sections of the community. Those at the higher income levels, the honourable member for Oxley being one of them, will pay closer to the cost of health insurance whether they insure with Medibank which offers a standard package or whether they insure with private funds. As I said earlier, this arrangement will place restraint on costs. The honourable member cannot argue, and nobody can argue, that there will not be a greater constraint upon costs in a situation where there is a degree of competitiveness between the private and public sectors.

The new arrangements will come into force on 1 October. I want to say once again that Medibank will be retained and will be available to every Australian. Nobody will be compulsorily excluded, but people will be given the opportunity to insure privately if they so wish. So far as the cost is concerned, Medibank benefits will be available at no cost to pensioners who are dependent on their pensions. The benefits will be available at no cost to a single person with a taxable income of up to $2,604 a year; they will be available at no cost to families with a taxable income of up to $4,299 a year. People with incomes above this level will pay a levy of 2.5 per cent on taxable income. People with incomes above $12,000 a year will find it cheaper to get Medibank cover by buying a Medibank premium for about $300 a year to cover their family health costs.

Medibank offers complete standard ward cover with 85 per cent of scheduled medical benefit payments. It provides the widest choices available to the Australian people. I repeat that the new arrangements direct the subsidy to the most needy section of the community. It calls upon people in the higher income group to make a greater contribution. Surely this is something that the Australian Labor Party would have thought about. The Labor Government introduced Medibank and was going to impose a straight levy right across the top. As I understand the position- and I think the honourable member for Oxley now denies it- the Labor Government intended to raise during the initial stages anyway 50 per cent of the actual cost of Medibank from that levy and the other 50 per cent from general revenue.

The honourable member for Oxley had this grand scheme. Of course, as costs exploded within the Medibank system where there was no cost constraint whatsoever, clearly year by year the levy itself would have to be substantially increased. So it is no good the Labor Party trying to say that we are taxing the Australian people. They understand- even the honourable member for Oxley would understand- that there is no such thing as a free lunch. I said to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the House one morning that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Even a breakfast at Tiffanys can cost one something, although it might be apparently free. I am sure that if the honourable member for Oxley had still been the Minister for Social Security or Treasurer he would have been seeking to impose a levy in one way or another to try to recover some costs to pay for health care in Australia. I think that what we have done has been to impose a levy in such a way that it directs the subsidy to the most disadvantaged sections of the community. Our scheme imposes additional costs on the people in higher income groups who can afford to pay more for their health care. Everybody surely must know that there is no such thing as free health care.

I conclude by saying that we have retained the universal concept of Medibank. This is a most desirable concept. I give credit to the Australian Labor Party for overcoming some of the real deficiencies that existed in the former scheme. I pay the honourable member for Oxley some credit for devising a system that overcame a very great deficiency in the former scheme. Given time he might have come to the party with an ingenious scheme such as we offer the Australian people today, providing the Australian people with the widest possible choice, imposing a system that directs most of the subsidy to the disadvantaged and calling upon the Australian people at the higher income levels to pay a greater proportion of their health costs.

I think it also needs to be understood- in spite of the new arrangement for Medibank and universal insurance which we understand next year will be of the order of $l,800m-that the levy will raise somewhere about $330m and that the private contribution will be about $440m. We nope to make administrative savings. We hope to recoup about $30m from the insurance companies that offer cover for third party and workers compensation insurance and to stop rip-offs in this area. The rest of the scheme, of course, will be subsidised by about $ 1,000m from general revenue. So there is a subsidy component in the scheme.

I want to assure the honourable member for Oxley before he goes to his great rally in Brisbane tomorrow that we are retaining the basic element of Medibank; that is, universal insurance. There is going to be an optional levy. We have preferred this to a straight levy of the kind which the Labor Government wanted to impose. We do not want to see a situation where costs would be allowed to explode underneath such a levy. This Bill is designed to authorise grants to the States to assist in the financing of the operating costs of public hospitals as an interim measure following the Government’s discovery that the hospitals agreements drawn up by the last Government with the States are not valid. It is our objective to ensure that these grants will continue to flow until 30 September so that nobody in the interim will be disadvantaged. In the meantime I look forward to discussing the matter with my counterpart State Ministers and I am sure that we will be able to report in the Budget session a far more practical and sensible agreement which is based upon proper legal terms in respect of the modified Medibank proposals and which will provide health security to the Australian people.


– I would like to speak for just a very few minutes. Firstly, I would like to deal more specifically, not with the general question of Medibank and the changes in Medibank, but with the specific point dealt with by this legislation, namely, the relationship of the Commonwealth with the States in respect of payment for hospital services. In passing I think it is interesting to note that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) admits that the saving from dropouts from Medibank will be $430m in the coming year. This is the saving out of a total of $ 1,800m or more. Yet, at the same time, he predicts that 50 per cent or 60 per cent of people will drop out of Medibank. So the loss of 50 per cent or 60 per cent of people will save only that small amount.

I would like to make a more specific point in respect of the arguments that the Government is putting up on the question of open endedness and the excessive cost of Medibank. This year Medibank spent $93m less than was estimated. Page 39 of the Treasury information paper entitled ‘Statement of Savings Expectedin Annual Appropriations’ tabled by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) so proudly on 28 April, shows that the largest saving of the whole lot is $93 m by which the expenditure of Medibank was overestimated. That is point No. 1. The Minister cannot say that the scheme got out of control because in fact less money was spent.

Mr Hunt:

– That was due to some States coming in later.


– I know, but nonetheless it was over estimated. So we will have spent about $ 1,350m by 30 June-this is the total cost of Medibank- and some of the States did not come in until 1 October. The estimate for next year is $ 1,800m, with all the States in for the full 12 months and including the cost of inflation. I do not think the cost has run out of control more than have most other costs in the community. May I ask the Minister for Health a question? I am sure he does not have the answer to it. What will be the gain to the Government from the abolition of tax deductions for health fund contributions at the present time? Can I make one further point- about the continuing reference to open-ended hospital agreements. It is alleged that there are open-ended hospital agreements with the States. In fact Medibank could cost more and yet be a saving to the community and to the public at large. The Government would save public money if people went into public wards.

I ask the Deputy Government Whip, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), to agree to my having one minute more in which to speak because this is a significant point that ought to be put on record. I hope the Minister will be able to follow me when I say this: The Government in theory could spend more money under its arrangements with the States yet the total cost would be less if a larger proportion of the people than estimated opted for standard ward treatment and for being treated by doctors who are paid sessional fees and salaries. Then there would be an increase in the cost of hospitals to the Australian Government and to the State governments yet the total cost would be less because people would be paying for private and intermediate beds. There would be no money going to doctors for the services provided there on a fee for service basis and there would be much less unnecessary surgery, as I have pointed out in the past. There could be an increase in costs so far as the Australian Government and State governments are concerned yet a total desirable reduction in expenditure. I put those points on record because I think they are relevant. There are many people discussing this legislation and passing this legislation in this Parliament without really understanding what it is all about.

Question put-

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)

AYES: 80

NOES: 26

Majority……. 54



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.

page 2840


Assent to the following Bills reported:

Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1976.

Customs Amend ment Bill 1976.

Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1976.

Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Amendment Bill 1976.

Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill 1976.

Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1976.

Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill 1976.

Commonwealth Grants Commission Bill 1976.

page 2840


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 28 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

-Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Bill and the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.


-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.


-The purpose of the Dairy Adjustment Amendment Bill is to amend the Labor Government’s Dairy Adjustment Act of 1974 to appropriate a further $3.5m for the purposes of the dairy adjustment program to extend assistance to dairy farmers in difficult economic circumstances. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation. Perhaps the best description of the Bill is in the last paragraph of the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), in which he said:

The range of measures now proposed will certainly assist the industry to contract production to a level that should ensure more adequate incomes to efficient farmers.

He also said:

The States have joined with the Commonwealth in accepting responsibility for providing financial relief to help farmers weather this crisis or facilitate their exit from dairying where this seems to be the more prudent course.

In fact, the Minister’s statement is rather glib. What will happen, of course, is that many more dairy farmers will be forced out of the industry. In the 10 years to 1974 the number of dairy farms in Australia declined from 62 000 to 29 000, and now the industry is headed for an even greater fall with suggestions that a further 10 000 farmers will be forced out of dairying.

The current crisis in the dairy industry is yet another manifestation of the effect of sinusoidal fluctuations in the world supply and price of manufactured milk products. In the last 12 months the world price of skim milk powder has plummeted to US$350 a tonne, and this situation was aggravated by the fact that Canada decided to abandon the US$520 a tonne 4-nation floor price agreement. Last week, the Minister had the audacity to suggest in a Press release that the problems of the rural industry in general and the dairy industry in particular had been aggravated by a lack of government assistance to rural industries in the 3 years of Labor government. He then went on to say, in a display of naked opportunism, that this so-called lack of assistance, plus lack of forward planning under Labor, meant that the dairy industry is facing a problem which should concern all Australians, not only the ones living in country areas. How cynical and irresponsible can this Government be? How cynical and irresponsible can this Minister be? He well knows that the Labor Government was concerned about the state of the dairy industry and commissioned an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry into it. The Commission’s report was published on 23 October 1975. Coupled with this, the former Labor Government commissioned the IAC to report on the general question of rural reconstruction, and the report on that subject was tabled on 13 January 1976.

Even more specifically, the Minister now seeks to amend the Labor Government’s Dairy Adjustment Act of 1974, which it introduced after critcism from the National Country Party and the Liberal Party concerning the removal of the dairy bounty, and yet he still has the hide to say that the Labor Government was not interested in adjustment of the dairy industry or its reconstruction. This should be contrasted with the former Liberal-Country Party Government’s obsession with bounties and, in particular, the dairy bounty which was still operative until the Labor Government phased it out over 2 years from July 1973 to June 1975. The former Liberal-Country Party Government had a puny marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme operating at the same time as it had the dairy bounty encouraging greater productivity in a market that was spasmodically affected by world oversupply. That was a contradiction in policy if ever we have seen one. Yet the Minister said in last week’s apologia for his own inaction that the Labor Government had no forward planning. This is the sort of nonsense that he tried to put over to the farmers in Launceston last week, in the State most affected by this dairying crisis. I am sure that the thousands of dairy farmers in Tasmania were not impressed; nor were their Victorian counterparts who face the same fatecommercial extinction.

The old Country Party shibboleth has manifested itself- again-encourage production, ignore world trends, wait until a crisis is around one’s ears and then vacillate, call for a second, superflous IAC report on the industry, which the Minister has just done, and waffle at farmer meetings month in and month out while thousands of families go destitute across the nation. Shame on this Government and former LiberalCountry Party governments for refusing to take a sensible attitude to rural production in the past. Shame on them for buying their seats with publicsupport schemes for over-producing industries. This has finally led to the disappointment and doom of thousands of Australians. So much for National Country Party ad hockery so much for this Minister’s hollow charge against the former Labor Government.

Let us look at the first Bill. The Labor Party does not disparage this Bill. We do not oppose it. It is a case of too little about 15 years too late. Obviously past Liberal-Country governments should have tailored the level of production in dairy products as far as practicable to balance with realistic domestic and overseas market demand, with production designed to suit the long term trends in markets for agricultural commodities, such as the decline in access to the European Economic Community markets. Sadly this was never done. So now we look at the Government ‘s emergency measures. I will detail them for the information of the House. They are: To underwrite the equalisation value of skim milk powder for the 1975-76 season at $300 per tonne and increase the rate of Government advances from 80 per cent to 100 per cent; to vary the conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefits to enable dairy farmers and other primary producers suffering financial hardship to qualify for assistance; to suspend the issue of new dairy licences in the coming financial year, as if that could not have been done a few years ago, to change the quota system for market milk to remove the requirement on farmers to fill individual quotas during the offseason.

The purpose of this legislation fundamentally is: To extend the Dairy Adjustment Act 1974 to provide a maximum loan of $4,000 to an individual on a term of up to 7 years at 4 per cent, with a repayment holiday of 12 months; to extend relocation assistance by increasing the maximum loan from $3,000 to $5,000. What a desperate collection of measures for a government that had the management of this industry for such a long period, and finds that it now must promote policies with a single purpose of a rapid contraction of production and welfare assistance.

All of a sudden the dole has become a fashionable instrument of government policy. This much mocked, much maligned unemployment benefit increased by the Labor Government during its tenure of office is now resurrected to paper over the cracks in Country Party neglect. I suspect the easy catch-cry dole bludger which we heard last year from the former Opposition, now the Government, will become just a memory of their squalid road to power. These great men of business, these men born to rule, these men who know the vagaries of international trade, sat by and watched the EEC foster the agricultural interests of its own member nations which have this year culminated in a skim milk powder stockpile of 2 million tons. Despite the ominous portens of the EEC’s self interest, Austalian dairy production was actively encouraged without prior identification of permanent markets which could be relied upon at a time of general world over supply. The Australian dairy industry has now to accept the realities of the world market and tailor its production to satisfy a permanent domestic demand plus known viable export markets. Contraction in dairy farm produce to arrive at this point has to be assisted by governments generally in Australia with compassion and understanding.

I turn now to the second Bill in this cognate debate- the Dairy Industry Research and Promotion Levy Bill 1976. Its purpose is to impose a levy on whole milk or on butter fat, as the case may be, to provide a more equitable and effective form of financing the administration and promotion activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation. As the Minister for Primary Industry has said, the Bill, in effect, provides for the existing levy, which contributes towards the cost of financing the dairy industry’s research program, to be extended to finance the operation of the Corporation. The Opposition supports the legislation as it does any legislation which will assist the dairy industry in making a conscious effort to put its rather disorganised house into some sort of order.

However, it is interesting to note the hesitancy with which the Government and industry have come to the conclusion that it is high time the artificial boundaries and prejudices of State governments, which have bedevilled and exacerbated the problems in the dairy industry, should be laid aside. The fact is that State governments have established dairy industries which compete for resources and protect their markets to the detriment of efficient producers in other States. These efficient producers have been deprived of lucrative markets in one State or another because of the petty, protective jealousies of State governments. I am pleased to see the State governments have accepted the proposals contained in these Bills and that the market milk sector, while having some reservations, is prepared to participate in this program.

Why has it taken so long for the partners in this whole sorry affair to realise the extent of their difficulties? It must now be quite clear that those self professed masters of business acumen who now sit on the Government benches have no answer. The case of the quick and convenient excuse and the postponement of consideration of the industry’s problems are long since gone and the Minister, who I am sure knows this but refuses to admit it, will find that when his reconsidered LAC report is received in August the problems will not have disappeared but will remain.

The Opposition does not oppose this Bill, but rather than a very precise and accounting-like presentation of the elements of the Bill by the Minister, we would have preferred to hear from him something of his proposals for research and promotion of dairy products. Are we to assume the Australian consumer is to continue to pay high prices for second grade butter while first quality butter is exported at bargain basement prices? Are we to expect the industry to adopt its past practices of serving up butter to the consumer in greaseproof paper rather than in a tub which can be resealed? I know some changes have been made, but where are the market proposals this Government has in mind? Why has the Government failed to indicate what its research and marketing proposals are for this industry? Are we to assume that the dairy industry will continue to produce for the European markets without first undertaking market research studies to determine whether their products can be sold there, or can we now expect a more intelligent approach which will first explore and promote dairy products on markets more likely to provide profitable returns? Where are the proposals for penetration of the more lucrative markets of Japan, the Pacific region and the Middle East?

One might also seek some explanation of the industry’s inability to come to grips with the problem of stagnant sales of fluid milk and the decline in consumption of butter. Over the years the industry has sought to solve the problems of diminishing returns by seeking and obtaining price increases. There has never been any indication, to my knowledge, that the industry carried out research to see what effects continual price hikes would have and whether it was in the best interests of the industry. Did the industry not think that the limit would be reached when consumers would look for alternatives such as dried full cream and milk powders, non-dairy coffee whiteners and the cheaper soft drinks as well as fresh fruit juices? Did the industry give these matters any consideration, or is its research policy now one of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted? Why, it can be asked, has the industry refused to produce a more spreadable butter using vegetable oils if this would have maintained sales? Will the industry be conducting research only on a commodity basis, or will it now face the realities of the industry situation and look into the economic and marketing aspects of rural industries, into its farming systems, into diversification of its products as well as adjustment and sociological issues associated with changes which are now so much more necessary than ever before in the Australian dairy industry? The Minister should have spelled these matters out clearly. However, I believe that this levy will allow the Australian Dairy Corporation to pursue more actively the process of change within the industry and to give attention to the types of matters I have raised.

It is true that the Corporation has worked under extremely difficult conditions in the past through lack of finances and resources, but with the broom which was put through the former Dairy Produce Board by the former Labor Agriculture Minister, Senator Wriedt, and with the appointment of a full time Chairman, it is now likely that the Australian Dairy Corporation will provide the necessary breathing space to formulate long term plans for the industry. It is certainly to be hoped that the industry refrains from its traditional internal bickering and gives the Corporation much needed support in having its plans implemented. The distrust of large sections of the industry of the Corporation should be put aside and the industry, together with the Corporation and all governments in Australia, should try to forge a new way forward to give the industry a secure place in Australian agriculture.

The third and final Bill associated with this cognate debate is the Dairy Industry Research and Promotion (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 1976. The purpose of this Bill is to supplement the Dairy Industry Research and Promotion Levy Bill to repeal the existing butter fat levy legislation and make a number of consequential amendments to the Bill. As the Opposition has not opposed the 2 previous Bills involved in this cognate debate, it does not oppose this Bill either.


-The Australian dairy industry- comprising some 33 000 dairy farmers plus all those people involved in the processing and ancillary industries- like the canned fruit industry, the apple industry and the dried fruit industry, was founded largely on the traditional access to the United Kingdom market. With the virtual loss of this market, due to the United Kingdom joining the European Economic Community and due to the somewhat selfish, inward looking trade barriers of the EEC, these industries are left with a high export component from their total production. The particular crisis facing the industry today has been caused by these contracting markets in addition to a huge increase in dairy farmers’ production costs and in factory costs.

To give some idea of the movements of labour costs as an important ingredient of total inputs let us look at the United States of America and compare it with Australia. From June 1971 to June 1975 Australia’s labour costs have moved from US$99 to US$206 whereas during the same period America’s labour costs have moved from US$125 to only US$161. To put it another way, in those 4 years average earnings in Australia have more than doubled, to 106 per cent, whereas American average earnings increased by only 29 per cent. In passing, I think it is true to say that that is one reason why the United States economy is starting to boom and is coming out of its period of stagnation. On the other hand it is probably one of the reasons why the Australian economy is harder to shift from that trough with price and inflation pressures still present. Another factor which has had a debilitating effect on the dairy industry has been the appreciation of the Australian dollar in relation to the New Zealand dollar. Our dollar has appreciated by 19.9 per cent and therefore our competitive position on world markets in relation to other suppliers of dairy produce has depreciated. This is due to large cost increases coupled with the appreciation of the Australian dollar. In New Zealand 92 per cent of its production is exported.

Much of the blame for the position of the dairy industry and many other industries like it must be placed firmly on the Whitlam Government which successfully priced much of Australia’s exports out of the world markets. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) is always better when he sticks to facts. He has a vivid imagination which runs away with him on odd occasions. He used such phrases about my National Country Party colleagues as ‘vacillating’, ‘ad hockery’, ‘waiting until production surpluses overtook them’, ‘refusal to act’ and ‘not facing the problem’.

Mr Lloyd:

– And at the same time his party ignored the dairy farmers for years.


-That is right. What does he want us to do at this stage? He preaches compassion on the one hand and on the other hand seems to me to imply that this Government is negligent in not putting 25 per cent of dairy farmers to the sword now. What does he want? His own party, after 3 years of masterly inactivity in this area, should not talk about the problems of dairy farmers at this time. Many of us can remember the phrase used by his Leader a little while ago about the dairy farmers of Gippsland.

Mr Fisher:

– At Warragul.


-At Warragul. He said that they had never had it so good. I think that the dairy farmers and the allied workers in the industry would do well to remember that and not take much notice of the imaginative outflows from the honourable member for Blaxland. I have mentioned some of the reasons for the crisis in the dairy industry. There is another short term reason that is causing grave concern and that is the drought and the late opening rains throughout southern Australia. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics figures phophesy a 5 per cent diminution of milk supply during the drought. I think that that is a very conservative estimate. I would have thought that at the present rate of progress, despite the Government’s valiant attempts to prop up the stocks of skim milk powder and casein, many dairy farmers will not survive the next 12 months. What does the honourable member for Blaxland want us to do? Does he want us to hasten this trend when at least 3 firms in Victoria are now out of skim milk powder? One of those firms is the second biggest in that State. Does he want us to hand the dairy industry over to New Zealand with its present cost advantages? He is not precise about these details.

Another problem concerns me very much. Whilst the asset position of farmers who have been in the dairy industry for a long time may be strong enough to ride the trough in low prices, drought, low production and hugely increasing costs brought about by 3 years of economic mismanagement, we will have to look after the younger dairy farmers who have taken a financial risk and who I hope will provide virile leadership and new ideas for the industry in the future. I hope that when readjustment is financed by the State instrumentalities these people will be given the maximum sympathy and financial backing to help them out of their position, which is much more difficult than that of some of the older dairy farmers, some of whom might well be turned out to pasture in the normal course of events. I hope that I am not quoted too widely on that, but if I were still involved in dairying-I am not to any major degree- I would include myself amongst those farmers.

The Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Bill amends the Dairying Research Levy Act to impose a levy on whole milk or on butterfats as the case may be, to provide a more equitable and effective form of financing the administration and promotion activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation. Previously the source of finance for operations of the old board, and now the new corporation, has been a levy applied only on the production of butterfats used in the production of butter, butter oil, butter powder, cheese and ghee. The revenue so obtained has proved to be insufficient, particularly as a result of decreased production of some butterfat products.

The operations of the ADC now include within their sphere of general responsibility nearly all sections of the dairy industry. The Government now thinks, and I certainly support it, that it would be more equitable for the levy to be imposed on all whole milk. The present levy fell almost exclusively on the butter and cheese sectors of the industry. I agree with the Government’s decision, and I note that it had the support of the Agricultural Council which met on 1 April. In difficult times for the dairy industry it also seems a matter of equity that those sections of the industry supplying city milk production, and therefore insulated to one degree or another against the falling prices of processed milk products, should contribute towards the running of the ADC. The amounts of the levy and how they are applied are available from reading the Bill. I will not mention them again.

