30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, died on 9 September. He was, as honourable members will know, the principal architect of China since 1949 and one of the very few men who had a major impact on the course of world history. He led the Chinese Communist Party through a long and destructive civil war and in his writings set out a new conception of what China could be. Mao Tse-tung devoted his life to the vision of a rigorously egalitarian society, and, in pursuit of that vision, he mobilised the vast energies of the Chinese people. For the first time in many decades Mao Tse-tung gave China an effective administration, restored a country ravaged by civil war and secured the basic necessities of life to China’s people. He sought for China self-reliance. Under his leadership China assumed a major role in world affairs.
Mao Tse-tung ‘s conception of the desirable organisation of a society was not and is not ours, but he achieved peace internally and respect for China. He came to symbolise the new China for his own people and for the world. In recent years under his leadership China began to adjust her ideological objectives to the realities of world power. His meeting in 1972 with the President of the United States of America was a significant and deliberate step in that process. For Australians it is of considerable significance that as China’s supreme leader he lent his personal authority to the establishment and further development of China’s relations with Australia. In the closing years of his life important steps were taken in the improvement of friendship and mutual understanding between China and Australia-
The loss of Mao Tse-tung will be deeply mourned by the Chinese people. I have publicly expressed on behalf of the Australian people my sympathy for their loss, and was first to sign the book of condolence in Canberra. The Australian Ambassador in Peking has laid wreaths as a formal act of condolence. I am sure this House would wish to place on record its sympathy for the Chinese people in their loss. I therefore move:
That this House records its sincere regret at the death of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, expresses to the people of China profound regret and tenders its deep sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
– China and the world have now lost the second of the 2 great figures who dominated the country’s history for most of the 20th century. Seven months ago the House passed a motion of condolence on the death of Premier Chou En-lai. Today we mourn the passing of his great compatriot. Mao Tse-tung served his country and his people for more than 50 years. I do not think I am being disrespectful or unnecessarily provocative if I say that 5 years ago this motion would have been unthinkable in the Australian Parliament. It says as much for the changing attitudes of Australian politicians as it does for the greatness of Mao himself that we are paying tribute in this place to a man and thus to a nation and a people who until a short time ago were the objects of widespread hostility and suspicion in this country and in many other countries of the Western world. All parties, though some more readily and graciously than others, have come to acknowledge the place of China in the world and the stature of her leaders, both as contemporary statesmen and historical personalities. This progression from hostility to recognition, from recognition to respect, and from respect to admiration has been slow, belated and welcome. I am gratified that my colleagues and my Party have been in the forefront of this movement.
Contemporaries and compatriots though they were, Chairman Mao Tse-tung was a man of very different temperament and gifts from Premier Chou En-lai. Whereas Chou was preeminently the skilled administrator and interpreter of China to the world, Mao was the inspiration to the Chinese people themselves. Devoted as he was to Marxist doctrine, the inspiration he gave his people was very much a personal expression of his own character and his unique gifts as a leader. He set examples of courage, fortitude and determination to his people which brought them safely and triumphantly through one of the longest episodes of civil and international conflict the world has known. Under Mao’s leadership, and largely because of that leadership, the Chinese people found the purpose and summoned the strength for a prodigious effort of revolutionary struggle. It was to carry the most populous nation on earth out of feudalism and chaos and make it a secure, stable and self-confident member of the world community. No man has so embodied the aspirations of a great people and given in equal measure practical and spiritual impetus to a revolutionary movement as did Mao Tse-tung during his long and remarkable life- 50 years as a leader of the Chinese people, 40 years as head of the Chinese Communist Party, and 27 years as leader of the Chinese State.
I have visited his country 3 times and on my second visit in 1973 had the honour to be received by him in Peking. We had a most useful and absorbing conversation. His knowledge of Australia was considerable. No one who visited his country could be in any doubt of the veneration in which he was held by the people. It was an affection which grew rather than diminished with time. He was the authentic father of his people and the new China. His courage, his sagacity, his gifts as a writer and interpreter of Chinese philosophy and civilisation, and his extraordinary stature as national leader have ensured that his influence will outlast his death; that the Chinese people, far from discovering a vacuum in their national life, will take renewed inspiration from the memory of his great achievements. On behalf of my colleagues and the Australian Labor Party, I extend to the Chinese people and Government our sympathy in the loss they have sustained.
– I wish to associate the National Country Party with the motion of condolence for the late Chairman Mao Tse-tung moved by the Prime Minister. Chairman Mao was one of the historic figures of the twentieth century. Born of humble origin, he rose to become leader of 800 million people. In this process, he welded the difficult factions in China into a cohesive and united nation. His achievement was remarkable by any standard and in paying our respect to his memory, we also wish to express our sympathy to the Chinese Government and people at the loss of their outstanding leader. The fact that we do not share the same political or philosophical views does not mean that we do not understand the sense of loss which the Chinese people must feel or that we do not recognise and acknowledge the tremendous influence which Chairman Mao had on his nation and his place in history.
-I join with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the motion of condolence for Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Mao Tse-tung was a great leader, a brilliant revolutionary thinker, a great military strategist, an outstanding patriot, a scholar and a poet. But above all he was a man of the people. He was a man who dominated his country’s history and development for half a century, guiding it from a state of political and economic collapse in the 1920s through the troughs and peaks of its development to the thriving, self-reliant and internationally respected nation that China is today. By the people of China Mao was not only respected, he was loved. Our hearts go out to the Chinese people as they mourn the death of Mao Tse-tung.
As a revolutionary thinker Mao made unique contributions to the theory and practice of revolution. His inspired analysis of the Chinese situation led to the recognition of the key role to be played by the masses of the people, who in China were the peasants. He merged the cause of national liberation with the goal of social revolution to overthrow the Chinese ruling class. He developed the idea of the continuing nature of revolution. In the cultural revolution he alerted the Chinese revolution and all social revolutions to the dangers of the re-emergence of the ruling cliques or classes. Mao was a patriot and a man of the people. He had a profound faith in the ability of the Chinese people to overcome the vast obstacles that faced them and to carry through an effective revolution. ‘The will of the people is a spiritual bomb’, said Mao. His firm conviction placed an indelible stamp on the course of the Chinese revolution, and on the revolutionary theory that the world has inherited from Mao Tse-tung.
Mao also based his strategy for the revolution and for a new China on a belief about the nature of man which is very different from the beliefs that dominate our society. To Mao people were not fundamentally selfish and self-seeking. If they were it was because of the dominant ideology of the ruling class. He believed that through persuasion and example, through correct ideology, people’s attitudes could be changed so that they would cast aside selfish considerations and, in the interests of all people, commit themselves to the tough struggle to build a new China. As a result, China has undertaken a process in which material incentives are being steadily abandoned in favour of moral incentives. The people do not work for increased material gain for themselves or out of economic insecurity. I have observed at first hand many examples of the Chinese people taking joy in their work for the benefit of the whole society. Mao stressed the need for the Chinese economy to be self-reliant. After more than a century of exploitation by colonialist powers, and economic disruption at the hands of the Soviet Union, the Chinese economy has been set upon the course of self-reliance. No other country in the world is less affected by the upheavals in the present world economy.
The speculation about a successor to Mao that has been taking place in the Western Press is, at best, an illustration of a gross lack of understanding of the significance of Mao Tse-tung. Many Western commentators seek to reduce his stature to that of just another political leader. But the significance of Mao’s life and thought is so much greater than that. He was a man of the modern world. The people of China have inherited the fruits of his work. They have inherited his theory to guide the course of their revolution for a long time to come. There will undoubtedly be struggles ahead in the course of China’s continuing revolution. Mao foresaw that. The Chinese people foresee it. It is closely tied up with their understanding of the nature of change and progress. However, my visits to China, particularly the second visit a few months ago, have left me totally convinced that, for the Chinese people, no struggle is too great and that the will of the vast majority of the people will undoubtedly prevail.
The thoughts of Mao that, people, of great significance to all classes of people throughout the world who have felt the authority of the ruling class and of foreign domination. His thoughts have guided the Chinese revolution for 50 years and they will live long in the future achievements of new China. They will be a guide to the future shaping of all human society.
-This is a time for us to reaffirm our friendship for the Chinese people and to express the hope that the death of Mao will usher in a new and better era for them and for the world.
Mao Tse-tung took charge of a China which was weak, divided and exhausted, and created a nation which was unified, formidable and dedicated to the destruction of freedom. It is perhaps pardonable that, as we tremble, we should also praise, but it would be unpardonable if that praise were unleavened.
To subdue fratricidal factions, to bring order out of chaos, to organise the masses for their own better living is always commended, even if it is not always entirely commendable. We rightly derided those who praised Mussolini for making the Italian trains run on time, and for sure the Chairman faced a far worse situation than did II Duce. But Mao murdered a thousand times as many of his own countrymen as Mussolini ever did and destroyed ten times as many of their freedoms. He made a prison and called it peace.
It is plausible to say that he had no alternative and that the Chinese masses could have been controlled by no gentler means. But against that conjecture there stands the hard fact of Taiwan. There on an island half the size of Tasmania Chiang Kai-shek, without resort to comparable violence, found the means to organise 1 7 million people and to give them a standard of living far higher than those on the rich mainland had ever attained. The island microcosm confutes the mainland colossus.
It was Mao, with his tactics of treachery and terror, who drove Chiang Kai-shek from the mainland and prevented the application there of the milder tactics which were so successful in Taiwan. Perhaps, but for the misguided General Marshall, aided and abetted by ignorance and worse from Washington and Canberra, a better road may have opened for the Chinese people. Disaliter visum.
Three men in this last half century have attained supreme power- Hitler, Stalin and Mao- and it is no accident that they had so much in common. Hitler failed and was unmasked before he fell, so that no one praised him in his death. Many praised the dead Stalin before they realised the true nature of the monster. And most now praise Mao. For him, the verdict of history may well depend upon who writes it.
It is the fashion now to speak well of Mao because Chinese communism provides some counterpoise to Russian communism. It may indeed continue to do so, though those who recall the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 may well doubt the permanence of totalitarian tensions, however they may be protested and especially when they are protested too much. Even if you lick one boot, you cannot rely on the feet fighting each other.
We may choose to ignore the basic Marxist militancy, but at least we should not forget that the primary split between the 2 communist giants occurred because Moscow would not accept Mao’s urging to risk nuclear war and face a world holocaust. That occurred nearly 20 years ago when China, having then no nuclear weapons, could only urge and could not herself act.
Maoism has subjected the Chinese people to an alien ideology and has denied them all their traditional life and culture. It has demanded the rejection of all family ties and accepted decencies, culminating in its assault of Confucianism. For religion it has substituted the ritual nonsense of the Little Red Book, the analogue of the ridiculous ‘Heil Hitler’ of the Nazi discipline.
Will the Chinese people now have the wisdom and courage to abandon these moronic aspects of Maoism and reassert their historic values? The question is not academic because Mao has tried to cut off all their roots and 800 million rootless people would be a menace to the whole world. People who have cast out their cultural values need something to rill the empty house, and the communist ideology has plenty of its own selfproclaimed devils. If Maoism persists eventually there will be another Genghis Khan and the new golden horde will have nuclear weapons strapped to its saddles.
And so, as we hope that the Chinese people will be partners in a peaceful world, we must realise that this will depend largely upon their replacement of Maoism by something bettersomething which retains at least part of the Chinese values and culture in which for so long they have taken such proper pride. Mao has indeed given them material power, but with that power he has left them a dreadful legacy.
De Mortuis nil nisi bonum they say. But this is no private death, and may no word be spoken in rebuttal of misleading adulation.
Mine is a small voice and in the larger tumult of the world even the strongest voice from this Parliament would be little heard. But if no man may speak, what hope is there for any man?
-I too wish to associate myself with the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and in the fashion described by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I do so enthusiastically because with the passing of Mao it has been a very sad year for China. The Chinese people have lost not only their Chairman and their Premier Chou En-lai, but also their great military leader, Chu Teh. With the passing of those 3 men in one year we can look at the remarkable history of China since the formation of the Communist Party in 1921. The Chinese Communist Party was almost wiped out in the Long March of 1934-36 but these men won sufficient support within their country to be able to take over the government of the country in 1949 and be the first government in history to unify China and have the support of all the Chinese people.
Those men took over a country that had enormous poverty, great illiteracy and many enemies. The majority of the world’s leaders were opposed to the Government which Mao led in 1949 and they showed in many ways, including the imposition of trade embargoes and diplomatic non-recognition, that they hoped that the
Government which Mao led would be shortlived. So not only did these remarkable men live through the period from 192 1 to 1949 before taking over government but they lived through the period until 1976 which saw that Government consolidated. I think it speaks well of Australia and perhaps the maturity of our foreign affairs politics that the last 2 Prime Ministers of this country have visited China and have seen the significance of China in terms of future relations for Australia in this region. I hope that the relationships that have been built up will continue. We should not dwell too much on earlier relationships between Australia and China but rather see ourselves as partners working towards stability within our own region, and recognising the great part that this remarkable man has played for his country.
-Chairman Mao Tsetung was a great man of great achievement who in his own lifetime ensured for himself an indelible record in the history of man. He cannot be denied the achievement of rescuing and restoring the strength and vitality of his country. Chinese history has a remarkably consistent cycle of periods of strong central government effectively administering an extensive empire because it has maintained and can maintain the support of the people of the nation. The cycle is succeeded periodically by decay in the strength of administration, and the quality of government, followed by a loss of support of the people and a fragmentation of the empire often exposing it through weakness to invaders. Chairman Mao’s period of office, as I said, restored that strength and vitality of the Chinese empire.
The Chinese have a greater sense of history than any Westerner can ever understand. They look back with pride to a history which was recorded at least 4000 years before the Christian era commenced. I expect, knowing a little of Chinese history, that the Chinese would regard themselves as having been rescued from the humiliation which they suffered with the decay of the Manchu dynasty; the period of unequal treaties when Western imperialistic powers- and they could truly be described as imperialistic colonial powers of that period- brazenly exploited and plundered China, sought to undermine the confidence of the people of that country and to sap any strength and cohesion which Chinese society may have had, in order to exploit China commercially.
The appearance of Chiang Kai-shek was a hope which soured quickly into a failure. I do not think that people should lose sight of the fact that after promising a revolution to restore the pride, confidence and strength of the Chinese empire, Chiang Kai-shek first turned the machine guns on the striking workers in Shanghai in the early 1920s- workers who had struck to facilitate his takeover of the country- then proceeded to collaborate with the very people who had been responsible for the destruction and subjection of China for so long. He subsequently collaborated with the Japanese occupiers of China. Regrettably the period of administration of Chiang Kai-shek was one of utter failure. It is understandable, therefore, that with constructive policies and practices based on self-discipline and self-denial Chairman Mao and his followers were able to pull the country together. The revolution succeeded because it was able to attract the confidence and patriotic support of the Chinese people. Chairman Mao was able to revive the country culturally, socially and economically and to restore the pride of the Chinese people- something which has been a strong ingredient throughout the millennia of their recorded history.
It is easy for people like ourselves to condemn the system of government in another country, especially if we do not understand the special conditions which may apply in that country. I well remember President Nyerere of Tanzania, at a dinner in this building some time ago given in his honour, pointing out that we were perfectly entitled to apply the ideology and system of government which most suited our own needs but that it was improper to expect other countries to apply similar systems, especially when those systems would not be appropriate to the needs of those countries. I suggest that the system of government, whatever we may think about the ideology of communism, has proved particularly successful in China.
I had an opportunity recently to visit that country and came away enormously impressed with what has been achieved. The high death rates of which I read when I studied Chinese historythe deprivation, the exploitation, the few who are very rich and the mass of people who are very poor- no longer exist. Everyone is well fed, well clothed and well housed. Everyone has a job. Progress is under way and it appeared to me that it is one of the few developing countries in the world which is really succeeding in giving hope to its people. More significantly, it is doing this alone on the basis of its creed of selfsufficiency. I suggest that the future of mankind would be better served if, instead of trying to cut off and isolate countries with different ideologies and systems of government- countries like China- we worked more towards involving them in world affairs and in associations with other countries. Although I found the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on his recent visit to China a little fulsome in some respects, they were far preferable to the antithesis of his sort of approach. Fulsome or not, at least they were helpful and showed a better understanding of the need to welcome China ‘s and the Chinese people’s participation in world affairs. The world is worse for the passing of Mao, a great statesman and great national leader. China is worse because of that. I sincerely trust that China and the world will be well served by having to succeed him a man of at least somewhere near equal competence in all respects.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
– I inform the House of the death on 9 September 1976 of Mr Eli James Harrison, who was a member of this House for the division of Blaxland from 1949 to 1969. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, I invite honourable members to rise in their places.
Honourable members having risen in their places
– I thank the House.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will urge the Government to retain at least the original Medibank scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley, Mr Cotter and Mr Hyde. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned, citizens of the Commonwealth by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That Medibank has proved to be the cheapest and most efficient means of bringing health care to Australian citizens and that the citizens of Australia have received Medibank as a great and valued social reform.
That Medibank has proved itself to be a far superior system of health care than was offered by the private funds prior to July 1975.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will observe the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that ‘We will maintain Medibank and ensure the standard of health care does not decline’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass, Dr Jenkins and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the decision to withdraw the Australian Trader from the Tasmanian service,
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will move to restore the Australian Trader to the Tasmanian service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Morris, Mr Stewart and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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 Price Index months after prices of goods and services have risen, and that medications which were formerly pharmaceutical benefits must now be paid for. Additionally, that State housing authorities’ waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners grow ever longer, and the cost of funerals increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to-
Adjust social security payments instantly and automatically when the quarterly Consumer Prices Index is announced.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
Update the State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act of 1 974, eroded by inflation, to increase grants to overcome the backlog.
Update Funeral Benefit to 60 per cent of reasonable cost of funeral. (This benefit was 200 shillings, 20 dollars, when introduced in 1943. It was seven times the 1943 pension of 27 shillings a week).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Mr Hamer, Mr Innes and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled.
We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant, Dr Klugman, Mr Morris and Mr Wallis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant and Mr Hamer.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned members of Warringah and Berowra electorates, New South Wales, respectfully showeth that:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the Government’s program of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the Budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr MacKellar.
To the Speaker and Members of 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 $21,000,000 and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We, your petitioners, do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth: The urgent need for a community owned and operated public access radio broadcasting station to service the mid-western suburbs of Sydney and in particular the municipalities of Ashfield, Burwood, Concord, Drummoyne and Strathfield.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should grant a licence for this purpose to 2 RDJ FM Community Radio.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as pan of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
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 mean’s test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the mean’s 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.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi an applicant for amnesty has been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
That as Mr Salemi fulfils all the publicly announced criteria for amnesty he is permitted to remain in Australia as a resident.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That the decision of the Government to introduce a 2.5 per cent Levy on incomes to finance Medibank and to offer private health insurance as an alternative to Medibank.
Your petitioners call upon the Australian Government
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
Dockyards at Newcastle
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 employment 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.
-Has the Treasurer seen reports of a speech in Tokyo yesterday by Sir Bede Callaghan, the Chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board in which he claimed that there ‘has recently been evidence of improvement’ in Australia’s industrial relations? As Sir Bede’s statement is contrary to statements made by the Treasurer, can the Treasurer advise us which of these statements we are to believe?
– I take a very keen interest in the statements made by Sir Bede Callaghan around the world at the present time, but I must say I have not seen an indication of any statement made by Sir Bede commenting on the industrial relations position facing Australia. But the position is quite clear: This country has too high a level of industrial unrest. It is spearheaded directly by a small group of militant trade unionists. It is time for the rank and file to express their views. I do not resile from any comment I made recently in relation to the high level of industrial disputes.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to Press reports indicating that the Deputy Prime Minister supports devaluation of the Australian dollar? Can the Prime Minister say whether there has been any shift in government policy on devaluation?
-There has been no shift in the Government’s attitude on this matter. The Treasurer has stated the views very plainly on behalf of the Government, as I have done and as the Deputy Prime Minister has done, on a number of occasions over past months. Those views have not changed. The views that have been expressed are identical. This morning’s report was a mis-report of what was contained in the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister. That is very plain to anyone who takes the time to read the whole of the speech. Reports of the kind which encourage speculation about this matter do not serve Australia’s interest at all. The Government’s determination in this matter is complete, as is mine and as is that of the Deputy Prime Minister and that of the Treasurer.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether recently the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission prevented the ABC News from showing a news clip on East Timor- a clip which was shown subsequently on the Channel 9 program, A Current Affair? Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking to the House that such blatant political censorship by the Chairman of the ABC will cease?
-The Australian Broadcasting Commission makes its own decisions about programming and matters of that kind. If the honourable gentleman has some complaint, I suggest that he contact the Chairman of the ABC or the ABC itself. The Government will not interfere in the programming of the ABC.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Has the slow-down in spending provided for in this year’s Budget reduced services available to members of Parliament? Has it led to a shortage of typewriters and office equipment available for the use of members. If so, will the Treasurer look into the position?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for a very compelling question. Expenditure this year on services for members of Parliament has of course been restrained in line with the Government’s overall financial policy. I have noticed one Press report which seems to point to a shortage of typewriters in Parliament House at the present time. The report explains why the Opposition’s attitude to economic matters depends on whether one listens to the honourable member for Oxley or the honourable member for Adelaide. It appears that questions on economic matters are being formulated in this House by the honourable member for Oxley. A report in the National Times of last weekend states:
Meantime the former Treasurer was busy behind his desk with a portable typewriter knocking out economic questions for other Labor members to use in the Parliament at question time
– Surprise, surprise!
– It would come as a surprise to some honourable members. I can only suggest that the Opposition’s co-ordination of economic policy might be improved if the honourable member for Oxley were to lend his typewriter to the honourable member for Adelaide.
– I wish to address a question to the Treasurer. If he has trouble in answering it, I will type out the answer for him, with acknowledgements to the honourable member for Adelaide. Does the Treasurer recall saying in the House on 25 August that he would welcome a large inflow of overseas capital this year? Would a large capital inflow imply a substantial contraction in the rate of growth in money supply available for domestic business if he is to retain his stated money supply guidelines of a maximum of 12 per cent? As such a liquidity squeeze for domestic enterprise could be severe, does this mean that in such circumstances he would increase his money supply guidelines above the ceiling stated? To what extent can he lift that ceiling without aggravating the rate of inflation?
-The honourable gentleman’s interpretation of my statement is certainly correct. I said on that day that the Government would welcome a larger inflow of overseas capital into Australia. That position certainly remains. I think that honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House will recognise that that is a slow process because of the time it takes to put an operation on the ground after a major investment decision has been undertaken. The honourable gentleman will be very much aware of the fact that the formation factors involved in relation to money supply are quite diverse, and they need to be put together when indicating to this House and to the people at large what ought to be a proper course for the formation of the money supply defined on the M3 basis during the course of the period ahead. Apart from the flow of overseas capital, which of course is one essential ingredient in the development of the money supply, I would mention to the honourable gentlemen, who would be aware of these factors, the domestic budgetary transactions, the transactions between the Reserve Bank and the private sector, bank lending itself, net changes in bank assets or liabilities other than loans, the Government’s sale of paper to the non-bank public and, of course, public holdings of notes and coins.
I recognise that the honourable gentleman is seeking to appear in this House as some form of economic and technical gadfly with the questions that he has asked. I have some visions of the honourable gentleman, during his period as Treasurer, reciting his M3 tables before a mirror at the time as this country moved deeper and deeper into recession. Of course the money supply target is flexible. That has been made perfectly clear. I remind the Opposition that it was the Party in government that brought into effect a very severe money squeeze in this country. The honourable gentleman, as one member of that Administration, certainly should accept a share of the responsibility for that. I think that it also would be fair to say that if the honourable gentleman had the opportunity to discourse with the money markets he would recognise their acceptance of the fact that the Government’s flexible monitoring of the money supply during the course of the past 6 months has been one of the most successful aspects of its economic policy.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. I preface it by referring him to the final June quarterly statistics for the national accounts, which became available to members of this House today. I ask: Has the Treasurer had time to study the latest statistics? If so, do the movements in the company profit levels and the savings ratio indicate whether those elements mean that the economy is beginning to move in the right direction after 3 years of disastrous economic policy?
– The indicators quoted by the honourable gentleman do in fact show that the economy is now moving in the right direction. I would mention first of all that the national account figures to which the honourable gentleman has drawn attention show that the savings ratio has declined from 16 per cent for the December quarter of last year to 12.9 per cent during the June quarter of this year. This recent movement goes some way towards reaching the average saving ratio of 9.8 per cent experienced between 1968-69 and 1972-73. 1 believe that it reveals that the consumers have been responding to the improving outlook in respect of inflation by spending more of their current incomes.
Company profitability has shown a welcome increase during the course of the past 6 months. The national accounts figures for the June quarter indicate that the gross operating surplus of corporate trading enterprises is estimated to have increased by 18.9 per cent during the 6 months to June as against a decline of 1.7 per cent in the 6 months to December 1975. This recovery has brought about an increase in the profit share of trading companies from 12.4 per cent in the half year to December 1975 to 13.5 per cent in the more recent 6 months. I remind the House that the company profit share fell under the previous Administration from the 17.5 per cent average between 1968-69 and 1972-73 to a disastrous 11.8 per cent in the September quarter of 1974. The strengthening of profitability within the corporate sector shows that the process of economic recovery is now consolidating.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister will be aware that the Public Service Arbitrator recently awarded the Miscellaneous Workers Union in the Australian Capital Territory a wage increase of $5.70 a week. He will also be aware that the Public Service Board has appealed against this rather meagre award. I ask the Minister: Is the Government’s income policy such that any award given to industrial workers, no matter how meagre, should be opposed while income increases for professional people in the community, such as members of the medical profession, even if they amount to $100 a week, should be meekly accepted and applauded as being moderate and reasonable, whether or not they are morally justifiable? Will he intervene to prevent the Public Service Board from appealing against the miscellaneous workers award.
-The Public Service Board is autonomous in matters of this kind. There is at least reasonable doubt as to whether the increase to which the honourable member referred falls within the guidelines of the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In those circumstances it is in accordance with the Government’s wages policy that the decision be tested.
– I address my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. I refer to the report in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning implying that his remarks on the need to maintain a strong export sector and a favourable balance of payments cast doubts on the value of the Australian dollar. Did the Minister make a reference to devaluation in his speech to the Chamber of Manufactures last night? Did he cast doubts on the value of the Australian dollar? Can it be justifiably claimed by the writer of the article, Mr Steketee that the opinion of unnamed government officials constitutes concern within the Government? Has the Minister seen other reports in the Press this morning that draw similar conclusions to those published in the Sydney Morning Herald!
- Mr Acting Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would it not be appropriate for the Government parties to organise their questions so there is no confusion?
– Order! The honourable member is not raising a point of order and he knows it.
– Shall I repeat portion of the question which may not have been heard, Mr Speaker?
-The honourable member for Northern Territory will ask his question.
– I ask: Did the Minister make reference to devaluation -
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. I move that the honourable member read page 1- -
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. I suggest that honourable members taking frivolous points of order note the comment that not sufficient questions are asked at question time. That affects both sides, the Opposition and the Government.
-Did the Minister make a reference to devaluation in his speech to the Chamber of Manufactures in Sydney last night? Did he cast doubts on the value of the Australian dollar? Can it be justifiably claimed by the writer of the article, Mr Steketee that the opinion of the unnamed government officials constitutes concern within the Government? Has the Minister seen other reports in the Press this morning that draw similar conclusions to those published in the Sydney Morning Herald!
– I think the Prime Minister amply covered the issue of speculation about the Australian dollar in the reply he gave to the House. In my speech last night there was certainly no implication or suggestion regarding devaluation. The article to which the honourable member referred was a piece of mischievous reporting to try to make trouble when it was completely unnecessary. I gave an accurate description of our trading position. I outlined the need for an all out attack on inflation because of the impact it was having on our export industries. What is inexcusable is the fact that the reporter who wrote the article in question, the only one writing in today’s Press to interpret my remarks the way he did, actually contacted my office to see whether his interpretation was correct. He was told that if he used that interpretation it would be wrong. Yet irrespective of that he went ahead and wrote the story, which adds to speculation and does no good to a situation where people are making these noises. I thought it was an irresponsible act by the newspaper to print something which was not true.
– I ask the Treasurer: Is Professor Warren Hogan, Professor of Economics at Sydney University, a prominent member of the self-appointed anti-inflation committee which encourages people to work harder for less? Has the Treasurer had any indication from Professor Hogan that he opposes the 9.5 per cent increase awarded to professors outside of and in addition to indexation? If not, will the Treasurer ask Professor Hogan his attitude to that matter at the first meeting of the economic advisory panel, whose formation the Treasurer announced on Sunday?
– The announcement of the formation of the Economic Panel was acclaimed by the honourable member for Adelaide, and I think it is less than responsible for the honourable member for Prospect to invite me to make a comment on the personal views of Professor Warren Hogan on any particular subject or to seek to put to me questions which I might ask Professor Hogan at the first meeting of the panel. The fact is that it is a most distinguished panel which I have no doubt will make a very able contribution to the formulation of Government economic policy.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the call in recent days by Mr R. J. Hawke and other Australians urging the Government to support a non-aligned foreign policy, to oppose military alliances and thereby abandon the ANZUS Treaty. Will the Minister dissociate the Government from those demands?
– I said yesterday in a statement in regard to this advertisement that nonalignment is not an option for Australia and that this Government firmly supports the ANZUS Treaty. Quite frankly, the advertisement to which Mr Hawke appended his name is totally devoid of reality, and the advertisement, as well as the statements made by the President of the Australian Labor Party, should be disowned by the present Leader of the Opposition. From what Mr Hawke said, I doubt whether he has even read the ANZUS Treaty. To say that he supports ANZUS but rejects its military emphasis is to ignore that it is essentially a security pact concerned to co-ordinate the efforts of the 3 parties for collective defence. To say that one is for the Treaty but against its military or defence aspect is probably as sensible as saying that one is for whisky but against alcohol. The role of the Leader of the Opposition is interesting. It has now been 2 days since the advertisement was run, and if the Leader of the Opposition will not speak for himself perhaps I can speak for him for a moment. On 24 May 1973 the Leader of the Opposition, as the then Prime Minister, made a statement on international affairs in this House. At page 2648 of Hansard he said:
The maintenance of our alliance with the United States under ANZUS remains most important for our security . . .
-Who said that?
-The former Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, from whose mouth there has been silence. The statement went on:
The ANZUS Treaty reflects a natural relationship between these countries of the Pacific Its continuation is not questioned by any of its partners.
The only conclusions that can be drawn from the advertisement and the appending by Mr Hawke of his name, thereby lending the support of himself and his Party, are threefold at least: Firstly, Mr Hawke does not support ANZUS; secondly, Mr Hawke is ingratiating himself with the Left; and thirdly, the Leader of the Opposition is condemned by his own silence.
– I ask a question of the Foreign Minister concerning the implications and effectiveness of our alliance with the United States. Will he confirm that it is his Government’s policy to support the admission of Vietnam to the United Nations? Has the Government expressed that view to members of the Security Council, in particular to our ally, the United States? Has the Government stressed how divisive it would be in our region if the United States blocked the admission of Vietnam in the way she for so long blocked the restoration of membership rights to the People ‘s Republic of China?
-I indicated the view of the Australian Government to the Secretary of State while I was in the United States, and that was that we favoured the involvement of the Indochina states in the international community. From that it can be drawn that we believe that Vietnam should participate in the United Nations. It may not come before us; it may be vetoed by the Security Council, or any member of it, before it comes to the General Assembly, as the Leader of the Opposition will be aware. So that is the nub of the answer. May I simply say in passing that at least we smoked him out, for within the question was the reference to ‘our ally, the United States’. I take it from that that not just tacitly but now avowedly the Leader of the Opposition dissociates himself from the non-aligned view expressed by Mr Hawke.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that capital inflow is only one element of the overall balance of payments position of a country? Is it also a fact that it is the overall balance of payments outcome and not capital inflow per se which determines the effect of the external account on the domestic money supply? Is it a fact that the Government determines its monetary policy on the basis of overall monetary aggregates rather than on individual elements of the aggregate? Finally, is it a fact that all Federal Treasurers should be aware of these simple facts, including even former Treasurers who are now sitting opposite in this chamber?
– The answer to the first question posed by the honourable gentleman is yes; the answer to the second question posed by the honourable gentleman is yes; the answer to the third question posed by the honourable gentleman is yes; and the answer to the fourth question posed by the honourable gentleman also is yes.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question which is related to something he said on Thursday and which is reported on page 860 of Hansard. He said that the 25 per cent cut in tariffs across the board was wild and foolish and the cause of the export of 40 000 jobs from Australia overseas. If those are his views, when does he propose to bring about the restoration of that 25 per cent tariff cut so that he may reimport to Australia those 40 000 jobs? If he does not intend to do that, why not?
– I am glad that the honourable gentleman is recognising the damage that his Administration did to the Australian economy in lost job oportunities, and the difficulties caused through inflation and dramatic changes in economic direction to manufacturing industry, to exporting industries generally and to primary industry. The honourable gentleman would well know that when you have done grave damage to an economy you cannot go back two or three years to the situation which you were in before. During the course of this year we have taken a number of sensible decisions on the basis of the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission, and our decisions on changes to tariffs and support for industry will also be based on the reports and recommendations of that Industries Assistance Commission. They will obviously take into account the total situation and the utter disaster and chaos caused by the honourable gentleman’s Administration. We know, of course, that the honourable gentleman is one of those trying to get some common sense into the present Leader of the Opposition on economic matters. I wish that he was better placed to continue that task.
– My question is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Casey of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Did the Minister notice that the advertisement on page 63 of the National Times of 13 September, contained not only the name of Mr R. J. Hawke but also the names of practically every leading communist in this country, and announced what is called a National Conference for an Independent and Non-Aligned Australia to be held from 1 to 3 October in Melbourne? Has the Minister been invited to attend the said conference and will any representatives of his Department grace this bizarre event with their presence?
– It may surprise the honourable member, but I was verbally invited to this conference last week. I was asked if I would send representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs along. I said in the politest terms that it was totally the antithesis of the attitude of this Government and that I hardly felt we would on this occasion derive great benefit from it and I saw little purpose in either myself attending or any representatives of my Department attending. It appears to me from the collection of names and signatures to the advertisement, as I indicated in a statement yesterday, that they are just the old familiar names, with the addition of the President of the Australian Labor Party. On a quick run through the names, we see there are some from the Left. I do not usually inject this term but it is reasonable here because they are card carrying members. There are also members of the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party. Look at them: Carmichael and Crawford, Gietzelt and Goldbloom, Anderson and Aarons, Brown and Bull, Hartley and Halfpenny. And so they go on through the alphabet in the most predictable way. All are calling for independence and for non-alignment. It is as if independence and non-alignment cannot be run together as if they were the same thing. Not only can a country maintain its independence within an alliance, but an alliance often provides the best guarantee of its continued independence. If that sort of trash is the substitute for foreign policy, no wonder no impact is being made in this chamber by the Opposition.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. To what extent has he been able to inform himself as to the percentage availability of beds in private and intermediate wards for persons who will be taking out an appropriate insurance cover? Is it correct to say that there will in certain of the Australian States be a definite shortfall in this regard? If so, what does he propose to do to provide relief by way of reimbursement for persons who, on presenting themselves for the insured type of accommodation, find that they are not able to receive it?
– Those people who insure for private accommodation in a hospital are entitled to receive accommodation in a private room in a private hospital or in a private room in a public hospital. The honourable member for Cunningham makes a point which is valid in respect to some of the States which are moving to remove private ward accommodation in public hospitals. I take the point that there will be some difficulty on some occasions in respect of patients who have privately insured for private rooms in public hospitals. I believe that this could be so in New South Wales. Those people who have taken out the higher table of insurance for single room or private room accommodation will still be entitled to receive private room accommodation in private hospitals, particularly for elective surgery, when these rooms become available.
-I ask the Minister for National Resources a question relating to water resources. I refer to the flood mitigation works in progress on 9 coastal rivers in New South Wales which have in the past been financially assisted by a joint Commonwealth-State arrangement. Has the Minister seen a statement made by the New South Wales Minister for Public Works claiming that the New South Wales Government has not had any decision from the Federal Government about financial assistance during the next 5 years and that the State is now carrying the financial burden of flood mitigation works, although it has now pushed a greater proportion of the financial burden on to local government? Has the Federal Government received any official request from the New South Wales Government in this matter?
-There has been no request from the State Government of New South Wales for the Commonwealth to consider an extension of the flood mitigation program in that State. As the honourable member would be aware, there have been 2 flood mitigation proposals, extending over a period of 12 years, to which the Commonwealth Government has contributed some $17m. The second stage of this ran out as at 30 June of this year. The local government authorities did propose an extension of that program for a further period. I met a deputation of the councils in June of this year. It wanted to find out what the Commonwealth’s reaction would be. I pointed out to that deputation that there was only one means of handling this matter, and that was, as has been done on previous occasions, for the councils to make their submission to the State Government, and that it was the State Government’s responsibility to make an application to the Commonwealth. Until June of this year there had been no approach by the State Government for any extension of the scheme. I said that, if the councils were concerned, they ought to see the State Government immediately to find out whether it was going to put a submission to the Commonwealth Government for consideration in preparing the Budget. I am led to believe that a deputation did go to Sydney and make a request that there be an extension of the present 2:2:1 arrangements with the Commonwealth, State and local government authorities. But of course nothing was forthcoming so there was nothing to consider when preparing the Budget for this year.
– I preface my question by thanking the Prime Minister for taking heed of my suggestion last week to commence a relocation scheme for the unemployed. I now ask the Prime Minister: Will he explain to the House how retailers and consumers can have greater confidence in the future, as called for by his Minister for Industry and Commerce, when the $800m that will be taken out of consumers’ pockets in a full year for health insurance will remove a massive purchasing power which could buy any of the following: 160 000 $5,000 cars, 800 000 colour television sets, 1 600 000 $500 refrigerators or washing machines -
-Order! The honourable member is giving information rather than asking a question. The illustration that he is giving is extending the question beyond the time that he should be taking.
– I am trying to give the information to the House. It is pan of the question which seeks to find out whether the Prime Minister can explain how people can retain their enthusiasm to purchase when this amount of purchasing power has been removed from them. This illustrates what the $800m would do. I have only 2 lines to go. Would you bear with me? I conclude my question: It would buy 26 000 $30,000 homes or 5 000 000 men ‘s suits at $ 1 50.
-The honourable gentleman always asks his questions at the right time. I do not know who is giving him his information but it gives me a perfect opportunity to indicate that he could have increased the list of goods that could be bought by one-half, if he had referred to the tax indexation proposals that were adopted fully as they affect personal income tax. That is not $800m; that is about $ 1,200m in benefits to the consumers of Australia. I only regret that the honourable gentleman when working out his figures related them to the cost of health care rather than to the benefits to taxpayers coming through tax indexation. He might also have referred to the family allowances scheme which will increase the capacity to spend of certain categories of families and increase their well-being over and above that which would have occurred under previous arrangements. The honourable gentleman referred to the relocation scheme. That has been well received and I am grateful again to him for referring to it. He will know that it has been in our industrial relations policy for a very long while. I do not know that it ever was in the policies of the Australian Labor Party. The scheme, as introduced by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, will, in a number of important categories and groups, relieve personal hardship in a compassionate and humanitarian way. It is a useful and a worthwhile scheme that will be of very real assistance to many people, and I thank the honourable gentleman for drawing attention to it.
– My question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development concerns mermaids. I ask the Minister: Is he aware that an almost extinct species of mermaid has disappeared from the cliffs at Bondi, to the disgust and anguish of local residents and thousands of overseas tourists? Short of mounting a vast sea hunt and a netting operation in search of other mermaids, which no doubt would be too costly in the light of present economic circumstances, will the Minister, in view of this catastrophic happening, consider making a reasonable grant to the local council for replacements which I am sure will bring untold joy and gladness to the hearts of all mermaid lovers?
– The honourable member catches me somewhat by surprise. If he had asked me something about whales I might have had a ready answer. I think I had better say in passing that I think he has a rather sexist attitude. In these times it would probably have been more appropriate to talk about merpersons than mermaids. I think the best way of answering the question is to say that I will put it to my ‘ mermaid section’ and I will give the honourable member an answer in due course.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister confirm that on 3 September Commonwealth and State legal officers met and agreed on a form for the Heads of Agreement under which the revised hospitals agreements with the States were to be drafted? Is it also true that Dr Sax advised the States by telex on 7 September of a substantial amendment to paragraph 5 of the Heads of Agreement which could limit Commonwealth funding of hospitals in the States to a fixed amount and not 50 per cent of the approved operating costs? Will the Minister deny that the Government has ignored assurances it gave to the State Health Ministers on 1 1 June that unilateral decisions on hospital funding would not be made by the Commonwealth, nor would the Commonwealth exercise any power of veto in relation to funding?
-Head 5, to which the honourable member refers, is consistent with the Prime Minister’s undertaking to the Premiers at the Premiers’ Conference in June. It is consistent with the spirit of the discussions I have had with the State Ministers for Health on 2 occasions and it is consistent with the discussions my officers have had with State officers during the winter recess. The principle of the understanding with the Statesthe States have agreed to this- is that we establish joint committees with each State and those joint committees will meet in March to formulate budgets for the operating costs of the hospitals in the respective States. The joint committees will meet again in November to review the progress, consider unforeseen circumstances and take into account any retrospective variations that may occur. It will be necessary after the November meetings to obtain mutual approval of ministers for any variations to the budgets that were agreed to at the meeting earlier this year. The only limitation is as to the extent that we have agreement with the States on their budgets and variations to those budgets. We did not want to hold the States to a fixed budget that was approved of earlier in the year. We clearly understood- I would have thought the States would have understood this- that in the course of a year there will be variations to those budgets due to escalations in salaries, the costs of medical supplies and household items.
At no time have we said that we would not meet 50 per cent of the approved operating costs, but it will require mutual agreement on the budgets and certainly on variations to those budgets. It was not possible to obtain the spirit of that intention unless Head 5 was worded in the way it is worded. Officers of my Department are in the process of negotiating with the States on the agreements, which will, of course, be binding upon the Commonwealth and the States. It is in the agreements that we will write in the details in respect of the undertakings that we have given to the State Premiers.
I want to quote from the 1976-77 Budget speech that was made by the Premier of Victoria in which he made the position very clear. I have not heard from the Premier of Victoria. I do not know that Victoria is opposed to what we are doing, but the Premier did refer to the State standing committee comprised of Commonwealth and State officers to be established under the new Medibank arrangements with the responsibility of checking and recommending budgets of recognised hospitals for each financial year and of reviewing those budgets at appropriate intervals during the course of the year. The Premier went on to say that where actual expenditures or receipts differ significantly from the approved budget estimates an investigation is to be made. So there is a clear understanding on his part of the arrangements we have made. But Head 5 of the agreement is in accordance with our undertaking that we will require the joint committees, firstly, to formulate the budgets early in the year and, secondly, to approve any variations to those budgets later in the year.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it the intention of the Government to table the Crawford report? If so, when?
– I am grateful to the honourable member for putting the question to me. Unfortunately the number of copies available has precluded my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, from presenting the report to the Parliament today. I am advised that there will be adequate copies available tomorrow and it is the present intention of the
Minister to table the report at that stage so that it will be available not only to all honourable members of this House but also to State governments and dairy farmers throughout Australia so that the very necessary and urgent decisions that flow from the presentation of that report can be discussed and, I would hope, made at the earliest opportunity.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. Now that amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act banning cigarette advertisements on radio and television stations have come into operation, has the Government given consideration to banning cigarette advertisements in newspapers and journals registered for transmission through the post?
– At a conference of Health Ministers some 2 years ago a working party was established to examine ways and means of limiting the advertising of cigarettes in journals and newspapers. It is entirely a matter for the States to determine restrictions on this sort of advertising in journals in the States. The States themselves have not been prepared at this stage to take the action that was, I think, recommended by the working party. In respect of banning advertisements in articles registered for transmission through the post, this is a matter that has not been considered by the Government and what is more, it is outside my jurisdiction.
– I have received advice from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) that he has nominated Senator Young to be a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in the place of Senator Durack.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the honourable member for Maranoa, Mr Corbett, be given leave of absence for one month on the ground of parliamentary business overseas.
Motion (by Mr E. G. Whitlam) agreed to:
That the honourable member for Robertson Mr Cohen, be given leave of absence for one month on the ground of parliamentary business overseas.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. As reported on page 949 of House of Representatives Hansard of Thursday, 9 September 1976, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) referred to an argument of mine concerning the tax rebate for dependants. He made the following statement:
The honourable member was referring to me- introduced some hypothesis that rebates for dependants this year would have been indexed if they had not been removed. This is an absolute red herring.
I point out that on 20 May 1 976, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) when making his economic statement supplied a memorandum dealing with the proposals to which I was referring. In fact, he indexed rebates for dependent children and then said that they would be abolished, apart from the special rebates available for people living in certain areas of Australia, above the so-called zone allowances. In certain areas of Australia, they are 50 per cent and in other areas I understand they are 10 per cent. The Treasurer made the specific point that for the purposes of these rebates, tax rebates for dependent children have been increased from $200 to $226 per annum.
– I have received letters from both the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 107, I have selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Hughes, namely:
The failure of the Government to honour its promises and fulfil its obligations to the Aboriginal people.
I therefore 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-
-In no area more than Aboriginal affairs has this Government demonstrated to the Australian people the sheer hypocrisy of its election promises. On 28 November last year the now infamous ‘vote Liberal’ telegram went out from the then spokesman on Aboriginal affairs, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr
Ellicott), who is now no less than the AttorneyGeneral of this Government. In that telegram, he promised categorically:
No cuts in Aboriginal Affairs budget or in Aboriginal affairs programs.
He stated specifically that there would be no cuts for housing, education, employment, health and legal aid. The breach of each and every one of these promises is now history. Electors who expected honesty and integrity have received in their place blatant dishonesty and betrayal. This Government’s shameful exploitation of Aboriginal unemployment and housing initiatives, its callous indifference to Aboriginal legal aid, nutrition programs and aid to Aboriginal health centres is an affront to the integrity of the Australian people. Yet again, promises made openly, and in this case at massive expense to the taxpayer, have been broken with careless indifference. I believe that it is important for me to place the telegram of 26 November 1975 to which I have referred in its proper context and to read it in the form in which it was sent to thousands of Aboriginal organisations and communities all round Australia. It states:
Mr Bob Ellicott Liberal and Country Party spokesman for Aboriginal affairs said today there would be no cuts in Aboriginal affairs budget or in Aboriginal affairs programs. Funds will continue to be made available for housing, education, employment, health, legal aid etc. Pensions payable to Aboriginal people will not be cut and will rise automatically twice a year with cost of living increases. All available funds will be shared among Aboriginal communities on a fair and impartial basis. A Liberal National Country Party Government will support Aboriginal organisations such as the Aboriginal medical and legal services. It will hold an urgent inquiry into the role of the NACC to determine whether it can be given a more important role in Aboriginal affairs. Efforts will be made to increase the number of Aboriginal people involved in Aboriginal affairs. Employment and training schemes will be urgently investigated with aim of increasing job opportunities for Aborigines throughout Australia. Spread the word that there is absolutely no truth in Labor Party rumours about cuts in Aboriginal affairs budget. Under a Liberal Country Party Government Aborigines will be better not worse off”. Urge to vote Aborigines Liberal Country Party on December 13th. Full policy is following by mail.
Best wishes BOB ELLICOTT
The Lynch Budget returns expenditure on Aboriginal Affairs to the level of pre- 1 972 days. There has been an overall cut of 30 per cent in real terms in Aboriginal expenditure. The majority of these cuts have been in the areas of housing, health and education, the 3 areas most important to the self-respect and self-determination of any person. What does the Lynch Budget really mean? Let me list the cuts in real terms which have been made in the appropriations for various Aboriginal programs: Support for Aboriginal sporting bodies has been reduced by 100 per cent; support for Aboriginal publications has been reduced by 100 per cent; support for Aboriginal land councils has been reduced by 13 per cent; support for enterprises- the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account- has been reduced by 77 per cent; support for town management and public utilities has been reduced by 36 per cent; support for recreational and cultural activities has been reduced by 37 per cent; payments to and for the States have been reduced by 37 per cent; Aboriginal study grants have been reduced by 22.6 per cent; funding for Aboriginal education in the Northern Territory has been reduced by 34.7 per cent; funds through the Department of Health have been reduced by 18.25 per cent; administrative expenses have been reduced by 13 per cent; funds for Aboriginal conferences have been reduced by 2 1 per cent; funds for investigations and research have been reduced by 30 per cent; support for Aborigines at government settlements has been reduced by 14 per cent; assistance to Aboriginal missions has been reduced by 12 per cent; support for ecological projects has been reduced by 12 per cent; support for Aboriginal hostels has been reduced by 10 per cent; support for Aboriginal enterprises has been reduced by 10 per cent; and support for Aboriginal housing through the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account has been reduced by 17 per cent. The Attorney-General’s promises stand in tatters and the AttorneyGeneral himself stands discredited, as does the Liberal-National Country Party coalition.
Let me look just briefly at the question of unemployment, another area in which the present Attorney-General who was then the Opposition spokesman on Aboriginal affairs promised to increase jobs for Aboriginal people, the situation has gone from bad to deplorable. Despite submissions from the Australian Council of Social Services, the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and other advisory bodies and contrary to the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, the Budget appropriations in areas which involve Aboriginal employment, Aboriginal enterprises and special projects have been eliminated. Despite the pleas of these organisations and the obvious worsening of Aboriginal unemployment, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs have had to decrease the number of field officers available to cover this vital area. This, too, is in direct contradiction of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs.
Official figures show that at the end of July, 9667 Aboriginal people were registered for employment. Of these, 341 were school leavers who had been unemployed since December last year and 2284 were classified as ‘other young people ‘. This amounts to an official recognition that 30 per cent of the Aboriginal work force is unemployed. The Australian Council of Social Services, which represents 2000 voluntary organisations, has speculated that Aboriginal unemployment has increased by 50 per cent since July. We may never know the real extent of Aboriginal unemployment. While the general level of unemployment in Australia is around 5 per cent the Government says that about 10 000 Aboriginal people are now out of work. Some of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs spokesmen have speculated that 50 per cent of the Aboriginal work force is now unemployed. So these figures do not tell the real story about the cut back in the allocation for Aboriginal affairs.
Even the Government’s own inquiry, which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has used selectively to justify his apparent disregard for Aboriginal welfare has made comments on this matter. I quote from the inquiry’s findings:
Given the exceptionally high rate of Aboriginal unemployment and poor economic prospects in many areas where Aboriginals live, urgent attention should be given to redirecting special projects assistance rather than withdrawing it.
The inquiry supported the attempts of the Labor Government to provide employment and its efforts to make Aboriginal projects useful not only through the facilities provided, but also through jobs made available and the training and expertise involved.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs made very specific recommendations on this particular matter. I quote just one or two of the Committee’s recommendations, the first of which reads:
The Special Work Projects Scheme be greatly expanded and that the Australian Government make the necessary funds available.
The second recommendation was:
Negotiations between the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs and Labor and Immigration commence immediately on the transfer of responsibility for the Special Work Projects Scheme to the Department of Labor and Immigration.
It went on to recommend that Aboriginal people fill certain positions which have been designated. This Government has no regard for Aboriginal employment except as a political tool. We had the spectacle only 2 weeks ago of the Prime Minister misusing statistics to imply that this Government was looking to see that Budget cuts did not affect Aboriginal employment. Yet his Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in a letter to Aboriginal communities addressed ‘Dear Friend’ has stated that special arrangements have been made to ensure that employment is maintained. But no arrangements have been announced, no projects have been commenced and no additional funds have been committed. Again, the Aboriginal people are to wait the outcome of yet another thorough review.
In the area of Aboriginal health there have been drastic cuts to the extent of 18.25 per cent. The fallacy of the cutback in the allocation for Aboriginal health services has been highlighted by the Government’s own committee of inquiry, the Hay committee, which stated: . . . without State supplementation the provision of what might be termed normal health opportunities for Aboriginals as well as special facilities to enable them to start catching up with the rest of the community would be at risk.
The fact is that the allocation for expenditure on Aboriginal health services in 1975-76 was $2 1.48m. The appropriation for the current financial year is $20. 43m- a decrease of $ 1.043m in money terms, and something like 1 5 per cent in actual terms having regard for inflation. Grants to the States have been cut from $14m last year to $ 13.2m this year. Grants in terms of aid to Aboriginal organisations to operate health services, principally Aboriginal health centres in Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Bairnsdale, Shepparton, Perth and Alice Springs, have actually increased in money terms by $850,000. Nevertheless, in terms of inflation, they have been cut. Grants for Aboriginal health services in the Northern Territory have been reduced from $5. 5m to $4.5m in real terms- a cut of 15 per cent. So we are able to look right through the scene as exposed by the recent Standing Committee report to see the disastrous events which are occurring in the Aboriginal health field. The Aboriginal infant mortality rate, for example, in the Northern Territory in 1975 was in the ratio of 50 to 1000 as compared with 16.1 to 1000 in a comparable European situation. I commend the reading of the Committee’s report. It draws attention to health problems associated with climatic conditions, the leprosy situation which it says is still serious, eye diseases which it says are getting too little attention, the failure to deal with the problems of diet and nutrition and the long-term effects which will accrue, alarming ear disorders, ear abnormalities which occur at the rate of 60.4 per cent compared with 1 6 per cent in a comparable community, and venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea which have increased considerably in the last 2 years. The report refers to the incidence of tuberculosis in these terms:
Aboriginal people suffer excessively from a high incidence of tuberculosis. One quarter of the population of Aboriginal people incur an incidence which is 3 times higher than the white population.
The Committee makes similar comment about dental care, the lack of vitamin C, the incidence of gastro-enteritis, hook worm, the problems of alcohol, family planning and mental health. In the face of all that, this Government has cut expenditure on Aboriginal health services. It has done likewise in regard to the Aboriginal legal aid service where considerable cuts have occurred. All the Aboriginal legal organisations are in debt. Of course, in every area the Government has broken its promise to the Aboriginal people.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I really wonder what credibility the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has, particularly as a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs! when he is so inaccurate in so many of the statements that he makes that it is unbelievable. Let me just point out a few of his mis-statements. He speaks not only of a reduction in moneys provided for publications but says that no money is provided this year for publications. If he read the Budget papers he would see and he would know that that particular vote has been transferred to the Aboriginal Arts Board and is funded by the Board and not through my Department. He speaks of a reduction of 70 per cent in the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account. If he read the Budget papers he would know that there is not now a trust account. What the Government has done has been to abolish the Trust Account and to reinstate the usual appropriation by line items. What credibility can there be in the speech made by the honourable member in his endeavour to attack the Government when his facts are so palpably wrong? He speaks of the appropriation for ecology projects. He says there has been a cut in the allocation. Does he not even read the Budget papers? They will show him that there has been a slight increase from a little over $800,000 to $900,000.
The honourable member speaks about the research which has largely been done through the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. Has he not read the Budget Papers? The amount of money appropriated in the Budget for research, in round figures, is $ 1 .9m, which is the same as that provided last year. The honourable member refers to a reduction in expenditure on Aboriginal medical services. Has he not read the Budget Papers and seen that, in fact, there has been a slight increase in the appropriation this year? He speaks of a reduction in the amount of money provided for the Aboriginal legal aid services. Has he not read. the Budget Papers and seen that, in round terms, the same amount of money is being provided for those services this year as was provided last year? Where is the credibility of the honourable member? He speaks of this Government’s failure to implement a recommendation of a committee of this House to expand special works projects. Has he not read the Budget Papers and seen that this year the Government has increased the allocation for employment support programs by $1.56m, underwriting the special works projects funded by my Department? If the honourable gentleman had read the Budget Papers and had understood the policies of the Government he would have realised that the provision of an increase of $1.56m in the expenditure under that item reflects the concern which this Government has for overcoming the unemployment problem amongst Aborigines.