The Dairy Adjustment Amendment Bill was partially covered by the honourable member for Blaxland. This is the second important Bill of the 3 Bills being debated. It makes available $2 8m for assistance to the dairy industry through its adjustment program. This program came into operation late in 1974, and by mid-August 1975 funds were almost totally committed. No further applications for assistance were accepted after 31 August last year. This Bill appropriates a further $3. 5m for the purposes of the dairy adjustment program to give effect to the Government’s decision to extend the forms of assistance available to farmers. This $3.5m is made up of $2m specifically for selected short term adjustment measures to alleviate critical financial difficulties apparent in many dairy farms. Secondly, it provides $1.5m to meet a commitment to the States by the previous Government to help fund applications for assistance received between 15 and 31 August 1975. The short-term measures under the dairy adjustment program include diversification, farm amalgamation and development for carry-on loans. The 1974 Act already authorises relocation, farm amalgamation and development assistance. This Bill authorises the new measure of carry-on loans and extends the provision for diversification assistance. As time is running away, I shall not make any comments on carry-on loans but I should like to concentrate on diversification assistance.

This assistance is available to those producers who are willing to diversify away from dairying to an alternative and presumably more economic use of their land. The Bill extends diversification assistance to the field of compensation for redundant dairying assets of 2 separate classes of producers not previously eligible. Firstly there is the small uneconomic producer with no long-term prospects of viability either in dairying or alternative farm pursuits. Some of these smallscale producers will prefer to stay on the land and in their own homes and seek a living from off-farm work. I believe that there are a great many more small dairy farmers of increasing age who would elect to do just this than governments realise at this stage. Secondly there is the producer who has been dairying as part of a mixed farm enterprise and who must now be faced with the realisation that returns from dairying do not warrant the capital and the labour involved. The Government aims to encourage this class of dairy farmer to give up production. Under this Bill they will be entitled to recover part of their investment.

The assistance for relocation purposes has been liberalised so that the maximum loan now rises from $3,000 to $5,000. The 1974 Act stipulated that applications must be lodged for approval before 1 July 1976. This Bill extends this time limit and also enables the Government to extend this to a later date by way of proclamation. Provision is made in the Act to increase the total amount payable to the States to $64.5m or such further amounts that may be appropriated by Parliament. These Bills under debate, as well as other decisions made, form part of a package deal to give immediate short-term help to the dairying industry and to those persons who are part of it. Skim milk powder has been underwritten by the Government for the 1975-76 season at $300 a tonne and the rate of Government advances has been increased from 80 per cent to 100 per cent. I hope that extension continues until such time at least as Professor

Crawford reports back to the Minister. In addition, the Commonwealth has varied the conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefits to enable dairy farmers and others who are currently suffering great financial hardship to qualify for assistance. One could well add to those factors the importance to those placed in stringent economic conditions of the family allowances which increase child endowment measures of the past so markedly.

It is not really my intention today to discuss the future structure or organisation of the dairying industry. Suffice to say the rural committee of the Government parties has already done a great deal of work on these most difficult matters. We await with great interest the findings of Professor Crawford who is due to report by the end of August. His clarity of mind, when brought to bear on most difficult problems, will be welcomed by all who have the dairying industry at heart. Because of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the dairying industry, I do not personally look on this referral of the problem to Crawford as being an appeal from Caesar to Caesar, but rather as a matter of poetic justice due to the fact that some aspects of the IAC report are insufficiently thought through.

I will, however, offer one or two free comments on my own behalf. Encouragement of increased production, both in Tasmania but more specifically in Victoria, has proved to be against the interests of every dairy farmer in this nation. Farm settlement schemes such as Heytesbury should have been negated years ago. All the indications were there and many States were cutting back on production at that time although they were certainly aided by the boom in cattle prices. I believe that the industry has always been too far removed from the market place and from the trends that emerge from the market place and from new demands.

The member for Blaxland cited the matter of butter wraps. I think there are many more important aspects which the dairying industry of the future could look at. But the industry will not look at them if the Labor Party has its way and produces a totally centralised authority on top of the industry. The industry will only do so if it is in touch with market place trends, if it can establish sales for innovations and if it generally has the verility that goes with meeting the demands of the market place. The dairy farmer cannot comprehend or adjust to these trends. He looks at his monthly return which is equalised. He is insulated from any contact with the market place itself. Likewise his factory, which does dictate these trends, tends to get locked into its own investment policy. One thinks of the MurrayGoulburn area in Victoria in relation to that. Governments cannot dictate what form the industry should take in the future. This is very much an industry matter and very much one that the farmers must work towards themselves within the guidelines of what I hope will be a most competent report from Professor Crawford. For instance, we as a government, cannot say what future production trends we require. The history of the last 30 years would probably dictate that we would have been inaccurate in judging these matters. There is a danger therefore in any restructuring of the industry that it can become too top-heavy by centralised control in any shape or form. I believe that there are aspects of the dairying industry today that in any way can be considered efficient on any judgment. I hope that what eventuates from any re-examination of the industry takes into account that there are economic areas of the dairying industry today that could be made uneconomic if dragged down to a general lower level.

I should like to mention briefly the matter that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has taken up today by contacting all members on this side of the House and that is the matter of milk biscuits. The House will remember that perhaps some 8 years ago the milk biscuit idea hit this House and indeed the nation. There was a mild difference between the New Zealand milk biscuit and the Australian one. But they were both fundamentally aimed at producing an easily assimilated and easily digested source of protein through skim milk powder to be made available to needy countries, especially to the children of those countries, as a supplement to their diet. I do not believe that the concept has really caught on. I think Zambia is probably the only country which has used the milk biscuit by way of aid or by way of direct sales. My information may not be up to date. But I congratulate the honourable member for Mackellar for bringing this matter to our attention.

There is, however, another matter on which I should like to touch. I should like the Government to take whatever notice it can afford on this matter. Today countries like India have a crossbred friesian jersey dairy herd of some consequence emerging. The payment per pound of butter fat or per gallon of” milk is about 5Vi times that paid to Victorian dairy farmers today, in spite of their vastly lower cost inputs. Therefore the output from these farms is such that the dairy products are priced completely out of the reach of at least four-fifths of the people of India. They do not reach the very people whom we, as compassionate Australians, would like them to reach- the young children and those in the country areas of India and similar countries. I feel quite certain at this stage that the opportunity does exist for Australia to supply a great deal more of food aid to overcome the currency problems of these countries. If we do this we should not do it merely because at the moment we have mountains of skim milk powder around our ears. We should make some forward commitment to continue to supply it as food aid or make some solid arrangement whereby countries in need can continue to purchase a proportion of it in the future. It seems to me quite stupid that 3 firms in Victoria are short of skim milk powder while another firm has it running out of its ears. It seems to me quite stupid that India and South East Asian countries need this sort of protein when it is available in this country.


Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I wish to support the Bills, but I must say that I believe it is the height of hypocrisy for this Government to endeavour to criticise the Labor Government for its achievements in a period of 3 years despite great obstructions from the then Opposition particularly in view of the monumental propensity of conservative governments over a period of 23 years to bury their heads in the sand about the problems of the rural industries generally and particularly the dairying industry.

These 3 Bills really represent a repeat of the well established process of waiting for the bull to get out of the yard before you start to repair the fence. In this case the bull has been running riot amongst the cows for about 10 years, and the dairy industry now finds itself faced with a massive over-production in relation to available markets and almost a total collapse of the industry. When this happens we merely dip into the public purse, not to rehabilitate, diversify, restructure or amalgamate dairy farms but merely to sustain them in an unviable state. We always say this is only temporary of course, and it is always temporary until we work out what we should do in the longer term. We read in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) terms like ‘short term adjustment measures’ which are to be put into operation whilst the Government develops ‘longer term integrated measures’. Terms such as ‘relocation’, ‘diversification’, ‘farm amalgamation’ and ‘potentially viable’ all become familiar cliches in the bureaucratic language in which we cloak the reality of a continuation of conservative policies to sustain and prop up rural enterprises which are not viable and have not been viable for many years.

It is not that these terms in themselves are inappropriate. It is just that they never come to fruition to any significant extent. The Australian public might well ask: ‘How long is the Government going to continue to use public moneys to maintain people in unviable situations?’ Living at poverty levels of existence imposes permanent disabilities on dairy farmers’ wives and families who are often called upon to work on the farm to survive, and this is often done at the expense of adequate education opportunities for their children. Just how long are we going to continue to apply the Band-aid philosophy of propping up these industries? Are we going to wait for yet another report when we already have the 1960 report of the conservative government which has not been acted on, and more recently we had the Industries Assistance Commission reports on reconstruction in rural industries. Are we to continue to wait on more and more reports and less and less action?

Our record was not too bad when we were in office, even in respect of the rural sector. We did commission IAC reports. We did put the wool industry on a sound footing with a floor price scheme. We did bring out the Green Paper on rural industries in Australia and we did point out the basic principles on which they should be developed and sustained. So honourable members opposite should not try to tell me that we did nothing for the rural industries. We did a tremendous lot in 3 years and it was more than you people opposite did in a period of 23 years in office. There is no question about that.

The writing has been on the wall for the dairy industry for many years. Even from the very beginning of the European Common Market the Labor Party recognised this as soon as it came to office and we commissioned IAC reports for this very reason. Yet this Government is now saying that it has to have another report. It is, of course, just stonewalling rather than taking definite action to come to grips with the real problems of the industry. It is interesting to observe that the apple and pear industry faced similar sorts of problems as the dairy industry in relation to the effects of the establishment of the Common Market, but it is pleasing to note that, in sharp contrast to the diary industry, the apple and pear industry has recognised the problems of that industry and it has put up practical suggestions to overcome them. That industry has, without any equivocation, recognised that there has to be a tremendous reduction in the capacity of the industry to produce and it has put up definite plans and procedures setting out how this should be achieved. The dairy industry has just refused to face the reality of the Common Market. It has consistently failed to agree on how the problem should be solved, despite the encouragement of the Labor Government to come to grips with the problem. This situation has gone on and on until now it has reached a crisis point in which the whole industry is in danger of complete collapse.

Under the terms of the Dairy Adjustment Amendment Bill 1976 a further $3’/im is to be made available for the dairy adjustment programs. I understand that of this amount $2m is specifically earmarked for short term adjustment measures, but how significant is $2m in terms of the many thousands of farmers who are in difficulties? Applying a maximum rate of $4,000 per applicant, this amount would help only 500 farmers, although in the Australian newspaper recently it was suggested that an estimated 1 5 000 farmers would possibly be seeking unemployment benefits under the new terms laid down by the Government. I agree that the liberalisation of the rules to enable farmers to receive the unemployment benefit as well as the establishment of the modest floor price for skim milk powder are commendable measures in that they give limited relief to farmers without imposing additional direct burdens on the consumers by raising the price of liquid milk and other manufactured dairy products on the Australian market. If the provision of assistance to dairy farmers becomes a matter of choice between welfare measures such as unemployment benefits and a floor price for skim milk powder or the alternative, that is, imposing heavy taxes or levies on the viable parts of the industry such as the whole milk sector, then I would hope that the Minister would continue to favour the welfare measures rather than rob Peter to pay Paul. But the dole is not the real answer; it is degrading to dairy farmers and it is not the solution of their choice.

I know some misgiving has been expressed in the Press to the effect that the Government may be moving away from this approach and may be considering imposing levies on milk which would go towards propping up the uneconomic sector of the industry. I hope that the Minister will see fit to guarantee that this will not happen and that the levy provided for in one of these Bills will not be used to subsidise unviable production but will be used strictly for the purposes set out in the Bill, that is, for the purpose of research and sales promotion only.

It is fairly well known that politics within the dairy industry as well as conflicts and competition between the States have effectively blocked the introduction of rational policies such as the introduction of a negotiable market share quota scheme. Some States of course have made genuine efforts to reduce production in the unviable areas of the industry but others seem to have ignored the economic realities and common sense by squandering public money. I would particularly mention the very ill-advised Heytesbury development in Victoria- it was pleasing to hear the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) also criticise this project- and the extension of irrigated dairy farms in northern Victoria where it was quite obvious that the prospects for the product which was going to be produced were very poor. I would have hoped, too, that the Minister, when he referred to longer term integrated measures, would have made some attempt to spell out the direction in which he was heading the industry or what the prospects were in relation to the terms that he used, such as ‘relocation’. Where are sections of the industry going to relocate? Where are employment opportunities available if farmers want to get out of dairying and go into employment in secondary industry or some other form of employment? There may have been employment opportunities under the Labor Government but clearly there are not under this Government.

The Minister uses the term ‘diversification’. What are the other activities that he has in mind that dairy farmers may be able to turn to? Surely at this stage they would not be turning to beef production. Just what are the options, if any? If there are not any options we should not be talking about these things and using empty phrases. What does the Minister have in mind when he talks about amalgamation of farms? What is the point of amalgamating farms if it means only increased production? What is his judgment as to what is a potentially viable farm? What improvements can we expect in the market prospects of the dairy industry that could lead him to consider that any dairy farm which is not viable now could become viable in the present market situation? These are questions on which the Minister should expand and on which he should give us some indication of the direction in which he is going and what he is thinking.

It is now quite apparent that, because of the lethargy of the Liberal-Country Party coalition during the whole of the 1960s and indeed up to 1972, the industry in fact wasted 12 years from the receipt of the 1960 report until the Labor Government made the effort to act on that report in 1972. Twelve years was lost to the industry, in which it could have been working on long term schemes to restructure the industry, to reduce production in line with the potential markets and to see that we did not get into the situation that we are in today. We are dependent, on export, to the extent of about 57 per cent of the total production of our dairy industry, which in the early 1960s was mainly to Great Britain before it joined the European Economic Community. When that market was lost- it was apparent years before that it was going to be lost- we were ill prepared. The dairy industry and the Government just did not face up to the writing that was on the wall. There was always an air of inevitability that we would just sit back and let it happen. Now it has happened, and of course the whole of the industry is in complete chaos.

It is not a question of inefficiency within the industry. I think it is generally conceded that the Australian dairy industry is one of the most efficient in the world- possibly the most efficient, perhaps with the exception of New Zealand, but certainly vastly more efficient than the European industry. I understand that it costs the EEC $2,600m a year to subsidise its dairy industry and to keep it in existence. This is little wonder when one looks at the size of the farms. I believe that the average size of a dairy herd in France is 3 cows; in Germany it is 9 cows; and in EEC generally there is an average of only 1 .4 cows per farm. When we compared this with the average holding in Australia of 73 cows per farm we can see that there is no question that the efficiency of our dairy industry is vastly superior to that of the European Economic Community.

I think it is quite apparent that the chaoticstate of the industry today is due almost entirely to the fact that neither the industry nor the Government was prepared to face up to the realities of the future prospects of the industry. If we had faced up to them in the early 1960s, when the signs were apparent to those who wanted to see them, the industry would not be in the situation it is in today. In some ways the measures suggested in these Bills merely perpetuate this lack of reality in our approach to the industry. I refer particularly to those moneys provided for carry-on loans. I understand that this money is for use in cases where dairy farms are considered to be uneconomical for the time being or might become economic if satisfactory market conditions were restored. Unless there is real cause to believe that satisfactory market conditions could be restored in the near future, what is the point of giving carry-on money in this sector of the industry? If those farms are not economic now, what is the reason to believe that they will be economic in two, three, four or even five years time? If there are grounds for believing that they might be, the Minister should spell out those grounds.

I do not believe that there are any grounds for optimism in the market today. Certainly there are underdeveloped countries where markets for Australian dairy products may develop at some time in the future and we certainly should not discount these prospects and we should pursue them, but I do not think this is a possibility in the near foreseeable future. Of course, when those markets do eventuate our rural resources are flexible enough to be able to respond to them at the appropriate time. But this does not mean that we should sustain unviable sectors of the industry just on the unrealistic prospect that they may become viable at some future date. This approach is just not good enough. It is the sort of approach that has led us up the garden path in the past and it is not the sort of approach that will lead to the industry being placed on a sound footing in the future.

I have the greatest sympathy for dairy farmers, particularly those with young families, who find themselves trapped in or locked into the dairy industry- and they certainly are trapped in and locked into it. Their lands are mortgaged to banks and their stock often is subject to stock mortgages. They have hire purchase commitments for essential machinery.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.


– Before the suspension of the sitting I was saying that I have the greatest sympathy for dairy farmers, and particularly those with young families, who find themselves locked into the dairy industry and just cannot get out. Those people are locked in with land mortgages or stock mortgages; many of them have hire purchase commitments on equipment which they need. They have all these sorts of obligations but they do not receive the income necessary to meet those obligations. They have an asset on paper, and that is all it is. They may have a paper asset of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but in actual fact it is valueless because they just cannot cash it in. Many of these people have gone on for years in that way. They have made all sorts of sacrifices for themselves and for their families in the hope that some day things would come good, that conditions would improve. But in actual fact there was no prospect of improvement, and they should have been told that there was no prospect of improvement. The writing was on the wall. Nobody wanted to tell the truth.

I have the greatest sympathy for those people. They have suffered for many years. Many of them have gone without a holiday year after year; many of them had to deprive their children of adequate education. Because they live in remote areas the children do not have access to a school and the parents cannot afford to send them to private schools. There is no question that they are placed in a very difficult position. They have my greatest sympathy. But I have no sympathy whatever for the political manipulators in the Government, and particularly those in the National Country Party, who have deliberately sustained the dairy farmers in a state of poverty for a long while. It is all too true that the greatest areas of poverty in the dairy industry are to be found in the blue ribbon seats held by the National Country Party. They have held those seats by misleading the electors into thinking that they are acting in their interests. Of course, they have not been acting in the interests of the electors at all. They have been sustaining them in a state of poverty and they should be ashamed of their record in that respect. They have sustained those people by keeping them going on subsidies, propping them up in the hope that things would get better when there was no real prospect of them getting better at all.

They have been able to do that with the assistance of the gerrymander of electoral boundaries which gives a distorted value to National Country Party votes. The record is there for everyone to see. The National Country Party has perpetuated a state of poverty in the dairy industry and I think it is time that the people in the rural electorates woke up to what is going on and woke up to the fact that the National Country Party does not in fact work in their interests, that it works to their detriment in sustaining them in a state which is not viable and from which there is no prospect of improvement. It is time that people woke up to that fact. I think they are about to wake up to it and that will be reflected in future elections. It was reflected in the last New South Wales election in which there was a swing of about 8 per cent or 9 per cent against the National Country Party. That gives an indication that the country people are waking up to the way in which honourable members of the National Country Party have misled them over many years.

Darling Downs

– These 3 Bills which deal with the dairy industry are being discussed in a most difficult era. I might submit with the greatest of charity that that difficult era has been made far more difficult by the flimsy attitude adopted by the

Opposition in this debate. It ill behoves any member of a party which for 3 years proved that the only things it knew about the dairy industry was how to milk the cow dry and to criticise the dairy farmers. The Labor Party took from the Treasury of Australia all available funds and frittered them away to pursue the aims and objectives of socialism. I must reject with the greatest strength at my command the crocodile tears shed by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). If only he and his Party had cared just a little the dairy farmers of Australia would not be in the position in which they find themselves today.

There are many paradoxes in the dairy industry. We have declining production due to drought; we have declining consumption; we have bankrupt producers; and we have a stockpile of dairy products in certain areas and shortages of butter in others. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) gave details of the shortfalls in production in certain parts of Australia. There are world wide surpluses and there is starvation. Australia therefore is faced with a difficult proposition as far as the survival of the dairy industry is concerned.

At the outset I want to throw back in the teeth of the honourable member for Fraser the comments that he made. I ask him in charity and in the privacy of his own mind to withdraw those insinuating comments that he directed at the good people of Australia, the people who have carried the flag in good seasons and in bad and who are ably represented in this national Parliament by members of the National Country Party.

Mr Baillieu:

– And the Liberal Party.


– And the Liberal Party; but he did not attack the Liberal Party when he made his completely ridiculous attack on people who do care. I want to assure the House that there is no vacuum of thinking whatsoever amongst honourable members on the Government benches in relation to the dairy industry. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has commissioned a report to be made by an eminent Australian, Professor Crawford, and that report will be available for perusal so that we can make a decision in association with the industry- not like the Labor Party which did so apart from the industry-so that the dairy farmers of Australia will know how to plan for the future.

The dairy industry has been a great industry. The value of exports increased from $67m in 1 960-6 1 to $ 1 60m in 1 974-75; as a proportion of exports dairy products declined from 3.4 per cent to 1.8 per cent. There is not only a financial problem in the industry but also a great social problem. Children and parents and whole towns are concerned and affected. It ill behoves anyone to criticise the Government of Australia for what has happened, because anyone with any knowledge of the industry knows that the problems have been mostly thrust upon us by the policies emanating from the European Economic Community, which are completely outside our control. The honourable member for Angas gave details to the House of how efficient the Australian producer is. Australia and New Zealand have the honour of being the two most efficient dairy producing countries in the world. We have had to face competition from the huge suppliers on the world market. Our ability to penetrate some markets is limited by the protracted policies of major producing regions in the world and the irregular disturbances caused by surpluses from those regions. If governments in Australia subsidise the dairy industry in the same way as that industry is subsidised in all other countries, we would have great prosperity in our dairying areas.

The first Bill in the cluster of Bills on which I wish to comment is the Dairy Adjustment Amendment Bill. In particular I want to refer to the allocation of $2m for the purposes of carry-on loans. This allocation, of course, will be supplemented by the States which have agreed to participate. The matter of carry-on loans and the extension of diversification assistance are 2 new facets that have been introduced into the legislation by the Minister. Both of these initiatives are very worthy and it is good to see that the States are being pan and parcel of them. It is interesting to note the projected split-up of the $2m. Subject to the Ministers’ approval from the various States $ 1 .25 m will go to Victoria which is the most sadly affected State at the present time, $200,000 to New South Wales and Queensland, $50,000 to South Australia and Western Australia and $250,000 to Tasmania.

There are very special problems in Victoria. I know that the honourable members for Mallee (Mr Fisher) and Murray (Mr Lloyd) have been most insistent and persistent in their representations on behalf of the dairy producers in their own areas. I believe that if credit was given where it is rightly due both of those 2 honourable members could quite rightly claim that they were the main motivating forces in having unemployment benefits given to people who are in disastrous financial situations on account of market collapse and associated factors and who make themselves available for work. I submit that their type of humanitarian approach is one that the people who sit opposite could follow. The Opposition now gives tacit support to this proposition, but I ask: Why did they not in their 3 years of government give that type of benefit to the dairy farmers of Australia?

Where are we going in the dairying industry? This is one proposition that we as a national Parliament in discussion with the industry should determine. I would hope that the Opposition would show a grain of common sense and unite with us in plotting the path which the industry will tread in the future. We have to make up our minds what type of industry we want, what social benefits should flow from having a viable industry and, above all, we must be very cognisant of the fact that the dairy industry is a vital part in the overall spectrum of government activity in Australia.