The Government is also concerned to see that its programs are implemented on a basis which will provide training for Aborigines and a real prospect of permanent employment after the special works projects’ have, been completed. The honourable member for Hughes criticises the Government for failing to take steps to transfer special works projects to the Department of Employment” and- Industrial Relations, as recommended by the committee. Is he not aware of statements that I have made that I and my colleagues, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) -and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), have under discussion the results of a report by a working party into special works projects. It investigated, amongst other things, training programs, vocational training and general employment support for Aborigines. I set up the working party earlier this year after receiving a letter from the Mowanjum community in the north-west of Western Australia. The people were concerned at the serious social effects of the receipt of unemployment benefits within the community and desired to see whether there was some way in which those benefits could’ be pooled and then used by the community for beneficial work projects within its settlement. As a result of that request my colleagues and I set up this working party. Senior officers have been working on this project. The report of the working party was given to me at the beginning of June, and only last week I and my colleagues, with senior officers, got together to consider it. It will be a matter for further consideration and, in due course, a submission to the Cabinet. Those, amongst others, are the plain unadulterated mistakes made by the honourable member for Hughes, a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The merest examination of the Budget Papers, the smallest understanding of the figuring in those Budget Papers, would have shown him immediately where he was wrong. So much for . the way in which the honourable member must have administered the Department in his time.
My colleague the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) certainly sent the telegram referred to. It was sent in good faith at a time when we did not believe the Treasury of the nation to be in as bad shape as we found it when we so devastatingly won the election. It was necessary then to examine the expenditure of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, along with all other departments, to see where savings could be made without causing hardship, thereby easing the burden on the Treasury. We were, as honourable members know, faced with a prospect of a Budget deficit running towards $5,000m, and maybe beyond. The Government took hold of the economy, straightened out public expenditure and then implemented other programs to bring back some sanity into the economic management of this country.
I will refer to some of the points that are mentioned in the telegram to the Attorney-General. It says that funds will continue to be made available for housing, education, employment, health and legal aid- and so they have been. Later I will mention matters specific to housing and education. I have referred already to employment, health and legal aid. The telegram also says that pensions payable to Aboriginal people will not be cut and will rise automatically twice a year with cost of living increases. That promise has been thoroughly honoured. It says that all available funds will be shared amongst Aboriginal communities on a fair and impartial basis. That is being achieved by a series of programming conferences instituted within the States in the regional administration of my Department. These inititatives will have far reaching importance for Aboriginal organisations and communities. They will give them a real say in the distribution of moneys provided by the Commonwealth Government. The telegram goes on to say that a Liberal-National Country Party government will support Aboriginal organisations such as those providing the Aboriginal medical and legal services. The Government has done so. I have gone out of my way to inform the organisations operating in both those fields that they will continue to function as autonomous services, run by Aborigines for Aborigines. I propose, in the near future, to hold a conference of people representing all legal services in order to discuss the future charter of those services.
The telegram says that the Government will hold an urgent inquiry into the role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to determine whether it can be given a more important role in dealing with Aboriginal affairs. This has been done. Honourable members will recall the inquiry that was instituted earlier this year, headed by an eminent anthropologist, Dr Les Hiatt, Chairman of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, and supported by 3 Aborigines. This is the first time, I believe, that such an inquiry about Aboriginal affairs has included among its membership a clear preponderance of Aborigines. That in itself indicates the strength of the Government’s conviction that the success of Aboriginal programs will in the end result from the involvement and participation of Aborigines themselves, particularly in the making of recommendations to the Government on national policy.
I am quite sure that out of this inquiry will emerge an NACC which knows what its future is, what its objectives are and the basis upon which it can advise the national government on policies affecting Aboriginals and which will be given effective support by the Government. None of those objectives were achieved under the administration of the 2 former Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs who are in this House, one of whom set up the NACC. Aboriginals themselves realised that the NACC was rudderless. This Government intends to give the NACC a rudder and a sense of direction. The telegram goes on to say that efforts will be made to increase the number of Aboriginal people involved in Aboriginal affairs. That has been a hallmark of what I have endeavoured to do since I have been Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, reflecting, as it does, the clear philosophical commitment contained in the Liberal-National Country Party statement on Aboriginal affairs policy. The policy states:
The Liberal and National Country parties recognise that if a policy of self-management is to be effective, Aborigines must play a leading role in their affairs. This will include Aborigines playing a significant role:
in setting the long term goals and objectives which the government should pursue and the programs it should adopt in such areas as Aboriginal education, housing, health, employment and legal aid;
b ) in setting the priorities for expenditure on Aboriginal affairs within the context of overall budget allocations; and
in evaluating existing programs and formulating new ones.
The initiative taken to conduct the inquiry into the NACC is in pursuance of that policy statement. The formation of a National Aboriginal Education Consultative Committee by my colleague the Minister for Education is also in fulfilment of that policy obligation. Furthermore, if the honourable member for Hughes examines the figures for direct Australian Government expenditure on Aboriginal assistance he will see that in key areas such as health and education there has been a decrease in the amount of money appropriated to State government departments in these areas and a complementary increase in the amount of money going to Aboriginal organisations. That, again, is in fulfilment of our philosophic belief that success in Aboriginal affairs will come about largely through involving Aborigines, Aboriginal organisations and Aboriginal communities in the activities of the Government.
I refer further to the telegram of my colleague the Attorney-General. He said that employment and training schemes will be urgently investigated with the aim of increasing job opportunities for Aborigines throughout Australia. I have already mentioned the increase of $ 1.56m in the vote for employment support schemes. I have already referred to the working party which was instituted early in my administration. They are 2 positive steps in fulfilment of the statement contained in my colleague’s telegram. I would add one other factor to show the commitment of the Government and that is that we have instituted within the special works program a section for private sector employment. We feel that it is no longer good enough simply to channel this kind of money into, for example, local authorities. We feel that we should be aiming to get private employers to accept Aborigines on a basis on which they will train the Aborigines and give them a real opportunity of permanent employment at the end of the particular project. This is a new initiative. Already we have seen quite exciting prospects for it and a readiness by private employers to embark upon this new field of employment support and training for Aborigines. So, in relation to my colleague saying something about spreading the word, it could be said that that word has been faithfully and honestly spread.
Many percentages were cited by the honourable member for Hughes in his endeavour to embarrass the Government. I do not know where he obtained those percentages from, but they simply do not line up with the figures shown in the Budget. I invite honourable members opposite to do their own arithmetic and come up with figures of some accuracy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-Despite the efforts of thousands of dedicated people and the expenditure of millions of dollars over the last five or six years the position of the Aboriginal people of Australia, which is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, still remains an abiding disgrace. There is no doubt that the Government is not only making sure that the present position continues but also is compounding the deficiencies of the past. For the last ten or fifteen minutes we listened to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) explaining the inexplicable and trying to justify the fact that the Government has reduced the total expenditure on Aborigines by $33m or thereabouts at a time when, in the logic of inflation, it should have increased it by at least $20m and when it should have taken the programs that have been or were being launched and expanded them by providing for a further expenditure of perhaps another $20m or $30m. That is what the situation requires and that is what it demands.
I believe that the Government has behaved in an irresponsible and totally immoral way. The telegram in November by the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott), who was then a private member of this House and a shadow Minister, explaining to the Aboriginal people of Australia that their programs would continue uninterrupted was one of the most dishonest political acts to which this country has been subjected in the last 20 years. It has been compounded by the effrontery of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the last week or so in going to Wilcannia and opening a housing project after spending weeks and months denouncing Aboriginal programs.
– Do you not approve of it?
– One of the most serious discourtesies of that operation was that the Government did not even ask the local member to attend the opening. Over the last seven or eight months we have seen a most insidious, persistent attack upon Aboriginal policies, much of which I think has been motivated by racist attitudes. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has talked about wild extravagances. The Prime Minister has talked about getting value for money. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs also has talked about getting value for money. But they are not just saying that they are going to ensure that value for money is going to be obtained; they are also implying that everything that has been spent in the past has been a wild extravagance. The Government has done a great damage to the Aboriginal communities of Australia by implying that all the money that has been spent has been wasted and that the expenditure has been extravagant and unnecessary. The Government is always careful not to say exactly what it would have cut out and what it would not have done. The sad fact of the matter is that over wide areas no one performs up to standard for the Aboriginal community.
A few weeks ago it was announced that the people of Birdsville had had the telephone connected. Good luck to them. It should have happened long ago. It was said in a news item that there were, I think, 100 people involved and that $ 100,000 had been spent on supplying them with a telephone service. How long will it be before places such as Papunya, Bathurst Island, Yuendumu, Warrabri and the rest of them will have adequate telephone services. They are communities of 600, 700, 800 and 1000 people. That is what we are debating in this House today. We are not debating the errors of the past. We ought not to be trying to score political points. The fact of the matter is that over the last few years honourable members opposite have continually denounced Aboriginal programs without ever visiting any of the Aboriginal communities that are so short of the things that they need and without facing up to the fact that in a community such as our own, which is basically one of the more egalitarian in the world, there is still a great deal of social inequality.
My colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), who is the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, has spelt out a great number of changes in the programming. The present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs may talk as he pleases and can slide from one page to the next, but he still cannot justify the reductions in our efforts. There is no doubt that the health of the Aboriginal people of Australia is far behind the health of the rest of the community. Irrespective of whether it is in relation to infant welfare, the care of the aged or the supplying of hospitals and services, we still do not perform to the same standard in respect of Aborigines as we do in respect of the rest of the community. It is true that legal aid is still an essential requirement of the Aboriginal communities. I hope that, despite any reductions in that area, the Government will maintain the effort so that Aboriginal people get a fairer go in the courts and there are fewer of them appearing in the courts.
Let us consider the subject of housing for a moment. It could be the heart of the matter in many ways. The Minister says that the Government is going to give private enterprise the opportunity to employ unemployed Aboriginal people. Perhaps that is fair enough in respect of some parts of Australia, although frankly I do not think that it is going to work for the general community. The private enterprise part of the community has run out of the area of growth. Let us consider for a moment the areas in which thousands of Aboriginal people live. Let us imagine for a moment that we have been transported, say, 100 to 140 miles out from Alice Springs to Papunya, where there are 600 or 700 people. How is private enterprise going to employ them? How are we going to lift their living standards without great expenditure of effort and money? It is also an immense intellectual challenge both to the people who administer such projects and to the Aboriginal community itself.
I have before me an article I wrote nearly 9 years ago in which I said that in the end it will be only by increasing the self-reliance of the Aboriginal people and tapping their own intellectual and personal resources that we will resolve the problem. But there is no doubt in my mind that at the present moment there is no substitute for the adequate funding of projects in such a way that the people dealing with them are able to plan and get on with the job. I hope that the figures as I see them through the books before me do not mean that there is going to be a reduction in effort in relation to Aboriginal hostels. I think that they are one of the success stories. Those that I have visited appear to be running successfully. Having had a long involvement in the management of such places, I recognise that it is not an easy task to run these hostels. It is not easy to run the Kurrajong Hotel properly for members of Parliament and make a satisfactory return on it. We all recognise that these hostels are not commercial enterprises.
How many Aboriginal families will go to bed miserable tonight because of inadequate housing? Thousands of them. This is where one of our great efforts was directed. This is why we launched the housing programs and the housing associations. This is why the Prime Minister was able to go to Wilcannia and hand over the keys to some houses. I am glad he went, but I hope he learnt from seeing what was there, or from the television if he did not take much notice while he was there, of the obstruction that existed during the whole course of the operation.
– You just said people should go out there and look.
– I thought it was effrontery for him to go there and hand over the keys. It would be a good thing if the honourable member for La Trobe were to spend some time looking at the other pan of the community himself. He is one of the more richly endowed people in one of the richest countries in the world. He has the brass to sit in this Parliament and interject in a derogatory way in a debate on Aboriginal affairs. That is what is wrong with him.
The facts are that housing is the great need and the great challenge. As was pointed out in the Australian Broadcasting Commission television program, it is not easy to design a house that fits the Aboriginal community. We recognise that. My friend the honourable member for Hughes, my friend the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and my friend the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), who is to follow me in this debate and who is Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, all recognise that there is no substitute for adequate, continuous, predictable funding. If there is one error in the whole budgeting system of this Parliament, it is the failure to get adequate predictable funding for so many long term social projects. All of us recognise the great difficulties. Perhaps most of us recognise the sad and tragic needs. But surely all of us should recognise that continuous funding is necessary so that people can get on with the job.
My colleague, the honourable member for Hughes, was right in what he said. The reduction in effort, whether in percentage or in absolute terms, will be a reduction in achievement. We have reached a stage where the level of aspiration of the Aboriginal people has been lifted beyond comprehension compared to what it was eight or ten years ago. The Opposition admits that those who preceded the Labor Government in office, people such as the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), participated in lifting that aspiration. One of the great achievements of the Labor Government was to lift the level of aspiration to a level of achievement and performance. I believe that this Government’s worst contribution to Australia at the moment is its reduction in the level of effort in Aboriginal affairs, in its constant and insidious attack upon the expenditure on Aboriginal affairs, its reduction in the level of aspiration and the lowering of the morale of the Aboriginal people.
– It is indeed a pleasure to be able to follow my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), because he at least has made an endeavour in the debate, quite contrary to his colleague, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), to discuss the matter of public importance that has been raised by the Australian Labor Party.
– I thought he did.
-I do not believe so, and I intend to show that. The matter of public importance that has been listed for discussion is the failure of the Government to honour its promises and to fulfil its obligations to the Aboriginal people. All I heard from the honourable member for Hughes- he can correct me if he thinks I am wrong- was a continuous discussion about areas in which he thought expenditure had been cut by this Government. I submit that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has adequately refuted his allegations by going through in detail the areas of expenditure and making it abundantly clear that when he talked in percentage terms his percentages were totally unrelated to the figures that were presented in the Budget documents.
The honourable member for Wills at least endeavoured to discuss the problems in Aboriginal affairs- the problems of delivering programs to a people who are diverse and whose problems are diverse problems which require many methods of attack if we are to be able to solve them. I do not think anybody would suggest that the problems are not diverse; nor would anybody suggest that there ought not to be a diversity of programs designed to overcome them. The problem is that we have seen in the past, and more recently during the term of our predecessors in office, only one method of attack. In all instances the provision of funds was the method adopted by the Government to overcome the problems. It is my view and the view of the Government that the provision of funds alone will not solve the problems that Aboriginal communities face. Differences arise from the very nature of the communities in which Aborigines live. If they are traditional communities, it is quite likely that the injection of more and more money will only exacerbate the problems that already exist. The honourable member for Hughes suggested in the discussion of unemployment that we ought to use the term ‘Aboriginal work force’. I can think of no more inappropriate term to describe traditional Aboriginal communities. They are not an Aboriginal work force that we can look to in the traditional way in providing traditional jobs, setting up a factory or injecting some sort of program to try to lift them into a European-type culture in the area in which they have lived in the past and had their own traditional values. Programs which are designed to bring these sorts of advances to the Aboriginal communities will not meet their needs. Anybody who suggests that they will is being totally naive.
What the Government has set about to do is to appraise Aboriginal programs, to look at the nature of housing programs that have been developed, to look at the jobs that have been provided in the form of special work programs, particularly in Aboriginal areas, and to assess whether they are really the sorts of programs that are wanted or required and to assess whether they are the programs that the people themselves, given a choice and not believing that they are doing what we want them to do, would themselves accept and want and pursue. It is my view that in many cases they would not want the programs that have been pursued during the last 3 years. Clearly, if we go on funding the programs we have now in the same way as they are now, we will find that we are perpetuating the mistakes of our opponents. Clearly, in my view, we have to make the decision to appraise now. If one reads the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the statements of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), the position will be seen in clearer context. The Treasurer, in his statement dealing with Aboriginal affairs, made it clear that in the light of the reviews about which I have been speaking and about which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) spoke, additional funds will be provided. The Prime Minister, in answer to questions from honourable members opposite, has made it clear that additional funds will be provided when the reviews have been completed. Quite clearly, after the reviews have taken place, funds can be made available. But if we make decisions to allocate funds in a Budget context in the way they have been allocated before, those funds will be committed in a direction which, having regard to the reviews which are taking place, may be totally inadequate and be shown to be so.
Great play has been made on the telegram. Of course, the telegram was significant. It went to the Aboriginal people. It is also significant that there is a policy document. When one looks at the terms of the matter we are discussing todaythe failure of the Government to honour its promises- one must look at the policy document and its overall thrust and then look at what the Government is doing. If the honourable member for Wills and the honourable member for
Hughes do not have a copy of the policy document, I will make one available to them. The major thrust in the new initiatives set out in that document relate to Aboriginal self-management and Aboriginal land rights. In pursuit of these policy objectives 2 Bills have been introduced by the Government. They are items 1 1 and 12 on the notice paper. They are the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill 1976 and the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976.
The policy document refers to Aboriginal selfsufficiency and also the method of funding. But those are secondary areas, and if one talks to Aboriginal people one finds that the real thrust, particularly in the traditional areas, is in relation to land rights- the relationship that Aboriginal people have to their land, identification with their land, and their wish to have access to it. The willingness of this Government to pursue that objective gives the lie to the suggestion that there is a failure on the part of the Government to honour its promises and a failure to fulfil its obligations to the Aboriginal people. It is my view that the Government is proceeding as quickly and as responsibly as it can, and as would be expected in this term of the Parliament, to pursue those policy objectives.
Reference was made to Aboriginal unemployment, and especially to the special works projects and the study made by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. I was a member of that Committee of the last Parliament and assisted in the preparation of the report and the recommendations. I supported those recommendations in the context in which they were made. It ought to be noted that the study was a study of northern New South Wales communities, particularly of the fringe dwellers of the New South Wales country towns. The people there are not traditional Aborigines. In many cases they are just as capable of being integrated into a white community as any one of us would be if we were socially deprived in the communities in which we lived. It was clear to the Committee, which considered the sorts of programs that could give the Aboriginal people in those communities drive and initiative to improve their own lot, that special works projects would be a very suitable medium. But one could very well have doubts about the suitability of special works projects in traditional Aboriginal communities, particularly with the movement to outstations and the willingness of communities to forsake the form of traditional European life which has been established in the reserves and settlements in the Northern Territory.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The time for discussion has concluded.
Debate resumed from 26 August, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Ostensibly the Telecommunications Amendment Bill 1976 is a straightforward machinery measure which opens the way for the Australian Telecommunications Commission to borrow from the domestic loan market. Telecom will borrow in accordance with terms and conditions approved by the Loan Council for semi-government authorities. To enable Telecom to compete on an equal footing with State semi-government authorities, one of the principal purposes of this Bill is to exempt transactions involving the Commission’s securities from State stamp duties. If that were not done in this Bill, subscribers to Telecom securities could be made liable to pay stamp duty under State or Territory legislation. Also, transfers of Telecom securities would be dutiable under some State legislation. That would place the Australian Telecommunications Commission at a disadvantage when compared with State borrowing authorities. The remainder of the Bill gives specific authority for the Commission to issue securities which will have repayment of capital and interest guaranteed by the Australian Government.
The second reading speech on the Bill, which was read by the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson), points out these features with clarity. However, what it does not do is give a justification for the necessity for the Bill at all. It is true that Telecom has an approved capital expenditure program of $9l0m for the current financial year, 1976-77. In line with the Vernon recommendations for the operations of Telecom, 54 per cent of the $9 10m will come from internal sources and 24 per cent will come from Commonwealth advances. Approximately 50 per cent has come from those advances in previous years instead of the 24 per cent now coming from the advances in the current financial year, but to make up the difference this year $200m, or 22 per cent, will come via the domestic loan market- the capital market. The Government has given no real reason, either in the second reading speech or on any other occasion, for a change in the procedure which applied previously; nor has it said why it has decided that the amount to be borrowed is $200m. Perhaps the Minister Assisting the Treasurer will help us in winding up this debate by answering those 2 questions. In the meantime, I can only speculate. The only rationale given for the change has been this observation:
Annual borrowings of the Commission have reached a very substantial figure in terms of the Commonwealth Budget and, in the Government’s view, it is appropriate that the Commission should seek a portion of these funds this year from the capital market as an alternative to direct funding from the Budget.
I think that any objective observer would realise that that phrase is meaningless and does not give the answers to the questions I raised.
Perhaps here we find the crux of the matter. The Government is not interested in the substance of the justification for a public sector business enterprise like Telecom competing on the open market for funds. It is simply concerned that as much as possible of Telecom’s funding be done outside the Budget sector. It is concerned to limit the paper value of government expenditures, the paper value of the deficit. In the Government’s mind, this Bill is a device to manipulate the deficit, and I make the claim that it is a crude fiddle. While the Bill itself is a straightforward machinery matter, the decision from which it stems was the end product of a cynical campaign of misrepresentation, indeed of downright deceit, concerning the cause and implications of the Budget deficits which existed in the last years of the Labor Government. The present Liberal-National Country Party Government found when it came to power that it was unable, even with a brutal and unnecessary slashing of Government spending, to reduce the deficit to a level compatible with its cries while it was in Opposition. It learned that there were good and valid reasons for the level of the deficit. The Government was caught in its own web, and had to resort to a number of accounting manipulations in order to achieve a sellable level of deficit in the current Budget without making itself look more stupid than it does now.
The decision to force Telecom to the domestic market was one of the Government’s deficit arrangements. It is common knowledge that Treasury opposed the decision, recognising it for the cynical move that it is. Valid concern was expressed that a loan of this magnitude may have an adverse effect on semi-government interest rates generally. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has not come to grips with any of these issues, nor has the Minister Assisting the Treasurer in the second reading speech. His and his Government’s cynical attempt to discredit the Government by misrepresenting every possible feature of Labor’s last Budget deficit have threatened the existence of continued enlightened debate on the issue of deficits.
The absolute absurdity of the propaganda pouring forth from the Opposition in the early months of the last financial year is nowhere better exemplified than in the Treasurer’s statement on the August Statement of Financial Transactions which has recently been released. The Budget deficit for the first 2 months of this financial year was $ 1,456m, compared with the lesser figure of $ 1,071m for the same 2 months of last year. Doing the same calculations that honourable members opposite were fond of doing last year when in Opposition, we may predict that we are heading for a deficit of $8.4 billion for this financial year. However, the Treasurer pointed out in his statement that no indication of the full year’s deficit could be obtained from the figures of 2 months. It is a pity that he was not so accurate and responsible in his advice to his colleagues last year. We are not, of course, heading for a deficit of $8 billion this year, nor were we heading for a deficit of $6 billion last year, in spite of the false claims made by the then Opposition.
Not content with a sojourn into the game of ‘Guess The Deficit’, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) came into the fray with his election assertion that every man, woman and child owed the Government $500 because of the deficit. The misrepresentation that that involved was so monumental that it prompted a group of academic economists to take the Prime Minister to task in the national newspapers. To what extent the Prime Minister’s mischief at that time was believed we do not know. Hopefully his statement on this subject was treated with the same scepticism with which his election promises will be treated in the future.
Even when this Government came into power the preoccupation with a deficit overrode all else. Cutting the deficit became a priority of policy rather than the end result of required outlays and receipt decisions. In February and March the Treasurer was predicting a deficit of $4.7 billion in the last financial year. At the end of the financial year, when the deficit was indeed found to be $3.58 billion, even when inflated by a $200m Medibank pre-payment, the Treasurer took the credit on behalf of the Government for the reduction of the deficit from $4.7 billion. In a statement the Treasurer recalled: . . . ‘that at the beginning of 1976 and before allowing for the present Government’s economy measures the deficit was estimated at $4.7 billion*.
We were not told who made the estimate. The Treasurer went on to say: … the Budget result some $l,100m lower than this, represented a considerable achievement by the Government.
What cant that is. I submit that the considerable achievement was in stretching the Government’s acknowledged cuts in expenditure of $370m to the $l,100m which he claimed was the amount by which the estimated deficit was lowered. Incidentally, if there had not been cuts in government spending there may have been a return of consumer confidence, and with that a growth in economic health, and with that increased receipts by way of taxation into Government coffers, and with that a still possibly lower deficit -if indeed this Government had not mutilated the public sector by that slashing when it came to power. It seemed that the farce about the deficit ended there, but that was not to be so, as we found later, because along came the Budget and the Telecom arrangement which we are debating today. At least the Government has not compounded its hypocrisy by pretending that this move has any real macro-economic policy implications. But the very fact that it has been done without the full import of the decision being canvassed- certainly not in the second reading speech, as I mentioned earlierhighlights the disservice being done to the Australian community by the debasement of economic debate in relation to deficits, contributed to 12 months ago by members of the Liberal and National Country parties.
Recently the Treasurer has accused my colleague, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), and others in the Opposition of talking down the economy. A fair go is asked by the Treasurer for the Government’s policies. Surely the blatant hypocrisy of such criticism, coming from a government which in Opposition conceived and engineered the greatest talk down of the economy in history, must be evident to all. This Opposition, unlike our predecessors who are now in government, is interested not in talking down the economy but in finding the right path to recovery. Our criticisms, our evaluation of the present trends, are all made in the hope that the Government will abandon what we and others, including some government members, consider to be inappropriate policies for present circumstances. This country needs a government which will do something for the economy, not one which will search in every nook and cranny for someone or something to blame for lack of success and lack of confidence. The Labor Opposition policies in the field of wage determination and in advocating selective stimulatory spending represent a positive and viable alternative economic strategy at this time, and certainly are not talking down the economy. Desired levels of government expenditure and money supply targets are legitimate subjects for public debate. Hysterical deficit misrepresentations are not legitimate in debate. It is hoped that in the future the Government will turn its mind to debating the real issues surrounding a measure such as the one which is before us at the present time.
Our concern for debate on the real issues of the deficit, the manner in which it is funded, cannot be interpreted as a call for limitless deficits or for massive expansions in government spending. We realise that money supply growth must be kept within reasonable limits in a time of inflation, and that means that deficits must be kept within . bounds. Those deficits must not put pressure on interest rates in satisfying government borrowing requirements. The Treasurer has given a target for money supply growth for the next financial year. Some commentators have thought it too restrictive and have thought that it implies a growth rate significantly below that required to match expected price and growth targets. That may be so. The Opposition is watching the situation closely and will be monitoring it from month to month. But what is already becoming obvious is that the Government’s own target could be met without crowding out or increasing interest rates if the Budget deficit was several hundred million dollars higher than it is at the present time.
I have dwelt at some length on the issue of the deficit, for increasing the apparent deficit appears to be the Government’s prime consideration in introducing this Bill. Nevertheless, this move does open up a whole series of questions about its desirability in absolute terms. Perhaps it is right that public sector business operations, such as Telecom, should and should be seen to raise finance outside the Budget sector. Perhaps the Government borrowing umbrella provides a business undertaking such as Telecom, and other business undertakings in the public sector, with a form of subsidy which another service may more appropriately deserve. It is possible that sending public enterprises, such as Telecom, to the money market, the capital market, in their own right may, by increasing the variety of scrip offering or available, secure more funds for much needed public enterprises. It may lead to an overall increase in the efficiency with which the economy uses its investable funds. These are all proper questions to be raised in a debate such as this. The decision behind the introduction of this Bill, however, opens up not only these questions but also many more questions. The Government has not seen fit to open up the discussion in the way that we believe it should have been opened up.
We in the Opposition wish to raise these questions. We are not opposing the Bill, but we deplore the fact that the Government has evaded the real issues of the Bill. The Government has the resources to investigate all the ramifications of a move such as this one and to tell the House of those things in a second reading speech made on a Bill such as this one. It has not done so. It is difficult, with the sparse resources available to an Opposition, to be dogmatic one way or another about raising funds on a capital market in this way, but it is obvious that further discussion is necessary. These are some of the matters which should be raised in that discussion, and I believe the manner in which Telecom approached the market should also come under scrutiny. There has been speculation in the Australian Financial Review about the approach by Telecom to the Australian capital market. This could be put down to inexperience in these matters. However, I would like to see a reply in the Australian Financial Review from Telecom to the questions raised in the article and I note from the look on the face of the Minister assisting the Treasurer that he has also read this article.
I believe more than anything else, if there are any questions to be raised or criticisms to be levelled in relation to that approach, the fault lies with the Government in the undue haste with which it sought response from Telecom in the market. Being forced to do so by a Government decision it did not expect may have brought about mistakes, if there have been mistakes. It was a decision which was made without full recognition of all the factors involved. To summarise, the Opposition is not opposing this Bill. At the same time, because of all the questions which we believe require to be raised on an occasion like this, I move:
I make the claim that this move by the Government was in the form of a sleight of hand. It was hoist by its own petard; it was caught in its own web in misleading the Australian people about the importance of deficits. Deficits are not important. It is the way that they are financed that is important. It would not have mattered one iota if this $200m had not been directly sought from the Australian capital market by Telecom but had been sought by the Government in the normal course of its loan raisings. The money may have been raised more cheaply in that way. But we do not know the answers to these questions because the Government has not paid this House the courtesy in the second reading speech of giving it the answers to these legitimate questions. Because that has not happened, it is right and proper that the Opposition should move an amendment such as this one on this occasion.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later.
-The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) used the word ‘hypocrisy’ in his comments. I think he may have used it more than once. I challenge the honourable member to answer this simple question: Who established the Telecommunications Commission and who first commented about the user-pay principle?
– May I answer that now?
– I am prepared to listen.
-Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
– I am sorry. No doubt the honourable member will answer it during my comments. If the present Opposition was sincere when it was in office about the establishment of the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission, if it was sincere in its determination to have independence, what is wrong with the Commission raising its own funds? I answer the honourable member for Adelaide in that way. If he wishes to reply to that at some stage during this debate, that is a matter between you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and him.
The Bill we are discussing this afternoon basically does 2 things. Firstly, it virtually gives authority to raise $200m on the loan market for capital works, and secondly to except such borrowings from the normal State and Territory taxes that would apply. I refer to such things as stamp duty. The reasons are quite simple. Last year the Commission expended something like $879m on capital works. This year it expects to expend something like $9 10m. Last year about half of this expenditure was found from loan funds and half from Treasury. There are 3 basic principles of the charter of Telecom. I think it would be well worth the honourable member for Adelaide’s having a look at the document entitled Service and Business Outlook for 1976-77, Telecom Australia, August 1976. At page 4 the basic principles of the Commission are clearly set out. In a nutshell they are, firstly, to maintain the 3.7 million services to existing connections; secondly, to provide a capacity to service an estimated increase of 260 million telephone calls; and thirdly, to provide a service for an additional 356 000 applications. These aims are expected to be carried out without increasing the various telephone, charges. In some cases charges have been reduced. I remind the honourable member for Adelaide of these points. I cannot understand why he should move the amendment he has.
The overall expansion of the Commission in the next financial year is expected to be in the vicinity of 8 per cent. I refer again to the booklet entitled Service and Business Outlook for 1976-77. At page 4 it reads in part: . Overall, output is planned to grow at 8 percent in order to meet forecast demand. Growth rates forecast for the major component of output are:
That surely is one reason why there has to be some slight increase in the allocation of funds for capital expenditure. On page 5 of the same document reference is made to rural needs. Honourable members can read that at leisure if they so desire. Basically in the rural sphere the requirements are exceptionally high.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Wimmera that the Telecommunications Amendment Bill essentially deals with loans and the conditions under which they are serviced. I have allowed the honourable member some latitude in making passing reference to the purposes to which the money is applied, but I ask the honourable member to keep to the terms of the Bill.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I agree with what you say but I am endeavouring to point out the reason why the Telecommunications Commission has to go on the loan market to get sufficient funds. I want to repeat that big demands are made throughout Australia for upgrading the telephone service. Surely that is one of the purposes for which the money is being raised.
-The subject of the Bill does not deal with the purposes. It deals with the raising of money. As I have indicated to the honourable member, some passing reference will be allowed but I remind the honourable member of the principle on which the Bill is based.
– Again I can only partly agree with you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-The honourable member would put me in an embarrassing situation if he disagreed with me.
– Perhaps that is why I am not prepared to say I completely disagree with you. I am at a loss, Mr Deputy Speaker, as to why you should rule this way. A few minutes ago I referred to the fact that various capital works are being carried out without any increase in the normal charges to subscribers. At the same time I went on to. say that in certain areas charges are being reduced. I remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that a certain amount of capital expenditure is raised through the services of the Commission and the balance is obtained from outside the Commission. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, something like $9 10m is required for the capital expenditure program. The Commission will provide from its internal sources approximately 54 per cent of the total proposed capital investment. The remainder of the money will be sought by the Commission under this legislation and also through the Treasury. Therefore I think I am quite in order in making some reference- a passing reference- to the reasons the Commission requires additional funds. I also want to refer to the cost of developing Telecommunications Commission works in rural areas. The costs are often in excess of the cost of works carried out in metropolitan areas. This is due to smallness of population in the respective areas, the lack of use of the works and the greater distances which are involved. That is why I wanted to make that reference.
The recent announcement that there has been a reduction in the charge for new connections was brought about by the Government’s decision to extend the free line from 8 kilometres to 12 kilometres. This decision has meant a good deal to potential subscribers, but it has also meant a bigger financial burden on the Commission itself. This is another reason why the Commission wants an increase in funds. Earlier in my speech I referred to the cost of providing services. There would be quite a number of potential subscribers who would be up for a lot of money if they had to meet the full cost of installing new lines. The extension of the free line provision from 8 kilometres to 12 kilometres means a saving of some $1,280 for potential subscribers who come within this category. Of course, if the Commission’s full costings were considered the saving would be much higher than that figure. So really the Commission is making a very great contribution in meeting the increased costs brought about by extending the free line from 8 kilometres to 12 kilometres. The Commission is virtually constructing the remaining portion of the line at about half the initial cost of construction. I say ‘approximately’ because the cost varies according to the type of country in which the line is installed. It is as well, I think, that I should point out these matters to the House.
The legislation- you are quite right, Mr Deputy Speaker- is somewhat minor, but when one starts talking about raising $200m to some people this is very important particularly if you happen to be on the receiving end.
– I think the honourable member is incorrect in stating that I referred to the Bill as being a minor Bill. I referred to the Bill as one relating to loans and the manner in which the money would be raised. I invited the honourable member to debate those aspects.
– I am sorry if I misinterpreted your remarks.
– I am afraid I consider it quite a major Bill.
– What I am saying is that the raising of these funds to upgrade telephone services throughout Australia is terribly important particularly to those people who will benefit from these services. Under the previous Government’s policy, if you want to bring it back to a government line, there would have been somewhere in the vicinity of 24 000 subscribers contributing to the upgrading of telephone lines. I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you are not going to allow me to refer to a previous debate in this place, but only a few minutes ago a member of the Opposition was referring to an Aboriginal problem. Again I say in answer to the question he posedwithout going into very much detail- this is an area in which the Government is contributing greatly thus reducing the cost to these people. As I said, under the previous Government approximately 24 000 subscribers would have had to pay. Under a decision of the Commission, in co-operation with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) and naturally the Government, that number has been reduced to something like 12 000. This of course, is terribly important.
I now come back to your original suggestion, Mr Deputy Speaker, and say that this Bill is somewhat limited and I will confine my remarks to the fact that under this legislation the Government proposes to raise $200m. I conclude- on the note on which I” started. I cannot understand why members of the Opposition are critical of this legislation. I appreciate that they are not opposing it. I suppose they cannot go too far, but I cannot understand why they are criticising it when in actual fact -they introduced legislation to establish the Telecommunications Commission arid the Postal Commission on the’ basis that the 2 areas should be independent of each other. The best way to be independent is for one Commission to start to raise its own funds. That is why I support this legislation and I certainly commend it to the House. ‘ ‘
-I support the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). For the benefit of my friend .the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) I would point out that, as he says, we are not opposing the Bill. We do disagree with the suggestion that the Australian Telecommunications Commission has to go on to the loan market. In other words, we are disputing in some respects the borrowing mechanism in the Bill before us. I point out also that the Bill, as it is framed before us, is a very flimsy thing comprising of only 1 lh- pages and the sum of $200m- the proposed loan- is not even mentioned in the Bill. It would seem to me that the Bill should not have been necessary because the borrowing could have stood under section 72 of the Telecommunications Act except, of course, that this Government now wants to remove from clause 3 the word ‘Australia’ and insert the words ‘the Commonwealth’ and it also wants to protect itself against a technicality that apparently was not thought of at the time section 72- was framed that unless section 80 is amended the borrowings might in some circumstance become liable for certain stamp duties that could be charged by the States. It would seem to me that in essence all the Commission has to do is, with the approval of the Treasurer, borrow moneys that are from time to time necessary for the performance of its functions.
The Bill does not say how the money shall be borrowed- whether the Commission has to go on to the loan market or whether it can do it directly by borrowing from the Treasurer. The honourable member for Wimmera read from the document that was brought down with the Budget headed Australian Telecommunications Commission, Service and Business Outlook for 1976-77. The document points out that the Act specifies that the financial policies to be followed by the Australian Telecommunications Commission are as follows:
Revenues to cover all operating expenditure; and at least 50 per cent of capital expenditure to be financed internally by the Commission.
As the Commission has pointed out, of the total capital expenditure of $9 10m anticipated this year, some 54 per cent of that amount is being found internally. There is a nice diagram at the end of this Telecom loan brochure which I suppose passes for the equivalent of a prospectus about the loan. It shows that in essence 54 per cent of the capital funds amounting to $9 10m will be generated from internal operations. So at least the Commission is meeting the stricture or requirement that at least 50 per cent of all borrowings are to. be found internally. The other 46 per cent of capital funds is to be found in 2 ways. In a near enough to half and half situation- it is 22 per cent to 24 per cent, which is not very much different from a 50-50 basis- 22 per cent of the required money, amounting to $200m will be borrowed on the domestic market and 24 per cent, which presumably is an amount in excess of $200m will be borrowed from the Treasury. It would have been quite possible for the whole 46 per cent of the part of the funds not found internally to be financed directly by borrowings from the Treasury. Of course, had that been done the effect would have been, as my colleague, the honourable member for Adelaide pointed out, that the deficit would have amounted to $200m more than the $2.6 billion, which is the deficit nominated in the Budget Speech.
I think I said during the course of my speech on the Budget that it would not seem to me to matter greatly whether the deficit was as high as $3 billion instead of the nice sum of $2.6 billion. One can think of things upon which the additional $400m could be spent. Instead of this $200m being found by Telecom going on to the loan market directly, it could have been funded directly from the Budget. The effect for Telecom would have been exactly the same because the Treasury would have charged interest at approximately the same rate as the interest on the money borrowed. The Commission might have been saved the brokerage that it incurs on the raising of the loan. That brokerage or commission could range up to one-quarter of a per cent which, in aggregate, would mean an amount of something like $500,000. This would be the cost or the amount deducted from the loan if it were raised by members of the various stock exchanges.
The first pan of the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Adelaide, goes to the heart of this question of the Budget deficit. As he says, the previous Opposition made great play, almost month by month, as to what the deficiencies were and it forecast all sons of portents as a consequence. One of the principal critics who indulged in that sort of excess was the present Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I must say that I am pleased to see that, under the tutelage of the Treasury, the Treasurer is learning to be a little more responsible. I quote from Treasury Statement No. 166 the words which I think were quoted also by the honourable member for Adelaide. The Treasurer is a great issuer of statements. One hundred and sixty-six statements in less than 7 months of Government is not a bad performance. This statement by the Treasurer, the Honourable Phillip Lynch, is headed Statement of Financial Transactions- August 1976, that is, for the first 2 months of the new financial year. It states:
Mr Lynch said, however, that for seasonal and other reasons (including the factors mentioned above) the figures for the first 2 months did not provide a meaningful guide to the likely deficit for 1 976-77 as a whole.
I might say that objectively anyone who claimed to know much about the nature at which revenue comes in and expenditure goes on would be disposed to say that it is really not until the beginning of May that an honest forecast can be made of the final deficit outcome. However, an unscrupulous practice was indulged in of measuring the amount of the deficit at any time, proportionately for the whole of the year, and multiplying that figure by whatever fraction of the year it happened to represent. For instance, if the figure were for 2 months, to obtain the total deficit for the year, it would be multiplied by six. If the figure were for 3 months, it would be multiplied by four. If it were for 6 months, it would be multiplied by two, and so on. This gave a rather grotesque picture of what the final Budget outcome would be. But it was a pernicious habit indulged in almost perpetually for the last 3 years or so.
– I think that you are wandering a little more than I did.
– I am at least sticking to the fact that this is a Bill which deals with the borrowing of $200m. I am trying to suggest that this money could have come out of the Budget allocation, in which case we would not have had this measure before us separately. But it has been chosen to go on to the loan market to find the money. A good case can be made out for creating a new sort of commercial paper called, for example, the telecommunications loans. This would be a new venture. I suppose that such loans would be as good as gilt edged because legislation would give the backing of the Commonwealth to the loans. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) delivered the second reading speech. He said:
Annual borrowings of the Commission have reached a very substantial figure in terms of the Commonwealth Budget and, in the Government ‘s view, it is appropriate that the Commission should seek a portion of these funds this year from the capital market as an alternative to direct funding from the Budget.
If it is legitimate enough for the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to have made that observation, surely it is responsible enough for honourable members on this side of the House to suggest at least that what is being done here represents an attempt to camouflage the level of the Budget deficit. My colleague, the honourable member for Adelaide, observed the position in his amendment in the correct order. In paragraph (a) of his amendment he states: for stressing the importance of the magnitude of the deficit instead of the method of financing the deficit.
Of course, the effect would be the same presumably. If the Commonwealth loaned the $200m to Telecom, it would appear as a loan item in the Budget. A second course would be for the Commonwealth to go to the loan market in various ways to find that same amount of money and instead of following that first course it would pay the money directly to Telecom out of moneys that it had raised separately. A third course, and it is the course chosen here, is for Telecom itself to go directly on to the loan market. Perhaps the Treasurer is being shrewd here. He may think that by doing this he can tap a source to provide this $200m that he might not get otherwise. This gets us back to the whole central question concerning the deficit. It is not only the level of the deficit but also how it is financed that is important for the totality of the economy. I hope that as the Treasurer slowly learns about the difficulty of interpreting the deficit month by month he will come to the reality of acknowledging the difficulty involved. The lesson that he read this morning on the constituent parts of M3 shows that he is learning. I am afraid that when our positions were reversed I read the same lecture to him one day. I think I had more understanding of the situation then than he had when he asked me a question. I hope he had a better understanding of the situation when he answered the question today than he had when he previously asked me a question on this matter.
Surely the ultimate question is: How much does one finance one’s Budget by going on to the loan market and by resorting to what was unscrupulously called the ‘printing press’? Of course, the reference is to borrowing a sum from the Reserve Bank. One might say, if one accepts this crude term, that one goes to the printing press for the first several months of the year but cancels what has been printed in the last several months. Surely it is only the balance on a 12 months basis that is of any significance.
I think my colleague, the honourable member for Adelaide, has done a service to the House by pointing out the nature of this measure. As I tried to suggest at the beginning, had it not been for the fact that this Government has a thing about the word ‘Australia’ and a preference for the antiquated word ‘Commonwealth’, I doubt whether it would have been necessary to institute the measure other than to cover the fact that the Federal Government might have become liable to pay State duties because of this new sort of security which perhaps had not been covered when the Act was written. But it would seem that if Telecom does this again we will not have another Bill before us. I am sure that this will not be the only example; it is more likely to become an annual event. The Telecommunications Commission will simply be able to go to the Treasurer, negotiate with him and get his consent with regard to that part of the Commission’s total capital resources which the Commission believes needs to be raised directly.
Finally, I should like to say something about the capital market or the availability of capital funds in the Australian economy. Information on this matter is quite interestingly set out each year in this document which for this year is entitled ‘National Income and Expenditure 1975-76’. Table 5, which is entitled ‘National Capital Account’ shows on the one hand the capital funds that are spent in Australia each year and, on the other, the sources from which they are derived. For the last year for which we have figures- 1975-76- the total gross fixed capital expenditure in Australia was $ 16,697m- a pretty substantial sum, which, for the most part, is generated internally. That total is divided into what is called ‘private’ capital expenditure and ‘public’ capital expenditure and a certain pattern has emerged over a considerable number of years. Two-thirds of total capital expenditure in Australia is in the area known as ‘private’ and roughly one-third is in the area that is called ‘public’. I would think that over the years the Post Office and, in particular, the telecommunications side, was by far the biggest single user annually of capital resources. This year is no exception because the anticipated capital resources are $9 10m. That figure is fairly close to 6 per cent of the anticipated capital expenditure and something like one-fifth of the part that is spent by public authorities.
I think this House needs to be a little bit thorough in its examination of the capital expenditure of this great enterprise. Over the years I have been an admirer of the operations of the Post Office. I am not too sure that the Commissions are better than the old departmental arrangement. However, at this point, those questions seem to me to be technicalities rather than realities. The same things are broadly being done only the Telecommunications Commission is now called a ‘statutory authority’ instead of a ‘government department’. But the Telecommunications Commission is just as insatiable a searcher for capital resources year by year as was the department. It has the restriction that existed even in the days when the Commissions were not in the statute: Something like one-half of what the Post Office spent capitally had to be generated by itself. The other half was found by the government and not by separate transactions of the kind that are debating now. I believe this is an opportunity to investigate some of the philosophic assumptions that underlie the financing of this very important, but very gigantic eater of limited capital resources with regard to the totality of the Australian economy.
– I shall speak for only a few minutes on the Telecommunications Amendment Bill. I will support the Bill rather than the amendment. In doing so, I am not going to say that all is well within Telecom. Nor will I be saying that the service which Telecom is presently providing is either adequate or meets the demands that are being made on its services. The Bill is basically a machinery measure so that Telecom has some autonomy in the raising of its loan finance. I think it is fairly clear that the flexibility that this approach gives is quite appropriate.
However, in discussing the Bill and the ways of financing Telecom, I think it is appropriate that we should look at the service that Telecom is providing, particularly as a good deal of these loan funds will be required for capital and technical services and other works. Telecom has a responsibility to meet the demands of people for modern and efficient communication services. It also has a prime responsibility to see that advantage is taken of the latest technical developments that are available. The question that has to be posed from time to time is: Has Telecom succeeded in the task that this Parliament has set for it? Certainly Telecom has very good public relations services but what worries me is whether Telecom offers particularly good communications services. In the electorate of La Trobe there are what I believe to be far too many complaints regarding delays in the connection of telephone services. In addition, there are too many instances of complaints about delays in carrying out maintenance services. Every week I am asked to contact the district telephone manager about one or other of these matters. To be fair, that officer is very courteous and co-operative. I am sure he is doing his best to try to overcome the delays and inconveniences. However, I must say that a delay of 12 weeks in reconnecting a telephone to a solicitor’s office in Belgrave, or a delay of IS weeks in connecting a second exchange line to a factory in Bayswater, is simply not good enough. These are not isolated cases. They are quite typical. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) is well aware of my concern at these delays. I know that he is sympathetic and has been trying to help me with it. I ask him to continue to give me support because I can assure him that it is the only way in which he will deter me from pursuing him from time to time to persuade him to make amends and improvements.
-I wonder whether the honourable member could tie his remarks into the necessity for funds a little more closely, perhaps, than he has been able to do so far.
-I will be glad to do so. I will be speaking for only a relatively short time. I hope that the provision of this money and the accessibility of Telecom Australia to these loan funds will enable it to make a sufficient investment to overcome the sorts of delays and inconveniences to which I have referred. In addition, as we are dealing with matters of finance for Telecom, I believe that we should not let the opportunity pass without referring to the charging and zoning arrangements that Telecom alters from time to time. These are the basis of one of the other aspects of Telecom revenue which is raised from both subscriber trunk dialling and local call charges.
Honourable members may be surprised to know that it is possible for people in Mount Eliza, which is in the electorate of Flinders and is represented by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), to make a telephone call to Melbourne as a local call. However, the making of a telephone call to Melbourne from the township of Emerald, which is in my electorate, is classified as a trunk line call. Both these towns are about 32 miles from the General Post Office in Melbourne. In addition, a resident of Emerald can make a telephone call to Mount Eliza, if he wants to ring the Treasurer, for instance, at his office, as a local call, but, a trunk line charge applies to a telephone call from Emerald to Cranbourne, which is closer and on a direct line from Emerald to Mount Eliza. Even more peculiar, perhaps, is that an Emerald or a Gembrook subscriber can make a telephone call to some of the Melbourne bayside suburbs 40 miles away as a local call, yet a call to Wantirna, which is only 17 miles away, is classified as a trunk call. I referred earlier to Mount Eliza, which is in the electorate of Flinders. Residents of that town can actually make a telephone call to suburbs like Keilor, which is 40 miles away, as a local call. These are some of the anomalies in the costing of services provided by Telecom which form other channels of its revenue raising. This point needs to be borne in mind when we are considering this Bill.
– How do you measure the miles? Is it across the water or over the road?
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports asks how the miles are measured. To use a good old country expression, the miles are measured as the crow flies.
– As the crow flies?
– Yes, as the crow flies.
– It flies backwards sometimes, does it not?
– No, the crow flies in a very conventional manner, and that is the way in which the miles are measured. While discussing the technical services provided by Telecom, I think that a passing reference should be made to the provision of cable television services. This is one of the direct and particular responsibilities of Telecom. I hope that in due course, in this current financial year, some of these funds under the capital works program will be used to develop some of the cable television services that are required. As I have said on a number of occasions in this Parliament, many areas of the La Trobe electorate are subject to very inferior television reception. This problem is particularly insidious for the local people because the main antennae for the greater Melbourne television reception area are actually in the electorate at the top of Mount Dandenong, which is close to the central areas where most of the people live. There are a number of antennae on top of Mount Dandenong and they are an intrusion on the magnificent local landscape of which the local people are very proud. However, it is a fact that in some areas it is still impossible to obtain accurate television reception.
One of the alternatives facing Telecom is the provision of cable television services. This is the responsibility of Telecom. Also in the electorate of La Trobe, at the top of the Yarra Valley, is located the little township of Warburton. For 7 years the Warburton Advancement League has been pursuing a course of action, to obtain cable television services for their town- and a very delightful little township it is. I raised this matter in the House just a few weeks ago and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications was kind enough to tell me that he would be taking up the matter on my behalf and that of the people of Warburton. The television reception at Warburton is very inferior. In fact, people simply cannot receive on some of the television channels. The residents are installing enormous television antennae in order to obtain the reception that they require. These antennae are very costly and they are not very attractive to look at, and the whole situation is very inconvenient. The people can receive at best only 2 of the metropolitan channels. The alternative is the provision of cable television services. This has been the saga of events for the people of Warburton for the last 7 years. They have contacted and written to every Minister on many occasions during that period seeking support for the provision of these services. One of the most recent and interesting replies was received in March of last year from the former Minister in charge of the Post Office, Senator Bishop, who said that he expected a decision to be made in a short time on cable television for Warburton. I regret to say that nothing happened in the remainder of 1975 and, so far, nothing has happened in 1976.
– There was a change of government.
– The honourable member for Hunter says that there has been a change of government. But there has been no change in the quality of television reception in Warburton. Until some far better provision for television reception is made for people wishing to watch television in Warburton or in the Dandenongs area or anywhere in the electorate of La Trobe, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Telecom and this Parliament will be hearing from me with regard to this matter time and time again.
During the last couple of days I have received letters from the principals of 3 schools at Warburton. I refer to the Warburton Primary School,
St Joseph’s School and the Warburton Seventh Day Adventist School. They have all told me it is difficult to obtain television reception in order that they can give their students the benefit of the excellent educational programs that are televised for primary and secondary school students. I thank the House for giving me this opportunity to make these points because they are most important. As honourable members would know, television today is a basic necessity in nearly every home. I believe that there are television sets in 95 per cent of homes within the range of television reception. Consequently, with the pace of life today and the interesting programs on television, it is, I believe, a basic necessity that everybody should have access to reception so that if they wish to have a television set they can do so. I am grateful for having the opportunity to tell the Parliament about this matter. I was anxious to let the Parliament and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications know about these problems. I was also anxious to have Telecom itself get to know about these problems.
-This Bill, which seeks to amend the Telecommunications Act 1975, is designed to facilitate the borrowing of $200m, although that amount is not specified within the Bill, for the purpose of funding the Telecommunications Commission’s capital expenditures for the ensuing year. Under the provisions of the Acts relating to the establishment of this Commission and the Postal Commission, these capital expenditures, which amount to $9 10m, would normally have been funded by a 50 per cent budgetary funding from the Government and a 50 per cent funding from the Commission’s own resources. On this occasion the Commission has elected to seek 22 per cent of its capital expenditure in the way of borrowings from the domestic capital market as against a borrowing of 24 per cent from the Treasury.
It has been asked why this Bill is necessary. One of the important points in that respect is that it will ensure that the Commission has equality with other semi-governmental authorities borrowing on the same market. Some concern was expressed that subscribers to the Commission’s securities could be liable to pay stamp duty, which would not be the case with other State authorities, and that therefore its attempts to borrow money would be seriously impeded. I am mindful that we are moving another step forward in the evolution of this Commission and the Postal Commission. It was not always a practice to borrow money in this manner or even to go onto the market and pay interest on borrowings for the purpose of providing such basic services to the community.
Until 1959, as the House may recall, postal communications were considered to be a national undertaking whose capital cost was spread over the whole community. The actual users of the services were required to meet only the operating expenses of the postal, telegraphic and telephone services. There was a policy change in 1959 which required the Australian Post Office to be debited in the future with interest on its past and future capital expenditure. That charge, plus its operating costs, had to be met in increased charges to the users of these services. On this point, I am more than impressed with the fact that this borrowing of $200m in a year will attract interest payments of $20m, in round figures. One cannot help but speculate on how many services this amount may have provided for Australians, be they in cities or rural and distant areas. It seems that we are persisting with a policy that increases the problems either for the Government itself under the old establishment or for the Commissions themselves under the new establishment to get the greatest value out of each dollar.
Under the old arrangement such lendings from the Government did not attract interest. The change in the situation was strongly attacked as being inequitable because the capital expenditure on telecommunications was budgeted and paid for from general taxes taken into Consolidated Revenue. It did not come from public borrowings through Commonwealth loan funds upon which interest and principal repayments had to be made to the private lenders. Hence a debit to the Post Office in those days of interest on such capital outlays would be to levy a tax upon a tax and thus cause the Australian taxpayer to pay the sum twice. That was a regressive change since charges imposed according to usage tend to minimise the usage where the interests of the community required it to be encouraged.
These borrowings again will perpetuate the same process. It will be reflected in the cost of the service to the end user. As the costs escalate, so are the users discouraged from using the services as much as they ordinarily might be expected to do. This raises the question of whether this is a basic service to the community. As a matter of policy, the Government should accept this as being a commitment to Australia, just as it does with the funds for defence, which are unproductive in themselves in their revenue earning capacity. The policy of expecting the user alone to pay all costs requires that further increases be made progressively to the shrinking proportion of remaining customers. These increases in turn further restrict usage and complete a vicious circle.
This Bill is almost a machinery measure. The die has been cast. It is the intention of the Commission to borrow these moneys and it has the approval of the Government so to do to the extent that it guarantees security for those who may have a mind to invest in this loan. The interest rates will range from 9.7 per cent per annum for 4 years to 10.6 per cent per annum for 20 years. I certainly support the Bill and oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition.
– in reply- I have listened with interest to the debate. But for the first few sentences of the speech of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) I was able to be in the chamber to hear all of his remarks, as I did with the speech of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who is a former Treasurer. It seems to me that the Opposition has adopted a rather curious approach to this Bill. If I recall the remarks of the honourable member for Adelaide correctly, he said that it is a machinery measure or largely a machinery measure. He then went on to dispute the need for it and to ask a number of questions in relation to it.
– Will you answer them?
-I will answer them so clearly that not only the honourable member for Adelaide but also hopefully all of his colleagues behind him will understand the situation, although that is asking a lot. We have had a repetition of the facts, which are well known to everybody. They are contained in the second reading speech that I made towards the end of last month. This matter has been one of substantial interest in financial circles. An enormous amount of publicity has been given to it. The capital requirements of the Telecommunications Commission are understood. So it is not any great news to the House or to the nation to be told of the magnitude of the capital requirements of the Telecommunications Commission. There was an awareness in Australia for years that the former Postmaster-General’s Department was a very large concern. It employed, I think, about half the Public Service. The capital requirements on the telecommunications side have always been of tremendous significance, particularly within the framework of public spending.