We heard no compassionate understanding of the problem of the dairy industry in the speech of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I submit with the greatest deal of charity that I can summon up that his speech proved once and for all that as far as agriculture is concerned he is but a pseudo intellectual pigmy. We heard no compassion whatsoever from the honourable member for Fraser. He was completely unaware of the great problem that is facing the industry.

I turn now to the other 2 Bills. I think it would be fair to say that there has been a great deal of opposition to this legislation from Queensland. In the few minutes left to me I would like to develop the argument of support and appreciation for the attitude that has been adopted by the industry in that State on account of the very special circumstances that pertain to that area. I know that the northern part of Queensland which is represented by the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) has very special problems, particularly in respect of the levy. The producers in his electorate have contained their production to meet the available outlets and they have chiselled into shape a self-sufficient dairying industry. There is a deal of weight that one can give to the argument that has been advanced by the honourable member for Leichhardt on behalf of the dairy farmers of that area on account of their very special problems.

Mr Millar:

– He is a very good member.


-We all know that. It would be fair to say that over quite a number of years the industry in Queensland has developed a sense of responsibility not only to the industry itself but also to the consumer. The industry has made top quality dairy products available on a continuing basis notwithstanding the vagaries and the disasters of the seasons. The industry is trying to become united. Only yesterday 1 learned of the endeavour to spread the market outlets available over all contributors in a certain area. It is true that the market outlets for milk are very much under consideration at the present time. I fully support the atitude that has been adopted by responsible members of the industry insofar as they maintain, and quite rightly so, that market milk outlets should be the responsibility of the States and not of Australia.

The Minister stated in his second reading speech that the reason for the levy being spread over the total liquid milk market has been to develop a united approach by the industry. I can appreciate the Minister’s approach in that regard. But I also feel very deeply for the Queensland producers who are concerned and worried that this is the first nail in the coffin of the industry in Queensland wherein this levy may lead to a stabilisation of the whole milk industry in Australia. One can advocate quite strongly a proposition that in the final analysis this may well be the result. But at the present time this approach of trying to bring everyone down to a common denominator is tantamount to selling out the industry in the States particularly Queensland. The saviour of the industry in Queensland has been its structure wherein producers have orientated their farming enterprise to a share of the liquid milk market, be it in Brisbane or elsewhere. It would be most unfair now if they were asked to share their milk market over the whole of Australia. The situation is quite apparent when one looks at the figures. In 1974-75 41 per cent of total milk produced in Queensland went into the liquid milk market. They must not be made to share this with the rest of Australia.

I want to comment briefly on the propagators of the idea that the High Court decision last year in which the High Court stated it was valid for milk to be transported across borders, will lead to a situation where the dairy industry in States like Queensland will be destroyed. I want to say to those people that 2 persons can play at that game. If a milk producer from Melbourne or elsewhere thinks that he can infiltrate and saturate the Brisbane milk market I say to him that trucks can be driven the reverse way. I suggest that if that type of irresponsible attitude is to develop we will not have a dairy industry at all in Australia.

It is time for a reappraisal, it is time for responsibility and it is time for respectability amongst various States in this vital matter. I was heartened to hear that following a meeting of a sub-committee of Australian dairy farmers a decision is imminent that market milk will be the responsibility of the States. I make a very special appeal to the industry all over Australia to unite and to come up with positive policies which it can put to the Government when it is legislating in respect of the future of the industry. Unity, surely, is the raft of life for the dairy industry. One can readily appreciate extra funds for the operation of the Australian Dairy Corporation which I understand at present is in debt to the tune of $400,000. It can be submitted that the legislation introduced by the Labor Party by which a levy was to be placed on all manufactured milk excluding market milk would be sufficient to meet the operational expenses of the Dairy Corporation. On balance I would subscribe to that type of legislation being introduced rather than a levy being placed over the whole market milk situation at this time in our history.

I say that for a variety of reasons. The first reason is that I believe it is morally wrong, in justice and in law, to take a levy from a certain section of producers and not allow them to have representation in regard to the affairs of the Dairy Corporation. I would have hoped that the Minister would delay the levying of this particular section of the milk industry until the total package emanating from the Crawford report was available for discussion and final implementation. To my mind and in the eyes of many practical exponents of the dairy industry the Australian Dairy Corporation is not representative of the total industry. It is not representative of the State. I make a special appeal to the Minister to give us his assurance that prior to the implementation of a total dairy package after the receipt of the Crawford report he will have meaninful consultations with the industry to ascertain its view as to the future membership and powers of the Corporation.

The Corporation has not been terribly successful in selling Australian production outlets. I think it is pertinent to remark in this debate that there are people, not only in Parliament but outside, who believe that the marketing of primary production should be in the hands of experts and not in the hands of producers. I state quite specifically where I stand on that idea. To me it is totally wrong and completely unacceptable to have marketing boards on which producers are not adequately represented. I say that for this simple reason: Producers, in the final analysis, are the real owners of the product. They are concerned for it because it represents their livelihood. The Australian Dairy Corporation, on which there are very few primary producers, to my mind has not delivered the expertise and the results that we could have expected from it.

I conclude by saying that it is wrong to expect people who are already paying a levy to a State organisation to have to contribute an extra levy to the Australian Dairy Corporation for the promotion of milk products. Deliverers of milk to the Brisbane milk markets already pay a levy for promotion and I hope that the Minister, in the implementation of this levy, will make some allowance for the levy already being paid. On balance, whilst I support the Minister’s legislation, I would have been happier if he had delayed the implementation of the levy whilst fully supporting the dairy adjustment scheme. A delay would have allowed the industry to become part and parcel of a totally new package. The industry then could have had an assurance that it was not going to be nationalised.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.24)-It was very puzzling to hear the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) claim that all the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) thinks is that the dairy industry is there to milk the cow dry. I find this remark very puzzling. I thought the honourable member for Fraser went to a good deal of trouble to explain -

Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.

page 2852


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 28 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.

page 2853


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 28 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.

page 2853


Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · Bennelong · LP

– I move:

This Bill, to amend the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967-73 and to introduce the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act 1976, was foreshadowed by my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) on 4 February 1976 when announcing that a new and more cost effective incentive scheme would replace the existing system of incentives. The purpose of the proposed Bill is to terminate the existing grants scheme and replace it with a new program of incentives to operate from 1 July 1976. This program is designed to further the technological development and efficiency of Australian industry by the encouragement of industrial research and development. The program will be administered by a statutory authority, the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board. I will explain the structure and functions of the Board at a later stage in this speech.

The present system of industrial research and development grants was introduced in 1967. It provided for the first time, a direct incentive to Australian manufacturing and mining firms to increase their own expenditures on research and development. The Act was subsequently amended in 1972 and 1973 in order to improve its effectiveness and to contain the escalating costs of the program. The current scheme has, therefore, been in operation for a period of 9 years. The Government has decided that, although the current incentive has been reasonably successful, it is now appropriate for a new program of incentives to be introduced which will permit a more effective use of public funds allocated for the purpose of stimulating industrial research and development. In addition, the complexity of the current scheme has inflicted substantial administrative work loads on the companies seeking assistance, as well as on the administering authority, the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board. We have therefore reviewed the present Act and have decided that the best course is to terminate the present incentive immediately rather than let it run its course until June 1977 when it would otherwise have expired. Accordingly, 1975-76 will be the final grant year to which payments under the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967-1973 would relate, and the new incentive will operate from 1 July 1976.

Since the introduction of the incentive, grants of the order of $ 104m have been made to some 1800 individual companies. In respect of the first year of the scheme- 1967-1968- grants were made to 460 individual companies, compared to 1300 companies receiving assistance in 1974-75. As well as stimulating more companies to undertake more research and development activities, the scheme has been effective in a broader context. It has increased the employment opportunities for qualified and skilled research workers in this country. We believe continuing government support in this important area will help to ensure that the services of such personnel can be retained for the benefit of Australian industry and the nation generally. The experience of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been that, during the currency of the program, a marked improvement has been observed in the willingness, capability, and variety of firms interested in developing and applying new and improved technology originating from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation research.

The Government recognises that technological innovation, leading to new and improved products and processes, and hence to greater efficiency and better resource utilisation, is basic to the competitive position of Australian industry. Industrial research and development is a key input in the process of technological innovation and, accordingly, there is a strong case for continuing government encouragement and support for such activities. Also, there is the need to avoid over-reliance by Australian firms on the acquisition of overseas technology and know-how and thus to minimise the extent of any associated franchise restrictions on our export markets or products.

For a variety of reasons, Australian companies often face difficulties in financing research and development activities from their own resources. The comparatively small size of Australia’s domestic market and the comprehensive pressures to reduce operating costs in the short term tend to restrict the availability of internal funds for research and development by firms. Smaller enterprises- although frequently in a position to obtain returns from research and development activities, which in relative terms compare favourably with the returns obtained by large corporations- often experience particular difficulty in obtaining finance for their research and development work.

We believe that there now exists in this country an effective research and development capability that can be utilised to improve the competitiveness of our industrial sector. This in turn will contribute to greater real income growth for the nation as a whole. However, we have come to the view that government support for industrial research and development should in future be provided on a more selective basis. This will involve an evaluation of the relative technical and commercial merit of projects submitted by companies for assistance. Such a procedure should help in maximising the benefits accruing to the nation from a given level of financial assistance from public funds.

In this regard the Government agrees with the conclusion contained in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Examiners Report on Science and Technology in Australia that the decisive criterion for government aid should be the firm’s quality and its ability to carry innovations through all their successive stages from research to commercial success. However, the Government also acknowledges the fact that account must be taken of the special needs of those firms, predominantly small to medium sized, that are still not carrying out systematic research and development activities, or those which have not yet achieved a basic capability in this area of endeavour.

Therefore, it is proposed that the new program will provide 2 elements of support to meet the needs of these 2 situations. It is proposed that there will be a system of grants designed to encourage companies, whose research and development activities are either non-existent or at an ‘infant’ stage, to commence and develop an involvement and basic capability in industrial research and development. The second element will consist of grants to companies which are given in relation to particular research and development projects. These grants will be introduced to provide assistance to companies which have already achieved a basic research and development capability.

In relation to commencement grants the Bill provides for companies to be entitled to annual grants of up to 50 per cent of a company’s eligible research and development expenditure, subject to a ceiling of $25,000 per grant year. The rate and ceiling to apply to any particular grant year will be examined annually in the Budget context. In the 1976-77 grant year the Government intends to limit the entitlements to the lesser of 25 per cent or $15,000, because of the serious budgetary situation.

The proposed definition of eligible expenditure outlined in the Bill is significantly different to that applying to the current scheme. To date eligible expenditure has been calculated on the basis of the increase in research and development spending over a base period. Under this requirement, assistance provided under the Act fell off markedly after the first year or two for those companies that could not or did not want to increase continuously their research and development spending.

The primary purpose of the new incentive is to encourage companies to commence systematic research and development activities. This will enable them to develop an appreciation of the importance of research and development and, consequently, build up their industrial research and development capacity and capability. It is the Government’s aim to concentrate assistance on those kinds of expenditure most directly associated with industrial research and development so that basic research and development activity is assisted, rather than incidental associated activities. Accordingly, eligible expenditure will cover net spending in the grant year in question on salaries and wages of research and development personnel, on research and development plant and equipment, prototypes and on scientific and technical reference material. I emphasise that assistance will be given on the basis of net expenditure, not increases in expenditure as has been the case since 1967.

Certain limits have been placed on the amount of assistance that would be available to companies under the commencement encouragement section of the program. The objective of these grants is to help companies to the stage where they can appreciate the benefit of conducting systematic industrial research and development. A period of 5 years is judged reasonable for this purpose. Accordingly eligibility for commencement grant assistance will be limited to a 5-year period. Further, since some companies have already received assistance under the present Act there is a need for transitional provisions to ensure that reasonable equity prevails as between companies. Therefore the maximum grant level which will be available to any one company over the 5 years will be subject to reduction by the amount of assistance already received under the present Act. Moreover, a company, or group of associated companies, would be ineligible for a commencement grant if its total research and development expenditure in the 8 financial years prior to the first grant year for which commencement grant application has been made exceeds $250,000.

I will now turn to the project grants element of the Bill which is to form the main thrust of the Government’s new incentive. The Bill provides for a system of project grants designed to give support for firms with established research and development facilities to undertake specific lines of industrial research and development. The Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board will be empowered to provide grants in relation to specific projects. The Government will provide funds annually to the Board which will allocate the available fund’s to companies after evaluation of the technical and commercial merits of the research and development activities proposed, and the contribution such projects are expected to make to the national interest.

Unlike the commencement grants, companies will have no legal right to assistance except where the Incentives Board has entered into an agreement with the company. The Bill will also enable grants in the form of progress payments to be made in accordance with the agreement which will need to be concluded between the Board and the company concerned. Progress payments will be conditional on the Board being satisfied at each stage, as to prospects of the overall success of the project. A number of constraints will operate to ensure a reasonable distribution of available funds between companies, and that only those projects worthy of support in the national interest are assisted. Subject to these, the Board will be enabled to provide a rate of grant in individual cases which it judges to be compatible with inducing the company concerned to carry out a particular research and development project which would otherwise not take place, or be delayed. The maximum overall rate of assistance for any one project over its life will not normally exceed 25 per cent of the research and development expenditure on the project but in the first year of the project- when the risk element is highest- the rate could be up to 50 per cent. Grant payments will be limited to $250,000 per annum per company or group of associated companies. However, the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be authorised to approved grants exceeding $250,000 per annum in respect of projects recommended by the Board as having exceptional merit.

In the administration of the project grants element, the Board will also be required to pay due regard to total funds allocated to it for grant purposes in the Budget context, as well as constraints imposed on its powers to enter into financial commitments in respect of future grant years. The selection by the Board of research and development projects for grants will entail the consideration of a number of criteria. These include the prospects of improvement in resource utilisation; the competitiveness, efficiency and export performance of the firm and industry concerned; the resultant advance on the technology currently employed in Australian industry; and whether the project is likely to attract a satisfactory level of support from the applicant company itself within a reasonably time span, without the provision of government assistance. Other factors taken into consideration will include the nature and suitability of a company’s research and development resources to be employed on a project, and the ability of the firm meaningfully to exploit the results of the research and development, either by itself or through arrangements with other organisations.

The Government recognises the need for the incorporation of safeguard clauses and conditions in project grant agreements to protect the Government and the public interest. Companies will be required under the Act to give an undertaking to exploit in Australia the results of the industrial research and development for the benefit of the Australian economy. Where a company receiving assistance fails to proceed with commercial exploitation of the results of a project, or decides to terminate the research and development program, consideration will be able to be given to the Government acquiring the rights to any results of the research and development that has been undertaken. Where projects supported by the Government lead to industrially and commercially profitable ventures, the authority would be empowered in certain cases to draw up royalty arrangements commensurate with the proportion of the risk borne by the Government.

As under the existing grants scheme, firms eligible for grants must be companies incorporated in Australia, and have been engaged in Australia in the manufacture of goods or mining operations in the relevant grant year or within a reasonable period thereafter. We believe it is vital for private industry to be reasonably assured of continuity of government support for industrial research and development if the incentive is to be meaningful and effective in stimulating a buildup of research and development staff and facilities. Accordingly, it is proposed that the new program of incentives will operate for an initial period of 5 years from 1 July 1976 to 30 June 198 1, with the last year of a period covered by a project grant agreement to be a year ending before July 1984. It is envisaged that a review of the program should be concluded before expiration of the new legislation and in time for any new support measures to proceed immediately on expiration of the proposed program.

The approach I have outlined should ensure the build-up in the private sector of a competent industrial research and development capacity. It will be government policy to ensure that this capacity is utilised to the greatest extent possible. Although the Government has its own research facilities in certain areas the Board will be empowered to act as an executing agency to facilitate or arrange the contracting out of public interest research programs to industry where the Government’s own facilities are inadequate or do not exist. It is envisaged that in all such cases the Board would only carry out such a role after receiving specific instructions from the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is also envisaged that when such directions are given specific funds would be provided over and above the funds allocated for the 2 elements of the incentive scheme that I have outlined earlier.

Having described in broad terms the proposed new program of incentives for industrial research and development, I shall now outline the proposed administrative arrangements. The administering authority will be required to undertake a greater degree of qualitative evaluation of projects for which assistance is sought, than is required under the present Act. Therefore, the Industrial Research and Development

Incentives Board and its supporting staff structure will be constituted to equip it with the necessary skills to carry out its task. The administrative arrangements are set out in detail in the Bill. I should mention in particular that the reconstituted Board will consist of a full time Chairman and not less than two, or more than four, part time members, appointed by the Governor-General. Provision will exist for a part time Advisory Committee to the Board, not exceeding 8 members, to be appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Board will be required to report annually to the Minister on its activities in the immediately preceding year. The report will list the companies receiving grants and the amounts concerned. Without breaching commercial confidentiality, the areas of manufacturing and mining operations covered by grants and the nature of project grant assistance will also be included in the reports, which will be tabled annually in both Houses of Parliament.

The Government is confident that this new program of incentives will provide support more closely oriented to the needs of industry and the national interest. Financial assistance in the form of project grants will be provided to Australian companies involved in industrial research. This should result in the development of new or substantially improved products and processes which offer good prospects for commercial exploitation in the domestic and export markets. Companies will also be encouraged to commence and develop industrial research and development activities through commencement encouragement grants. The Government believes that this 2-pronged program of financial assistance represents a more cost effective means of promoting the technological development and efficiency of Australian industry.

I apologise to the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) for not having been in a position to provide him with a copy of this second reading speech before I commenced. I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr Young:

– I accept the apology. I have already read the second reading speech. I am not terribly impressed by it.

Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.

page 2856


The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:

Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1976.

Superannuation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 976.

Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill 1976.

Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.

Income Tax (Rates) Bill 1976.

Income Tax (Individuals) Bill 1976.

page 2857


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by MrEllicott:

That the Bill be now read a second time.


– This debate is a non-Party debate. Accordingly I am not speaking in any official capacity on behalf of the Opposition, because there is no such thing as an Opposition in this type of debate. We are dealing with amendments to the Family Law Act. Because of my particular responsibility as a shadow Minister, I have been given the responsibility of saying at the outset that I see nothing wrong with the amendments. They were discussed in the Opposition Party Room. It was indicated there that the matter would be one for each person. Legally there did not appear to be any objection to the amendments. Accordingly I predict that this debate will be of rather short duration. I hope that that is the situation.

We are dealing with a decision of the High Court made on 1 1 May in the case of Russell v. Russell. Following that decision it became apparent that, whilst the Family Law Act as we know it is a valid exercise of constitutional power in the majority of its clauses, there are various aspects which are deemed to be ultra vires the Constitution. In the decision of the Chief Justice he said that there was constitutional power under Chapter III, there was constitutional power under section 5 1 placitum (xxi) and under section 5 1 placitum (xxii). He said that they were pretty wide powers. Nevertheless there are certain aspects of the Family Law Act which are deemed to be outside the Commonwealth jurisdiction. Accordingly, as explained by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), the amending legislation is aimed at writing down the Act to be more in accord with the legal powers of the Australian Constitution. We see that there were some defects in section 4 of the Act which relates to proceedings within the definition of matrimonial causes.

Then we come to the nub of the question. Proceedings relating to property, for example, are not valid if they are related only to property and therefore we have to look at this matter from the point of view of the normal problems of a marriage or the normal problems that follow in a dispute between parties to a marriage about property rights. It follows from this decision that unless that was directly related to ancillary provisions, the major contest being the question of a divorce, it could not be dealt with under the Family Law Act but would have to be dealt with under the State law called the Married Women’s Property Act. To that extent the State law survives in disputes relating to property but not really relating to other matters where that property dispute is ancillary to the normal divorce proceedings.

I notice that it has been established that whilst many people can take an interest in custody proceedings, because of the High Court decision that is not now deemed to be the case. Custody proceedings have to be taken by parties to the proceedings and relate to a child of the marriage or to an adopted child of those spouses. There again we see a whittling down of power in relation to what was deemed to be a reasonable approach to custody. Any parliament might have thought that in the normal sense, as happened before, it had the power to deal with matters of custody. Now we find that that is not the case. I turn now to the question of maintenance proceedings. These again are related to the spouses to the marriage.

Within those contexts I see no objection to what the Attorney-General now proposes on behalf of the Government because what he is doing is merely regularising the drafting of the original Bill. When the Bill was first before the Parliament it was there for a very long time. Basically what the decision is saying is that the Family Law Act is a valid Act and the fact that various sections of it may to some extent be invalid does not invalidate the whole Act. So the Act survives. People may be wondering whether there was some basic defect in the Act but that is not the situation. Accordingly, the Opposition sees no objection to the amendments that are proposed because they seem to be strictly in accordance with the decision made by their Honours in the case of Farrelly v. Farrelly.

One matter that was adverted to by the Attorney-General in his second reading speech was the matter of closed courts. I think that this comes under section 97. It was decided that we could not direct State courts to have closed courts because they are autonomous and that would be outside our constitutional power. This would cause some concern to the people who debated this matter at length on the express understanding that they did not want everybody’s personal troubles published across the land. I think that there is some confusion as to whether ‘closed courts’ means ‘publication’. We can now say that it does not. ‘Closed courts’ means that the courts themselves could be open to the public. The Attorney-General has said that he will discuss this matter with the State Attorneys-General to see what solution they may suggest. Those of us in the Opposition who have discussed this matter agree that that is the proper course to adopt. If there were to be an amendment to this section to say that closed courts may be at the discretion of the States there would be no objection to that. The basic fear was that there would be publication of the proceedings. That is adequately catered for in section 12 1 of the Family Law Act. That is the clear message of the Parliament and of the discussions that took place. The courts may or may not be open, and that is left to the discretion of the courts, particularly in certain custody cases. It follows that there would be no publication. That is the great safeguard that those who took an interest in this particular legislation wanted to see maintained. I know that the Attorney-General is of the same opinion.

I refer now to a practical matter. This debate provides an opportunity to discuss some of the problems we now see flowing from the administration of family law, particularly as it relates to the very difficult area of people who are in conflict and who are unable to maintain their marriages, despite having the best will in the world. The problems, the stresses and strains of society and the conduct of parties mean that the court will be a busy court. That is regrettable. One has to look at what justice means to the parties that are involved. I am not saying this by way of criticism but I am advised that it is very difficult to make an application for maintenance without legal assistance. The necessary evidence that has to be led in means that a person really needs some advice. I am told by practitioners that the requirements applicable in that sense mean that a person cannot really represent himself, nor can he do so in any property dispute, as one would imagine. Yet many of these people could be poor. The present legal aid provisions are not really generous. They are restricted to people with very limited means. I think that I made this comment during the last grievance debate: There can be a contest abo;.t property between people who have no assets at all and who are not entitled to legal aid because of a very minute income. As there is no question of recovering costs, these people could be required to pay legal fees of $200, $300 or $400, depending on the length of the case, and having no opportunity to obtain legal aid because of that.