All we have had from the Opposition has been very largely a repetition of the facts, including the fact that the Telecommunications Commission will need $9 10m this year and the fact that the Commission will borrow $2 15m of that from the Treasury, the fact that it will borrow $200m of it on the capital market and the fact that the balance will be made up from internal funding within the Commission. I have therefore been wondering, despite the questions that the honourable member for Adelaide asked, why he moved an amendment to this Bill. I will deal with that amendment a little later in my speech. I have come to the conclusion that the normally good-natured and responsible honourable member for Adelaide is getting a bit irritable. I suppose that one can understand why. He is the shadow Treasurer of Australia and, according even to Mr Whitlam, although I am not sure how much we can rely on his words, he will one day introduce a Labor Budget, although it will be a long time before that happens. The honourable member for Adelaide knows only too well that it is because the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) keeps on conducting himself as though he is more than the Opposition’s spokesman on defence, which is a subject on which we hardly ever hear his views, and making irresponsible and extraordinary statements on the economy. I say to the honourable member for Adelaide that he would do his Party and the nation a good service if he could convince his colleague from Queensland- I make the observation that he is the only member of his Party from Queensland- to behave in a much more responsible manner.
The Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission were set up as autonomous bodies by the previous Administration. We had some reservations about this set up. We had some qualifications about it. Nevertheless, we did not oppose the concept. The Commissions are conducting their affairs very well, despite some criticisms by some honourable members which I will deal with.
– Were you not listening?
-I listened very carefully, particularly to the honourable member for La Trobe. I will answer his comments a little later. As a broad statement of fact, the Commissions are performing their tasks very well. I therefore ask: Why should they not as large business undertakings, particularly the Telecommunications Commission, go onto the market? they have a good reputation. They have a lot of supporters throughout Australia. I more than suspect that this borrowing will be very successful.
I turn to the amendment, which of course the Government will not accept. The first ground on which the Opposition says the Government should be condemned is as follows: for stressing the importance of the magnitude of the deficit instead of the importance of the methods of financing the deficit.
I have been listening to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and other Ministers recently. They have been expressing the importance of both. Nobody will dispute the importance of the financing of the deficit, but the record of the previous Administration has underlined more than ever the need to be concerned with the size of the deficit. The planned deficit of the Hayden Budget was $2,800m. Will the honourable member for Adelaide deny that that deficit looked like reaching $5, 000m for the financial year when the Liberal and National Country parties achieved office at the end of last November?
– But at the moment it is moving towards an annual rate of $8 billion.
-Do not try to misinterpret my words. As the honourable member will know, the deficit of the Hayden Budget at the end of last financial year would have been close to $5,000m. It was only the action of the present Government in reining in government expenditure that managed to reduce it to $3, 600m. The Australian Labor Party refuses to recognise that there is a relationship between government spending, deficits and inflation. That is the gulf that separates the Opposition from the Government. The Government recognises that containing and reducing the rate of inflation are the critically important issues facing the nation. The Opposition still will not face up to that simple fact. The other ground for condemning the Government as set out in the amendment is as follows: for alleging that the deficit had been reduced by $200m when that sum was being borrowed directly by Telecom from the Australian capital market.
Nobody alleged the deficit was being reduced by $200m; the deficit is being reduced by $200m. There has been no attempt to hide that fact. We said quite clearly that as a matter of Cabinet decision the Telecommunications Commission should seek $200m of its capital requirements from the loan market. There is no evidence other than that the full facts of the matter have been well known and understood right from the original decision. The fact is that the deficit is $200m less and the fact is that the Telecommunications
Commission will now make a successful entry into the capital market under the terms and conditions of this Bill.
Finally let me deal with the comments of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu). I have long recognised since he came here that he is one of the most able representatives of a constituency that there is in the Parliament. I say to him that I recognise very clearly the matters that he raised. I am aware of the matters, as he knows. He has spoken to me. In fact, he is always in my office seeing to it that the needs and requirements of his electorate are cared for. I say to him that the connection of all telephone services in every State and in every large city, including Melbourne, has improved. Of course there are pockets where services ought to be better. Some of the matters he raised tonight, as he is aware from his dicussions with me, are getting the most careful attention. I assure the honourable member that they will be followed through to satisfaction.
The Government rejects the amendment. It has been most regrettable that the Opposition has taken up so much time on this largely machinery matter when we could have moved on to the debate on the Appropriation Bill.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Eric Robinson) proposed: That the Bill be now read a third time.
-Very briefly, I want to make a couple of pertinent points to rebut the glib but nevertheless evasive reply given by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson). The Opposition’s basic objection to this piece of legislation was that the Government was trying to conceal the real level of the deficit had it dealt with this capital raising in the manner in which it is normally dealt with. While the Opposition does not cavil at the legality or indeed the manner in which this money will now be raised, it does make the point that had the Government included this in its normal budgetary arrangements the deficit would have been larger. No amount of fancy phrases or glib terms from the Minister can disguise that fact.
The Minister made a couple of erroneous points that need to be answered. He said the deficit of the Labor Budget was approaching $5,000m. In fact, the cuts made by this Government to the Hayden Budget amounted to only $3 70m. The growth in the deficit arose from a shortfall in tax collections because the rate of growth in wages was lower than that budgeted for by the Treasurer and the Treasury at the time of the introduction of the Hayden Budget. It was estimated that the growth in wages would be 22 per cent. In fact it turned out to be only 14 per cent. Because there was a smaller increase in wages less tax was collected, and because less tax was collected and not because there was an increase in spending there was a larger deficit. Had the Labor Government’s term of office not been chopped short by the behaviour of the then Opposition, the Labor Government, like the present Government, would have attempted to finance some of the deficit by capital raisings, as the Government is doing now, some time this year. So let us cut out the political nonsense. The fact is that the Labor deficit was as large as it was because of a shortfall in collections. The present Government did virtually nothing to reduce that deficit. It made a token cut in spending of $370m when it said it would do more. In fact, this little operation- this $200m borrowing on the Australian capital market- introduces a new concept of statutory corporations going on to the market in their own right in much the same way as the Sydney County Council in New South Wales, the State Electricity Commission in Victoria or the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board in New South Wales presently does.
– What is wrong with that?
– We do not object to that. What we object to is that the Minister is trying to deceive the Parliament and the people about the size of the deficit. It ill-behoves him to try to disguise the weakness of his own argument by attacking Opposition personalities such as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). That is not the way a Minister defends his case. If I might say so, the Minister defended his case most inadequately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1976-77 Second Reading (Budget Debate)
Debate resumed from 9 September, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr E. G. Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the House condemns the Budget because-
it pursues a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries:
it abdicates federal government responsibilities and forces the State governments and local governments either to reduce their services or institute additional charges, or both;
it introduces an additional tax in the form of the Medibank levy, thus further reducing consumer spending;
it reduces the availability of services to the whole community but particularly to those most vulnerable to hardship notably Aborigines, the unemployed and migrants, and
it fails to institute selective stimulatory expenditure to reduce unemployment and restore consumer confidence’.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, my remarks this evening have no relevance to the early portion of my contribution to the debate on the Appropriation Bill which I commenced last Thursday. This evening I wish to raise a different matter altogether. I received in the mail this morning a letter in the form of a petition, I suppose, from a number of constituents in Stawell in Victoria. The opening paragraphs state:
We, the employees of North Western Woollen Mills Pty Ltd, Playford Street, Stawell, have over the last three years watched as our industry has been slowly eroded away by what seems to be a lack of political interest, conviction, and to us, a lax attitude in the handling of tariffs.
We have, over this period of time, seen one of the most modern and efficient woollen textile plants in Australia come from a very busy 3-shift industry employing 260 people, to its present state of a very slack 2 -shift enterprise, struggling to remain productive with 156 employees.
The question I raise is this: Why has the number of employees been reduced during the last 3 years from 260 to 156 people? To my mind, the broad answers are very simple. Firstly, there was the Labor Party’s decision when it was in government to reduce tariffs, and that statement has been verified as late as this afternoon by the admission of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). The second answer is Australia’s growing cost structure, and the third is the lack of incentive, confidence and the will to produce. All 3 answers are the result of the Labor Government’s earlier decision, with the third being carried on by the Labor Party Opposition.
Of course, increased costs are forcing people off the purchasing market. Increased costs are forcing manufacturing industries into curbing production and are forcing both manufacturing industry and primary industry into insolvency. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) once said: ‘Under my Government, wages have gone up more than the cost of living. ‘ But what of the other sections of the community, and I refer to retired people, pensioners and producers? After all, they are all consumers.
As another illustration, I refer to the stevedoring industry. With constant strikes and demands for increased awards, costs for anybody shipping goods overseas now are out of all proportion. Today the hourly wage of waterside workers has risen since 1 973 by something like 90 per cent to over $13 an hour. Idle time levies have risen from $ 1 an hour to $4 an hour. Is it any wonder that people are being forced out of industry when opportunities and work such as that are available? I wonder sometimes why some of the unemployed are not more forceful in attempting to get a job on the water front. I am informed that the cost of loading a bale of wool today is in the vicinity of $7.70, compared with $2.95 in 1973. That is not a very long period of time. Loose cargo, which includes grain, has jumped from $18.70 a tonne to $48.10 a tonne, but people wonder why costs continue to rise. Those are the reasons why I believe that the Stawell woollen mills have fewer employees now than they did in 1973.
I do not wish to bash employees’ awards because I agree that the pay packet of the worker should have as much purchasing power as possible. That is the essence of the principle of bringing justice to everyone, it matters not whether he is a wage earner, a business man or a farmer. Everyone everywhere should receive a fair share of this nation’s wealth, but when one considers figures such as those I have just quoted for the stevedoring industry, as well as figures relating to other industries, one realises that they are not sharing in the wealth. Maintaining the real value of wages is part of the present Government’s policy. Government Parties have a broad national outlook, unlike that of the present Opposition, which is openly sectional. I appeal to Opposition members to consider some of those aspects when they endeavour to sap the confidence of the people of Australia. Time and time again the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and other prominent senior members of the Cabinet have endeavoured to get confidence back into the people of Australia so that a situation can be achieved where the economy is running soundly and where everybody, irrespective of who they are, can share in the national wealth. That is why I support the Budget introduced some 4 weeks ago by the Treasurer. I might add that never before have I heard so many favourable comments following the introduction of a Budget. People are realising the importance of securing confidence, but when we hear speakers from the Opposition, from the Leader of the Opposition down, it is no wonder that people are losing that confidence. For those reasons, Mr Deputy Speaker, I support the Budget.
-I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and wish to quote some phrases from his speech on the Budget. He said:
Judged solely as an economic document, the Fraser Budget is irrelevant to the nation’s needs. Australia is in recession and the recession is deepening. This Budget, quite simply, does nothing about it. But it is worse than that. As a social document- as a statement of the Government’s priorities, a statement about the future and the character of our country and its people- the Budget is frightening. It serves notice to the world that one of the richest and most fortunate nations on earth cannot afford to give its people the minimum standards of health, housing, public transport, urban development and social amenities enjoyed by all the other advanced Western democracies, by all well-managed economies. The Fraser Government has declared not only that we cannot afford these things but also that the national government has no business to provide them. This Budget declares that the quality of our lives, the quality of our cities and towns, the quality of our social services, the humanity and efficiency of our public institutions- the things which enrich and beautify our surroundings and which alone can liberate our people from drabness, hardship and insecurity- are not the concern of the national government in command of the national economy. That is the message of the Fraser Budget ….
Money is lavished on privileged sections of the business community, but industries like manufacturing, which depend most on consumer confidence, get nothing at all. The shipbuilding industry is to be dismantled. There is no help or hope for the building and construction industries, already depressed by the Government’s cuts in public works. There is a conspicuous neglect of the rural community. There is nothing for wage and salary earners but a prospect of wage restraint and a fall in living standards. There is nothing for the unemployed but continuing and lengthening dole queues.
One must congratulate the Australian Labor Party on the constructive way in which many of its speakers have attacked the Government on this ‘wait and hope for the best’ Budget. Those speakers have also supported the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who stated:
The Government’s wages policy has been unnecessary because it seems to have been based on some confusion. Government leaders have implied that for profits to increase and recovery to occur, real wages must fall. This was reasserted in the statement that we are debating today. This just is not so. This confuses wage levels with the share of wages in national income and profit rates with the share of profits in national income. The way to increase the profit share is to encourage economic recovery. It is well known that the share of profits rises in a boom and falls in a recession. The profit share is low at present because the economy is still in a vacuum. But in spite of it being low overall, we notice that the latest publications of profit figures for the year ended 30 June 1976- when wage indexation applied almost throughout the total year- show that these profit rates have been increasing. The fact is that they should be adjusted for current value accounting reasons before we draw any comparisons. But even with such adjustments, the profit rates have improved under wage indexation. If sustained recovery occurs, the share profits in income will rise again encouraging business to invest, so enhancing the recovery further
I suggest that such a policy of focusing on recovery will be followed instead of adopting this policy of ensuring that the timid spenders of this country save rather than get out and spend. I suggest that we are ensuring this latter course by following the policies outlined in the statement that we are debating today. Such policies are ill informed and we reject them.
That was the statement made by the shadow Treasurer.
I turn now to the Budget anomalies. A high level of unemployment is a conscious Liberal Government goal. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) argue that the single important economic problem facing Australia is inflation. The level of real wages is the cause of that problem, they say. Their approach to reducing real wages is to increase unemployment and push for the end of wage indexation. The Budget will retard economic recovery. Total outlays increase by 1 1 per cent, whereas inflation at a rate of 12 per cent is expected. Real government spending will fallTotal receipts are expected to increase by 19 per cent, compared with a growth in the economy of about 4 per cent. Receipts from personal income tax are expected to increase by 25 per cent, compared with a 12 per cent increase in average weekly earnings. Rather than reducing income tax, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are sharply increasing the proportion of income which people pay in tax. The effect of these changes is to reduce total spending in the economy by government and households below possible and desirable levels. The stock valuation adjustment which is to be introduced will have no effect on taxes paid by companies this year. The changes to tax rates for mining companies simply transfer funds to already well off companies which employ few people. Spending on building and construction, an industry in which large numbers of people are employed, is reduced.
I turn now to Aboriginal affairs. The Lynch Budget returns expenditure on Aboriginal affairs to pre- 1972 days. There has been an overall cut of 30 per cent in real terms. The greatest of the cuts have been in the areas of housing, health and education- the 3 areas most important to the self-respect and self-determination of any person.
I turn now to social security. Because of the abolition of dependant tax rebates, the increases in child endowment have to be paid for by a real increase in taxation. Pension increases indexed to the consumer price index provide no additional benefit for the pensioner but simply maintain the real value of pensions. In July 1976, 51 000 school leavers were registered as unemployed as a direct result of the Federal Government’s economic policies. The Government has allocated only $580m for unemployment and sickness benefits in the Budget, a reduction of $33m. At a time of record unemployment, these savings can be achieved only by further restricting the payment of benefits to the unemployed. Child care payments are still down. The Government is allocating only $73. 3m in 1976-77 for child care services, a reduction of 12 per cent in real terms. The Government has now abandoned the most innovative and effective self-help social welfare program developed in Australia. I refer to the Australian Assistance Plan. The Government has allocated only $5.4m for the program in 1976-77-in 1975-76, $7m was allocated-and will not fund the program beyond 30 June 1977.
I turn now to aged and disabled persons’ homes. Despite pre-election assurances that funds for aged persons’ accommodation was not to be reduced by a Liberal-National Country Party Government, the Government reduces funds for those programs by 45 per cent in real terms. Real living standards are slashed. Not only is the Government advocating lower wages before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but also it is cutting those government services which directly increase workers’ living standards- health, urban programs, education and consumer protection. Expenditure in education has been maintained in most areas but does not allow for any growth. Cuts have been made in student assistance and Aboriginal and migrant education. More will be said about that at a later date.
In the provision of health services, migrant groups have been badly hit. They are major losers in the Medibank debacle, because of the low incomes which an eminent number of migrants receive. They are seriously disadvantaged by the freezing of the development of community health facilities. The Government has allocated only $7 1.8m, when $88m is needed to meet current commitments. The future of ethnic radio is in great doubt. The experiment has been extremely successful but the Fraser Government has seen fit to continue financing it only until the end of September 1976.
There is a decrease in real terms in the estimated expenditure on housing of approx.mately 7 per cent and a decrease in real terms in the total payments to the States for housing of approximately 13 per cent. What does the Lynch Budget mean? In regard to housing for Aborigines it means a 15 per cent reduction in cash terms; in regard to housing loans by the banks it means a 30 per cent reduction in cash terms; in regard to welfare housing payments to the States it means a 13 per cent reduction in real terms. Moreover, there appears to be no consideration given to the economic and employment implications of housing payments to the States. Western Australia and Tasmania, where the housing industry is working beyond full capacity, have received marginal increases in funds. New South Wales, where the housing industry is in chaos, is to suffer a decrease in cash terms.
I shall now deal with urban and regional development and the environment. The great Labor steps forward in urban development, growth centres, area development, lands commissions and the National Estate, have been completely destroyed by the Lynch Budget. The growth centres’ program has been cut back from an actual expenditure of $60.8m in 1975-76 to a forecast expenditure of $ 19.1m in 1976-77. The following appropriations have been made: In Albury-Wodonga the allocation for this year is $15m and the allocation for last year was $35m; The allocation for the south-west section of Macarthur this year is $2m and last year it was $ 15.7m; and for Bathurst-Orange it is $2m this year and it was $8.3m last year.
The Government has effectively frozen the development of health services in rural and urban areas and it has reduced expenditure on health by $44m. Savings have been achieved by forcing 50 per cent of the population into private health insurance and abandoning Labor’s goal of ensuring equality of access to health services. The Fraser Government has allocated only $7 1.8m when $88m is required to maintain current commitments to community health facilities.
Competitive public enterprise in the development of Australia’s national resources has been dealt a serious blow by the Lynch Budget. Appropriations for Australian participation in the development of our national resources has been reduced in real terms by 22.8 per cent, as against the appropriations made in the Hayden Budget.
I turn now to primary industry, and the information I give may be handy for those in primary industry. Representing as I do the electorate of Sydney, I have always had some feeling for the country. The Lynch Budget is extremely disappointing to farmers. Under the income equalisation deposits scheme a farmer buys bonds in periods of high income- he lightens tax liability and earns 5 per cent interest- and cashes bonds in a future period, presumably one of low income, thus adding to tax liability. While that has some merit in assisting long term income equalisation, it is useless for assisting farmers through this period of depressed returns. Most have no money to invest in the bonds. What election promises are ignored in the Budget as far as primary industry is concerned? During last year’s election campaign major promises included a national rural bank, a scheme to lease farms to young farmers, long term loans to fishermen, the appointment of more Agricultural Attaches, tax incentives to farmers and animal quarantine stations. Not one of these is mentioned in the Budget.
I believe that the Government has slashed in the Budget funds which would normally be received by New South Wales. I hold that view for the following reasons. Because of the attitude held by the Government the payments for running hospitals are at risk. Funds for building and equipment for universities in New South Wales have been reduced from $2 1.7m to $1 lm. Funds for public hospitals have been reduced by $ 1 .7m, a reduction of 1 7 per cent in real terms. Funds for pensioner dwellings have been reduced from $6. 8m to $2.3m. Commonwealth assistance for expenditure on tuberculosis control will cease from 31 December. Last year those payments were worth more than $3m to New South Wales. Employment relief grants worth $1 1.7m to New South Wales have been abolished. Funds for Aboriginal advancement paid to the New South Wales Government have been reduced by more than $2m in this year. There is no increase in funds for public housing, and that is equivalent to a reduction of 12 per cent in real terms. The Labor Government made area improvement grants to a number of local government regions worth $6m last year. The area improvement program has been abolished and New South Wales will receive only $120,000 to finish off the balance of all the work. Funds for sewerage programs have been reduced from $43m to $20m. Funds for land development through the urban land council have been reduced from $1 1.7m to $4.3m. There has been a decrease of 9 per cent in real terms of funds spent on roads. Funds for the development of tourist facilities have been reduced from $543,000 to $74,000. There has been a major reduction in funds for local government. Excluding roads, payments to local government in all States are down from $2 75m to $ 1 95m, a reduction of $80m.
Many of our young people who are unemployed will be living on the dole for years to come if the harsh policies of the Liberal Government are implemented. In other words, it will be: ‘Serving your time on the dole into the 1980s’. Remember the great architect of liberalism from 1950 to 1960, Sir Robert Menzies. He just survived the 1961 Federal election when 100,000 Australians were out of work. Early in 1972 when Bill McMahon, the right honourable member for Lowe was Prime Minister, there were 138,000 unemployed. He too survived for only a few months because of the great unemployment in Australia. Owing to a world wide recession from 1972 to 1975 when Labor took office, many people were on unemployment relief, but by 1977 there could be 500,000 unemployed under the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government. One could reflect on the article in the Australian Financial Review of Monday last, 13 September:
Congress passes Budget but no lift for faltering U.S. economy. The U.S. recovery which was expected . . . now concern about the durability of recovery is much stronger around the country.
That is in the United States of America. If federal elections were to take place next year or in 1 978, there would certainly be a Labor government again. The Australian people were misled by the Liberal-Country Party coalition prior to the election.
There is a high proportion of unemployed people under 20 years of age. Teenagers represent only 12 per cent of the work force and 40 per cent of them are unemployed. In fact 20 000 students stayed at school but in 1977 they will have to go out with the others to a life which will commence on the dole. Is this the Government that promised: ‘Vote for Fraser and you will be safe until 1980’?
-‘ Turn on the lights, ‘ they said.
– That is right. I have asked questions of the Government in the House of Representatives concerning the training of apprentices, secondary and tertiary education, and about rethinking its approach to the actual needs of industry and commerce. We have more graduates but fewer tradesmen. Many are unemployed under the new federalism of liberalism. Graduates and tradesmen are out of work. The Prime Minister stated in the great policy speech before the 1975 elections:
For the people in our great country who want to work I will guarantee full employment.
Lies again! You will know that cuts in the expenditure of the 1976-77 Budget affect the little people- pensioners, women, children, Aborigines, migrants, the sick and the infirm. Under the Fraser Government inflation is running at 12 per cent and unemployment is still rising. It made promises and promises. Did not the Fraser Government promise full employment in 1976? Money has been slashed from urban and regional development. The Australian Government Glebe Estate is one such area. The people of Sydney are considered to be second class citizens because they voted for Labor. We know what the Liberals do when in doubt; they panic. That should be the Liberal Party’s slogan.
The Fraser Government’s policy is business before people, handouts to big business for services rendered. What about the Pitt Street farmersnot the little farmers. And what about their friends the large foreign coal producers, such as Utah. Most State governments regret having a Federal Liberal Government because they know they are worse off than they are under a Federal Labor Government. The Liberals had control of the Treasury bench for 23 years before 1972. What did they do? When the Labor Party came to power it had plans for the next 10 years. All this has been slashed. Life is not meant to be easy for the sick and the infirm. Medibank is only one of the casualties of the Budget. There has been downgrading of health care and old people will find it harder and more costly to enter nursing homes or hospitals. Health care will be only for the rich. The Prime Minister has asked the people to spend and live for today. Living for today is what the Treasurer ordered. Australians are told to spend their way back to prosperity by a Government that deliberately endangers their jobs. The next 12 months will be difficult for the people of Australia. Those who voted for the Liberal Party will almost certainly regret what they have done. What has the Liberal-Country Party Government done in its 9 months in office other than confuse the nation?
The Federal Budget, by cutting public expenditure, by failing to stimulate the manufacturing sector and by distributing finance only to the wealthy mining industry, plans to concentrate its gamble on increased consumer spending in the hope that inflationary pressure will ease. I do not believe either of these things are likely to occur. The Federal Government is taking the callous, cynical approach of waiting until 1977-78, nearer to an election year, before taking action to stimulate real employment. The whisper from the Government benches is that 20 seats will change. This is now September 1976, not 1978. How many oncers will there be, thirty, or forty?
The Wran Labor Government of New South Wales has already shown it has an enormous capacity for work, a creative approach to government and an acute awareness of all human aspects associated with these problems. In New South Wales 120 000 people are out of work. They are not dole bludgers, as the Liberal Government would have us believe. This reference to dole bludgers has to stop. Who were the Liberal-Country Party members who coined the phrase? They should stand up and be counted. Who were they- the Country Party, the Liberal Party?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Those of us who have been in the House for a considerable time treat the debates on the Budget as one of the most momentous occasions we face in the year. It relates not only to the economy and to the financial structure of the country, but also to the way in which society can itself develop and prosper. How sorry we were when there was a total failure of the Opposition to present an alternative. Let me refer firstly to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) who is a former Prime Minister and I say with emphasis and without doubt at all that his was the worst speech by a Leader of the Opposition I have heard in the 27 years I have been here, and that includes a lot of duds like the late Dr Evatt and a few other people of that kind. What did he say? He delivered a series of unconnected sentences, some elegantly written, it is true, but totally irrelevant to the Budget. He made little contribution to the problems of the development and growth of the country. He showed no knowledge of the way in which the economy is trending and what should be done about it. This was well illustrated by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who sat there in riotous laughter with my friends, the members of the Country Party. This man was contemptuous of the Leader of the Opposition, showing that he was determined to ensure that the leader would never again be restored to a position of power in any government.
As we went down the line we could see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), who was recently defeated in an election for appointment to the most important of all the Labor committees, looking more like Rasputin than I have ever seen any portrait of Rasputin himself. A lot of people will say that is slanderous of Rasputin but I cannot be prosecuted for what I say here. Then down a little further to the left were the sounds of an out of tune trombone. Who or what was it? It was none other than the former Minister for Minerals and Energy the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). He was asleep and snoring in a key that did not fit the voice and words of his Leader. Those are positive and identifiable facts. I do not want to proceed any further.
I want to refer to the contribution of 2 people, the shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the so-called shadow Minister for Defence who wants to get back to the position of shadow Treasurer again. The shadow Minister for Employment wanted wages fully indexed and increased. I am referring to Mr Willis, if I may name him. I can understand his feelings because he was once an advocate for the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I wonder if he knew what the consequence of wage increases would be. Even Mr Hayden, the honourable member for Oxley, was proud to say, as the former Treasurer before him was proud to say, that an increase in one man’s salary is the loss of another man’s job. Did this former officer of the ACTU care about his mates? Does not he care about unemployment? Let me cite some figures to illustrate my point. The number of unemployed was 88 700 in September 1972. When my Party left office in December this figure rose to 130 000 with school leavers. At that time all the pundits were saying there would be 200 000 out of work by June 1973 but by June, as a result of actions of my own Party in office, there were 81 376 out of work-not 200 000 as had been forecast. By June 1 974 there were 78 000 out of work. In December 1974 there were 266 998 out of work and by December 1975 there were 328 700 out of work. These figures have to be remembered. Honourable members opposite did not care about the unemployed. They created the ‘Andy Capp’ syndrome. These people who now sit opposite did not worry about the hearts, the bodies, the lives, the futures and the frustrations of those people who would have to stay out of work not for 6 months but as long as 1 8 months and even longer.
Let me return to that sneaky little fellowforgive me for saying that- Mr Hayden, the honourable member for Oxley -
-Order! I think the right honourable member for Lowe should withdraw the comment and should refer to the honourable member for Oxley in the terms accepted by this House during the course of debate.
– I withdraw it, sir. I have never known a word like that having to be withdrawn, but I do so. In any event, let me come back to him. I want to refer to some figures. I have with me a graph and a series of statistics which everyone ought to read. My case is based on these figures. If we look at average weekly earnings between 1970 and 1972, making allowance for inflation and the tax rip-off, we will find that in those 2A* years my Party in office was able to increase the take home pay for the average weekly earner by up to 13.3 per cent. This graph will show what I am saying. But what happened when the former Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), came to office? He tried to keep pace but failed dismally and the take home pay slipped about 5 points.
But then came Hayden. I cannot use the same word again. I mean it; it is deep in my heart and in my mind. I have to have it in my mind and I cannot stop it from being there. This gentleman came along and imposed his own tax scales. What happened was that the increase of 1 3.3 per cent came down to 0.9 per cent. The larger part of that 13 per cent was lost. If honourable members look at the basic rates of tax in the taxation tables I will lay on the table of the House they will see- I can give only one example- what happened. Compared with 1974-75 rates the net tax of a single man on $6,000 a year went up $465 under the Hayden scale to a total tax $875 and net tax $629. After taking out all the other payments the increase amounted to 121 per cent. The other figures are unbelievable. Incomes which bore the brunt of the increase were those between $6,000 and $8,000 a year. This pattern continued at a decreasing rate for a person earning up to $14,000 a year. For a person earning over $20,000 a year there was some relief. I do not wish to have these documents incorporated in Hansard. However, I would like to table the graph and the tax scales which show the degree to which tax has increased and the extraordinary loss of take home pay by people in the lower income brackets. In those circumstances how can we expect that a government can ensure improved consumption. How can we ensure greater retail sales in the economy when the tax scales are so structured that people in these income brackets- that is to say, earning $6,000 to $8,000 and up to $14,000-were punitively damaged and their take home pay was severely reduced? There was no prospect under those scales of any revival in spending. I have pleasure in tabling those documents.
Let me deal with these two fundamentally important problems. First, who created these vast increases in unemployment? Second, does not the Opposition realise that unless it helps us to restrain wage increases, unless it helps us to bring down inflation, the problem of solving unemployment is probably an impossible one?
I now turn to something which I believe will be one of the critical factors in the days to come. I want to look at the achievements of the Fraser Government and then refer to Statement No. 2 brought down with the Budget. I have said without any reservations that when Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister and leader of this great country of ours he was faced with the most difficult problem I have known in all the time I have been a member of this House and even before then. He had the problem of restructuring the whole of the Australian economy. Its finance, and the impact on society- foundations and structures that had been virtually destroyed by the Labor Party. They had to be restored.
– He has made a mess of it, has he not?
– Please, little boy, I sympathise with you for your impetuosity but when you are speaking you will be given a go. You have shirked the job of coming on first because you knew that somebody would reply to you. You did not have the guts. You had to let my -
– I raise a point of order.
– He is down on the list.
-Order! If the honourable member for Blaxland claims to have been misrepresented, he may make a personal explanation when the right honourable member for Lowe has completed his speech.
– With all respect, I wish to raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker.
-The honourable member may make an explanation at the end of the speech of the right honourable member for Lowe.
– That job which was faced by the Prime Minister has been done and done satisfactorily. In the prologue to the
Budget of May- and prior to that- to ensure that we would have indexation of wages and indexation of personal taxation. Action had been taken in regard to opening and closing stock valuations. Action had been taken on various other fronts that was absolutely and vitally necessary in order to re-establish the foundations and structure. The Fraser Government deserves my praise and the praise of every thinking Australian for what it has been able to do.
However, I do not want to continue to speak about this. I now want to speak about Statement No. 2 which was brought down with the Budget. It says, first of all, that there were some signs of recovery in the economy particularly relating to inventories and to exports. These are the motivating areas. These are the areas in which there was said to be a real sign of progress. But I have to say with some reluctance it is not turning out that way. If we look at the ratio of sales to stocks we will see it fell from 0.9 to 1 in December 1974 to 0.82 to 1 in December 1975 and in the statistics set out in the Quarterly Estimates of National Income and Expenditure Statement for the June quarter which came out last Friday we will see the ratio fell to 0.791 to 1. 1 now quote from Syntec which puts it this way:
The Budget forecast of a resurgence of stock building received a sharp setback in the June quarter.
I now come to another area of absolutely crucial importance. We know that unless a country’s exports are growing and there is a balance of payments surplus on current account it is likely to run into increasing difficulties. The simple fact is that exports for August fell by 3.7 per cent to $999m but imports rose from $8 12m in July to $859m. If a coincidence in these 2 figures occurs and grows worse then we are entitled to draw the conclusion that our balance of payments on current account will this year be in deficit. I believe that this financial year this deficit will be about $l,500m-$lVi billion. These are figures that must concern us all and we must now start to look in earnest at action to be taken to restore economic growth and consumption expenditure in the economy. This leads me to a simple statement. Because of wage demands and the fact that during the Labor regime wages got out of kilter with the growth in profits. We costed ourselves out of world markets; we now find that our wages are 27 per cent higher than those in the United States of America. In 1972 we had a cost advantage over the US of 15 per cent. Now we have a cost disadvantage of 30 per cent. That is due to both the increase in the wage structure and also to the industrial problems. At the present moment I do not see great prospects of improvement. For a very obvious reason I leave out the question of the balance of payments other than to say that our overseas reserves fell to $2,369m at the end of last week- less than 3 months supply of imports.
Let me turn to the second important factor; that is, consumption. Retail sales are one of the vital elements together with motor vehicle sales. I say nothing about motor vehicle sales because sales in this area have dropped in a way we all regret. We know how serious the position is but we do not see at the moment any prospects of recovery.
If honourable members study the figures in the document entitled National Income and Expenditure Statement 1975-76, Budget Paper No. 9, they will see that in seasonally adjusted terms our retail sales fell in the July half year to .6 per cent. But that is not the real point. If we look at the April, May and June figures, we will see that from the level of 1.6 per cent, without allowing for inflationary discounting the rate of increase fell from 1.6 per cent to 1.5 per cent in May and to .6 per cent in June. These are danger signs that we must look at. We cannot afford to have the Labor Party back in power again.
I now turn to gross operating profits- the surpluses of trading enterprise. I have taken out some figures, but not from the quarterly estimates of national income and expenditure for the June quarter. I did not want to do that for these reasons: They are gross figures in the national income statistics; they do not allow for inflation or constant price; they do not have regard for depreciation, nor for that matter do they cover changes in the value of stocks. The better basis for analysis is on page 16 of this National Income and Expenditure Statement, Budget Paper No. 9, where figures are given in respect of company income in the year. They are not figures. That income figure is $4,036m. But we have to make certain allowances when looking at those figures and this is what worries me about those allowances: If allowances are made for taxation and dividends, we find that we have to subtract from that $4,036m an amount of $4, 100m. This means there was a loss or net reduction in the value of assets of corporations in 1975-76 of $64m. Those are the points I wanted to make. I believe that they are points that have to be looked at in total. The Government has about 3 months before it has finally to make up its mind as to whether the Statement B trends turn out to be correct. The longer it delays action, the more certain it will be that more dramatic action will have to be taken subsequently.
I mention one other matter The reason I wanted to speak tonight and in this traumatic way was because of my own experiences in 1 960 and 1961 when in Cabinet as Minister for Labour and National Service. In those days our troubles were due to a balance of payments deficit and standby arrangements made with the International Monetary Fund. Today it looks as though we will have a large deficit on Current Account in 1976-77 except to the extent that we borrow overseas. I well remember in 1 97 1 , 3 or 4 weeks after the Budget was presented I advised the Treasury I thought we should reduce taxation and also reinstate the investment allowance.
– Did it obey you?
– No. What did I hear from the Treasury? I heard things like ‘Hold fast’; ‘Sir, see the integrity of the Budget’. Now, I am quoting from the record. I was told, ‘Sir, keep your nerve’. No action was taken until the middle of February and April, 7 months too late -
– Too late.
– Thanks for your help. Under those circumstances, naturally I feel that I should give a warning sign. I give it here and now. I emphasise that I believe that the Fraser Government is on the right track. It has for the next 2 or 3 months time within which a decision must be taken to provide a stimulus. The Fraser Government has certainly restored confidence. It has certainly created an atmosphere in which people can start to think and feel they have opportunities, not only to get on with the job again but also ultimately to prosper. That applies to every single section of the community. I say this about the Opposition with some regret. I do not think that the parliamentary system of government can really be successful unless it has an effective Opposition able to understand the facts, able to put up arguments and able to put up alternatives. But has anyone heard of an alternative from the Opposition, other than greater unemployment or of a taxation scale that deprives people of the opportunity to spend and therefore to restore consumer expenditure and national growth? I would like the Government to be thinking now of a reduction in personal taxation of the order of 7 1/2 per cent. I also believe that we will have a consumer price index inflation rate in the December quarter of this year of about 7 per cent. In such conditions we ought to be looking at some way to reduce the CPI to overcome the Medibank charge of 2 per cent. Money spent in reducing sales tax items in the consumer price index to obtain a 2 per cent benefit would be money well spent and would keep this Government, probably as great a government as we can expect to have, in power for at least another 1 5 to 20 years.
-Before I call the honourable member for Blaxland the right honourable member for Lowe asked for leave to table papers. He does not desire those papers to be incorporated in the Hansard record but merely to table them. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr KEATING (Blaxland)-Mr Acting Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon) cast aspertions upon me during his speech when he said that I was afraid to precede him in the debate. In fact, I changed my position in the speaking order out of deference to the honourable member for Sydney, Mr Les McMahon, a new member in this House, who for the first time was making a speech in a Budget debate. I was interested to see that he was able to speak at 8 o’clock. The day that I am scared to follow a bitchy little fellow like the right honourable mem -
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Blaxland withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw it.
-The honourable member has made a personal explanation which explains the situation. I suggest now that the honourable member for Blaxland proceeds with his speech on the Appropriation Bill. I call the honourable member now to make his speech.
-When we cut through all of the nonsense that Government members have spoken about their economic policy, we get back to this simple fact: They were elected to reduce inflation and unemployment. They have been in office for 10 months and they have failed to do either. Basically, their economic policy is a conundrum, a riddle. In essence, the Government is saying to the work force that through a reduction in real wages it should earn less but go out and spend more. This is a contradiction in terms and it is no wonder that people in this country have no confidence in the Government. Contrary to what the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon) says, the Ministers in his own Government are now out. As recently as today, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator Cotton) is reported in the newspapers trying to drum up confidence in retailing. There is no confidence in the community. Basically, the Budget reinforces the spurious proposition of earn less and spend more. We find again in the Budget the obsession with the deficit, the reduction in Commonwealth services and reductions in the rate of growth of payments to the States, obliging them ultimately to levy additional charges which, of course, add to cost pressures. These are policies that produce growing unemployment and add to costs. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) are enslaved with the import of the monetarist theory. Just this week they appointed 10 people to an economic council. They were professors of economics who are all monetarists and right wing economists. So we can expect that this monetarist theme will run through Government policies in the future.
It is basically a theme of rigid money supply management and a holding down of government spending. In respect of money supply management we saw the risque performance of the Government earlier this year when it went on to the Australian capital market with Australian savings bonds which were called the ‘Lynch bonds’. The Government stopped offering the bonds just in time to prevent interest rates going through the roof. It was lucky enough to cream off about $ 1,600m. The Government then issued a bond with a rate of about 9.5 per cent which creamed off something like another $ 1,000m. The way in which the Government floated the bonds meant a reduction in the deficit. But it was not without some risk to the whole question of interest rates in this country. The Government is now preaching a policy of encouraging foreign investment back into Australia in large slabs not only to enhance its balance of payments on current account, but to alleviate the problem of a future devaluation. Rigid money supply management and the inflow of foreign capital will mean a diminution in the money available domestically to Australian business. The only result of that can be less money available to Australian companies and more available to foreign companies.
Basically the matter revolves around 2 things. One of them is the question of holding down government spending. Statement No. 1 attached to the Budget Papers for 1 976-77 indicates that outlays have increased by 11.3 per cent while receipts have increased by 18.8 per cent. An increase of 11.3 per cent would have kept the
Budget outlays about the same in real terms as they were last year, presuming that the Government could decrease inflation in this country by about one per cent, that is, reduce the current inflation rate of 12 per cent to around 11 per cent. However the phoneyness of the Government’s claim of keeping the Budget outlays the same as they were last year is exposed by the fact that included in the 1 1.3 per cent increase in outlays is child endowment or the family allowance payments which were a consequence of the abolition of a tax deduction which amounted to $700m in a full year. As the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) pointed out, this means in fact that actual outlays will be increased by only about 8 per cent in the face of an inflation level of about 12 per cent. So in real terms there is a 4 per cent diminution in Commonwealth outlays when compared with last year. This is 4 per cent less than the Government is prepared to admit because it well knows that it has reduced public sector outlays by such a substantial amount, all in the interest of having the field taken up by the so-called private sector. So the Government’s claim that it has adjusted last year’s Budget outlays with an inflation rate of 1 1 per cent is not true. It is another one of its continuing deceptions.
Another clear objective of the Government is the reduction of the level of wages. Perhaps 3 quotes from the speech of the Treasurer, best sum up what the Government’s objectives are all about. The Treasurer refers to ‘turning back the recent trend towards bigger and bigger government’. He then refers to the ‘need to rectify the wage-profit distortion’ induced in 1974. What that means is that any increase in the level of wages during 1974 is now to go back to companies. That is what he means by ‘rectifying the wage-profit distortion’. Then he referred to ‘restraint on Budget outlays and on the size of the public sector’ as necessary ‘to foster expansion of the private sector’. What the Government means by that is that by a reduction of 4 per cent in real Commonwealth outlays, the resources which the Commonwealth would normally be trying to reap to itself are to be made available to the private sector. So in a nutshell, the Government’s policy is based on an investment led recovery. It is as cynical as this: A reduction in wage relativities through partial indexation adjustment is to remain in the pockets of the private sector.
So what the Government is saying is that while the Prime Minister said during the general election campaign that he agreed with wage indexation, he broke his promise after he came into power. His broken promise meant a claim for partial wage indexation which was granted by the Arbitration Commission. What that means is that working people do not have their wages adjusted as inflation erodes their pay packets. Therefore they have a reduction in their real earnings. Another item of Government policy is a reduction in all government outlays to free the private sector from the competition of resources. The Government has treated companies very generously- more generously than I believe they needed to. The result is that the investment allowance has been reinstated as an incentive for the installation of productive plant which will cost revenue $600m in a full year. The Government has given companies concessions for stock replacement at current values rather than on the original cost of the stock. In a full year this will cost revenue $700m. This is quite a lot when one considers that the total company tax base was only $2,500m in the last financial year. So in one full year the stock adjustment scheme equals 28 per cent of the total company tax base. The Government has given generous concesssions to the mining industry which means forgone revenue to the tune of $ 100m in a full year.
If we add up the investment allowance for a full year, the stock replacement value of $700m in a full year, the $ 100m concessions to the mining industry and other concessions we find that about $ 1,400m or 56 per cent of the total company tax collections has been wiped off the slate. So on the one hand the Government is saying to the work force that it is not prepared to see that workers get an increase in their wages to meet the inflation cost but on the other hand it is prepared to give half the company tax base to companies. This amounts to $ 1,400m when these concessions operate in a full year.
I should just like to trace the movement of pay-as-you-earn taxation to show how ordinary individual taxpayers have been slugged over the years and how they have been continually slugged to the benefit of companies. In 1 970-7 1 , payasyouearn tax formed 34 per cent of general tax revenue. Today it is 44 per cent- an increase of 10 per cent. By contrast, in 1970-71 companies were paying 19.5 per cent of general taxation revenue in company tax. This amount is now down to 14.5 per cent. So in the 6-year period, individual income tax collections have increased by 10 per cent of general taxation revenue and company tax has decreased by 5 per cent. In 1970-71 company tax collections represented 57 per cent of individual income tax payasyouearn collections. Today they represent only 32.9 per cent. So it is very easy to demonstrate how the Government is feather-bedding the private sector very much at the expense of ordinary individuals.
The question is: Will the plan work? The Opposition believes it will not work because productive capacity will not be installed by business unless businessmen can see some market for their product; no matter how generous the investment allowance, small businessmen in particular will not invest until they can see some market for their products. A policy of planned unemployment flowing from cuts in government spending reduces the capacity of the public to buy because if there are cuts in government spending, which means growing unemployment, obviously unemployed people do not have wages to spend and also the presence of unemployment saps consumer confidence. It is obvious to everybody in the House that while unemployment is around and growing, people will leave their money in the bank and will not spend it. This is borne out by the report in the Melbourne Age today in which the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) tried to talk the retailers into improving their performance. An inordinate growth in savings bank deposits results when the public locks its money up until the storm is past. For that reason the Opposition believes the Government’s policy will fail. The Government put all its eggs in an investment led recovery basket. Now it is changing its tune back to the Labor theme of last year which was that of a consumer led recovery. I quote from an article on retail sales which appeared in the Australian Financial Review recently. The article states:
Recovery in retail sales slackened in July according to figures released yesterday by the Statistics Bureau.
It went on to say:
Nevertheless, they scarcely provide glad tidings for the Government in its quest for a strengthening in consumer demand.
Of course that strengthening in consumer demand is not there. One can also look at the level of savings bank deposits. An article in the Australian Financial Review of 9 September stated:
Savings bank deposits continued to grow firmly during July, according to Statistics Bureau figures released yesterday in Canberra.
The rate of growth in deposits provides little evidence that consumers are beginning to unlock their savings . . .
Of course they are not. No amount of chatter from the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), who has overstayed his time in this place, can overcome the problem that people will not spend and confidence has not returned. The simple election of the Fraser Government did not provide the magical formula for a return to confidence. Retail sales have dropped. The total number of vehicle registrations have dropped by 14.5 per cent this year. The building industry is in a state of collapse. Unemployment is increasing. This year 200 000 school leavers will hit the dole. Already 100 000 of their comrades are on the dole. According to the food prices index which was released a couple of days ago, the rate of inflation is still running at 12 per cent. So we are really in a very happy position! So much for 10 months of Liberal-Country Party Government. So much for the magic wand of Mr Fraser. In short, the lights are going off, not on. Mr Fraser ‘s skyrocket of hope which was launched so confidently last November has produced nothing but sparks, and we are left completely in the dark. A report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 8 December 1975, in dealing with remarks made by the then caretaker Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, reads: ‘200 000 cut in Jobless’, says Mr Fraser. ‘Australia’s unemployment figures could be slashed by up to 200 000 under a Liberal-National Country Party Government’, the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, said yesterday.
He said at the same time he would try to cut inflation by 1 1 percent.
So much for brave words. In fact, none of what was said then has come true, and I think the Australian people now realise that rape of democracy which took place last November in the name of economic sanity was a furphy and that all they are getting out of it is growing unemployment and a level of inflation which is higher than they could have expected under a Labor administration. Even the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) was forced to make an admission in this regard. In the Press a few weeks ago he was reported as saying:
I am aware that the new Government has not come up to the expectations of many people.
He is aware of it all right. He is being kicked to death all around the countryside because the Government has not come up to the expectations of many people. Back bench members on the Government side might smile in the chamber, but they are quivering in the corridors. There are a lot of oncers among them. In the 7 years in which I have been a member of this place I think that there has been a turnover of about 60 per cent in the membership of this House. It is very likely that with the support which I have in the electorate of Blaxland I will see many of the oncers on the Government side disappear. So the cocky Mr Fraser might just be brought down to size when his own back benchers go carping at his door regarding his actions on the economic front. Even last week the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), when he was asked on television whether he believed that his Government was doing enough about unemployment, replied: ‘Frankly, no’. What greater criticism can the Prime Minister get than his own back benchers belting him to death? Then the honourable member for Mackellar went on to say that he does not want to see a generation of Andy Capps in Australia. He meant that he does not want to see a generation of young people leaving school and going immediately on to the dole. He does not want to see people who have never been used to moving into the work force going straight on to unemployment benefits, on to the dole. Some of my opponents are trying to interject. I know that I am getting too rough for them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I would like to hear the honourable member for Blaxland.
– You are the only one who wants to hear him.
– I ask the honourable member for Riverina to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The Government has no coherent policy. When the Liberal-Country Parties were in Opposition they had no policy. Their only policy was to rely on the majority that they had in the Senate. For 3 lazy years they figured on a majority in the Senate and believed that they did not have to sharpen up their own thinking. Of course, now that the Liberal-National Country Parties are in Government their policies are non-existent. They relied only upon the Senate majority to get rid of the Labor Government. Once the Labor Government went out of office there was absolutely nothing to put in its place.
Let us look at some of the Government’s deceptions. I refer to the question of taxation. Honourable members heard the right honourable member for Lowe talking, not so many minutes ago, about how the terrible Labor Government increased taxation. We hear the Prime Minister talking about it. But what is the reality? I refer to the Budget Papers. The amount of individual income tax collected in 1974-75, under a Labor Administration, amounted to $6,07 lm. In 1975-76 the figure was $7,0 19m. But in 1976-77, under the administration of the Fraser Government, the amount was $8,775m. The rate of increase in individual income tax collections under the Labor Government was 15.6 per cent in one year. What is the rate of increase this year under the Fraser Government? It is 20 per cent, an additional 5 per cent on the increase for last year. So much for the Government’s humbug about reducing taxes. Honourable members opposite cannot he straight in bed. If they think the Australian people will cop their lies continually, they are quite foolish.
I refer to indexation. People think that indexation will reduce taxation. Indexation applies from next year and will reduce only the rate of increase in tax. People will still pay more tax although the increase in the rate will not be as great as previously. So much for reductions in income tax. Then, of course, from 1 October the $800m Medibank slug will be introduced. This will amount to $6 to $ 10 a week in additional tax. Whether this amount is paid to the Government under the Medibank standard scheme as a tax levy or whether it is paid to the private funds, it is still a tax of $6 to $ 10 a week. This is another tax levied by the Fraser Government. The Prime Minister said that he would maintain the Medibank scheme. On 3 February this year, he said: . . . that is not just a verbal use of the term Medibank. I think the concept of Medibank was endorsed.
So much for Mr Fraser ‘s words and promises. What he did was to rip and rape Medibank at the first opportunity he had to do so. The Australian people will realise the sad reality of his course on 1 October. The Prime Minister also said:
Our reforms will maintain the purchasing power of wages.
He also said:
We will maintain welfare.
What did we see in relation to welfare? The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, pointed out that welfare payments have been increased by 23 per cent under this Budget. One of my colleagues has pointed out very effectively that if the family allowance, which was placed there at the expense of the rebate deductions available for dependants, is removed, the expansion in welfare payments is only 9 per cent, with an inflation rate of 12 per cent. So the expansion in welfare payments is, of course, a reduction in real terms. The amount of money expended this year on welfare payments does not equal the rate of inflation.
No matter where one looks, this Government cannot be trusted in any of its undertakings. It has failed to deal with inflation and unemployment. It has failed across the board. It has not kept its promises in respect of the abolition of the means test, welfare or the reintroduction of fees for students at universities and centres of tertiary education. There is a cavalcade of broken promises by a dishonourable government that cannot realise that the Australian people can trust nobody if they cannot trust the Government of the nation. The recipe of the Whitlam Government, much maligned by honourable members opposite, for a recovery in the economy was such that there was a slowing down in the rate of unemployment. There was to be some recovery, but, of course, it is now lost with the advent of the Fraser Government.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the Budget and to oppose the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). Before I proceed with my remarks I want to make a number of references to the speech of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who, obviously, from the outset was determined to do his best to confuse the public of Australia. In his efforts to confuse the public he has obviously confused himself with his own figuring. I will give one example. In his discussions about the level of taxation the honourable member for Blaxland overlooked the fact that as a result of this Budget there will be over $ 1,000m in the pockets of Australian taxpayers that would not have been in their pockets if the Labor Administration had remained in office and pursued the same budgetary aims as it was endeavouring to achieve when it went out of office.
Since this Budget was introduced on 17 August honourable members opposite have seized every opportunity to refer to the high rate of unemployment. This evening the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) raised the question of the high rate of unemployment. On each occasion on which honourable members opposite have done so they have done it in a way that is critical of this Government. They have even gone to the absurd extent of suggesting by way of an amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill that the Government is pursuing a policy of unemployment as a weapon to reduce real wages and salaries. Indeed, the honourable member for Sydney said that in this chamber this evening. That is rubbish. It is particularly so when one takes into consideration that it has come from the people who are responsible for the unemployment situation that we have in Australia today, which is the worst since the Great Depression.
It is nonsense for any member of the Labor Opposition to be critical of this Government’s management of the economy, especially its efforts in the employment field. I want to refer very briefly to a speech that was made late in 1972 by the then and the now Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). It was the policy speech of the then Leader of the Opposition. He started off by addressing the ‘ men and women of Australia’. After a few moments he changed the manner of address used his introduction to ‘my fellow citizens’. He then posed some questions. Among the questions that he posed to his fellow citizens he asked:
Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately but needlessly created Australia ‘s worst unemployment for 10 years?
– Who said that?
- Mr Whitlam, the then and the now Leader of the Opposition. He said it in 1972, just before he came to office. His second question was:
Or to the same men who have presided over the worst inflation for 20 years?
I ask: What happened after Mr Whitlam came to office at the end of 1972? Between 1962 and 1972- a period of 10 years- the average rate of inflation in Australia was 3.4 per cent. That is the rate of inflation of which Mr Whitlam was critical. In the 12 months prior to December 1972 the rate of inflation in Australia was 4.5 per cent. In the 12 months prior to December 1975 the rate of inflation increased dramatically, at the great expense of all Australians, to 14 per cent. The man who in 1972 was critical of a 10-year average of 3.4 per cent presided over an inflation rate of 14 per cent. Yet the honourable member for Blaxland, who has just resumed his seat, had the audacity this evening in this House to criticise the inflation rate that presently prevails. He said that this Government promised to reduce inflation.
– In a short time it has made an impact. In August the inflation rate was running at 12.3 per cent and there was a firm forecast by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) that by the end of this financial year it will be down to a single digit figure. During the 10 years prior to 1972 Australia had a good record in the fields of inflation and employment in comparison with the rest of the world. Speaking of employment, I point out that it is one of the subjects to which members of the Opposition give lip service- I emphasise the words ‘lip service’- but no other service. In relation to unemployment, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) reminded the House a few moments ago that when his Government left office in December 1 972 the number of unemployed in this country was just over 1 30 000 or approximately 2.4 per cent of the work force.
– What was the then Opposition saying about that?
– The then Opposition was saying that the then Liberal-Country Party Government had deliberately but needlessly created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years. That is what the then Leader of the Opposition said about an unemployment rate of 2.4 per cent of the work force. But by December 1975 the number of unemployed had risen from the figure that I have just given to 328 705 or 5.4 per cent of the work force. An unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent of the work force was achieved by the predecessors of this Government. In August of this year the figure was down to 267 886 or 4.4 per cent of the work force. I submit that honourable members opposite are in no position to criticise this Government about inflation or unemployment.
Surely the least informed honourable members opposite must know that the economy revolves around confidence. Almost overnightin record time- the former Labor Government miraculously destroyed confidence in this country. That confidence cannot be restored overnight, as it was destroyed overnight. A long and difficult road must be travelled by this country before the damage of the last 3 years is fully repaired. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said before the elections that it would take 3 years to right the economy. I believe that it will take all of that time. When this is achieved- it will be achieved- it will be to the lasting credit of this Government, which has applied itself to a most difficult task in a positive and creditable manner since its election to office on 13 December, just 9 months ago. Another lesson that the Opposition must learn and that the trade union movement must learn is that there is a definite nexus between wage rates and job opportunities and that unless there is restraint in that field there will be further unemployment. It is no good our hedging on this issue because one man’s increase in salary could well be another man’s job.
The main thrust of this Budget and of the Government’s other economic measures is to bring inflation under control. One of the ways in which it is seeking to achieve that basic objective is by the application of restraint in the public sector and by exercising tight control over the deficit. This is being criticised by honourable members opposite; yet it is necessary in the fight against inflation and to foster the expansion of the private sector, which the honourable member for Blaxland said is being featherbedded by the Government. Has the honourable member for Blaxland fallen into the same error as his Leader did when his Leader was Prime Minister? Has he forgetten that the private sector is the greatest employer of labour? In June of this year 72.8 per cent of the work force was employed, in the private sector and 27.2 per cent was employed in the Government sector. Honourable members opposite say that they believe in full employment; yet they are prepared to scuttle, they are prepared to impede and they are prepared to tie the hands of the private sector behind its back. I repeat that the private sector is the part of the economy that is responsible for the employment of 72.8 per cent of the workforce. Honourable members opposite have overlooked that because of their obsession with socialism and their obsession with making every large enterprise a government enterprise and every other enterprise dependent upon the government.