I want to suggest that perhaps in these matters some consideration should be given to granting legal aid. As has been said before, a party without legal aid is a party penalised. He is in an area of contest. He is in an area where legal expertise and professional assistance are advisable. To send one party in there without any such assistance imposes a great burden on him. We recognise that there has to be some means test but the present means test is far too stringent. I am told by a solicitor in Canberra that there are difficulties in bringing maintenance proceedings, particularly by deserted wives who have to establish that they have made an effort to obtain maintenance in order to obtain social security benefits. It is suggested that there could be an improvement in this son of assistance.

I am reminded that there is some disparity amongst the States as to whether a person can qualify for assistance at the same time as such a person would qualify in other States. For example, I understand that in Victoria there is no time lag but in New South Wales there is a 6 months time lag. I do not want to argue the constitutional merits or otherwise of that but nevertheless the fact is that there is a problem in people having to establish that they made an effort to get the maintenance before they received assistance. I am told that this creates some of the difficulties. For example, a lady in Kingston with responsibility for looking after children received $15 a week by way of an ex gratia payment from her husband. She applied for welfare assistance and had to wait 6 months in order to qualify for social security benefit. Having qualified for the social security benefit, she found that the Department took into consideration her welfare payments and the $15 a week. Therefore she was no longer eligible for social security benefit so she could not get any legal aid. One of the problems here is that this is too difficult a situation altogether. The question of legal aid ought to be looked at.

One of the solutions on this basis is that the Australian Legal Aid Office or its equivalent or the profession itself ought to be able to say as a profession that it has had a look at a particular case and that there is no need to put the person to the worry and expense of trying to institute maintenance proceedings before such person would be deemed to qualify for social security benefit. Why not leave it for the profession itself to certify that in view of the facts before it, it deems that this particular person is eligible for maintenance assistance but could not get it and accordingly should be entitled to get the social security benefit? Again it is suggested for future consideration that perhaps the Department of Social Security might pay the welfare benefit or the social security entitlement plus the amount awarded by the court on the basis that the Department of Social Security could recover that amount from the person compelled to pay the award and not have the unfortunate wife trying to enforce this arrangement. It is felt that it might be cheaper in the long run and it certainly would be more in accordance with giving social assistance. I think they are the matters for comment by the profession as it sees the situation at present.

In summary, there is no objection to the amendments. They are in accordance with the High Court’s decision. We fully understand the position of the Attorney-General in endeavouring to alter the Act in so far as it relates to closed courts. We assure him that there seems to be no objection to that proposal as long as it virtually maintains the position of non-publication. Finally, the question of legal aid seems to be becoming more apparent than ever because of the difficulties parties find themselves in. Having had legal aid, they see the value of it. It comes into all the elements I have mentioned and into one final element which I have not mentioned. Maybe it is a chance for a government, in close co-operation with the States, to develop a system of legal aid with the legal profession whereby there would be no difficulty in many people obtaining legal aid. Of course some assistance would be necessary from the Government. But I think at present the means test clearly shows that it will not work particularly in respect of contested applications. Accordingly I have no further comment to make. I know that time left for debate is short and I understand there are to be Committee proceedings. I think that basically from a legal viewpoint, the Opposition supports the proposed amendments and I support them personally.


-I should like to compliment the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) on the very clear, concise and succinct manner in which he has placed before the Parliament information relevant to the background and the trials and the tribulations that the Family Law Act had in the High Court. He spoke with great clarity and indeed with the utmost accuracy on that particular matter. No doubt with the passage of time, further teething problems will manifest themselves and of necessity will be under the review of courts. These amendments are specifically designed to bring the courts into line with the decision of the High Court. This legislation, though somewhat experimental, recognised that a vast number of people were entitled to an early solution of their problems. It is, perhaps, unfortunate that the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction over matrimonial property and custody is limited and that therefore the jurisdiction of the Family Court of Australia is also limited. The High Court’s decision has, however, cleared the air and the Bill should now be passed without delay.

I am delighted that greater emphasis in this Bill has been placed on the amendments with regard to the reconciliation of the parties. It is to be hoped that judges will now give greater emphasis to the wider powers given to them under section 7. 1 believe it is important that at the very commencement of the proceedings it should be the duty of any judge, if he were satisfied that even the slightest possibility of reconciliation existed, to forthwith bring into operation the relevant section, as a good, permanent marriage and the security and the welfare of the children thereof is paramount to the wellbeing of any State. Greater emphasis should be placed on these matters of reconciliation not only by judges but by the legal profession as a whole. The concept of a marriage being the union of a man and a woman for life to the exclusion of all others is to be applauded. I note that that particular concept is set out in the Act.

Probably the greatest area of contention in matrimonial proceedings is that related to maintenance and to the division of property. The Family Court of Australia would not have jurisdiction in maintenance matters under the ruling of the High Court unless it is allied with matters of principal relief in divorce proceedings. Secondly, as far as property is concerned, the High Court held that the Act is valid only where the property proceedings are related to pending or completed proceedings between the parties for divorce or other principal relief. As I said earlier, these matters have been quite accurately expounded upon by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. It is easily seen that again in these areas there is a divided jurisdiction between the Act and the relevant State law. The extent of the jurisdiction on property matters under the Act is, to say the least, incomplete. It is pleasing to know that with a view to resolving this and other difficulties the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) proposes to raise these matters with the States at the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. In all, it will be seen that the High Court’s decision has meant that the whole concept of the Family Court Court being able to deal with all matters relating to family law cannot now be realised as was at first hoped and at first envisaged.

On the question of maintenance, under this Bill the continuation of concurrent jurisdiction would continue between tribunals established under State and Commonwealth Acts. Every effort should be made to ensure parity of justice for these claims throughout Australia, striving to achieve uniformity. I believe stricter guidelines should be inserted in maintenance Acts as to the matters to be taken into consideration in assessing a reasonable and adequate payment on the same lines as those set out in the Family Law Act which, amongst other things, not only takes into consideration the age and the state of health of each of the parties but is bound to have due regard to the income, the property and the financial resources of either parties, the care or control of a child, the financial needs and obligations of each of the parties, the responsibilities of either party to support any other person and so on. Those particular provisions are spelt out in full in section 75 of the principal Act. Perhaps if that is not to be followed, the States might give some thought and weigh heavily the incorporation of these matters in State maintenance legislation or even better, legislate to confer these powers on the Family Court. Some of the amendments set out in the Bill are there at the instance of the States. They include amendments to clauses 6 and 20 of the Bill. As I said earlier, they were put in the Bill at the request of the former Government of New South Wales and in this respect the Government’s willingness to accede to its request must be highly commended. There is provision for the enforcement of maintenance. This is contained in clauses 18, 27, 34 and 35. These provisions certainly tighten up maintenance enforcement, and again I would suggest that the Government’s action is most laudable.

Another innovation as outlined in the Bill refers to stated cases. This provision is included to enable the Full Court of the Family Court to determine questions of law without the necessity or the expense of an appeal. As I understand it, that provision came to be in the Bill at the behest, as it were, of the judges of the Family Court of Australia. Again I suggest that the Government could be congratulated for taking heed of the advice from people who are involved in the day to day administration of the Court.

Courts can function properly and efficiently only in direct ratio to the calibre of the judges appointed to them. I have recently heard most disturbing reports from eminent members of the legal profession that some judges are riding roughshod over litigants, the profession and the public generally. Indeed, I have been told of instances of judges talking down, berating and pontificating to these people and being down-, right rude to them. I believe that the public and indeed the legal profession have a duty, which has not often been exercised in the past, of reporting these excesses of judicial power so that disciplinary steps can be invoked. I would welcome any such complaints from the public or the profession and when satisfied as to their accuracy I would have no hesitation in waiting on the Attorney-General. I commend the Bill to the House.


– I assure the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) that I have no intention of throwing any dead cats into the ring. I agree with the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who said that these amendments to the Family Law Act are necessary. I believe that as the Family Court of Australia has been operating only since January this year it is much too soon to judge the operations of the Court or of the Family Law Act, but the figures do seem to indicate that the divorce rate is rising under the liberal conditions of this Act. I intend to keep a fairly close surveillance over the operations of the Family Law Act and the Family Court. It was only last Thursday that I asked a question of the Attorney-General about the behaviour of some Family Court Judges. I thank the Attorney-General for the answer that he gave me to that question. I ask him now: Will he keep that matter under close scrutiny? The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) has raised the same complaint that I raised the other day. Again I say that the Family Law Act and the Family Court have been in operation for too short a period for anybody to judge whether the counselling, reconciliation and other provisions of the Act are operating in the way that was expected by members of this Parliament when the Bill passed through the House last year.

WentworthAttorneyGeneral · LP

– in reply- I am very grateful to the honourable members who have spoken and for the way in which this debate has been conducted. Indeed I am very grateful to those honourable members who have not spoken because it means we are able to push this very important Bill through this House tonight, that is, if I do not speak for too long. Mention has been made of State Family Courts. I just want to remind honourable members that an historic occasion occurred yesterday in Western Australia when the State Family Court of that

State was opened and commenced its jurisdiction. That was a very significant step because basic to the Family Law Act was the idea that there ought to be a family law court in which all matters relevant to the family could be dealt with by the one court. One lesson that we learn from the High Court decision- indeed we suspected when we were debating the Family Law Bill last year that we might learn it- is that in Australia under our Constitution the Federal Parliament does not have power to legislate with respect to matters relating to the family and that therefore under our constitutional set-up the only type of court that can deal with all matters relating to the family is a family court set up under State law which is invested with the necessary State and Federal jurisdiction.

May I say that I am still hopeful that State governments in States other than Western Australia will turn their minds to the setting up of State family courts. I mention that at this stage so that honourable members may be aware that it is still in my mind. Indeed I propose to make approaches to State Attorneys-General again in the light of the High Court decision so that they might consider again whether it would not be desirable to set up State family courts.

Mr Kevin Cairns:

– Do they get some financial assistance?


– Those courts, of course, would be set up under section 41 and the States would get financial assistance from the Commonwealth. The States would get a pretty fair deal if they accepted this suggestion. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) referred to the question of closed courts. The more one thinks about it- of course, he stressed the fact that this has not anything to do with publicity- the more one feels the desirability of courts basically being open so that people can go in, see what is going on and feel a certain confidence in the judiciary.

I do not want to comment on what the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) said because what he said could relate to proceedings which are currently before the Family Court on appeal and indeed in a proceeding in the High Court. It would not be right for me to comment. I would only say that if judges are subject to scrutiny by members of the public it is more likely that there will be quality in the administration of justice. Of course that was the very basis of the rule when it was adopted, I think, in the middle of the 1 7th century. It is a very salutary provision. We ought to keep it in mind. I am very grateful for the support which the Opposition has given in the approach that I am to make to the State Attorneys-General. So at least there will be, one would hope, a provision which will give the judges a discretion to open up the courts and let the public come in and see what is happening. Then I believe there will be much more confidence.

The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith also referred to legal aid. I know this is troubling him. It is troubling other people. Legal aid is not a bottomless pit. I think he will readily agree. There are limits to what any government can do. We are committing legal aid, as I have already told the Parliament, at a rate of $lm a month and we have been proceeding in the same manner as the previous Government. Indeed that was the figure that that Government adopted. Recently the means test was tightened a little. Nevertheless when one looks at the means test it does seem as if it would cover people in need. I realise that there will be odd cases which will be excluded. I am constantly in touch with Legal Aid Offices asking them whether people in real need are being denied aid and I am saying to them: ‘Always look to people in cases of real hardship if they might for some technical reason not come within the strict guidelines’.

In view of what the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith said, let me remind honourable members of the present legal aid means test. It is based on a net disposable income which may not seem large to us- indeed it is not large- but the test is aimed at meeting the needs of people who are in need. The net disposable income of an applicant without dependants must not exceed $40 a week. That figure is not his gross income; that is the amount that is arrived at after deducting the following: Income tax, superannuation contributions, one-half of any board paid by the applicant, the rent or mortgage payments for a dwelling house in which the applicant resides, the municipal rates and water rates for the dwelling house in which the applicant resides, the maintenance payments to the spouse and children of the applicant and payments under hire purchase agreements and credit sales contracts for household goods and furniture used by the applicant in his home.

Clearly, under that test one could find a person qualifying who might be receiving a gross income of something in the order of $120 or $ 1 SO a week- indeed it might be more. Each case has to be taken separately. In the application of the means test the Legal Aid Office is instructed to look to cases of real hardship that might not come within the requirements, in order to make sure that people of the character mentioned by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith will be assisted. I mention that only because I feel that this is becoming an increasing problem, but it is increasing only because to some extent the pressure on the legal aid commitment is growing in the family law area. I think that more than 75 per cent, perhaps 80 per cent, of the legal aid commitment is taken up with family law matters. At the moment I am engaged in speaking to the States about setting up a rationalised legal aid system. A very substantial part of that system is the family law contribution.

It is my own firm view- I have said this elsewhere and I shall say it to the profession- that in order for us to have an effective legal aid system in Australia the legal profession has to make a more substantial contribution than it is making at the moment. I say that against this background: I believe that at the same time the profession has to have a substantial involvement in the control of legal aid. I think these 2 things go hand in hand. It is on that basis that I shall be speaking to the State Attorneys-General in a few weeks time. We lawyers come from a noble profession. We have a sense of public duty. I have always found solicitors and counsel to be people of honour who are prepared to make their commitment to the needy people in this community. I believe that, given the opportunity, the legal profession will come to live up to that commitment.

I mention another matter about the Family Court- I say this to the honourable member for Phillip and others. In judging it we ought to remember that the Family Court is not like the courts in which perhaps some of us have been practising. It is a different type of court. It has counselling facilities. It has a child-minding room. In other words, it has all the informality that we are not used to seeing around a court building. Therefore, I think that in judging the Family Court we ought to take these matters into account and not be over-critical in our judgment. We should expect informality. In a sense, that was the intended character of the Court. But, of course, that is no excuse for the action of a judge, if he goes beyond that stage beyond which judges should not go. My constant contact with the Chief Judge of the Family Court leads me to the very firm conclusion that the judges of the Court are busy; that they are working well and working indeed beyond the point to which they might be expected to work.

I know that in Brisbane, for instance, the Family Court is over-committed in its work. It is working hard. I have no reason to think that the situation is not the same elsewhere. Indeed, the court premises in Brisbane are far less than might be expected of premises for a court. Whatever may happen in the case of an individual judge- of course, that is a matter for an appellate court to deal with- I want to conclude with a defence of the Family Court judges. I do not believe that it is a fair criticism to say that the administration of the Family Law Act by those judges is basically open to criticism. I think they are doing a good and thorough job and they are working hard towards the implementation of the Family Law Act.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

In Committee

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.

  1. 1 ) Subject to sub-section (2), this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
  2. Sections 28 and 29 shall be deemed to have come into operation on 5 January 1976.
WentworthAttorneyGeneral · LP

– I move:

Omit the clause and substitute the following clause: 2.(1) Sections 1,2, 16a, 17 and 38 and the Schedule shall come into operation on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent.

Sections 28 and 29 shall be deemed to have come into operation on 5 January 1976.

The remaining provisions of this Act shall come into operation on 1 July 1976.’.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 16- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.

Proposed new clause 16a.

WentworthAttorneyGeneral · LP

I move:

After clause 1 6 insert the following new clause: 16a. Section 39 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (9) and substituting the following subsection: “(9) The jurisdiction conferred on or invested in a court by this section includes jurisdiction to hear and determine proceedings transferred to that court in accordance with this Act.”.’.

Proposed new clause agreed to.

Clause 17.

Section 41 of the Principal Act is amended -

  1. by adding at the end of sub-section (1) the words (including the provision of counselling facilities for those courts)’;
AttorneyGeneral · Wentworth · LP

– I move:

After paragraph (a) insert the following paragraph: (aa) by inserting in sub-section (3), after the word ‘instituted ‘ the words ‘ and proceedings transferred to that court in accordance with this Act ‘, “.

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.

Third Reading

Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.

page 2863


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 20 May, on motion by Mr Newman:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Kingsford Smith

– The Opposition supports the Maritime College Bill. One would imagine that that would be the case because the Opposition when in government introduced a similar measure which lapsed because of other circumstances which have been canvassed here time and time again. The Bill establishes the Maritime College at Launceston, and that is in accordance with the Opposition’s view when in government. The genesis of the legislation is a report which was prepared on whether there should be a maritime college, what type of college it should be, what type of control there should be, and basically where it should be located. I think this Bill meets all of the requirements set out in the report. In his second reading speech the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Newman) pointed out that an interim council will be appointed to make recommendations on the functions and powers of the College. The Minister for Education will appoint the members of that council after due consultation with other Ministers.

In the course of supporting that aspect of the legislation, namely education, I point out how deficient we are in the training of maritime personnel for merchant service. I have had the benefit of some discussion with those who are actively involved in the work of the merchant marine, and they have pointed out to me the great difference between the facilities in Australia and those in the United Kingdom, for example. I have been given some figures which show that in the late 1960s the total manpower of the British Merchant Navy was about 100 000 men, of whom 13 000 were deck officers. That large number of men was cateredfor by the multiplicity of schools that existed in the United Kingdom- schools such as those at Conway, Pangbourne and Southampton University. I am advised that basically most of those responsible for merchant shipping in Australia would have come from the United Kingdom. That situation still applies now. It shows that the Australian counterpart has had to meet a great need without having the facilities to obtain the same sort of training. Establishment of this college is well overdue. The location in Launceston is admirable and all the facilities that are necessary should be able to be provided there.

It is in that context that I want to mention some of the situations that apparently now obtain. As I understand it, the facilities we offer are basically in the technical college area. They are not given any special importance from the point of view of status. Problems do arise with youngsters in Australia trying to obtain qualifications without being given adequate facilities; they fail to meet the various time factors which are required in order to qualify- in other words, they start a course and are not able to keep up the time complements to get through every subjectand basically they give it away because the facilities are not really adequate.

I am reminded that there is much to be learnt if one is to become an efficient merchant marine officer. There is a great deficiency in Australia in giving that sort of expertise. I refer to such things as the provision of modern radar, bridge-control equipment and instruction, and particularly instruction in new cargo techniques. I am advised that that is a bit difficult for the Australian to wear because he was virtually the inventor of the roll-on roll-off cargo fleet which now exists. Australians were virtually the first to enter that area, but we cannot really give proper training and expertise to our own personnel. That makes it somewhat difficult for the present Australian youth to qualify in those areas, because they do not have a proper opportunity to obtain a training in Australia. That is not the case as far as our British counterparts are concerned. All facilities are provided in Britain- full time training, virtually pre-school training, and active sea training. Those facilities are not available here. I am told that many of our sea captains are rather remarkable for the skill they acquire from practical experience. They have a natural aptitude and sheer ability. My confidant advises me that he knows of an Australian captain who has the ability to enter some 22 ports throughout the world without the assistance of a pilot, and he doubts very much whether any other nation could produce that sort of expertise. I know that other honourable members will follow me in the debate, and perhaps they will be able to talk with a certain skill about what they can do.

Basically the point we make, and the point I am advised and encouraged to make, is how sad it is that we have been so slow in developing these facilities. There is still much to be learnt even now. Located at Launceston the college will be able to be provided with the necessary back up aid, particularly in first aid and fire fighting methods. I am told that at the present time our courses do not really cover those things, and that in many instances our youngsters are not even able to get that sort of training. It is quite ridiculous to think that we have the facilities available but that they are under the control of other people who have no time to educate young men in those activities. Therefore they cannot really qualify. Again, it would not happen in Britain. All of those facilities are provided as part and parcel of the course. So it is important that the site of Launceston has so much to commend it. Opportunities are available for carrying out minor ship repairs in the area. Small boat work can be done. Local hospitals and fire stations could assist in instruction. Another asset is that the ships of the Australian National Line are regular and frequent callers to the port of Bell Bay and would provide the boys with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with vessels under actual working conditions and to meet the people with whom they will eventually be spending their working lives.

I understand that changes are envisaged in the certification of various officer levels. That is important, because all of those changes which I understand are about to take place will be accelerated and carried out certainly by the 1980s. Examinations will become more comprehensive, and perhaps there will be a system under which there has to be a review of qualifications from time to time. Therefore it is important to establish the opportunity for refresher courses and it is important that other facilities are made available to those in the merchant marine in Australia so that they can keep up with the competition that is facing all merchant marines throughout the world.

I am advised that much of the change in the present system of examinations has been made necessary particularly by the lack of facilities in Australia. Candidates for certificates of competency in the United Kingdom are required to hold certain auxiliary qualifications such as radar simulator and gyro-compass maintenance certificates. Modern methods of taking radar plots under simulated working conditions are available, and gyro-compass manufacturers maintain schools of instruction in their particular equipment. That does not happen in Australia. That is the problem. The lack of facilities in Australia can be contrasted with the availability of facilities provided in other countries. I refer particularly to New Zealand which I understand maintains a radar plotting vessel capable of operating under actual working conditions. The question is asked: Why could not Australia have done the same thing? Australian tuition is largely at the theoretical level, with junior officers making watch-keeping decisions that are based on their natural aptitude. That is just not good enough. A particularly unfortunate outcome of this lack of teaching facilities is in relation to those candidates who succeed in passing only part of the examinations. By the time they have been able to take extra tuition in the failed subjects and present themselves for later sittings of the examination, the term of the successful papers has expired. Accordingly they do not get any continuity and there is no concurrent validity.

So, generally speaking, we find ourselves belatedly coming up to date. It is important because Australian captains of the merchant marine hold a unique position amongst international seafarers. One can imagine the problems that face the international scene when one finds, for example, what the volume of sea traffic going through the English Channel can be in a day or in an hour. I am told that it could be 200 to 300 vessels in a day. That is an enormous volume of shipping. We must have our own national line. We must have our own skilled personnel. That can occur only on the basis that adequate training is available in Australia. So this need is urgent, and it is not before its time. I understand that there are problems in a number of areas, particularly concerned with engine room training and the apprenticeship position. I do not know whether those facilities will be available. They certainly have been available in the United Kingdom where much encouragement has been given to apprenticeship training. However, I understand that it is not encouraged in Australia. Generally speaking we support the concept of a maritime college. We welcome it as being a step in the right direction to give part of our youth the proper educational faculties they need to maintain their own ships and to be actively involved in the ship building industry. The again is another story at which Australia must have a very close look. I notice that the question of whether we are to maintain our expertise in this area was raised during question time today.

Just getting slightly off the specifics of the Bill, it is quite clear that we just cannot rely on buying everything overseas. We have to maintain our own skills. It does not always follow that because it might be cheaper to buy a ship from Japan it is always going to be cheaper to buy that ship from Japan.

Mr Donald Cameron:

– Or Taiwan.


-Or anywhere else you like. The point is that we have to get these skills in Australia. The talent is here. It is just a matter of bringing it out. Accordingly the existence of the Australian National Line presents an excellent opportunity to combine its facilities, equipment and staff expertise in the operation and management of the maritime college. British schools have proved successful with a fraction of the amenities that would be available to such a potential Australian counterpart. One can envisage the time when such a school will become an extension of the operating fleet, an integration of such administrative matters as the supply of new entrants and the tuition of serving officers towards the gaining of higher qualifications. That applies, I understand, to even what we might call the more mundane area of stewards, cooks or chefs. Again it is just not good enough for these people to have qualifications in the Kentucky Fried Chicken area. One at least has to do better than that and the facilities are available. We just need the opportunity to train the personnel. All in all this legislation has much to commend it. From the educational point of view the proposed maritime college will fill a great need in the Australian context of merchant marine.


– I strongly support the establishment of the Australian Maritime College. I think to see its importance we have to look at the key role of shipping in our economy. Each year 150 million tons of exports are moved by sea from this country and 23 million tons of imports come into this country each year. Virtually all of our exports and imports move by sea. But of that amount moved by sea only 5 per cent is moved in Australian flagships. Of the bulk cargoes the amount moved in Australian flagships is one-tenth of one per cent. This is a sutuation which we should view with concern.

Recently we saw the appearance of Soviet ships offering for Australian overseas trade. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), I think correctly, cautiously welcomed them. I think as a great trading nation we should move our goods in the cheapest vehicles available. But we must be certain that this is not a manoeuvre to freeze out competitors in the overseas shipping business, and having done so the Russians would then use all the powers a monopoly would give them. Therefore although this presence should be welcomed it must be watched with great care.

Although only a small proportion of overseas trade moves in Australian flagships the situation is quite different on the Australian coast where it all is moved in Australian flagships. It is also worth remembering that on a ton-mile basis 50 per cent of interstate trade is moved by sea. In 1975 there were 106 Australian flag ships with an average size of 20 000 tons. Sixty-five per cent of these ships were built in Australia. I would like to see 100 per cent built in Australia. But that will require a substantial reorganisation and an increasing efficiency of the Australian shipbuilding industry.

Nevertheless, there are serious problems for our shipping industries. The first and most obvious is the situation in our ports. As an example, 36 per cent of the total costs of the Australian National Line are involved in terminal, port and cargo handling charges. These have an enormous impact on the cost of moving our trade. This extra cost is borne by the whole community. We all pay for these extra costs.

Study after study has revealed that our port efficiency is low. I wil give 2 examples. The first concerns roll-on roll-off type ships carrying cargoes in containers which are moved by forklift trucks at the points of embarkation and disembarkation. The rate of unloading identical containers is twice as fast in Japan as it is in Australia. Another example is the time taken for the Australia-Europe round trip. The Australian National Line budgeted for a 70-day round trip. At the moment the round trip takes 96 days which means in effect that virtually one round trip is lost per year. This is a very serious economic loss.

The second cause for concern is the incidence of strikes. Last year the Australian National Line lost $9m, of which $6m was directly attributable to strikes. The third concern is the cost of crews. Twenty per cent of the Australian National Line costs go in crew wages. Crews do not do too badly these days. The average able seaman has a private cabin with a private bathroom. The annual salary of a master is $24,000 and of an able seaman $10,500. For this the able seaman does 30 weeks work and has 22 weeks holiday. Virtually we are providing 2 crews for each ship. I do not begrudge the men who man these ships these conditions. I know the hardship under which many of them operate and the time they spend away from home.

Nevertheless we have to bear in mind the economic cost of what is being provided. What we can avoid is the overmanning of our ships. This problem has been persistent for many years. I can give honourable members one example which fortunately is a very clear one. There are 3 sister roll-on roll-off ships working on the Australia to North America run. These ships are identical. One is Australian manned, one is British manned and the other is Swedish manned. The United Kingdom ship has an 8 per cent smaller crew than the Australian ship. The Swedish ship has a 22 per cent smaller crew than the Australian ship. Incidentally, the Australian crews do less ship maintenance than either the British or Swedish crews. There are many reasons for this which are due to the history of relations with the maritime unions. One cause is that we have 7 maritime unions to deal with and that makes it difficult to get sensible economics in crew manning. This over manning is a very substantial cost which is borne by the whole community.

We can see the effect of these costs quite clearly when we consider what happens to Tasmania. Tasmania is totally dependent on shipping for its external trade. The costs of shipping are putting Tasmanian businesses and industries out of action. This has resulted solely from very high freight charges. Another factor which is affecting our coastal trade- and this does not apply to Tasmania- is the fact that railways are offering subsidised competion. They are carrying goods at a loss with the consequence that our ships are moving only partly filled. We do not want to have uneconomic subsidised com- petition for which the community must bear theeavy cost.

I think we have to look at the consequences of the very high cost or our coastal shipping. We may have to consider-I do not think we should yet- whether it is appropriate to amend the Navigation Act to get away from the situation where coastal traffic has to be moved in Australian flagships. If it is to cost so much for us to man our own ships I think we should at least consider whether we should not allow in some foreign competition. I do not think we have reached that stage yet. I hope that we never reach it, but I think we should consider it if we cannot control the rapidly rising costs of moving our goods around our coast. The cost is far too high. I repeat that costs are automatically passed on to the community. I outlined the vital role that sea transport plays in our economy.

The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) very clearly outlined the arguments in favour of a maritime college and the great disadvantages we have suffered all these years in not having such an establishment here. Sixty per cent of the officers of the Australian National Line were trained in the United Kingdom but that source of supply is now drying up. That is another argument, an urgent argument, for the establishment of the Maritime College. Although I agreed with the remarks of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith about the urgency of the establishment of the Maritime College I did not entirely agree with his remarks about Launceston being an ideal site for it. I have to be careful in what I say because the Minister for Repatriation, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman), is seated at the table. I think there are a number of other sites which would have been better than Launceston for such a college. Nevertheless it was a commitment made, like so many commitments of the late Labor Government, without due consideration or perhaps for the wrong reasons. Honourable members will recall that this matter suddenly surfaced during the Bass by-election campaign as an electoral bribe which was notably ineffective. However, the decision having been made we are morally committed to continue to put this College on that site and for that reason I support the choice of Launceston for it.

We have to realise, however, that that site has disadvantages and will involve costs. It is a requirement of those being trained at this Maritime College that they have access to major ports, to be able to see ships under construction and so on. I believe it will be necessary, unless the College is prepared to finance extraordinarily expensive air travel for all the cadets to many places, for it to build or acquire a training ship to take the cadets to appropriate places for their professional education. I think that will be a necessity. I would like the Minister for Repatriation to suggest timidly to the Minister for Transport that he should acquire such a ship. Perhaps it might even be built in Launceston. For the reasons I have outlined I strongly support the establishment of this Maritime College.

It has been a long time coming and the sooner we get it the better.

Minister for Repatriation · Bass · LP

– in reply- I could not let this moment pass without summing up the debate. I am delighted to be able to speak tonight about this Bill. I intend to be brief but T would like to make a few points. All the interested parties in the maritime and fishing world have agreed on the importance of establishing an Australian Maritime College, and speakers tonight have done so as well. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) stressed the urgency of getting on with the job.

Mr Stewart:

– Who made the decision?


-I shall come to that later on. Unions and employers as well as professional associations that are involved have all stressed the inadequacy of existing facilities, and tonight speakers have done the same thing. Everybody has expressed concern at the prospects for the maritime and fishing industries unless the present deficiencies are remedied as quickly as possible. As honourable members are aware, Mr Summers strongly recommended the establishment of such an institution. Since the Bill was introduced into this House the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has made a firm commitment that $500,000 will be spent on the establishment of the Australian Maritime College in the financial year 1976-77.

The Bill enshrines in legislation the Government’s firm intention to establish the College in Launceston. It might be argued, indeed it has been inferred by some critics, that the Bill is unnecessary and that the responsible Minister could appoint an interim planning committee and commence planning for the College without legislation. I suppose that while strictly speaking this could be true the Bill does serve a very useful purpose in giving an unequivocal assurance to all concerned of the Government’s firm intention to establish the College. Of course, there is a precedence in this regard. The Australian Institute of Marine Science Act of 1970 served an identical purpose in establishing that Institute. I say this conscious of the fact that in Tasmania in recent months some people have said, quite without foundation, that the Government intended to ditch this project. The process we are going through tonight shows that nothing could be further from the truth.

I do not know who interjected earlier, but we will get the record straight now about the establishment of the College. Its establishment has been firm Liberal Party and National Country

Party policy for a long time. The idea of establishing this College was very clearly spelled out in the Liberal Party policy document entitled The Way Ahead in 1 974. It was confirmed by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, now our Speaker, in March 1975 and it was confirmed again in the most forthright terms by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the Bass by-election in 1975. It was confirmed again during the election in December. Now the BUI is to pass through the Parliament.

Apart from its national significance, this Bill is of enormous importance to Launceston. I am glad the honourable member for KingsfordSmith recognises the ideal site that Launceston provides. I am sorry that the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) could not quite see his way clear to giving that site his complete endorsement. The site does offer excellent advantages. The Tamar River provides the stretch of water that is necessary for the training of sailors and others. It has deep water facilities for berthing, access to the open sea and other excellent educational facilities which the College will be able to use. It is of considerable educational significance as well.

Although the details of what courses will be conducted will be a matter for the interim council to plan and decide, the Maritime College is still seen primarily as a college of advanced education which Will give two and three year diploma courses and ultimately lead to higher courses as well. Funding of the college will be on a triennial basis and on the basis of the recommendation of the Commission on Advanced Education with the funds being channelled to the College through the Commonwealth Department of Education. It is important to note that the College also Will provide a substantial amount of training at the technical college level. It is likely, therefore, to be a genuine multi-level institution and the Technical and Further Education Commission will be able to advise on the funding of the technical education components. I say all this very conscious of the fact that the Karmel Committee report on Post and Secondary Education in Tasmania recommended that the Newnham campus of the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education be made an autonomous body and that it be called the Tasmanian Institute of Advanced Education. The significance is that the new Institute should be established in Launceston and play a very important complementary part with this Maritime College.

The Tasmanian Government has accepted the recommendations in principle and has established a planning committee to advise on the implementation of these recommendations. As I have said, co-operation between the Maritime College and this new tertiary education facility, the Institute, will be important and has been included in the broad recommendations of the Tasmanian committee of inquiry. They are quite consistent with the Commonwealth’s policy in establishing this College. I stress again that the 2 institutions will work together and complement one another. The important thing is that much depends upon the attitude and decisions of the Tasmanian Labor Government. It is important that it proceed with the recommendations to establish the autonomous Tasmanian Institute of Advanced Education in Launceston and that it does so without delay. We all hope that the decision on this vital matter will not be very long forthcoming. I cannot over-emphasise its importance to the future of the Maritime College and, indeed, the future of secondary education in Tasmania.

In conclusion I must say once again that I am delighted that I have had the privilege of summing up this debate and seeing this legislation through this House. The Bill is of national significance and, as well, it will be of immense benefit to the economic and social fabric not only of Launceston and northern Tasmania but the whole of Tasmania.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.

page 2868


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 6 May, on motion by Mr Nixon*.

That the BUI be now read a second time.

Minister for Transport · Gippsland · LP

- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.


-Is it the wish of the the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.


-The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act which was first passed by this Parliament in 1959. It is a Bill which is supported in principle by the Opposition. The original Act of 1959 which is now being amended had several purposes, one of which was to approve the ratification of and give effect to the Hague Protocol amending the Warsaw Convention. That Convention of 1929 established uniform international rules governing the liability of international air carriers to passengers in respect of death or injury and loss of baggage, and to consignors of air cargo. Australia has been a party to the Convention since 1935 and since that time has given effect to its requirements by legislation of this Parliament. Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention provides that the carrier is liable for damage sustained in the event of death or bodily injury suffered by a passenger if the damage took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations embarking or disembarking. This is a very strict rule of liability and, apart from the very narrow defence available to the carrier under Article 20, it is almost absolute liability. Article 20 in fact provides that a carrier is not liable if he and his agents have taken all necessary measures to avoid the damage, or it was impossible for him to take such measures. The onus of proof in this situation is on the carrier and in normal circumstances it would be quite a difficult thing to prove. The Act, however, deprives operators of domestic services of this possible escape. The liability is therefore quite absolute.

Article 21 further provides for contributory negligence where, for example, a passenger fails to fasten his seat belt. This article is given effect by section 16 of the original Act and provides that a court shall first determine the damages that would have been recoverable if there were no limit and there had been no contributory negligence. The damages are then reduced to a level the court thinks just and equitable. The Act we are amending now applies the terms of the Warsaw Convention and the Hague Protocol, with certain modifications to suit our own legal system, to Australian domestic airlines. It prevents those airlines from being able to contract out of liability and makes them liable for proven damages up to a limit set from time to time, the limit now being proposed being $45,000. The proposed limit is approximately the same as the international figure, representing the coverage required by the average air traveller. Whether this is an adequate basis for such a calculation and whether that sum is sufficiently high is another matter, to which I now come.

The Warsaw Convention is totally silent on the matters to be taken into account in assessing damages resulting from death or injury, the result being that domestic law applies. It is this area of law which is developing quickly and which has become much more highly refined since the original Act was passed. Basically the common law principle is that damages with respect to death are restricted to net pecuniary loss, but this is something which has undergone considerable change. The Act covers some of these changes, such as the loss of consortium where a spouse is lost, or, in the case of children, the further loss of a parent’s care and guidance; but what allowance does it make for the multitude of other cases where an enormous range of criteria come into play? For example, what about compensation for pain and suffering for those injured? What about the cost of medical care for those injured? As honourable members will be aware, damages awarded to accident victims by our courts quite frequently exceed the limit of $45,000 to be set by this Bill. The cost of medical care is enormous, especially where the victim has been so seriously injured that care beyond that available from normal health provisions will be essential. What is more, that cost is escalating enormously and the more one thinks about the level of compensation necessary the more inadequate the sum of $45,000 seems.

It is indeed a great pity that this upper limit has been fixed so broadly, and honourable members may care to know that it is in this area that the Warsaw Convention has been ignored. Under the Act there is only the same limited liability, regardless of the carrier’s negligence or degree of negligence. Article 25 of the Warsaw Convention clearly states that such limited liability shall not apply ‘if it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier, his servants or agents, done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result’. The exclusion of this provision is a severe limitation; for it, in effect, means that, irrespective of intent and irrespective of the knowledge or the recklessness of the operator, there shall be no more liability on the carrier than if the most unforeseen accident occurred. The carrier is still to be liable only for $45,000, regardless of the standard of care he has exercised. Australia’s record in the air is an enviable one, and it is so easy for the more thoughtless among us to scoff.

If one really considers this matter carefully, it is wise and prudent to provide adequately for even the more extreme circumstances. I fear that to adopt a contrary attitude is the ultimate in complacency. What is so tragic is that we have the power to provide for such an eventuality and we are not prepared to use it, simply for the sake of convenience and simplicity. I believe that the liability of carriers in this situation ought to be unlimited so that those who have suffered as a result of negligence can be compensated properly. International air travellers have that protection. Australia has an incredibly good air safety record, but with larger aircraft that record could easily be shattered.

Another anomaly with respect to the limitation of liability is that in respect of other forms of transport, such as road transport, there is greater scope for proper compensation. If, for example, a person is injured on the roads, that person can secure whatever damages are necessary to compensate him or her, where the party causing the injury has been negligent and where the injuries can be represented in money terms. However, if one travels by air the limit of compensation is by this Act to be $45,000. That is an incredible anomaly and one which has been referred to in the Parliament every time this legislation has been debated. The total amount of compensation available to a victim ‘s relatives who suffer as a result of a person’s injury or death is limited to a share of $45,000. I am sure everyone would agree that such an amount would not go very far these days. One could visualise the medical and hospital expenses involved in the event of a person being injured in an aircraft accident and becoming a quadriplegic. One could think of other instances where injuries could result in long periods of nursing care. Road accident injuries can be properly compensated for, but if one is injured on an aircraft it is proposed that the total limit of compensation, including compensation for medical expenses, will be $45,000.

These anomalies go still further. For example, those injured at work or while engaged on any other activity are not limited in the amount they can claim. I can see no logical reason, on the grounds of equity or expense, for such an anomaly continuing to exist in respect of air travellers. I do not see why air travellers should be singled out for such restrictive attention which, in effect, is also a protection to airline operators. The original Act was obviously a compromise with air carriers who internally could opt out so easily from all liability. But those days of laissezfaire, I am glad to say, have long since passed and there should be no dispute as to the rights and duties of air operators adequately to insure their passengers against all eventualities. Surely in this day and age the risks of travelling by air should not have to be greater than those taken when travelling by other means. That is the situation which this legislation still enforces upon us. I do not mean the physical risk of travelling in an aircraft compared with travelling in a car. I mean the different levels of compensation which can be obtained by a person who is unfortunately injured in travel by air as compared with travel by car. When one compares some of the sums reportedly awarded in third party motor vehicle cases with the sums provided in this legislation, one can readily see the inadequacy of the amount proposed by this Bill.

One of the reasons advanced when the principal Act was passed was that by setting an upper limit of liability victims were benevolently being discouraged from pursuing expensive and uncertain law suits for damages in an area in which proof was exceedingly difficult.

Mr Bourchier:

– I always travel Ansett.


-I do not want to be partisan. Mr Deputy Speaker, should I refrain from mentioning names?

Mr Bourchier:

– Be even handed.


– I try to be even handed. I will start again for the edification of the Government Whip. One of the reasons advanced when the principal Act was passed was that by setting an upper limit of liability victims were benevolently being discouraged from pursuing expensive and uncertain law suits for damages in an area in which proof was exceedingly difficult. Once again, we have advanced a long way since 1959, especially in aircraft accident investigations. I believe that air travel these days is not the novelty that it was in 1 959. 1 do not think the reservations held by many people about travelling by air are as great as they were in 1 959. In other words, it is a far more readily acceptable form of transport. As such, we ought to be looking at levels of compensation on a broad plane rather than have discrepancies between the levels of compensation available in respect of each method of travel.

Regulations on flight control, loading and, most importantly, maintenance and compliance with safety standards are quite strict. If these are supervised and enforced as they ought to be, with the controlling authority keeping a close check on such vital factors as engine maintenance by means of regular inspection- I shall not refer to the airline that was mentioned by the Government Whip earlier- it is no longer so uncertain. It is not necessary that accidents requiring compensation should happen only in the air. Accidents causing severe injury and death could just as easily happen while passengers are embarking or disembarking. Where does the difficulty of proof lie there? The aircraft may not have crashed. Because of the Act, there is still limited liability. Surely a person is entitled to make his or her own decision as to whether he or she wants to sue for damages in excess of the limit. Why should not such people have the choice? Why should they be compelled to accept the limit being established in this legislation?

Quite clearly the limit set in the Bill is unfairly based. Although we do not wish to oppose the legislation in toto I do sincerely urge the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon)- I understand his absence from the chamber- to look carefully at the criticisms I have made. I hope he can recognise the absurdity in the situation in which a simple injury such as a broken limb can be compensated by, say, $1,000, but a serious injury involving a permanent disability can be only partly compensated because of the proposed limit of $45,000. Despite the fact that this Bill raises the limit, the absurdity persists.

Let me now look elsewhere at policy in regard to this limit upon liability. Take the United States, for example. It is the leader in world civil aviation matters. The United States has always been opposed to the limits set by the Warsaw Convention and The Hague Protocol. It was because of this dissatisfaction that the United States, certain European governments and the International Air Transport Association worked out the Montreal Agreement by which carriers serving the United States accepted a liability limit of US$75,000. Yet in Australia we are still struggling to raise the limit in 1976 to $45,000. Qantas Airways Ltd complies with the United States conditions. One may well ask why, if Qantas can bear the burden and if the United States thinks such a level advisable, Australia should be so far behind. Are injuries sustained in domestic airline crashes less severe or less expensive than injuries sustained in crashes in other countries? That would seem to be the reasoning.

I now pass to the second Bill in this debate, the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill. My only reference to the first part of the amendment in that Bill, in the change of name of the Act from Australian Government Liability to Commonwealth

Government Liability, is to say that while I prefer the word ‘Australian’ and the implication ‘Australian’ I suppose I should congratulate the Government and the Minister on the use of that great socialist word ‘Commonwealth’. The purpose of this Bill is to apply the substance of Part !Y of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act to the carriage of passengers in aircraft operated by the Australian Government or a federal authority not covered by Part IV. Its principal application is to federal employees required to travel by air on duty and to persons travelling on Commonwealth duty in aircraft not operated by the Australian Government or a government. Like the previous Bill about which I have spoken, this Bill also seeks to amend the upper limit of liability of air carriers conveying Australian Government personnel to $45,000. For the reasons I have given on the previous Bill, this Bill is equally deficient and therefore subject to the same criticisms. I do not wish to elaborate further on this, but it is a matter of the gravest concern. I implore the Minister to reconsider the question of limited liability as a matter of some urgency.

With relation to both these Bills, I would like to touch briefly upon the financial aspects of the new sums sought to be imposed upon the domestic carriers as insurance for passengers. To be quite plain, $45,000 is far too little. In no way does it take into account the changes in average weekly earnings which we have experienced in the past, nor does it take into account the rapid escalation in medical and other costs associated with accident claims. Since 1970 average earnings alone have doubled. Yet the increase in the amount to be insured is only 50 percent. In terms of wages alone, the upper limit, if we must have one, ought to be at least $67,000. 1 am relating that figure to the 1955 average weekly earnings and am stepping over the 1970 average weekly earnings. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of the costs involved in hospitalisation these days or whether he takes the attitude that there are not likely to be any survivors of an aircraft accident. The $45,000 is quite inadequate, and one can only wonder how many more years will be allowed to pass without any real increase being made in the limit of liability.

At 31 December 1955 average weekly earnings were $35.42. The limit of liability was $15,000. By 31 December 1970 average weekly earnings had risen to $79.83, more than double, but the limit of liability was only doubled to $30,000 in the 1970 amending legislation. At 31 December 1975 average weekly earnings had risen to $158.30, almost a 100 per cent increase on the 1970 figure for average weekly earnings.