I turn to 2 industries in particular which Labor was obsessed to cripple- mining and agriculture. I could never understand, and .tonight I can not understand, why the Labor Government delighted in restraining these 2 industries and ridiculing those engaged in them. The miners, the people who built the great mining industry in Australia, the people who put up the risk capital, the people who took the chances were described as hillbillies by the Minister who was responsible for the minerals industry in the previous Government. Farmers were and still are suffering the adverse effects of inflation. They are forced to compete on world markets and at the same time produce in an inflated economy. Many were and many are still on the verge of bankruptcy. They were told: ‘You’ve never had it so good’. That was what was said by an unsympathetic and an ill informed Prime Minister of a Labor government.
Surely industries that together are responsible for approximately 84 per cent of Australia’s export income are worthy of support from even a socialist government. Even now, even tonight, Labor spokesmen have reminded this House that the work force is small in these industries when compared with the work force in secondary industries. By implication, they have suggested that this Government should do the same as the Labor Government did. They overlook that these are basic local industries as well as export income earners, and without them we have no secondary industry potential and no funds for imports. Nevertheless, although the mining industries and the agricultural industries are small employers when compared with the manufacturing industries, they employ directly 10.2 per cent of the work force and, as I said a moment ago, agriculture and mining together are responsible for 84 per cent of our export earnings.
– They play a major part in Queensland.
– They play a major part in Queensland. The mining industries and the agricultural industries are responsible for Australia being the nation that it is today. The people of Australia, and indeed the people sitting opposite in this House, must never forget that it all comes out of the ground in the first place. I am pleased that this Government has recognised the importance of these 2 vital industries. Without apology, indeed with pride, I draw attention to the provisions that have been made in this Budget. The taxation concessions which the honourable member for Blaxland reminded us would cost something like $60m in a full year I believe will stimulate the mining and the petroleum industries. As a result, these 2 industries will be able again to make a significant, indeed a major contribution to the development of this country. These are industries requiring huge amounts of risk capital and unless production and marketing guidelines are clearly spelt out, taxation incentives provided and an inflow of capital permitted under policies acceptable to Australia, Labor government induced stagnation in these industries will remain at great long term cost to Australia.
The honourable member for Blaxland, who is the Opposition’s spokesman on minerals, skated around the question of overseas involvement in our mining industries. What he failed to draw attention to was the fact that his Government did not have a recognisable policy in this field. He complained tonight about the Liberal and National Country parties not having policies in Opposition. In government his Government did not have a recognisable policy other than one that seemed to be designed to cripple the oil and mining industries in addition to the agricultural industries. I reminded the House in another debate a week or so ago that no fewer than 5 Australian exploring companies are now exploring overseas in Turkey, Italy, the Philippines, the North Sea and Indonesia because they could not get the encouragement to remain here. I am talking about Australian companies, not foreign owned companies which seem to bug honourable members opposite.
I turn back to the agricultural industries. There is great sadness in rural Australia today. It is a matter of great regret that this sadness is not being recognised in our great cities. As I move around Sydney and Melbourne I find that there is a lack of understanding of the real problem that exists today. I have had the privilege of representing rural constituents for almost 20 years, and I have never witnessed the poverty that I am witnessing today in rural Australia. So many people feel that what is being said about rural industries is a matter of exaggeration. I know of families in my constituency which have now reached the stage of purchasing groceries only. ‘Groceries only’ is the order of the day in the economy of many rural families today. So I make no apology tonight for the benefits, the concessions and the assistance afforded by the Government in the Budget. The only comment I would make about those concessions is that the Government, through its various committees and through the appropriate departments, needs to conduct further investigations into these fields, because still more needs to be done in the agricultural industrial area of Australia. It is needed for 2 basic reasons: Firstly, because it is in Australia’s interests to keep strong agricultural industries; and secondly, because hardship is being perpetuated on people who are in the agricultural industries of Australia.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). In the advance publicity for the first Fraser-Lynch Budget, this Government trumpeted its alleged aims of producing a budget which would restore business confidence, reduce inflation, encourage job opportunities, protect the needy, put money back into the pockets of the people and eliminate waste and inefficiency. But the document presented by the most famous old boy of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), fails on all counts to fulfil the rosy picture painted by his media manipulators. Every strand in this web of conceit leads back to the same underlying goal- the deliberate continuation of mass unemployment and the associated shift of resources from working people and the consumers. Crucial to the so-called strategy of this Budget is the achievement and maintenance of mass unemployment. The rationale is to force the work force into submission, to impose through the fear of mass unemployment and the terror of poverty, a reduction in real incomes and in the standard of living of the Australian people.
The Budget assumes that the work force will grow by 2 per cent over the financial year. This prediction is made in Budget Statement No. 2, but Budget Statement No. 4 records that the Government estimated that the average level of employment would grow by 1.5 per cent. In those 2 statements is the inherent contradiction between the public facade of the Government’s Budget strategy and the reality of the fiscal fraud being perpetuated on the nation.
This Government is coldly and cynically budgeting for a direct increase in unemployment of 30 000 people. It is not budgeting for the creation of new job opportunities or a reduction in overall unemployment levels. Coupled with this prescription for human misery is a direct attack on the level of real wages and on the standard of living of all Australians. This attack is achieved in a number of ways, none of which carries any mandate from the electorate. The Goverment has systematically plotted to destroy wage indexation. To date, its plans have been partially thwarted by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But wage indexation is clearly in jeopardy, despite election campaign promises to the contrary by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Workers are being asked to accept partial wage indexation as a prelude to no indexation, and at the same time they are being asked to pay up to $9 a week out of their reduced wages to finance another broken Fraser promise- the promise to maintain Medibank. This Government also promised in its election propaganda to reduce the tax grab, yet it bases its Budget strategy partly on a record 25 per cent increase in income tax receipts expected this year. This Government in its election propaganda promised an investment-led recovery for Australia, yet nowhere in the Budget is there any manifestation of this desire.
The Budget is short on ideas for strengthening Australia’s manufacturing sector. The Government seems content to adopt a laissez-faire approach to the sector, totally oblivious to the dangers that face manufacturing industry from the likely rise in mineral income, a gathering of momentum from capital inflow, and an improvement of the balance of payments, all of which will increase import competition. This Budget fails completely to do anything to help manufacturing firms out of areas where import competition is intense and is becoming more intense year by year. There is nothing in the Budget to encourage manufacturing firms to look more closely at export markets. There is nothing in the Budget to encourage firms to undertake expenditure on research for the development of products and processes that can be sold in Australia and overseas. There is nothing in the Budget to encourage firms to rationalise production so that a smaller range of commodities is produced, production runs are lengthened and economies of scale achieved.
In his election policy speech in November, Mr Fraser said of the prospects for economic recovery in Australia:
A consumption led revival would be fragile and shortlived.
Last month, the Government in the economic statement attached to the Budget Speech said:
If consumption fails to grow, there can be no recovery, simply because consumption is such a large part of demand.
The Government appears to have changed trams in mid-course. Now, the Treasury throws up its hands in dismay. In Statement No. 2, the Treasury says:
It first needs to be said that no one can accurately foretell the path which the economy will follow . . .
The only definable strategy in the Budget is to produce further unemployment, in the hope that the work force will be cowed into submission. If industries collapse or are wiped out as a result of the Government’s obsession with public sector spending or the Budget deficit, then that is acceptable to this Government.
This Budget may well be fair representation of Fraser ‘s philosophy but it is not the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party, nor in the long run will the philosophy appeal to the Australian people. The Australian people are entitled to expect a Budget which enshrines the principles of economic security, education opportunities, equality through social welfare, security of employment, and wage and income levels commensurate with skill. We in the Australian Labor Party recognise the economic challenges facing Australia. We recognise that the great need today is to reduce the level of unemployment, not increase it, and to get Australian industry moving again on a basis that will ensure that the long term competitiveness of our industry is increased through a specific program of industry rationalisation and capital re-equipment. The days when Australian industry could exist as a truly private sector are gone, and every businessman knows it. We believe the role of the Industries Assistance Commission will have to change from the present approach of simply recommending a general level of tariff assistance, etc., and then relying on market forces to sort out the mess. It is quite obvious that industry needs leadership and, where necessary, specific direction in relation to company mergers and rationalisation of product ranges.
What is needed in Australia today is a program of Temporary Assistance Authority reviews on a far more detailed basis than at present. These reviews should look at industries which are marginally uncompetitive with imports, in which substantial import competition has caused unemployment, and in which unused capacity is high. An example of this would be electric motors. These reviews should assess not simply the amount of assistance required, but also the specific programs required to reorganise the industries onto a more competitive basis. They should study, for example, the company mergers required, the latest capital equipment necessary, the research and development or product licensing needed. Firms, also need inexpensive and highly expert advice, and physical assistance to re-orient the product output. An improved Small Business Bureau would be very important in this. Industries should be offered short-term subsidies in addition to tariff protection where firms agreed to investment in their industries through the Australian Industry Development Corporation, and accepted the specific programs recommended to increase their competitiveness. Where a firm is principally Australian owned, this offer of government investment should be in terms of a low interest loan. Where the firm is overseas owned, this offer should be conditional on a share of the equity capital. This plan should not be seen as an open ended offer of government funds to any firm that is seeking extra money. Rather, it should be seen as a carefully bargained proposition for firms that can offer immediate socio-economic benefits, particularly job opportunities, coupled with the prospects of long-term international competitiveness.
Similar forms of assistance should be undertaken for companies which are marginally uncompetitive on export markets. The Industries Assistance Commission’s tariff review program should be substantially and temporarily curtailed. There is little point in spending years developing long-term tariff levels for an industry when the industry has short-term problems which could be fatal to its long-term future. The Opposition’s initial assessments indicate there are a great number of companies in the categories under consideration. Temporary subsidies equivalent to tariff protection of between 10 per cent to 15 per cent, plus an equivalent amount of investment assistance, would result directly in a reduction in unemployment of about 100 000 persons, at a cost of about $350m. The multiplier effect on this specific form of assistance would provide a substantial stimulus to the economy and result in the progressive reduction of unemployment.
There is no better example of the Government’s total failure to develop a rational approach to Australian industry than its policy on the shipbuilding industry. In the middle of Australia’s greatest post-war recession, with conditions worsening by the month, we have seen the spectacle of this Government deciding to scrap the Australian shipbuilding industry, with a direct threat to over 20 000 jobs. The unemployment benefits that will result from this course will cost far more than the additional subsidy required to keep these shipyards in business. No amount of production-cost subsidy will solve the problems of the shipbuilding industry in the long-term. It is clear that this industry is undercapitalised, equipped with obsolete plant and lacking in the marketing and management skills to survive in a competitive international environment. The shipbuilding industry may well be this Government’s epitaph. The Australian Labor Party believes the industry can and must be saved.
In its rush to destroy the shipbuilding industry, this Government totally ignores the social and economic costs of unemployment. The ‘pool of unemployed ‘ mentality that drives this Government on does not stand up to objective analysis. With 400 000 Australians out of work, this nation can expect for the calendar year 1977 to lose production of goods and services totalling $3 billion in value. For every family affected by unemployment in this country, there will be a loss of more than $5,000 prospective income. But the cost is also borne by families which are employed. Not only will they forgo the benefits of the lost output, they will also have their incomes reduced- through taxation- by the amount paid out in unemployment benefits. On current unemployment trends, the reduction in disposable income for 1977 will be $600m, or $150 per family.
The social costs of this Budget’s strategy are also alarming. For young Australians leaving school this year- indeed, for the tens of thousands who left school last year- the Budget offers no hope that they can escape a life of being counted among the hard core unemployed. State and Federal Governments will reduce their intake of school leavers this year to negligible proportions. The Federal Government has once again reduced the numbers of the Australian Public Service and entrance barriers to universities and colleges of advanced education are tighter than ever before. The intake of apprentices by both government departments and instrumentalities and by private employers, following the planned castration of the national apprenticeship assistance scheme, will be slashed as uncertainty grows. Already, more than 100 000 people under 20 years of age are unemployed. The Budget offers no prospects for a further 100 000 students who will leave school within the next 3 months.
For those Australians in their fifties and sixties who lose their jobs the Budget offers even less hope, if that is possible. Those losing their jobs now face a future of the dole and limited, temporary employment. Their plans for saving for retirement are ruined, particularly as high interest payments on house mortgages eat into reduced incomes. For a government that maintains that its close relations with, and understanding of, the business community are vital to Australia’s business recovery, the Lynch Budget documents once again demonstrate the paucity of the national leadership now facing Australians. In the coalition’s consumer affairs policy, issued last year, the advertising copy-writers who penned the document proffered the following platitude:
The Liberal and National Country Parties believe that protection of the consumer is essential to justice in the market place . . . Modern market conditions inevitably place many consumers in a position of disadvantage. It is the responsibility of government to prevent the exploitation of that disadvantage.
These fine words turned out, of course, to carry no weight in the formulation of this Budget. A study of the appropriations to regulatory agencies under the Lynch Budget show that, when compared to those of the Hayden Budget of 1975, the protection to the consumer is being reduced. The increase in appropriations to the Trade Practices Commission, the Industries Assistance Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal between 1975-76 and 1976-77 is about 1.5 per cent. Allowing for inflation of about 12 per cent, this would indicate a decline in real money terms of about 10 per cent in the activities of these agencies. The Prices Justification Tribunal has been the worst hit. Salaries appropriations remain constant at $ 1.7m, which is a fall in real money terms of 12 per cent. Administrative expenses have actually been cut by $90,000 or 20 per cent- a decline in real money terms of 32 per cent. The principal effect on the Prices Justification Tribunal will be to allow price increases to be ‘justified’ on an easier basis than at present, and to reduce further the small number of public hearings the Tribunal is able to conduct.
The Federal Law Review found in June 1 975 that the Prices Justification Tribunal occupied a unique place in the development of Australia’s legal and economic systems, in that the use of law allowed a macro-economic objective- the control of inflation- to be implemented with regard to the circumstances of particular companies. The Prices Justification Tribunal itself estimated that in its first year of operation it saved the Australian consumer $235m, which was the difference between prices found to be justified and those originally proposed to the Prices Justification Tribunal.
This Budget effectively reduces the Australian Tourist Commission’s budget by 25 per cent. Despite that, Senator Robert Cotton acknowledged in a Press statement a few days ago that the Commission had ‘a key role to play in reducing the gap between Australia ‘s foreign exchange earnings from tourism and the amounts spent by Australians travelling overseas’. Tourism development loans, which totalled $350,000 in last year’s Budget, have been reduced to nil in this year’s Budget.
Like consumers, many areas of business have been seriously handicapped by this Budget. The reduction in spending power for most persons achieved in this Budget must inevitably affect companies providing goods and services for people whose capacity to consume them is reduced. Inevitably, production levels will be hit and unemployment will result. The latest batch of statistics shows that industrial production fell across the board in July: 22 of the 3 1 seasonallyadjusted items fell, in most cases substantially. Undoubtedly these figures will provoke the Government to abandon seasonal adjustment for these indicators as well. The consumer durables sector has suffered production declines in all items, and the statistics show no indication of significant restocking after an actual reduction of $39m by private companies in the June quarter.
As the Melbourne Age notes, the Government will have to revise its strategy if the decline continues, as a further decline will indicate a fundamental, break in the recovery which began as a result of the Hayden Budget’s initiatives. Any close examination of the first Fraser-Lynch Budget must bring on uncontrollable bouts of pessimism for most Australians. The grand recoveries foreshadowed by the coalition parties in opposition have failed to materialise now that they have usurped government.
Far from these being a promise of the recovery to come, this Budget indicates a total confusion in the minds of the men who believed they were born to rule and who used every under-cover device at their disposal to achieve power. The randist philosophy of the current leadership is singularly inappropriate for Australia in 1976. The Australian electorate does not and will not accept a Fraser-Lynch budget which deliberately sets out to put one Australian in IS out of work and then refuses to provide means for retraining or re-employment.
The Australian people will not accept a budget which deliberately reduces the effectiveness of the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission- the 2 bodies doing the most to protect consumers against inflationary price rises. The Australian people will not accept a budget which deliberately sets out to attack the level of their real income, and offers nothing but higher prices, higher interest rates, greater unemployment and recession in its place. This Budget shows the total corruption and the absolute lack of initiative or leadership in the people who perverted Australian democracy in 1975. It is a budget that will wreak on the economy the damage that this Government has already so successfully wrought on the democratic institutions of this nation.
-I rise to support the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Budget he has brought down for the Government. Much has been said about the Budget by earlier speakers in the debate, so I will not traverse its provisions in any detail. It is undoubtedly a good budget, a steady-as-she-goes budget, but not a document calculated to excite or stimulate controversy. The Opposition has tried hard to show that there are major deficiencies in the document, but it has done so without any real conviction. It is hard for it to do so with any integrity, as the major economic thrust of the Budget is in line with that taken under the Hayden Budget of 1975 in its attack on the surge of inflation. When one adds to that the quite remarkable initiatives that have been taken in social reforms, such as in regard to family allowances, automatic cost of living adjustments for pensioners, personal tax indexation, and an improved and workable Medibank which will not bankrupt the country, it is clear that we have introduced measures more sweeping than any even contemplated by the so-called Whitlam reform Government.
The other important factor which the Government has been able to introduce into its budgetary armoury, because it does not suffer the debilitating psychological hang-ups of the Opposition, has been stimulation to the private sector. This Government recognises that a country cannot prosper without a highly productive sector. We know that miners, farmers and manufacturers are people, that they are all Australians willing, able and anxious to produce wealth to make this country great so that taxes can be levied and essential plans made and implemented for a better society. We have encouraged the miners to mine, the farmers to farm and the manufacturers to produce. We will, in spite of the irresponsible left wing extremists in some unions and universities, ensure that all Australians prosper. We are not for tax enforced redistribution of wealth from one sector of the economy to another; we are for the creation of wealth so that the whole community can prosper and be enriched. A rundown economy riddled with the cancer of inflation is not for this Government.
Opposition speakers have tried hard over the last 10 months to raise needless fears in the community. They have promised that the wicked Government will cut expenditure on education, legal aid, Aborigines and on childhood, old people, and other welfare services. They have twisted and turned in the benches opposite in a sneaky, serpentine and slimy effort to mislead the Australian public. More recently we have had the disgraceful spectacle of a former Labor Treasurer attempting to debiliate the economy by flaming devaluation speculation- an act of economic sabotage. But they know and the people of Australia know that even in times of severe budgetary restraint we have, by our allocations in the Budget, indicated to the people of Australia that we are committed to restoring economic sanity while improving education, health and welfare programs. We are committed to improvement, which means effectiveness. We do not have the cheque book mentality of the wild philanderer who believes he can buy favours. We have a philosophy of workmanlike and conscientious government.
How often over the last few months have we been criticised for what people thought we were going to do? How often has the reality of our programs when announced been met with silence and stony stares as Opposition members realised their efforts to mislead the Australian people can only undermine their own credibility in the electorate? The many gallant Perseuses on the benches around me have smitten the dreaded Medusa opposite. There are still some spluttering and convulsings from the vipers in the Labor movement but I hope that the responsible members of both the trade unions and the Parliamentary Labor Party will close ranks, rid themselves of those who would destroy the Australian way of life and reform themselves for the benefit of trade unions and Australia. This country needs a united and good Opposition, and we do not have that at the moment.
There are many of us here in this Parliament for the first time and we are constantly reminded of this by honourable members opposite, but we have seen nothing from them to lead us to the belief that our security of tenure is being threatened. We see stupid political strikes, lack of cohesion, lacklustre leadership, unhelpful doctrinaire speeches and the sulky blaming of others for the plummeting from the sky of the great Icarus. I came to the Parliament proudly to be able to contribute to meaningful debate, to develop a better Australia. I am sad that after more than 6 months in this chamber I can only say that I have been occasionally amused but never enlightened by the contribution of honourable members opposite.
Day after day the spokesmen for the Australian Parliamentary Labor Party revealed to the country why they were judged to be wanting and day by day the extreme left wing unions demonstrate to Australia that they do not care for their rank and file and the people of the country at all. They are still fighting the fight of the outdated texts of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. Given the fact of an ineffective Opposition and a union movement that has not learned how to control its anarchists and Trotskyites, there is an enormous responsibility on this Government. We could easily become complacent. The Press daily fabricates evidence of back bench rebellion. We apparently have only ourselves to fear. I am proud to make it a matter of record that we are not complacent, our Ministers are working extraordinarily hard and effectively. They are accessible to back benchers and listen attentively and sympathetically to our suggestions and problems.
We have taken many hard decisions and I have, as the member for Canberra, had to take more than my fair share of these. We have in Canberra been brought down to earth with a rude shock. Our spectacular growth rate has been checked and the fat that has developed from an overly rapid growth in the Public Service is being removed in a most unceremonious fashion. I regret that hard economic necessity has meant increased charges for government houses, for loans and for rents. These increased charges were recommended by the Labor Cabinet but rejected by Caucus. We have had the unpalatable task of rather rudely bringing Canberra into line with the rest of Australia. I am pleased to have been able, through representations and discussions with the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley), to temper this economic necessity with the introduction of a flexible and thoughtful lower interest rate and rental rebate system which ensures that those people and families in Canberra needing special consideration are cared for by an understanding administration.
There are very few people in Canberra who cannot get help and assistance from excellent cooperation between welfare, housing and community based organisations. There is still much to be done to underpin and expand in areas of need. We also recognise that only a healthy and vibrant economy can provide the resources our welfare agencies so properly call for. When we came into government in December last year we inherited an unemployment level in Canberra of 2.7 per cent- a level low by national standards but a level quite unaccustomed in this city. That level has stayed with us over the last 9 months and recently has increased to 3.2 per cent.
There are good reasons for the economists not to be stampeded by this indicator. However, there are equally compelling reasons for examining ways to attack this problem which will not destroy the economic thrust of the Budget. Senator Knight and I have already prepared a submission to the Prime Minister on this problem and I seek leave to incorporate the recommendations of that report in Hansard as it is an important social document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Recommendation: That special consideration be given to the provision of employment opportunities in the Public Service, particularly towards the end of the year.
Recommendation: That urgent consideration be given to the more extensive use of part-time employment in the Public Service (without in any way jeopardising current full-time employees).
Recommendation: That consideration be given to the transfer of some sections of the Public Service to Canberra in the near future.
Recommendation: That consideration be given to the introduction of lower retirement ages in the Commonwealth Public Service.
Recommendation: That consideration be given to the longer term construction program in the Capital Territory (perhaps introducing the concept of a long term ‘rolling program ‘) and that consideration be given to announcing future significant projects so that the private sector is able to more clearly discern the Government’s approach to the Capital Territory.
Recommendation: That, to assist home buyers and to stimulate the housing construction industry, consideration be given to:
increasing Commissioner for Housing Loans from $15,000 to$18,000;
introducing some ‘shading in’ of higher interest rates on Commissioner for Housing loans which have been announced.
Recommendation: That the Industrial Development Group in the Department of the Capital Territory be provided with adequate staff and its activities widely advertised so that it may be effective in encouraging industrial and business investment in the Capital Territory.
Recommendation: That a clear policy be announced to provide preference in Government and contract work to well-established local firms in the Capital Territory wherever this is feasible.
Recommendation: That measures be taken through the Department of the Capital Territory, and if appropriate, also through the Department of Industry and Commerce, to more effectively promote Canberra nationally and internationally as a tourist centre.
Recommendation: That the capacity of the CES to fulfil its role be examined with a view to ensuring that it can provide guidance and assistance to the unemployed.
Recommendation: That consultations be held between community groups and the Government to assess the means of assisting unemployed young people in Canberra. In particular, consideration might be given to such innovations as a youth Work Activities Program and Pre-Apprenticeship training. The Minister for the Capital Territory has already given direct grants of leases for a variety of industrial activities and is considering further action along these lines.
Recommendation: That this sort of approach be further encouraged and publicised significantly, particularly as a stimulus to the private sector.
Recommendation: That the Ministers for the Capital Territory and Employment and Industrial Relations, through their respective Departments, be asked to examine the overall question of unemployment in the Capital Territory and to produce a strategy to be implemented by the Government in the longer term with respect to future employment opportunities and structure of the work force in the Territory in accordance with the Government’s policies.
– I would like to outline quickly the impact of the Budget on the Australian Capital Territory. I would begin by saying that knowing the announced constraints facing the Treasurer I was surprised at how well the Australian Capital Territory fared. All essential municipal and Statelike functions have received funds sufficient to maintain existing high standards. The National Capital Development Commission budget was increased from $188m to $195m, which when seen against the recent development of very competitive tender prices, could mean a real increase despite inflation. Telecom will spend over $ 16m on capital works. As honourable members would realise, the NCDC builds facilities for other essential community services such as education, health, police, fire and recreation. All these areas will be provided with the necessary capital works, in line with the needs of a growing city. However, I cannot claim that everything in the garden is lovely. Canberra’s growth rate is expected to fall from about 9 per cent per annum to about 4’A per cent per annum. This means that the level of activity in the private sector has taken a severe battering and some fairly fundamental structural adjustments are being called for in this area. When one adds this problem to a minimal growth in Public Service employment in Canberra and consequent dampening of consumer confidence, we are faced with a difficult period of consolidation. Many people in Canberra will be pleased to see our galloping growth contained. Not many of us wished to see Canberra’s population doubled to over 400 000 during the next 7 years. However, reduced employment opportunities for our young people is a matter for major concern. I have already covered that in the recommendations of Senator Knight and myself.
There is, however, one option available to us in our efforts to match our national policy of containing public expenditure with the employment needs of a company town such as Canberra which I would like to canvass in detail. I refer to employment in the Public Service. As honourable members would be aware, I had the pleasure of serving the Department of Trade and Industry for almost 6 years. It occurs to me, drawing on the experience I gained in that Department, that there are a considerable number of public servants who would, given a reasonable basis of severance, choose to retire from the Service at an age earlier than that currently available.
It is well known that this Government is, like many other governments, attacking the scourge of inflation by steadfastly reducing the size of the Public Service. I do not wish to debate the desirability of this action but faced with the reality of the policy, I wish it to be implemented with as little disruption and cost as possible to the people of my electorate. The suggestion of induced early retirement which I put to the Prime Minister earlier this year has now been investigated by the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. There are at least 2 bases for early retirement. One is enforced retirement and the other is voluntary. The firstenforced retirement- would apply where there is solid evidence of limited efficiency- that is, those who are no longer able to measure up fully to the requirements of the position they occupy, even though it might be quite unjust to describe them as being inefficient. This is a very difficult judgment to make and I would suggest that such officers should be encouraged, by marginally generous conditions for early retirement, to retire. I understand that a fairly minor adjustment to section 85 of the Public Service Act would achieve this end.
The other more important aspect of my suggestion and the area I would recommend the Government should implement as a matter of urgency is voluntary early retirement. Some benefits would be that officers and employees would have greater flexibility in organising their working lives. The opportunity would be available to exchange portion of expected pension entitlement for an earlier age of retirement. This increased flexibility would therefore recognise that people age at differing rates and thus provide to officers and employees the right to retire at an age when they still retain the mental and physical abilities necessary for an active retirement- 1 see no reason why a person who has served his country well cannot, when he feels he is becoming stale, turn to pastures which would regenerate and stimulate. I press the early introduction of such a scheme because it would be good for those officers who are disillusioned, dissatisfied or have just plainly had enough. It would remove the inhumanity of a system which locks employees into employment when they would rather be out and it would enable the size of the Public Service to be fairly quickly reduced so that the present artificial and abrupt curtailment of a proper flow of recruitment and promotion could come to an end. I would, as my contribution to the Budget debate, endorse the Budget, entreat the Opposition and unions to fulfil their proper roles by rejecting the extremists in their ranks and endorse for immediate implementation recommendation 180 of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration on early retirement.
-Even at this late hour in the evening with very few people listening nothing as significant as the Budget should be discussed. without first pointing out some basic features of the economic society in which we live in Australia. It is essential to know these basic features if we are to know the limits of a budget and a budget policy. Tonight I want to speak about 2 words- 2 words which have hardly ever been heard in this Parliament. They are hegemony and alienation. It is obvious to everyone that our interests as individuals are not the same. What will benefit one will often harm another. But the main division is not a division between individuals; it is a class division. This is a class society. One class owns the production system- the owning class. They own the mines, factories, banks, stores, newspapers, radio and television companies and so on. And by means of ownership they control the system as a whole. As few as 2000 people- all men and all over 50- control about two-thirds of the production system in Australia.