However, if the 1955 average weekly earnings are taken as a base for calculating the limit of liability, this Bill should be increasing the limit to $67,000. There is a sound basis for arguing that the limit now being legislated for is substantially deficient. On 4 June 1970, the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, speaking to the 1970 amendment to the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act said, as reported at page 1980 of the Senate Hansard:

As the nominal average weekly earnings of adult males in Australia have approximately doubled since 1955, when the basis -

I repeat, ‘the basis’- for the existing limit was established, the Government proposes that the same change be made in this limit of liability, that is to say an increase from $ 1 5,000 to $30,000. This will cost the airlines some $250,000 per annum in additional insurance premiums.

As I said earlier, if we continue to accept Senator Cotton’s proposition- the conservative government of the time obviously accepted it- then the limit on liability of airlines should be raised to $67,000. It may well be that the Government has international arrangements in determining the limit of $45,000, but clearly the limit is quite inadequate. The only reference which the Minister made in his second reading speech to the basis for setting the new limit of $45,000 is in the last sentence of his speech which reads:

The proposal now submitted for consideration by the Parliament is designed to update the Act by increasing the limit of liability to $45,000, thereby fixing a more appropriate level of compensation having regard to current international arrangements and current money value.

The Australians who may be injured in airline crashes are the same Australians with the same obligations and responsibilities as those injured in road crashes. When we consider that 9 183 525 passenger flights were made in Australia in 1974 and that 83 per cent of people who travel more than 300 kilometres travel by air, it is essential that there be adequate protection for air travellers. I think it is appropriate at this stage to mention a letter sent to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) by the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations, Australian Capital Territory Division. I have here a copy of the letter. The Minister has given approval for it to be incorporated in Hansard.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The letter read as follows)-

page 2872


page 2872


P.O. Box 172, Civic Square, A.C.T. 2608 Phone: 8 1.05 11 28 May 1976

The Hon. P.J. Nixon, M.P., Minister for Transport, Parliament House, A.C.T.2600

Dear Mr Nixon,

This Council, at its meeting held last Tuesday (25 May), gave consideration to the proposed amendments to the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act and the Air Accidents (Australian Government Liability) Act which you introduced into the House of Representatives on 6 May 1976. The proposed amendments will have the effect of increasing the limit of liability from $30,000 to only $45,000.

The Council believes the proposed increase to be insufficient in that it does not reflect the current money value or take into account the fact, as evidenced by the following table, that average earnings have more than doubled since 1970. The five classifications have been selected at random:

It is therefore submitted that the limit of liability should be increased to at least $60,000. Accordingly, the Council seeks an appropriate amendment to the Bills presently before Parliament.

Yours sincerely, DON BARRAM

Assistant Division Secretary


-I want to quote from the second paragraph of the letter which reads as follows:

The Council believes the proposed increase to be insufficient in that it does not reflect the current money value or take into account the fact, as evidenced by the following table, that average earnings have more than doubled since 1970.

There followed S tables of wage classifications. The letter continues:

It is therefore submitted that the limit of liability should be increased to at least $60,000. Accordingly, the Council seeks an appropriate amendment to the Bills presently before Parliament.

I feel that that is a very reasonable request from CAGEO. Having regard to the average weekly earning figures I have cited, on the basis set by Senator Cotton in the amendment of 1970, 1 believe that the request for $60,000 ought to be increased to $67,000. Naturally, a higher limit of liability would entail higher insurance premiums to the airlines. I am disappointed at the Minister’s brief reference in his speech to the insurance costs involved. He states:

The airlines and the respresentative organisation of the charter operators accept that it is appropriate to increase the limit of liability as now proposed, and they are prepared to pay the modest increase in insurance costs involved.

One could conclude from his remarks that the increase in the limit is governed by the increased insurance costs involved to the airlines rather than by ensuring that the limit is set at a level that would properly provide for victims of an air accident. The premiums paid for aircraft insurance reflect the safety record of the airlines. Whilst there is little information given on insurance premiums and the cost in this Bill of insurance premiums, having in mind that Senator Cotton mentioned in 1970 that the additional cost would be $250,000, 1 think it is worth referring to a report in the Australian Financial Review of 19 May 1976 by Ken McGregor. Let me quote a couple of paragraphs of it. The article deals with aircraft operational costs. Referring to a conference that had been held, the article says:

It is comforting news to delegates that, while most of their airline costs, such as fuel and wages, are constantly spiralling, insurance premiums have been steadily becoming cheaper over the past 24 months worldwide. Indications are that this trend will continue.

Competition for airline insurance business and improved standards of safety are put as 2 of the major factors behind this situation.

As I said, we have no indication whatsoever of the costs involved to the airlines for the higher insurance premiums that would flow from a higher limit of liability. It is also pertinent to say at this stage that one must have regard to the factors involved in the safety record of airlines; factors such as aircraft engine maintenance, subframe maintenance and airframe maintenance. What I am particularly interested in- I have some questions on notice about this- is the criteria that are used in assessing the time periods for removal of aircraft engines from aircraft for the assessment of the performance of aircraft components.

The community particularly ought to have greater knowledge of the practices followed by the airlines of applying for extensions to the service periods of engine parts and particularly of engines. The other major factor in the Australian aircraft scene is that our weather is more suited to safe aircraft operation and journeys are longer, so there are fewer descents and ascents. The whole substance of the legislation ought to be to ensure that when a major accident occurs in this country- naturally it will occur- because of the use of larger aircraft our safety record will be changed substantially. Anybody involved ought to have adequate and proper compensation. I ask the Minister to consider the position of air travellers and their dependants should a tragedy occur. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that they are adequately provided for. Again I ask him to reconsider the limit of $45,000 with a view to increasing it to $67,000.

Wide Bay

-As an honourable member on the Government side I wholeheartedly support these 2 Bills, the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill and the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Bill. I support them on several grounds. I support them because they ensure that the present liability for airline and charter operators in domestic services is brought up to the liability of our international carrier, Qantas Airways Ltd, in the event of accident. Under the present Act liability is restricted to $30,000 for the death or injury to each passenger on an Australian domestic airline. This legislation brings the liability up to $45,000 for death or injury. The Bill is basically a machinery measure. It brings into line the rates of liability with those of general international carriers throughout the world. It ensures that international and domestic air carriers are automatically liable for damages without the need for the injured party to prove negligence on the part of the carrier.

The Bill lays down limits for the level of liability. I understand that all major domestic carriers agree that the level of liability last set in 1970 should be increased. The increase in the premium involved in raising the level of liability is acceptable and capable of being borne by the airlines concerned. With regard to carriers covered by Commonwealth Liability, the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Bill brings the level of liability into line with the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill. I believe that that is fair and just. Anyone travelling under Commonwealth auspices should have the same rights and privileges in relation to seeking som.pensation by themselves or their families. The new levels of liability will come into effect from 1 July and will apply to international aircraft operations, to Trans Australia Airlines operations and other operations to and from the territories and interstate operations by other carriers. Other operations are subject to State legislation but I am quite sure that intrastate operations will be covered by the same level of liability by complementary State legislation.

This Bill gives me an opportunity briefly to talk about the levels of air safety within Australia. Before continuing I should stress to the House that I am a person who has always been interested not only in commercial aviation but also in general aviation. Some members of the House would know that I often privately fly. Many members of the House would also know that I have expressed concern about accidents in relation to flying. Australia, as a nation, has one of the lowest, if not the lowest level -

Debate interrupted.

page 2873


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the Order of the House of 18 February 1976, I propose the question:

That the House do now adjourn.

Leader of the House · New England · NCP/NP

– I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.

Question resolved in the negative.

page 2873


Second Reading

Debate resumed.


– As I was saying, Australia, as a nation has one of the lowest, if not the lowest levels of air accident fatalities in the world. It is rather significant that the report of the International Civil Aviation Organisation shows that the passenger fatalities per 100 million passenger kilometres flown in Australia is 0.0 1 in contrast to the international figure of 0. 19 In other words, the risk in this country is one-nineteenth of the risk attached to flying in other countries. That is a very comforting figure. This record is largely attributable to the high standards of flight training that apply in Australia. Any lowering in these standards no one in the aviation industry would tolerate. I call on the Minister to state unequivocally that there will be no lessening of these standards. There have been accidents in the past but let me point out to the community at large that I understand that on general average a person has approximately 1000 times greater chance of being killed in a road accident than he has in an air accident by a commercial carrier. This largely is a reflection on the high standards of air safety in Australia.

However there are problems of air safety that deeply concern me. These relate to the quality of infrastructure support at major airports in Australia as a result of the former Government’s policy measures. It is rather sad to relate the fact that many airports in Australia capable of taking large aircraft in past years at late hours no longer have that capacity because of noise abatement procedures. This is because essential staff such as air traffic controllers accordinagly have been withdrawn. Other problems that have developed have been the lessening in air safety precaution standards. For instance in my electorate of Wide Bay, the former Minister for Transport threatened to withdraw the emergency fire brigade service which existed to protect the movement of commercial aircraft at Maryborough. This meant that if a commercial airliner came to land at Maryborough and met with some misadventure and burst into flames, the capacity of the ground staff at Maryborough to put out the fire on the airliner would be negligible. As a pilot, as a commuter, as a concerned citizen, I find this absolutely horrendous. Maryborough is a large and busy airport. The former Government wanted to withdraw essential fire control services for ensuring safety, and protecting human life. I believe that in this debate the Minister must give the House an assurance that all decisions of the former Government relating to air safety will be reviewed and that there will be a further review in favour of improving not only airport safety standards but also in ensuring that there is vigilance in air safety standards. Such overall vigilance will ensure that the needs of this legislation will be kept to the basic minimum. I support the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.

page 2874


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 6 May, on motion by Mr Nixon:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.

page 2874


The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:

Health Insurance Levy Assessment Bill 1976.

Health Insurance Levy Bill 1 976.

Income Tax (International Agreements) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.

Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1976.

National Health Amendment Bill 1976.

Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill 1976.

page 2874


Grants to Youth Organisations-Dandenong General Hospital- Australian Capital Territory Health Services-Higher University Degrees: Tuition Fees- Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education- Bureau of Statistics

Motion (by Mr Hunt) proposed:

That the House do now adjourn.


-Yesterday I asked a question without notice which was ruled out of order. It is for that reason that I am compelled to speak during the adjournment debate tonight. I do not intend to canvass the ruling of the Speaker. I merely comment that to err is human and the Speaker on several occasions since he assumed his office has shown that he is very human. Last week the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) announced the introduction of a new cadet training scheme. In his statement he said:

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.

I do not intend to anticipate debate on that statement. I merely mention that the cost of the scheme is anticipated to be $7.6m. Involved in the operation of the new schemes will be 141 regular servicemen and 20 public servants. The maximum number that can be catered for under the scheme is 42 000 all of whom are male school students. I predict that this hotch-potch scheme will not be successful. A large portion of the $8m allocated will not be utilised and much of the amount which spent will be wasteful expenditure.

The announcement of the Minister for Defence caused officials of several organisations concerned with imbuing young people, both male and female, with the same qualities stressed by the Minister to contact me. They reported that they had every reason to believe that funds made available to their organisations by the Whitlam Labor Government in the 1975-76 Budget would be drastically reduced and in some cases withdrawn in the first budget of the FraserLynch Government. The organisations likely to be affected include the National Youth Council of Australia, the Scout Association, the Girl Guides Association, the Surf Life Saving Association, amateur sporting organisations, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Committee, the Outward Bound Movement and other community and church youth organisations. The officials point out to me that their organisations encourage young people to develop the qualities mentioned by the Minister for Defence. They stress that their organisations cater for hundreds of thousands of young people from all sections of the community, not a mere 42 000 young males who attend our more affluent private schools. They emphasised that their organisations are well known, long established and efficiently managed. They are predominantly administered by unpaid volunteers. The officials are certain that they can achieve far greater results for a larger section of the young people of Australia for a quarter of the amount allocated to the new cadet training schemes. I agree with them.

The Labor Government was accused of taking ad hoc decisions, of shooting from the hip, of having our priorities wrong and of making policies on a patchwork quilt basis. If the fears of the officials of the organisations I have mentioned are real, the same charges can be levelled at the present Government. If we look at some of the decisions that have been made recently on Medibank, on the indexation of taxation, on the new family allowances scheme and on depreciation allowances as incentives to industries, we see that there is nothing more certain than that this Government, in the few months it has been in office, is making ad hoc decisions, it has its priorities and is aiming not at the people in the community who deserve assistance but rather at the people who follow the Liberal-National Country Party Government. I appeal to the Acting Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Newman), to ensure that the programs commenced or enlarged by the Whitlam Government for the young people of Australia are maintained at least at the present level for 1976-77.


-The adjournment debate provides an opportunity for individual honourable members to discuss matters which are important to the electorates they represent. I wish to discuss one of the largest and most modern hospitals in the East Melbourne area, the Dandenong General Hospital. This week there will be an emergency meeting of the hospital committee, and I think it is good for the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) to know why the meeting is to be held. This month there will be a census for the electorate of Holt, but let me say straight away that the Dandenong General Hospital is supposed to cope with and be responsible for providing hospital attention for about 360 000 people. The hospital caters for 5 cities and rural areas in the district. At present it is actually giving service to about half a million people in the area. Fortunately the hospital is blessed with a first-class medical team in charge of all aspects of hospital work including motor accident units, which we all need, and an intensive heart care unit.

The hospital is looked after by a devoted and professional nursing service under Matron Ewen supported by all the ancillary services, provided in the main by volunteers. However, the hospital committee cannot rely on love and loyalty alone. It is now faced with some very serious problems involving capital expenditure and the daily maintenance of hospital services in the area. The Dandenong General Hospital at present has 205 beds but by April 1977 the number will rise to about 300 when the south block will have been completed. There will be a loss of 40 beds while construction work takes place in the older part of the hospital. So far in 1975-76 28 000 people have been treated in the casualty section, and it is anticipated that 30 000 will have attended at that section this year. The new south block will be completed at a cost of $7m. In order not to take up the time of the House I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard statistical documents to prove what I am saying.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. ( The document read as follows)-


Capital Works Estimated Cash Flow In/Out

Date: 11 February 1976

South Block: Figures conveyed by the contractor through our Architects, indicate that the original contract price of $4,301,317 will increase $1,611,000 (cost adjustment) by the estimated completion date of mid April 1977, making a total estimated expenditure of $6,002,3 1 7.

The Contractor’s estimated progress claims for the balance of the contract are as follows:

Future Capital Income: At the meeting at the Hospitals and Charities Commission on 16 January 1976, we were advised that our future capital grants were:

(N.B. Capital expenditure (all areas) up to Certificate No. 12 (South Block) for 1975-76 is $1,302,165 leaving a balance available for 1975-76 of $497,814.)

Boiler House Extensions: At the meeting on 16 January 1976, the Commission also advised that an amount of $1,000,000 was estimated as the requirement for the Boiler House Extensions, including professional fees.

Financial Position: Income and expenditure, all estimated, during future years is therefore likely to be:

Dandenong and District Hospital

David Street, Dandenong, 3175

page 2876


April, 1976 No. 15

page 2876


The daily bed average for the month of April was 210. This is only one less than for the previous month, when a record for daily bed averages was established. The highest bed occupancy for any one day during the month was 224. This was reached on Friday 30 April.

Daily bed averages for the previous three months are as follows:

January- 180; February- 198; March-2 1 1

page 2876



Total number of patients treated during the month was 121 1 and the total number discharged was 856. Included in this figure were 28 motor cars and two motor cycle accident cases.


The total number of patients treated by the Casualty Department was 2880, a drop of 436 compared with the March figure. However, there was an increase in motor car accident cases. A total of 233 such cases were examined and 34 were admitted for further treatment. Three people were brought to the Hospital ‘Dead on Arrival’ as a result of road accidents. These figures compare with 220 motor car accident cases during March when 28 were admitted for inpatient treatment.

By comparison, there was a similar fall in casualty treatments in April 1975, but there was also an increase in motor car accidents in the same period last year.

Total number of persons treated in the Casualty Department for the ten months, from 1 July 1975 to 30 April 1976 was 28 117, an increase of 22.2 per cent above the same period in the previous year when the department treated 23 013.


During April, 139 babies were delivered by the Midwifery Department. This compares with 132 for the same month in 1975. The total number of births for the ten months from 1 July to 30 April 1976 was 1399. For the same period in the previous year there were 1 436 deliveries.


6347 requests were processed by the Department, a decrease of 834 compared with the March figure.


3110 examinations were carried out during April compared with 3590 in March. However, the April figure represents an increase of 47.4 per cent above the same period last year.

If further information is required, contact Public Relations Officer, Telephone: 79 1 6000, Ext. 242.


-The hospital committee has had to take out an overdraft for $2m up to June 1 980. Honourable members can imagine the anxiety this has caused to the hospital and those who are responsible for planning. They were told to plan for a hospital with 600 beds. As far as we know there has been no planning on the north block, no decision has been taken, and nothing has been decided about this final extension to the hospital. Therefore the Dandenong Hospital committee has asked me, quite correctly, as the member for the electorate of Holt, to put 4 important questions to the Minister tonight. Firstly, would it be correct to say that an impression was given to the former Labor member for Holt that the Dandenong Hospital was on the priority lists of the Federal Government and the State Government? Secondly, when will planning be allowed to start for the north block?

Thirdly, what capital financial assistance is going to be given by the Federal Government to this hospital to build the north block? Fourthly, will the Minister indicate that this hospital is still on the priority list bearing in mind that he expects this hospital to be a major teaching hospital in the east Melbourne area in the next few years? I consider these questions are reasonable and ones to which the Committee which is responsible for the planning of the hospital are entitled to have answers.

I hope that the Minister will be able to give those answers. May I say to the House that the time available in this adjournment debate and the time that I have spent in this place during this first session of the Parliament nave been most valuable and useful to my electors and I have enjoyed every moment of serving my electorate. I have been only too glad to do this on behalf of them, on behalf of my Party, and on behalf of the Government.


– 1 wish to raise again a matter concerning the Woden Valley Hospital in order to make available to the Parliament and the public additional information which I now have and which will endorse and justify previous allegations which I have made in the House concerning the boycott of salaried specialists by private specialists in that hospital. I do not bring this information to the House in order to denigrate the professional ability of a private specialist who I believe is held in the highest esteem by his colleagues and his patients. I make this information available in order to justify and verify my assertion that the boycott of salaried specialists by private specialists creates potentially intolerable conditions for the smooth and efficient working of our medical services and that such conditions can create unnecessary risks to patients in particular circumstances. I believe that the public and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) are entitled to be fully informed and apprised of the dangers that are inherent in this situation if it is allowed to continue.

To support this allegation I would now like to quote from a number of reports made by salaried specialists to the Australian Capital Territory Health Commission at their request. The first one is from Dr Paul Maher who is a salaried specialist who was assisting the private specialist on the night in question. The report reads:

Dr McGonical at some stage had spoken to a private anaesthetist who gave the anaesthetic. This surprised me as I would have thought in the same circumstances it would have been more medically sound to use those people who had been concerned with the patient’s resuscitation.

The next statement I have is from Dr Heather Lopert who was the salaried anaesthetist involved on the night in question. She said:

I was just preparing to give the patient a dose of narcotic when Dr McGonical asked me to step outside the anaesthetic room into the corridor. Dr McGonical spoke very quietly and I cannot remember the exact words he used. He said something to the effect that he wished to avoid any unpleasantness but a private anaesthetist was on his way into the hospital and asked me to leave. I was very upset and very anxious about the patient but I felt that this was no place for a confrontation which may have caused severe emotional distress to both the surgeon and the theatre staff who had difficult work to do and I did not want the patient disturbed. So I agreed to leave. I walked down the corridor as far as the changing room and then returned to the anaesthetic room to verbally inform Dr McGonical of what treatment I had already given the patient so that the information could be passed on to the anaesthetist when he arrived. I repeated the details at least twice as I was concerned for the patient’s safety.

I was very concerned about the patient as I felt that I myself was already involved in his care and this abrupt changeover was not in his best interests.

It is quite apparent from Dr Lopert’s statement that she was very disturbed, not only that it embarrassed her but she was concerned for the welfare and safety of the patient.

I believe that the statements of the salaried officers which I have quoted indicate quite conclusively that this episode at the Woden Valley Hospital did interrupt the continuity of the treatment and did undoubtedly increase the risk to the patient. To remove any doubt that this was the case and to show that it is not based on my unskilled judgment I now quote from a report of Dr Elvin, who is the Regional Co-ordinator of the Southern Region of the A.C.T. Health Commission:

It took some 2 hours to resuscitate the patient and the resuscitation team then took the patient to theatre for the attention of the orthopaedic surgeon everything being in readiness to the point of the patient receiving anaesthetic pre-medication. The private surgeon advised the team that he had sent for a private anaesthetist and did not require them. The resuscitation team was asked to leave, but was not asked to professionally hand over a patient of whom they had close knowledge.

I further quote, and this is a very pertinent quote:

The fact that the patient did not die does not remove the extra danger that was created for him at a critical time.

This is a quite unequivocal statement by a very senior, experienced and highly respected medical practitioner that the patient was subjected to extra danger that was created for him at a critical time.

I hesitated to make this information available in case it might cause some distress to the patient involved and I apologise if this is so, but I also feel very strongly that the situation was so potentially dangerous and intolerable that the public interest demands that it should be exposed to public and government scrutiny so that hopefully some serious effort is made by the Australian Medical Association and by the Government to reach some agreement so that episodes such as the one I have described will not be repeated at the Woden Valley Hospital or any other hospital.


-On 20 May last the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) outlined to honourable members restrictions to be imposed upon the availability of free university education in Australia. The particular restriction to which I refer is the recommendation for the payment of tuition fees by students undertaking second and higher degrees. Firstly, let me say that this is a worthy move, both as a general principle and within the context of the current economic situation. However, I think there are some ancillary points to which this Parliament should direct its attention in order to alleviate genuine fears which have arisen subsequent to the Treasurer’s statement in the minds of many current and impending tertiary students. What is the situation with regard to those who presently are undertaking secondary or subsequent degrees? Will they be allowed to complete their courses under the conditions under which they commenced; that is, will they be allowed to complete their courses without the payment of tuition fees? It should be obvious that a number of students would be forced out of courses because of the economic strains if they were suddenly confronted with the payment of university fees next year. This would be a patent injustice. In any event, according to information supplied to me, the cost of collection would be more than the amounts that in fact would be received.

Further, I refer to the anomaly which will arise in cases of genuine economic hardship in the future. I refer here not to the ‘professional’ students who waste taxpayers’ money in unnecessary studies, but to those students who are desirous of undertaking further studies after their first degree but will be prevented from doing so because they cannot find the money to pay tuition fees. I recommend that the Government seriously consider introducing a system of interest-free loans to such students. Under these provisions a student from a poorer family could borrow money from the Government to facilitate the payment of tuition fees and living costs while he or she undertook studies subsequent to a first degree. After those further studies were completed and gainful employment was commenced, the money could be paid back to the

Government with the accrual of interest commensurate with the commencement of employment. Such an innovation, I believe, would be just and equitable both to the taxpayer and to the student in the sense that otherwise the student, by reason of his lack of income, would be deprived of completing tertiary studies subsequent to his first degree.

On the question of economic assistance for students, I refer to the general position of all tertiary students receiving living allowances. Representing an electorate in which a large number of both technical and university students reside, I know that there are many cases of severe economic hardship resulting from inflation. Students, like all others on fixed incomes, are at the mercy of our current economic ills. I sincerely believe that the Government could look immediately towards protecting this group of fixed income earners, just as it moved to protect pensioners, by indexing money paid to them to the consumer price index. It is the role of any government to give assistance to any community group, particularly where that group by such assistance will be able to better itself in life. I leave honourable members with the sad thought that the Henderson report set the poverty line at $35 per week; the tertiary allowance for students is set at $3 1 a week. I commend these recommendations to the House.


– I want to raise a matter concerning an incident which occurred at the Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education in Brisbane last Friday morning. The incident involved some people who are employed by a media outlet at Brisbane, television Channel 7. If the circumstances as outlined to me by members of the Students Union at that college are correct, at the very least the behaviour of the employees of the media channel concerned showed a want of personal judgment and a somewhat reckless disregard for the professional proprieties which would seem appropriate to the situation.

The circumstances outlined to me are, briefly, that at about 10.15 a.m. last Friday 3 people employed by Channel 7 arrived at the college in a motor vehicle which was clearly and prominently marked as a vehicle belonging to television Channel 7 Brisbane. Two of them went to the canteen of the college and commenced to speak with students in the canteen generally. The essence of what was said to the students was that if the students wished to appear on television the people speaking to them- that is, two of the 3 people from the television channel; I believe that the third person stayed in the car- would be able to help them. The television channel people required that the students should set up a tent in King George Square- a public square outside the City Hall, Brisbane, in the centre of the cityand that this would be a sort of tent embassy, as I understand the situation, in competition with a tent embassy already established in King George Square by Aborigines. The purpose of the demonstration, it was said, would be that the students, being white, would be indicating a protest at the way in which certain moneys were paid to Aboriginal parents of children attending school or undertaking education whereas those payments were not available to whites.

The students were a little uneasy, as reported to me, about this incident and the way it was presented to them. They were then told that a tent could be provided; a tent was available from the television channel employees speaking to the students. In the course of the discussion the Aborigines, I am informed, were frequently referred to as ‘Abos’ in a most derogatory and offensive way. The long and short of the situation is that the students requested the television channel people to leave the college premises. Subsequently an apology was phoned through from the senior administrative official of Channel 7 to the director of the college. I have spoken to that senior official, Mr Muller, and I must say for the record that he appeared to to be genuinely concerned about the situation. I accept his statement, not only because he made it but also because of my own experience with Channel 7, that it is a most unusual sort of incident to have occurred. Nonetheless it is a most improper one, if the allegations are correct. I would expect that, if I were guilty of some impropriety, in spite of any friendly personal relationships I might have with media people the media people would put their professional responsibility ahead of any personal affection- if that is what it might be- that they might have for me, and discharge their responsibilities by informing the public properly.

I want to say for the record that, by and large, media people work with dedication and independence. One of the great strengths of our sort of society is free, open and critical media. This incident goes well beyond those bounds. I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard the letter which the Students Union has sent to Sir Frank Kitto in his position on the Australian Press Council.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-


Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane Queensland, 4059. Telephone 3567040. 3 1st May, 1976. Sir Frank Kitto, Australian Press Council P.O. Box A99 Sydney South, N.S.W. 2000

Dear Sir,

In the following documentation I am outlining a series of events that occurred on this campus on Friday 28 May, 1 976. They plainly show an abusage of the power of the media, a disregard for the intelligence of students in particular, and society at large, as well as blatant racist attitudes.

I feel that it is absolutely necessary that the Council be made aware of this incident so that it can immediately take all the appropriate action to ensure that this type of activity is stopped.

On the morning of Friday 28 May, 1 976, two men professing to be news reporters from Channel 7 came onto campus in a vehicle marked ‘Channel 7 Eye Witness News’. These two men proceeded to ask a group of students sitting in the quadrangle if they ‘would like to be on television’. To do this they were to go to King George Square and set up a tent in opposition to the Black Embassy already situated there. The men said that they would film the students setting up the tent and then film them demonstrating against the fact that aboriginal people received an unfair advantage to education for their children in that they receive a special allowance of $ 1 a day or a week for each child- (they were not sure at all). When they (the gentlemen) spoke of the Aborigines they spoke in disrespectful terms such as ‘Abos’. Further, they said they would be able to show even more prejudice against Whites if the police moved the White tent on.

In reply to these statements our students joked and said that they were not very proficient at setting up tents. The men replied to this by saying that they had a simple ‘two man tent’ that they could use.

Finally, our students told the men to leave because they were proposing an extremely racist act. The men left in the vehicle mentioned before.

We the Union, took immediate action in phoning other campuses, however were not able to contact each of them. As a result, on the news that night, there was coverage of a group of students from another campus setting up a two man tent near the Aboriginal Embassy in King George Square. Further, it was interesting to note that there was only one channel air-playing the activity- Channel Seven.

What we are concerned with here is not so much the particular case but its implications on the vehicle of media and its relationship to society.

It seems that people involved in the media business are able to use the media to create their own news items (a reflection on payment for news reported) and extending this bias into the community.

Our biggest fear is of the number of times this has happened before and will happen again and not be exposed.

I trust that this will be taken up and acted upon. If you require any further information or co-operation on our part please contact us at the above address.

Yours faithfully, JOHN FREY, President, KGCAE Student Union.


– What concerns the students is that they have been almost totally unable to obtain any coverage of the incident from the Courier-Mail, the Brisbane Telegraph and the other television channels, although I think it is a reasonable expectation that if some body other than a television channel had been responsible full coverage would have been given by the media generally to what, on the face of it, appears to be a most unwholesome incident. It is exceptional, and I trust that it remains the exception in the behaviour of the media. Nonetheless, it deserves to go on the public record because it seems to be, at this point anyway, if the students’ report to me is correct, the only way in which some public attention can be focused on the incident.


– I wish briefly to complete some remarks I was making the other night when the debate was interrupted about the quality of some official statistics that are available on investment in Australia- statistics as a result of the study of which the Government is obliged to make decisions. The statistics on investment in Australia lump together in an item called ‘other’ matters such as leasing. So, in fact, when one looks at manufacturing industry’s investment level one sees a decline in the latest March to March figures, whereas the reality is, as I understand it, that there has been a considerable increase in the leasing done by manufacturing industry, with the result that the ‘other’ category has gone up substantially. It is a totally misleading set of statistics.

I regret to say that I believe that many of the statistics put out, as a result of very hard work by the Bureau of Statistics, rely on old fashioned styles of classification which should be updated. The quality of information available to the Government, to committees, to back benchers and so on should be improved greatly. I believe the reclassification of considerable amounts of statistical material is long overdue, particularly when one sees that information being misused by the Opposition in, I believe, an unthinking way and misused also to a degree by those members of the Press who do not bother to check.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted.

Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

– I require the debate to be extended. The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) expressed his concern about the need for additional development at the Dandenong Hospital. I would like him to note that the Government is concerned to ensure that there are adequate hospital development programs throughout Australia. Indeed, that is evidenced by the fact that the Government is maintaining its pledge to continue the hospital development program, and the sum of $ 108m will be made available to the States in the next financial year. The Commonwealth Government recognises that the detailed priorities for the various need areas must be a matter for primary State decision. In this case, of course, the Government of Victoria is concerned. The Dandenong Hospital has received significant assistance under the hospitals development program, and the combined expenditure of the Commonwealth Government and the Victorian Government on the development of that hospital is expected to total $ 1.8m by the end of this financial year. Considerable sums are expected to be spent in the following 2 years to complete the south block and other extensions. The matter of the need for the north block and its planning is still under consideration primarily in Victoria but also by the Commowealth Government. I assure the honourable member for Holt that the needs of Dandenong, as indeed the needs of other outer metropolitan areas, for additional hospital beds are foremost in my mind, as are the applications that have come from all the States. I appreciate the honourable member’s concern in this matter and I undertake to have more detailed information for him as soon as possible on the north block expansion. I have sought a conference at the earliest opportunity between the officers of my Department and the officers of the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission to discuss the matter that the honourable member has quite rightly raised. I thank him very much indeed for his concern and for bringing this matter to my attention.

Mr Yates:

– I would like to thank the Minister very much indeed for his observations.


-Strictly, the honourable member is contravening Standing Orders. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.

page 2882


The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:

Broadcasting: Election Speeches and Political Advertisements (Question No. 198)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) How much time was made available to broadcast election speeches or political advertisements in respect of each political party on each radio broadcasting station and television station in connection with the elections on 13 December 1975.
  2. What was the percentage distribution of time purchased by parties and candidates on commercial broadcasting and television stations.
  3. What were the costs charged for this time and what was the percentage distribution between parties and candidates of such costs.
Mr E L Robinson:

– The answers to the honourable member’s question are as follows:

The information required is detailed in Table ‘A’. Summaries in reply to Questions (1) and (3) are at Tables ‘B’ and *C Table ‘D’ summarises the answer to Question (2). The information is based on details supplied to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board by the licensees of the commercial stations and by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in respect of the national stations.

Australian Postal Commission (Question No 177)

Mr Brown:

asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications upon notice:

  1. Has the Australian Postal Commission engaged a firm of public relations consultants.
  2. If so, what is the name of the firm.
  3. On what date did the Commission engage the firm.
  4. Des the Commission pay a retainer to the firm; if so, what is the amount of the retainer.
  5. ) What fees, other than by way of retainer, are paid on a regular basis by the Commission to the firm.
  6. What sum has been paid by the Commission to the firm by way of (a) retainer, (b) fees other than retainer and (c) other emoluments.
  7. Is the firm retained by the Commission pursuant to an agreement or contract.
  8. 8 ) If so, what are the terms of the agreement or contract.
  9. What is the duration of the agreement or contract.
  10. 10) What work has been done by the firm for the Commission since the commencement of its retainer.
  11. What work is regularly performed by the firm for the Commission.
Mr Eric Robinson:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. International Public Relations Pry Ltd.
  3. 11 August, 1975.
  4. , (5) and (6) A set professional fee was paid each month. The Commission considers that the detail of its arrangement with the company is a matter of commercial confidence between the parties concerned.
  5. Agreement.
  6. See answer to (4), (5) and (6) above.
  7. There was no set period for the agreement which was subject to termination by either party on three months notice Formal notice of termination was given by the Postal Commission on 1 1 March, 1976.
  8. and (11) The consultants provided assistance in a number of public relations exercises and advice on a number of proposed activities by the Commission in this field.

Broadcasting Stations: Licences (Question No 392)

Mr Les McMahon:

asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Would he give consideration to making it a condition, when issuing licences to broadcasting stations, that Australian made transmitters must be purchased when they are competitive in price and workmanship.
  2. Has his Department officially discussed this proposal with representatives of the trade union movement and representatives of employer organisations to safeguard this important industry.
Mr Eric Robinson:

-The answers to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. While I am not prepared to make the condition suggested by the honourable member, I support the proposition that the use of Australian made transmitters be encouraged where the performance is at least equal to and the cost is competitive with equipment manufactured overseas. The market is, of course, a limited one and I would regard a condition such as the honourable member proposes as interfering with the right of the licensees of stations to obtain the equipment best fitted to their requirements, provided it meets the technical standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
  2. No approaches have been made to my Department by representatives of trade unions or employer organisations in relation to such a proposal.

Railways: Sydney Urban Area (Question No. 413)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. What sum has the Australian Government paid to date for (a) the East Hills-Glenfield railway and (b) the quadruplication of the Granville-Penrith railway.
  2. What is the estimated date of completion in each case.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) The Commonwealth Treasury has made the following advances to New South Wales to 30 April 1976-

    1. East Hills-Glenfield railway $20,000.
    2. b) Granville-Penrith railway $ 1 , 0 1 3,333.
  2. As the honourable member is aware the New South Wales Urban Transport Advisory Committee in its report of February 1976 recommended that work be deferred on major rail construction projects, including the East HillsGlenfield railway and the quadruplication of the GranvillePenrith railway. The present New South Wales Government has not yet advised me of its attitude on this report. Consequently I am unable to advise of the estimated date of completion of these projects.

Motor Vehicle Policy (Question No. 433)

Mr Scholes:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) In framing the new motor vehicle manufacturing policy, has the Government, or any Government Department, taken into account the effect on employment in those areas which are presently manufacturing motor vehicles.
  2. If so, are estimates of employment levels in the motor vehicle industries in each area or city available; if so, will the Minister table these estimates.
Mr Howard:

-The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. 1 ) and (2) The announcement of the Government’s policy for the motor vehicle industry followed a comprehensive review of all aspects of previous policy, involving extensive consultations with all sectors of the industry. The effects on employment were carefully considered in the course of this review.

The policy is designed to avoid disruption and to ensure change occurs in a manageable way. However, future employment levels, both overall and in particular localities, will be affected by many factors in addition to Government policy. Those factors include the rate at which the market grows and the competitive success of the various companies involved.

The Industries Assistance Commission report on Motor Vehicles- Import Restrictions (October 1975) provides three overall estimates for the industry up to 1980, based on three different sets of assumptions. One projection, which assumes the entry of Toyota and Nissan into the 85 per cent company average local content plan, estimates that total employment will decrease by 13 000 (74 000 to 61 000) over the period 1974 to 1976 and to increase by 19 000 (61 000 to 80 000) over the period 1976 to 1980.

Film Production: Financial Assistance (Question No. 482)

Mr Giles:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

  1. Will he supply a list of all cinema feature films that have received assistance from the Australian Film Commission.
  2. Which of these films have fully recovered their costs, including promotion costs, from the net returns after distributors’ costs, expenses, loans and interests have been deducted from the gross returns.
  3. Which films have recovered their costs from their Australian releases only.
  4. Which films still have not paid back their loans in full to the Commission.
  5. Which films have been successfully sold or shown overseas.
Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The following list shows all cinema feature film titles funded into production with assistance from the Australian Film Commission from its inception on 5 May 1975 to 30 April 1976, together with the names of the principals involved:

(2)Picnic atHanging Rock.

  1. Picnic at Hanging Rock.
  2. I refer the honourable member to my answer on 18 May 1976 (Senate Hansard, pages 1710-13). In addition I can add that at 30 April 1976 the Commission provided a new loan to Film House International Pty Ltd. This loan is outstanding.
  3. Of the films listed in ( 1) above to the best knowledge of the Commission, as at 30 April 1976 only ‘Crystal Voyager’ has been commercially exhibited overseas.

Qantair Ltd (Question No. 492)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. Has the firm ANTAS made an offer to the Government to purchase the Qantas charter subsidiary Qantair?
  2. If so, what are the terms of the offer?
  3. Has the Government made a decision on the offer; if not, when will a decision be made?
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The ANTAS Consortium has made an offer to purchase a subsidiary of Qantas. Airways Ltd, Qantair Ltd which is inactive and has never traded; international charter flights being operated as required by Qantas Airways Limited.
  2. The terms of the offer are not specific. They simply offer to purchase all or part of the shares in Qantair Ltd.
  3. The Government is considering the request and the company will be given a decision shortly.

National Anthem (Question No. 502)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

Now that Waltzing Matilda is emerging as the most appropriate national tune or song, which version does he prefer, the generally accepted one or what is known as the Queensland version.

Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

In my recent statement to the Parliament(Hansard, 4 May 1976, pages 1842-3 and 1848), I said that the Government favoured the tune of Waltzing Matilda as a national song for the Olympic Games in Montreal because the music is recognised throughout the world as Australian. The version of Waltzing Matilda that is instantly recognised as Australian is the conventional one. This lends itself to a more dignified rendering for official occasions when this is necessary. For these reasons, I prefer it to the ‘Queensland’ version, which is not so universally known in Australia and overseas.

I repeat, however, that it is the Government’s hope that an Australian national song will emerge through a process of natural selection and choice.

Aircraft Seats: Non-smoking Allotment (Question No. 505)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

Further to the answer to my Question No. 8 (Hansard, 27 April 1976, page 1637), is it a fair test of public demand for non-smoking seats when regular airline users are aware that many economy class non-smoking seats are at the rear of the aircraft, and are not sufficient to provide a smoke free area and that the airline companies do not stop people from smoking in non-smoking seats, as evidenced by the example on TAA combined flight 450/422 from Canberra to Sydney on Wednesday, 21 April when two smokers in non-smoking seats were not even spoken to by the air hostesses.

Mr Nixon:

– I have referred the honourable member’s question to TAA and have obtained the following reply which I believe to be quite self explanatory. Ansett Airlines has also been consulted on the matter and has expressed no disagreement with the terms of TAA ‘s reply:

  1. 1 ) From regular surveys we have determined that smoking preferences can be categorised as: 1 / 3 of passengers require non-smoking seats 1 /3 specifically request smoking seats 1/3 express no preference

The number of seats reserved for non-smoking passengers varies between 27 per cent and 33 per cent of aircraft capacity, depending upon the particular seating arrangements. In all marginal situations we decide in favour of the nonsmoking preference and in some first class configuration 50 per cent of the seats are classified non-smoking.

  1. Passenger comments received at TAA are very carefully scrutinised, particularly in the context of non-smoking preferences and over recent months there has been no indication that criticism of our current seat zoning has increased or that preferences have changed. We are in the course of setting up to undertake yet a further survey to assess any change in preferences and, if any significant change has in fact occurred, adjustments will be made to our non-smoking zones.
  2. The non-smoking seats in first class compartments are on the left hand side so that the first class smoking passenger enjoys no preference by way of position in the aircraft. The economy zone in the larger Boeing commences at row 16. This is the most forward economy row when the cabin is configured for maximum first class seating. In the smaller Boeing, and in the DC9, the most forward rows with maximum first class are 15 and 13 respectively, but the non-smoking zones have been established in the smaller jets to commence at 16 so that in the main, seat numbering of non-smoking zones is identical in each of the three jet types.

We saw this approach as being in the overall best interests of non-smokers, as non-smoking accommodation could be virtually guaranteed when transhipping to another aircraft type, or on the occasion of a late substitution of type. This is a vital consideration having regard to the full interchangeability of jet aircraft which is an important element of our fleet structures.

The alternative of placing the economy non-smoking zone at the most forward feasible row in the smaller jets would lead to difficult seat allocation problems and possible schedule disruptions in preserving non-smoking seat assignments on the occasion of aircraft substitutions and in transhipping operations.

  1. The airline’s policy of identifying seats which are restricted to non-smoking is felt to be more positive than identifying the smoking areas as such. To display ‘smoking’ signs could be regarded as an encouragement to smokers. We have a total ban on the smoking of pipes and cigars.
  2. The incident on 21st April referred to is being investigated but at the time of writing we have not been able to interview the operating cabin crew. Operating procedures require cabin crew to take steps to ensure non-smoking restrictions are observed and failure of the crew to take appropriate measures in this instance is a matter which will be acted upon at the earliest possible moment.

Qantas Subsidiaries (Question No. 508)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has he received offers for the purchase of any Qantas subsidiaries; if so, from whom and for which subsidiaries.
  2. Has he received requests for the re-allocation of regional air routes presently operated by Qantas; if so, from whom and for which regional air routes.
  3. What action has he taken in respect of ( 1 ) and (2).
  4. Will he give a categorical assurance that Qantas, its subsidiaries and the air routes it operates are not on offer to interested parties.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1) An offer has been made to the Minister for Transport by the Antas Consortium for the purchase of all or part of the snares in Qantair Ltd, a subsidiary of Qantas Airways Ltd.
  2. The Minister for Transport has received the following requests from Sir Reginald Ansett, Managing Director, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, relating to re-allocation of services on routes presently operated by Qantas:

    1. that Brisbane-Port Moresby and Cairns-Port Moresby, be allocated to Ansett and TAA on an equal basis in lieu of Qantas;
    2. that the domestic service between Sydney-Norfolk Island, to be transferred from Qantas to a domestic airline;
    3. that progressively other existing regional services, as well as new services, should be offered to Ansett and /or TAA, again on an equal basis, provided the equipment necessary for the long haul domestic routes (such as Sydney-Perth) is more suitable than the Qantas equipment. Routes mentioned by Sir Reginald as suitable for consideration with a view to possible re-allocation include those from Australia to Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Fiji, Bali and Norfolk Island.
  3. (a) Action is being taken in respect to responses to the offer by ANTAS and the requests by Sir Reginald Ansett.

    1. In respect of the Sydney-Norfolk Island service, from which Qantas Airways Limited has sought to withdraw, the views of domestic airlines have been sought and consideration is being given to the future operation of air services on the route.
  4. Qantas, its subsidiaries and the air routes it operates are not, subject to 3 ( b) above, on offer to interested parties.

Tullamarine International Airport (Question No. 510)

Mr Shipton:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. Was the maximum daily car parking rate at Tullamarine International Airport increased recently to $4.80 for any 24 hour period; if so, what are the reasons for the increase.
  2. Is there a heavy demand for car parking at Tullamarine International Airport during peak periods and will he provide statistics showing demand at the car park for each of the last 2 years.
  3. Are separate financial accounts kept in respect of that car park; if so, will he make them available in respect of each of the last 2 years.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes. On 17 March, 1976, the previous maximum charge of $3.00 per day was eliminated and the fee is now based on a continuous rate of 20 cents per hour. The reasons for this action were-

    1. To discourage long term parking thereby postponing the need to build further car parks. The present car park has a capacity of 2100 vehicles and frequently over 7000 vehicles per day pass through the exits. Studies have shown that 75 per cent of the demand is for periods up to four hours. Therefore cars left for long periods effectively reduce the vehicle turnover of the area.
    2. To increase revenue. If drivers wish to leave their vehicles for the extended periods then it is necessary that the charge should reflect this.
  2. The demand for car parking at Melbourne Airport is extremely heavy. Peak transit through the exit gates has exceeded 7000 vehicles per day on many occasions and has risen to over 8000 at times. During the period April 1974 to March 1975 some 1.38m cars passed through the car park. This figure increased to 1.43m cars for the same period in 1975-76. With a capacity of 2 100 vehicle spaces this means that each space was used 1.8 times per day. With a demand of up to even 5000 vehicles per day we need to achieve a turnover of at least 2.5 usages per day to satisfy this demand without the provision of further expensive areas.
  3. I will arrange for financial accounts for the car park to be available to the honourable member shortly.

Lockheed Aircraft Purchases (Question No. 514)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. Has his attention been drawn to the statement by the honourable member for Farrer on 8 April 1959 (Hansard, page 999) that the Menzies Government sent the Minister for Civil Aviation to New Zealand and put the utmost pressure on the New Zealand Government and the Board of Tasman Empire Airways Ltd to rescind their vote to buy Comets and to purchase Electras instead.
  2. On what occasions did the Minister for Civil Aviation visit New Zealand.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) My attention has not been drawn to this statement and I do not propose to investigate this matter any further. I would have thought that the honourable member for Werriwa had already incurred sufficient political damage to himself and his reputation by his recent references to this subject, and yet he seems intent on his own ruin by reviving this distasteful matter. Perhaps the honourable member for Werriwa could occupy himself more usefully in attempting to establish his own credibility rather than seeking to discredit a man who has no opportunity of reply.

Governor-General: Visit to Europe (Question No. 521)

Mr Morris:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

  1. Did he tell me in reply to my question No. 33 (Hansard, 23 March 1976, page 928) that the Governor-General regularly publishes information in the daily press in relation to official calls made on him at Government House.
  2. Did the Governor-General publish information in relation to official calls made on him and by him during his 18 days in Britain, 17 days in France, 4 days in Hong Kong and 3 days in Italy to which reference was made in answer to my question No. 3 1 (Hansard, 23 March 1976, page 927).
  3. If so, on what dates did the Governor-General publish this information.
  4. If not, will he give information in relation to the official calls made on, and by, the Governor-General on (a) 24 December 1975, (b) 28 December 1975, (c) 29 December 1975, (d) 2 January 1976, (e) 14 January 1976, (f) 16 January 1976, (g) 23-29 January 1976 and (h) 2 February 1976.
Mr Fraser:
Prime Minister · WANNON, VICTORIA · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) to (4) I have nothing further to add to my answers on 23 March 1976 (Hansard, pages 927-8), 27 April 1976 (Hansard, page 1651 and Senate Hansard, page 1308) and 20 May 1976 (Hansard, page 2362).

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: Expenditure (Question No. 523) Mr Bungey asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

  1. What commitments for expenditure in 1976-77 and 1 977-78 does his Department have.
  2. On what date was each commitment made.
  3. What sum is involved in each commitment.
  4. For what purpose is each commitment.
  5. 5 ) To whom have the commitments been made.
Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

I refer the honourable member to the answer to Question No. 526 provided by my colleague the Treasurer on 26 May 1 976 (Hansard, page 2525 ).

Financial Commitments (Question No. 530)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:

  1. What commitments for expenditure in 1976-77 and 1977-78 does the Department of Industry and Commerce have.
  2. On what date was each commitment made.
  3. What sum is involved in each commitment.
  4. For what purpose is each commitment.
  5. To whom have the commitments been made.
Mr Howard:

– The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. 1) to (5) I refer the honourable member to the reply provided by the Treasurer to Question No. 526 on page 2525 of Hansard, 26 May 1976.

Department of Education: Expenditure (Question No. 533)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:

  1. What commitments for expenditure in 1976-77 and 1 977-78 does the Department of Education have.
  2. On what date was each commitment made.
  3. What sum is involved in each commitment.
  4. For what purpose is each commitment.
  5. To whom have the commitments been made.
Mr Viner:
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

I draw the honourable member’s attention to the Treasurer’s reply to Question No. 526 which appeared in Hansard, Wednesday, 26 May 1976.

Department of Construction: Expenditure (Question No. 544)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice:

  1. What commitments for expenditure in 1976-77 and 1977-78 does his Department have.
  2. On what date was each commitment made.
  3. 3 ) What sum is involved in each commitment.
  4. For what purpose is each commitment.
  5. To whom have the commitments been made.
Mr McLeay:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. to (5) I refer the honourable member to the Treasurer’s answer to Question No. 526 on 26 May 1976. (House of Representatives Hansard, page 2525).

Department of Repatriation: Expenditure (Question No. 545)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:

  1. What commitments for expenditure in 1976-77 and 1 977-78 does his Department have.
  2. On what date was each commitment made.
  3. 3 ) What sum is involved in each commitment.
  4. For what purpose is each commitment.
  5. To whom have the commitments been made.
Mr Newman:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. to (5) I refer the honourable member to the Treasurer’s answer to Question No. 526 which appeared in Hansard on 26 May 1 976, page 2525.

Department of Science: Expenditure (Question No. 546)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:

  1. What commitments for expenditure in 1976-77 and 1977-78 does the Department of Science have.
  2. 2 ) On what date was each commitment made.
  3. What sum is involved in each commitment.
  4. For what purpose is each commitment.
  5. 5 ) To whom have the commitments been made.
Mr Adermann:
Minister Assisting the Minister for National Resources · FISHER, QUEENSLAND · NCP/NP

– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

I refer the honourable member to the Treasurer’s answer to question on notice No. 526 (Hansard, 26 May 1976, page 2525).

Overseas Travel (Question No. 570)

Mr Stewart:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) What is the estimated total expenditure by Australians travelling overseas during 1975-76.
  2. What is the estimated total expenditure by international travellers to Australia for the same period.
  3. Is the drain on our international reserves as a result of Australians travelling overseas causing concern to the Government; if so, what action is contemplated to reduce the difference between the sum spent by Australians proceeding overseas and the sum spent by tourists coming to Australia.
Mr Howard:

– The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.

  1. 1 ) Official estimates of expenditure by Australians travelling overseas during 1975-76 are not yet available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. However, figures for the first three quarters of 1975-76 show that Australians travelling overseas spent $336 million.
  2. Similarly, estimates of expenditure by international travellers to Australia are available only for the first three quarters of 1975-76. These figures show that $174m was spent during that period.
  3. Australia’s international reserves are in a healthy position and are not a matter for concern.

Solar Energy (Question No. 576)

Mr O’Keefe:

asked the Minister Representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) What research is being carried out at the present time into solar energy.
  2. What funds are being made available by the Government for this research.
  3. What progress is being made in the development of this source of energy.
Mr Adermann:

– The Minister for Science has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:

  1. Solar energy research in Australia is being conducted by CSIRO, some universities and tertiary institutions, and industry. The work by CSIRO and work under the auspices of the Australian Research Grants Committee (ARGC) is summarised below. The Senate Standing Committee on National Resources is currently inquiring into solar energy and the results of that inquiry when available will provide additional information.

Work conducted by CSIRO concerns the following applications: domestic water heating industrial water heating space heating space cooling power production distillation controlled environment horticulture heat storage production of energy from crops, forests and other organic material swimming pool heating.

Work funded by ARGC grant encompasses the following topics: selective surfaces as solar energy absorbers photo-voltaic and thermoelectric conversion of solar energy to electricity solar energy concentrators solar energy systems evaluation heat and mass transfer theory applied to solar airconditioning.

  1. Expenditure last financial year and estimated expenditure for this year by CSIRO is as follows:

In addition, the ARGC grants for solar energy research in calendar year 1975 amounted to $125,807; in calendar year 1 976 grants totalling $ 1 49,05 1 have been authorised.

Further funds are expended by the universities and tertiary institutions on solar energy research within their own estimates but no details of these expenditures are available.

  1. The most significant advance is the development of a type of solar collector and its integration into a solar hot water heating system which is the basis of a new industry. Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the annual production rate in square metres of solar collectors for water have been:

These figures do not include those units constructed by small manufacturers or privately.

This industry is exporting its products and/or technology to other countries, including Japan, New Zealand and Fiji.

Other advances ready for commercial use are solar stills for desalination of salt or brackish water, a solar timber drying kiln, and solar air heaters suitable for general application.

The Environment: Botany Bay Development (Question No. 582)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. Why has the environmental impact study completed by the Australian National Line on its container berth development at Botany Bay not been tabled in Parliament.
  2. When will it be tabled.
  3. Did he accede to a request of New South Wales Deputy Premier, Mr Punch, M.L.A., to delay presentation of the report until after Mr Punch had made his recent public relations inspection of Botany Bay and until after the New South Wales elections.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) There is no legislative requirement for the completed Environmental Impact Statement to be tabled in Parliament. However, if the honourable member wishes, I shall be happy to make a copy available to him.
  2. Mr Punch did not request me to have the report held. ANL arranged distribution of copies of the final EIS early in April to those who had made comments on the draft EIS, except in the case of two Municipal Councils. The Councils had been overlooked in the distribution process but their copies were despatched later in the month.

Derwent River Bridge (Question No. 583)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

Has he or his Department recommended to the Bland Committee that the Government should not proceed with construction of the second Derwent River bridge at Hobart; if so, what were the grounds for that recommendation.

Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Neither the Minister nor the Department has made any recommendations on this matter to the Bland Committee.

Department of Education: Staff Recruitment (Question No. 594)

Mr Macphee:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) How many persons are employed by the Department of Education or by agencies responsible to the Minister or his Department in a staff recruiting capacity and what amounts are chargeable to that Department or such agencies in respect of their annual salaries.
  2. To what extent does the Department of Education or any such agency engage private employment agencies to assist in the recruitment of staff.
  3. What sum was spent by the Department of Education or any such agency in engaging private employment agencies in the financial year 1974-75.
  4. To what extent does the Department of Education or any such agency engage or otherwise obtain assistance from the Commonwealth Employment Service in the recruitment of staff and what sum has been paid to the Commonwealth Employment Service in respect of such assistance.
Mr Viner:

– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.

  1. Ten personnel are engaged full time in recruitment matters. The annual cost is $ 107,000.
  2. , (3) and (4) Nil.

Department of Repatriation: Staff Recruitment (Question No. 606)

Mr Macphee:

asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:

  1. 1) How many persons are employed by his Department or by agencies responsible to him or his Department in a staff recruiting capacity and what amounts are chargeable to his Department or such agencies in respect of their annual salaries.
  2. To what extent does his Department or any such agency engage private employment agencies to assist in the recruitment of staff.
  3. What sum was spent by his Department or any such agency in engaging private employment agencies in the financial year 1974-75.
  4. To what extent does his Department or any such agency engage or otherwise obtain assistance from the Commonwealth Employment Service in the recruitment of staff and what sum has been paid to the Commonwealth Employment Service in respect of such assistance.
Mr Newman:

– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:

  1. Within the Department there are 2 officers engaged full-time on staff recruiting matters. The annual salary expenditure in respect of these officers is $22,244.
  2. Nursing Agencies are used to obtain urgent relief nursing staff, usually for short periods of time or a single shift.
  3. The Nursing Agencies make no charge to the Department for services rendered.
  4. The use of the Commonwealth Employment Service by the Department varies in frequency from State to State. Staff employed through the Commonwealth Employment Service are usually in the paramedical and domestic fields. The Commonwealth Employment Service does not levy any charge for these services.

Department of Science: Staff Recruitment (Question No. 607)

Mr Macphee:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:

  1. 1) How many persons are employed by the Department of Science or by agencies responsible to the Minister or his Department in a staff recruiting capacity and what amounts are chargeable to that Department or such agencies in respect of their annual salaries.
  2. To what extent does the Department of Science or any such agency engage private employment agencies to assist in the recruitment of staff.
  3. What sum was spent by the Department of Science or any such agency in engaging private employment agencies in the financial year 1974-75.
  4. To what extent does the Department of Science or any such agency engage or otherwise obtain assistance from the Commonwealth Employment Service in the recruitment of staff and what sum has been paid to the Commonwealth Employment Service in respect of such assistance.
Mr Adermann:

– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. Three persons are employed full time in the Department in a staff recruitment capacity on a combined annual salary of $22,818; there are no persons employed full time on a staff recruitment capacity by agencies responsible to the Minister.
  2. and (3) nil.
  3. The Commonwealth Employment Service may be requested on a limited basis to assist in finding suitable persons to fill short term casual vacancies for agencies responsible to the Minister. There is no payment made by the agencies or the Department for this service.

Department of Construction (Question No. 617)

Mr Macphee:

asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice:

Under what circumstances may his Department let tenders for the construction of buildings and to what extent, if any, does the Department have to have regard to the purchasing policies of the Department of Administrative Services.

Mr McLeay:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The Department of Construction arranges construction of buildings on behalf of other Commonwealth Departments and statutory bodies, Contracts are arranged to provide best value for money spent, and except in special circumstances, following the invitation of public tenders.

The Department conforms with any specific purchasing policies originating from the Office of the Purchasing Commission within the Department of Administrative Services, wherever appropriate.

Manufacturing Industry: Development Policies (Question No. 645)

Mr Macphee:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has the Department of Industry and Commerce decided not to proceed with the publication of those volumes of the Green Paper on Policies fir Development of Manufacturing Industry which contain specific data.
  2. If so, what is the justification for such a decision.
  3. If publication is to proceed when will the volumes be available to the public.
  4. Is the availability of such data essential for the preparation of high quality submissions to aid the Government in the preparation of a White Paper on manufacturing industry.
Mr Howard:

-The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:

  1. No. Arrangements for printing volumes II-IV of the Committee’s report are well advanced.
  2. See(l).
  3. The volumes will be released as bulk copies become available from the printer. This is expected to be around 2 June in the case of volumes III and IV and two weeks thereafter in the case of Volume II.
  4. It is reasonable to expect that submissions on the White Paper will draw on a wide range of source material including personal experience, academic studies, reports by international organisations such as the OECD and studies by Government departments and agencies both in Australia and overseas. In submitting its report, the Jackson Committee stated that Volume I was the main part of its report. The likelihood of high quality submissions therefore cannot be considered as being necessarily dependent on the availability of the supporting volumes of the Jackson report. However, the Jackson Committee’s work relates directly to the subject matter of the White Paper and publication of the statistics and commissioned studies contained in volumes II-IV of the Committee’s report should help promote continuing discussion of the many issues raised in the Committee s main report, which was released on 30 October 1975.

International Women’s Year (Question No. 656)

Mr Innes:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

  1. Did the National Advisory Committee for International Women’s Year hand its report to him on or about 31 March 1976.
  2. If so, will he table the report and ensure that copies are available to the many interested Australian people anxious to see it.
Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes, on 31 March 1976.
  2. The Report was tabled in the House of Representatives on 25 May 1976. Copies are available through the normal distribution channels.

Smallgoods: Imports (Question No. 680)

Mr Hamer:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:

  1. Is it a fact that all imported smallgoods which are packaged in odd numbers of grams will be banned from sale on the Australian market as part of the metric conversion program.
  2. If so, is this necessary, as the cost of repackaging will force some overseas manufacturers to stop exporting goods to Australia.
Mr Adermann:

– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. 1 ) That is not so. The requirements for packaging smallgoods are incorporated in uniform Commonwealth and State legislation as recommended by the Standing Committee on Packaging. Where goods are not packed in the recommended rounded metric quantities they must be accompanied by a statement of the price per kilogram. Similar requirements applied previously under the imperial system when goods packed in non-rounded imperial sizes had to show the price per pound as well.

Formerly certain prescribed goods such as sugar and butter could be packed only in a specified series of imperial sizes. As from 1 January 1976 these goods can be packed only in a specified series of metric sizes. Packers were given ample notice of the new range and no difficulties have been reported.

If there are any specific cases of difficulty, I would be pleased to examine them.

  1. Repackaging is not required.

Batman Electorate: School Age Children (Question No. 720)

Mr Garrick:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) How many children are there of school age in the Electoral Division of Batman.
  2. What percentage of these children are first or second generation Australians.
Mr Viner:

– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:

  1. and (2) Statistics of the characteristics of the population of the electoral division of Batman as at 30 June 1971 are contained in ‘Bulletin 8, Characteristics of the Population and Dwellings, Commonwealth Electoral Divisions’ published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

The number of children at school in local government areas in Victoria is contained in ‘Primary ana Secondary Education 1974’ published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Victoria.

The Statistics section of the former Department of Immigration produced in 1973 a publication entitled ‘Overseas Born, Local Government Areas, Population Census 30 June 1971 ‘ which may be of some assistance to the honourable member.

Batman Electorate: Migrant Population (Question No. 721)

Mr Garrick:

asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:

How many first and second generation migrants live in the Electoral Division of Batman.

Mr MacKellar:
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs · WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The following table shows the numbers of overseas born persons and of those aged 0-24 years with at least one parent born overseas, together with the percentages they form of the total population in the Batman Division. These figures, compiled from the 1971 Population census, are the most recent available and provide the closest approximation available to the information sought:

Quarantine: Inspector’s Duties (Question No. 46)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) How and on what dates were quarantine inspectors informed of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the Philippines.
  2. Was the first advice to the Quarantine Inspector, North West Ports, Western Australia (stationed at Port

Hedland), issued over 2 months after his Department learned of the outbreak; if so, (a) on what date was the advice issued, (b) was the advice issued only after a request from the Quarantine Inspector stationed at Port Hedland, (c) what was the reason for the delay, (d) who was responsible for the delay and (e) has any disciplinary action been initiated because of delay in issuing the advice.

  1. On what date was the Western Australian Branch of his Department advised of the outbreak.
  2. Was it the responsibility of the Western Australian Branch to advise quarantine inspectors stationed at ports other than Fremantle of the outbreak.
  3. Was any failure to advise the Quarantine Inspector, North West Ports, a deliberate decision of the Director of Health, Western Australia, or of the Central Office of the Department; if so, why.
  4. In what terms was the Quarantine Inspector, North West Ports, advised of the outbreak.
  5. In what terms were quarantine inspectors and staff at other outposts in Western Australia advised.
  6. Did the advice to the Quarantine Inspector, North West Ports, include any instructions to check back on any goods, mail or personnel passing through Port Hedland between the date Head Office learned of the outbreak and the date of advice; if not why not, and was this omission a deliberate decision; if so, who took the decision.
  7. What action has the Department taken, and on what dates, to check entry of goods, mail or personnel passing through Port Hedland between the date Head Office learned of the outbreak and the date of advice to the Quarantine Inspector, North West Ports.
Mr Hunt:

– My Department has supplied me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. On 10 July, 1975 all Commonwealth Directors of Health and the Chief Quarantine Officers (Animals) in each State were advised by telex from the Central Office of the Department, of the deteriorating foot and mouth position in Luzon. In Western Australia, Quarantine Inspectors were advised as follows:

Note (a): The Quarantine Inspector (Southern Ports) was acting in the position of Quarantine Inspector (Fremantle) during the latter ‘s absence on leave.

  1. Yes.

    1. 12 September 1975.
    2. Yes.
    3. Error in distribution. However, I am advised that immediately prior to his departure for Port Hedland the Quarantine Inspector (North West Ports) had received intensive training on quarantine precautionary measures to be taken for passengers and articles entering Australia from foot and mouth risk countries. This training was additional to previous knowledge and experience gained by the officer concerned at Fremantle and Geelong. As foot and mouth disease had been endemic in the Philippines for a number of years this country fell into the risk category. The application of quarantine precautionary measures was not dependent on advice of the most recent resurgence of the disease in the Philippines.
    4. The Chief Quarantine Officer (Animals) for Western Australia is responsible for the distribution of information on animal quarantine matters in that State.
    5. No.
  2. 10 July, 1975.
  3. No. See 2(d) above.
  4. No.
  5. The Quarantine Inspector (North West Ports) was advised in a memorandum dated 12 September, 1975 by the Assistant Director (Medical), Western Australian Division. A copy of the Central Office telex of 10 July, 1975 was attached. The memorandum expressed regret that the Quarantine Inspector (North West Ports) had not been notified before due to an error in distribution.
  6. See (1) above.
  7. No. I am advised that notwithstanding the error referred to in 2 (c), the Quarantine Inspector (North West Ports) would have been operating throughout the period under standing instructions to apply precautionary quarantine measures in respect of all passengers and articles entering the area direct from foot and mouth disease risk countries such as the Philippines. I am given to understand that correct application of these measures, in conjunction with those undertaken routinely by customs officers on behalf of the Quarantine Service, would have eliminated the risks, if any, which otherwise one might reasonably expect to locate in a post entry check. In the circumstances the question of a post entry check did not arise.
  8. See (8) above. All quarantine personnel, in close liaison with customs officers where appropriate, were operating under standing instructions regarding precautionary quarantine measures in respect of all personnel, goods and mail entering Australia from all foot and mouth risk countries, including the Philippines, and continue to do so.

Quarantine: Inspectors’ Duties (Question No. 52)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Since the commencement of retirement action against Mr W. F. Toomer, Quarantine Officer, North West Ports, what officers or employees have been employed on the following quarantine duties: (a) inspecting and spraying incoming overseas aircraft, (b) checking passengers and freight from these aircraft, (c) inspecting ships arriving at ports in the North West from overseas, (d) checking quarantine safeguards on berthed ships, (e) supervising garbage disposal from these ships, (0 checking and inspecting freight from these ships and (g) inspecting mail from overseas.
  2. What are the qualifications and experience of each officer and employee engaged on any of the functions mentioned in part (1).
  3. Can and will he give an assurance that quarantine measures concerning (a) aircraft from overseas, (b) vessels calling at pons in the North West from overseas and (c) mail arriving at Port Hedland overseas are promptly and efficiently discharged, and that no quarantine threat exists because of the current staffing position in the area; if not, why not, and is any action planned.
Mr Hunt:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. (a) Medical inspections for overseas aircraft are carried out by Quarantine Medical Officers. Spraying and the disposal of galley refuse is the responsibility of Quarantine Assistants.

    1. Aircraft passengers are checked medically by Quarantine Medical Officers. Freight is screened by Customs officers who refer matters of quarantine to the Quarantine Medical Officer or to the Plant or Animal Quarantine Officer in the area or at Penh as appropriate.
    2. Medical inspections are carried out by Quarantine Medical Officers in the first instance. Ships are visited daily by Quarantine Assistants who ensure that rat guards are in place and that galley refuse is stored under approved conditions.
    3. d ) Quarantine Assistants.
    4. Quarantine Assistants.
    5. Freight is screened by Customs officers who refer matters of quarantine to the Quarantine Medical Officer or to the Plant or Animal Quarantine Officer in the area or at Penh as appropriate.
    6. Customs officers in liaison with Plant or Animal Quarantine personnel in the area or at Penh as appropriate.
  2. General Quarantine Officers are registered medical practitioners. Quarantine Assistants do not require formal Qualifications for the duties required of them. Experience in the position differs for each individual. However, duties are performed in accordance with standard procedures laid down in Departmental Instructions. Other personnel referred to in 1 (a) to 1 (g) are not officers or employees of the Commonwealth Department of Health.
  3. Yes. From detailed information provided by my Department I am satisfied that no quarantine threat exists. However, I am keeping the position under review in accordance with the Government’s no-risk policy.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.