In every society so far in history, including the ones called socialist, there has been a ruling class. The ruling class in each and every society is the class which controls the system of production. Control must be the starting point in all thought about the society in which we live. In only a few societies do the ruling class have to rule by naked or direct power. No ruling class really wants to rule by naked or direct power. It is the purpose of all ruling classes to create a hegemony, which is a profound cultural supremacy or a set of ruling ideas. It is by means of the hegemony that rule is exercised. The ruling ideas of any society are the ideas of the ruling class.
Almost everyone in a society holds or shares, more or less, the hegemonic ideas of that society. Most people are ruled by the ruling ideas. Few people reject the ruling ideas, although most people feel at one time or another that something is wrong. Their problem is that they feel there is nothing they can do about it, and this feeling of powerlessness is a result of the power of the hegemony. The degree of rejection of the hegemony is related to the success of the ruling class in operating the system of production in line with hegemonic values. A serious breakdown in the operation of the system of productionnowadays, when it ceases to maintain jobs or turn out money- would also mean a breakdown, for a time, in the power of the hegemony, but this is more likely to be turned against the government, whatever kind of government it is, and not against those who control the system of production. This is because part of the mystification of the hegemony, or ruling ideas, is that it is the government that is responsible for the system of production. Few are aware that it is not government but capitalists who really control the system of production.
Unions may organise effectively and push up wages and salaries and thereby exercise some power, but if those wages and salaries rise too much or too fast the result will be a recession and unemployment, and workers will become unwilling to support the unions for increases in wages as they did before. We should seek to understand the hegemony as a governing or ruling device. Capitalist hegemony, beginning with the breakdown of feudalism, has taken over 300 years to establish and develop and it may have reached its peak in the last 10 or 15 years. Capitalist hegemony is acquisitive, hedonistic and materialistic, and it is directed especially to the accumulation of capital. It is expressed generally in the pursuit of money. It is perhaps the only social hegemony in the history of mankind in which money and not human or social relations has come to dominate a society. Workers, usually as much as capitalists, share this hegemony. It can be no surprise that it is the main aim of workers, and of unions, to get more money in higher wages and salaries just as it is the aim of capitalists to get more money in profits and in other ways. In addition, capitalists have one other aim- this is basic for them- and that is to retain at all costs the control they have of the system of production so that they can exercise basic power, as well as make money, out of the exercise of that power.
Unless workers and unions go behind merely more money as an aim, they remain fully within the capitalist hegemony. Unless they develop aims that extend to individual unity of character, to co-operative relations with other workers and with nature, as well as to control and responsibility in the operation of the system of production, or to that aim that is usually called socialism, workers remain firmly within the capitalist hegemony and within power of the capitalist ruling class. If workers remain subject to the power of the capitalist ruling class they have to remain limited to some temporary change in the distribution of income and to mild reforms of other kinds. But even more significant than this, for the ruled or dependent class in a class society, the application of the hegemony results in their alienation as a class and as persons within that class.
Alienation is the isolation or estrangement of individual persons from themselves as persons, from others and from nature. So many people hardly ever speak to others around them, and feel strange, or threatened by others, even in their own street. They do not really know their own needs, or if they do they are worried about revealing them, let alone gratifying them. Most people are not only alienated or separated from their work, from control of their work and from the product of their work, but they are equally as much alienated or separted from their own needs and from other people. The most general result of alienation is mutual loss of contact between people, the replacement of natural human relationships by artificial, formalistic, meaningless contacts like those which most of us have with each other in this Parliament and with most other people. People feel powerless in society.
They may become individually frustrated, lacking in personal esteem or confidence or for the same reasons they may become aggressive and seek to dominate others.
Much of the apathy and lack of responsibility on the one hand, or the violence and often senseless revolt on the other hand, that exists and grows and which is so much complained about by conservatives and power holders is a result, and an inevitable result, of alienation. It is difficult or impossible to establish solidarity or unity in the working class when it is alienated in this way. Workers and even their leaders tend to go for what they can get in money and status, not in their own culture but in the culture of the ruling class. Alienated competition undermines the unity of members of the working class both as individual persons and with others. The most significant result of alienation is that the human needs of the individual for warm human relations and co-operation are repressed and often they are then perverted into their opposites. The individual person, unable to satisfy these natural needs, takes up needs or wants that are artificial and are created for him by others. These artificial needs are created by the system in which he lives.
No person is free. We are all the target of the hegemony and we all live in varying degrees of alienation- -invidual isolation and loneliness, powerlessness and frustration- leading either to submissiveness and feelings of inferiority or to aggressiveness and dominance. It is becoming increasingly recognised by the work of leading psychologists everywhere that these are the most general and vital problems of society today. They cannot be put right by more money or by the pursuit of money. In fact, they will become worse as a result of the pursuit of money. When this background view of society is applied to a matter like the Budget, it suggests that the Budgets of today do not give the people much scope or range of choice. What is given with one hand is often taken away with the other. With each class mainly motivated by money, the class division of the national income is the main feature of the Budget and of associated banking and wage policy. This is because the social economic system is not a unity. It is a contradiction and it is a hedonistic contradiction. The Australian Labor Party, representing the workers in a general way, seeks to gain more money in wages and salaries for employees and for similar people who receive money from the Budget in the form of benefits. The Liberal Party and National Country Party seek to restrain or freeze wages and salaries and Budget money benefits for workers and similar people.
During 1974-75 while Labor was the government, income of wage and salary earners as a class rose by about 5 per cent and income of companies and unincorporated businesses fell by about 5 per cent. Income of farmers fell also, but mainly for different reasons. This 5 per cent shift in income was almost alone the result of the highest rates of increase in wages and salaries that have taken place in Australia. More accurately, it was the result of the part of that increase that could not be passed on in the form of price increases or be taken up in increased productivity. Motivated by preceding record rates of increase in costs of living, mainly because of preceding increases in food prices- primarily in meat prices- and because of export demands, these increases in wages and salaries in 1974-75 were only indirectly the result of a Labor government being in office.
A Labor government certainly creates a more favourable climate for wage and salary increases. After 23 years of tough anti-Labor rule, many people in Australia felt freer after the election of a Labor government in 1972. They felt more confidence with a Labor government in office. Workers in government departments, apparently under the control of the Labor Governmentalthough the Public Service Board certainly was not- gained high and record increases in salaries. But powerful capitalist companies and employers’ organisations granted equally high and record increases in wages and salaries also. They did so because they had little choice. But given the limitation that there was in passing on these increases in the form of prices and productivity, a change in the distribution of income of about 5 per cent was the result. This was too much for the class system to take and so a stop had to be put to it by getting rid of the Labor Government. After 23 years of negative government public policy the Labor Government was committed to a constructive program of public policy and tried to maintain or increase public expenditure through the Budgets. If the Labor Government of 1974-76 had not done that, the question at least has to be asked: What otherwise would have happened to national income, national expenditure and the level of employment?
In the first year, 1974, there had already been a savage cut of over 20 per cent by the trading banks in the rate of increase in the money supply in what came to be known as the credit squeeze. From June to November 1974 the credit squeeze caused a drying up of working capital. Money was drawn off at the same time to pay business taxes and together these factors became the main cause of the jump in unemployment near the end of 1974. At the same time there was a fall in gross national capital expenditure from $5, 105m in 1 973- 74 to $4,788m in 1 974-75 and a rise of only $3 6m in gross national expenditure in that year. That was a rise of only $36m in a total figure of $32, 475m. What rise in national expenditure in 1974- 75 could have been seen to be enough to maintain national income and employment? Would it have been less than $36m in 1974-75? The question has to be asked: If there had not been an increase in Government expenditure in 1 974-75 when there was a fall in gross fixed capital expenditure of $393m and an increase of only $3 6m in a total national expenditure, what would have happened to national income and to national expenditure upon which income and employment depend? And what would have happened to employment? If economists and newspaper writers who wanted a Budget surplus of over $ 1,000m in 1974-75 had had their way, what would have happened to unemployment? The unemployment rate may have been nearer to one million people than to 300 000 people and national income would have been down several thousands of millions of dollars instead of being a mere $88m, as was the case that year.
At any rate, it was the class struggle for income that dominated the Budget and Budget policy in 1974-75. The Labor Government may finally have lost the political aspect of that struggle but the people of Australia were protected economically from much of that loss. The class struggle for income, of course, continues to dominate the Budget policy of today, as it did that year, but in the opposite direction. The Government has said, and no doubt believes it, that its first and dominating aim is to stop inflation. But concentration upon inflation provides the Government with a cover or an excuse to follows its basic class objective. Concentration upon inflation is mystification and it is always the purpose of the hegemony to mystify what is being done. In fact, the basic class objective of the Government is to restrain or freeze wages, to freeze the benefits of those who receive income from the Budget and, at the same time, to increase the profits of companies and especially the multi-national corporations. Redistribution of income from the poorer to the richer is the basic aim of this Government. The Budget and Budget policy does not put the people first; it puts big business first.
Control of inflation by cutting income of most of the people in Australia and by increasing the profits of big business, much of it outside Australia, is not the only or even the best way to deal with inflation. A cure for inflation in the existing class structure, in which not much can be done anyway about the rise and fall of inflation, depends as much upon increasing production as it depends on cutting wages and government expenditure. And increased production depends on increased expenditure which can come only from increased wages, government expenditure and from reductions of government taxes and charges or upon all three. Goods will not be produced unless they can be sold and they will not be sold unless expenditure is high enough to ensure that they are sold. The policy of the Government, and it is a policy of big business- it is a class policy- actually depends upon an increase in production: But with that policy, increased production can be the result only of a cut in wages, which will come about in any case, and a cut in government expenditure. This is a policy of sacrifice by people who cannot afford sacrifice. It is a policy of benefit for those who do not need more money.
One of the things that emerges from the contemporary economy is that full employment as it has been known will never again recur in Australia in the economic system. Full employment has gone for ever. The rise in unemployment in recent years from 1 per cent to about 6 per cent is only partly the result of inflation and excessive comparative international costs. It is partly the result of structural changes in the economy here in Australia, as in most other countries irrespective of their inflation.
In Australia 20 years ago about 15 per cent of the people were employed in primary industry. In 1975 that percentage was Vh. But even more significantly in Australia 20 years ago, about 28 per cent of the people were employed in manufacturing. In 1975 only 22 per cent were employed in manufacturing. The fall in the percentage of people employed in primary industry for many years was taken up by an increase in the proportion employed in manufacturing. But that has come to an end. Now, and for 20 years, they have both fallen- a fall of over 13 per cent in 20 years- and they will continue to fall. Where have those people gone? Some have gone into government employment; some into services; but many have gone into unemployment, especially the younger people. Of the unemployed now, over 40 per cent are under 20 years of age. Every crisis sends more people into unemployment. Unless there is a significant change in policy and its application, they will stay in unemployment.
Australia is moving into the post-industrial society. Unless people are situated where they choose to be, including in unemployment, and unless more people are employed in such a way that their personal integrity can be increased and their social and human relation with others can be vastly improved, then stopping inflation and restoring full employment will not improve things. Alienation, whatever the level of employment, is now the most serious social problem. It is now no longer the level of unemployment that counts, it is the nature of employment. It is not economic growth that counts; it is human growth that counts and the creative work that will make that possible for more and more people. It is time we went beyond the old aims of money and jobs. Life depends on more than that.
-We have just heard a typical speech from the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). I might say that like him, it was a relic from the past. In’ his speech on the Budget he tried to condense the Marxist doctrine into 20 minutes. He revealed a chip on his shoulder which sadly makes him falter in his reasoning. He is totally out of touch with reality and he is totally out of touch with the aspirations of the people of this country. Some comments are necessary with regard to the reply to the Budget by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) because his reply was extremely poor. His reply contained some remarkable contradictions. It contained a massive call to spend the taxpayers’ money. It contained page after boring page of the old rhetoric- the rhetoric that perhaps more than anything else helped to plunge this country into economic disaster and, I might add, which helped to destroy the previous Labor Government.
Put simply, the Budget is a document about money. It is a document about the taxpayers’ money. The Budget tells how the Government intends to spend the taxpayers’ money in the year ahead. Consequently it must be specific and it must indicate quite clearly what the priorities concerning expenditure are to be. The Budget handed down by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) does these things. It is a responsible Budget, given by a responsible Government. Let us look at the reply by the Leader of the Opposition. It revealed no responsibility. It revealed no true knowledge of money or economic matters and it gave no indication what priorities would be allocated. Sadly it did reveal that the Leader of the Opposition had not learned one single lesson from his days in office as Prime Minister. He would give anything to be popular. He admits this openly. But the people of Australia said in overwhelming numbers on 13 December that they wanted responsibility before popularity.
– The Opposition still will not believe it.
-It certainly will not. The Leader of the Opposition should remember that promises that cannot be honoured are far worse than no promises at all. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would increase expenditure, and as far as I can gather from his speech, in no less than 28 areas. Incredibly these increases in expenditure are given supposedly as a constructive criticism of a Budget described by the honourable gentleman as ‘irrelevant to the nation’s needs’. Where, I ask, would the honourable member cut back or does he still believe that restraint is not necessary? Either directly or by inference, he said he would increase expenditure on schools, roads, health services, sewerage, environment, women and children, Aborigines, the unemployed, public works, construction, shipbuilding, Medibank, State funds, growth centres, pensions, supporting mothers, unemployed school leavers, aged persons homes, destitute and lonely men- that includes most of the Opposition- supporting fathers, migrants, defence, nursing homes, hospitals, school dental services, refuges for women, national highways and last but not least, women. We have heard it all before. Unfortunately we have seen the results of it all before. The people of this country deserve better opposition to a Budget than this sort of impractical, pious claptrap.
In June this year, Time magazine ran an article on Argentina headed ‘Approaching the Edge of Chaos’ which I would recommend as compulsory reading for the Leader of the Opposition. Let me read some passages from the article because I believe it contains a frightening message for us here in Australia. It states: . . . inflation is currently running at an annual rate of 80 per cent in Argentina, a country, that is approaching the edge of chaos. Isabel Peron, who succeeded her husband as President after his death last July, has been unable to reverse two disastrous trends: the terrorist campaign of kidnaping and murder being waged by rival extremist groups of both the left and the right, and the steady collapse of what was once Latin America’s most prosperous economy.
Recklessness with money is a constant that runs through the 30-ycar history of Peronism. During his first years as President, Juan Peron depleted Argentina’s once rich treasury to gain support among the legions of descamisados (the shirtless ones), who soon came to expect generous social-welfare spending by the government. Now that tradition of bounty has come to a screeching halt and with it, in the opinion of many observers, the sway of the old-line Peronists who served with el Lider in the years of glory.
– Who wrote that for you?
– I hear the honourable member for Chifley. I know that he is the only man in this House capable of swallowing himself. I hope that before the end of this session he will do just that. One difference I can distinguish between Peron and the Leader of the Opposition when it comes to smashing a country’s economy is that the Leader of the Opposition is far superior. In 3 years he almost achieved what it took Peron 30 years to achieve in Argentina.
– That is because he was in the Army and therefore not well qualified.
-I have told the honourable member before what would happen to him if he went into the Army. Put concisely, the Leader of the Opposition does not understand how to handle money. Put generously- and a pun is intended- he is the last of the free spenders. In his forgettable speech he even contradicted himself in his assessment of Australia- the country that he says would be better governed by him and his Party. This is either an unbelievable gaff by his speech writer or it reveals just how devious his arguments can be. In the first minutes of his speech, when describing the Budget, he said: . . . the Budget is frightening. It serves notice to the world that one of the richest and most fortunate nations on earth cannot afford to give its people the minimum standards of health housing, public transport, urban development and social amenities enjoyed by all the other advanced Western democracies, by all well-managed economies.
Many dreary minutes and 33 foolscap pages later, when describing the effect of the Budget, he said:
We do not live in a land of milk and honey. We are not the lotus-land that a former Liberal Prime Minister described. We are no longer a particularly lucky country. Our living standards are falling; in important ways we are a less fortunate and prosperous society than other Western democracies whose national wealth and resources are incomparably less than ours. The effect of this Budget is to drive us further down the road of decline.
What an incredible and startling about-face. It would appear that the Leader of the Opposition would like to have 20c each way. But to the political punters I give this advice: Do not put money on the present Leader of the Opposition to be around much longer.
Newspaper Articles- Imigrants from Lebanon- Governor-General Unemployment- Trade Unions
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., and in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Honourable members would have noted at question time that in the argot of the House, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) tipped a bucket on the Sydney Morning Herald. It is not my wont to rush to the defence of the Sydney Morning Herald or of any of its journalists. However, there seems to be a fairly clear case of unfair treatment of the newspaper and of its journalists who were responsible for the article which appeared on page 1 of this morning’s edition under the heading ‘Anthony casts doubts on the dollar’. The article reads:
The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, caused concern within the Federal Government last night by casting doubts on the strength of the Australian dollar.
In a speech to the international trade division of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales in Sydney, he said he could see no reason whatever for complacency about the balance of payments situation.
Further on it states:
Mr Anthony did not advocate devaluation . . .
The newspaper, and particularly the journalists, were treated at question time today as though they had asserted that Mr Anthony had advocated devaluation. I refer to the comments made at question time today by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. I thought that there was a need for some restraint on the part of each of the 2 Ministers who in error independently fed out similar questions to their back benchers, the second of whom, who has been noticeable for his great silence in this House in the past, did not have the gumption to realise that he was asking the same question that had been asked a little earlier by a Liberal back bencher. Because of that I turned to the text of Mr Anthony’s speech to which reference was made in the newspaper article. Frankly, I think that the journalist who wrote the article in the Sydney Morning Herald and the people who prepared the edited final report from which I quoted in that newspaper would have been justified in indicating even more concern than was reported in the newspaper on the basis of the content of the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister. Because of the limited time I shall take 3 quotes from the speech. On page 3 of the text which was supplied by his office the Deputy Prime Minister said: … we need to remember that our present large trade surplus is due in part to a depressed import demand. There was a marked fall in the volume of imports last year. As the economy picks up- as I expect it will- we must look for a strong rise in imports. At the same time, we face- as always- a big deficit on invisibles. Last year it was $2,300m. We need a growing trade surplus to offset this deficit.
There are 2 points about that. First, it means that there will not be any recovery this year. But on another score- the score indicated in that quote which I have just given to the House- any recovery will mean that demand will spill into imports and the Government will have a serious balance of payments problem. The Deputy Prime Minister said:
We need a growing trade surplus to offset this deficit.
Statement 2 of the Budget Papers reads:
At this stage it seems plausible to think in terms of a trade surplus of about the same size as, and a current account deficit moderately larger than, in 1 975-76.
A balance of trade surplus will not be available this year. Then the Deputy Prime Minister said:
The fall in our reserves is due to the fact that our traditional deficit on current account isn ‘t being offset by capital inflow.
We know from Statement 2 of the Budget Papers from which I have just quoted that in fact our balance on current account will show an increased deficit, and at question time today the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), in reply to a question that I asked, indicated that if there was any pick-up in capital inflow it would be extremely moderate. Increasingly, therefore, the picture looks grim.
– A point of order. As the motion concerning the Budget is before the House, can the motion be discussed in the adjournment debate?
– Oh, sit down.
– Hold your tongue.
-Order! The honourable member for Holt will resume his seat. I suggest to the honourable member for Holt that before he takes a point of order in the House he should give consideration to the subject matter. The matter with which the honourable member for Oxley is now dealing was not the subject of debate under any legislation before the House today.
-The Deputy Prime Minister then said:
So when you put all these things together, I can’t see any reason whatever for complacency about our balance of payments situation.
Nor can I. On the basis of the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister, on the basis of that comment in Statement 2 of the Budget Papers and on the basis of one’s interpretation of the state of the economy and the movements that can be expected in the economy- that basis is extrapolated from official documents and statisticsthere is every reason to be concerned about the likely outcome of our balance of payments position and the situation of our overseas reserves.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I find myself in a most invidious position this evening, speaking as a member of the National Country Party and defending a statement by a Liberal Prime Minister against,’ firstly, a State Liberal member and, secondly, a State Liberal Minister. However, when one reads and hears such comments as I have heard this evening and when statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) are referred to as a confidence trick, I believe it is time, irrespective of what party the person making the statements belongs to, to correct that situation. Such statements, to my mind, are not worthy of a member of the Parliament. The first statement to which I shall refer is in an article in the Melbourne Herald of this evening headed ‘ “No” to Drought Aid Tipped’. It was written by Mr James Harrison. It states:
Last Tuesday the Federal Government offered to pick up 90 per cent of the bill for approved drought relief after ViC.toria had spent its ‘base amount’ of $3.5m . . .
That is a misleading statement which ought to be qualified. The article should read ‘that the Federal Government offered to pick up 100 per cent of the bill over and above the $3.5 ‘. This evening I received a telephone call from one of my constituents informing me that a State member of Parliament was quoted in a local newspaper as saying that the Commonwealth offer of drought relief was a confidence trick and that claims of money from the Commonwealth for this purpose were untrue. I say that the statements of the State member of Parliament are untrue. I am not too sure where he secured his information from. If he secured it from a question asked in this House last Thursday, I will quote part of the question. After referring to an agreement between the State and the Commonwealth, that is an agreement which is in existence at the present time and has been in existence for quite some time, the Prime Minister said that the State would provide $3.5m before calling on the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister reminded the House on that occasion that in the years between 1974 and 1976 the Commonwealth spent about $15m or $16m whilst Victoria naturally would not have spent any more than $3. 5m. In answer to a question on drought assistance from the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) the Prime Minister said:
If some States are dissatisfied with the arrangement that has lasted for some time- that is, the States meeting the base amount and the Commonwealth picking up all expenditure beyond that- I would be very happy, following discussion with the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry this morning, to offer the States concerned matching expenditure on a dollar for dollar basis which would be payable from the beginning of a disaster right through to the end, no matter what the expenditure might be.
– You cannot have it both ways.
– The honourable member for Mallee says that you cannot have it both ways. That is correct. I agree with that entirely. I regret having to make such a statement but I believe that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) have made a genuine attempt to assist in this critical period of disaster and that exaggerated and untrue statements should be corrected. The article in the Melbourne Herald of this evening went on to suggest: . . . acceptance of the second federal offerthat is, the one I have just read out- . . . would mean the State would be ‘locked in’ to paying half the bill for any national disaster in the next 9 months.
-Who said that?
– This is a article which appears in this evening’s Herald at which was written by Mr James Harrison. The article continues:
A meeting of Treasury, Agriculture Department and rural finance and settlement commission officers has been called to consider the federal offers.
I understand that there has been no report of it. The article continues:
But Government sources said both were likely to rejected.
Is this a case of the State endeavouring to make some political capital out of a disaster? That is the part that I object to strongly. I urge those people who are making such statements to refrain from doing so.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last Thursday night I raised the topic of Government policy, or lack of policy, on migrants from the Lebanon. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) replied to me the same evening. I want to talk about the Minister’s reply. But before doing so I want to make it widely known and clearly understood that I am not taking sides in the conflict in the Lebanon. I have no intention, nor have I ever had any intention, of importing the domestic conflicts of any other country to Australia. I have no intention at any time of allowing into this country people who cannot fit in with our way of life. But I do feel in this instance that the Government has shown a lack of appreciation and a lack of sympathy for some of” the people who have had to flee from the Lebanon. I want to make it known that any Lebanese who comes here on hardship grounds or because he has relatives in Australia should clearly understand that he had to leave his hatreds behind. If he does not- if he starts the same disagreements in Australia that apply in the Lebanon at the moment- I will be the first to say that he should be deported. I do not think that Australia can afford to be swamped only by migrants from the Lebanon.
I come back to what the Minister said in his reply to me last Thursday. He talked about a letter that he sent to me on 6 August and said that I had not quoted that letter. The letter was hardly worth quoting, except for one paragraph, because it did not lay down the guidelines of the policy being followed by this Government. The Minister said that enclosed with the letter were certain Press statements that he had made. Those Press statements were never enclosed. I had to ring the Minister’s office in order to get them. When the Press statements arrived they were copies of Press statements that I already had and they said nothing about the policy.
I want to bring to the attention of the House a paragraph in the letter that the Minister mentioned. I feel that it epitomises the approach of this Government to the problems not only of Lebanese migrants but also of migrants from various other countries. The letter reads:
During this same period-
I interpolate to say that the period referred to is between 29 March 1976 and 6 August 1976- more than 700 visas have been issued to Lebanese people who found themselves in these circumstances and it is estimated that about 70 per cent of these are the spouses and dependant children of residents of Australia. By way of comparison I might add that fewer than 20 victims of the Italian earthquake have been granted visas. This results primarily from the attitude of these people in wanting to stay in their own region to rebuild their towns and their lives.
The comparison of an earthquake with a continuing, long-standing conflict in the Lebanon seems to me to be a very odious comparison. I ask: Does this Government intend to do anything about the people who have had to flee from the Lebanon? Will this Government say who is entitled to come to Australia, what qualifications are required and what are regarded as being hardship grounds? Undoubtedly a number of these people are trying to get into Australia because they feel that they would be better off here, despite the type of Government we have; but at the same time there are many there who are suffering hardship. There are family reunions that can be made at this stage. I stress again that I would like to know what is the Government ‘s policy.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-On the front steps of this Parliament on 1 1 November 1975-
– A great day.
– A bleak day.
– Honourable members opposite interject that it was a great day. On that day the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the then Leader of the Opposition, stood on the front steps and said: ‘Keep up the rage’. A great day! The events of that day have resulted in garbage that has flowed forth in various documents. One of them has come forth under the hand of an A. Crosthwaite of 20/3-5 Church St, Cabramatta and it is entitled ‘The Media and Sir John Kerr’s Statement of 11 November 1975’. This without a shadow of a doubt has been prepared by members of the Opposition to keep that rage going under the guise of public interest. A public meeting has been called- I do not want to advertise it; I doubt whether many people will attend it- for Sydney Town Hall on Monday, 20 September at 8 p.m.
– A very good meeting it will be.
– It will be a good meeting. I know that it will be a good meeting inasmuch as the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) has lent his name and his support to the rage committee. Another who has done so is Senator James McClelland. Yet another is Senator Kerry Sibraa. A brochure I have before me states: . . . more and more Australians have become worried about the future of our democratic institutions.
And well they might with the rage that was inspired on 1 1 November by the honourable member for Werriwa.
– Read out John Ducker’s name, too.
– The brochure continues: A group of us came together, in spite of our difference-
A group of us came together, in spite of our difference-
I emphasise the word ‘in spite of our differences’. Cop some of the names! Barbara Murphy- an interesting name to say the least; Franca Arena; Donald Home; Frank Hardy; Joan Evatt; John Ducker- the honourable member for Sydney asked me to read out his name; Bridget Gilling; Bruce Petty. Cop this one- Jack Mundey, the communist, the one who is the friend of the Australian people, the one who stands for democracy. This group is so concerned about democracy that it has sought to call a public meeting to quell the flames of 1 1 November. The document to which I have referred was prepared and printed by Tomato Press- a very significant name. I suggest that it is the rotten tomato Press. It is certainly rotten inasmuch as it would seek to give support to rabble rousers and to those who would like to see democracy destroyed.
In answer to a question I asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services on 7 September I was advised that $3,618 worth of damage has been done to Commonwealth vehicles in which the Governor-General has been travelling. Who has to pay for that? The Australian taxpayer. Honourable gentlemen opposite collectively would say that they support this type of action. They would support anything that is an attack on the Governor-General. The time has come for the Australian people to make a stand on behalf of democracy and to tell the rabble rousers on the Opposition benches that they do not want any more of it. It is time that the Australian people spoke up and said: ‘We do believe in democracy. Sir John Kerr was right on 1 1 November and nothing that has been printed or said since that date can disprove it’.
Let me quote from the document that gives support to the rabble rousers. It reads: … the media instead mounted a campaign to present Whitlam as a ‘whinger’ and a dangerous rabble rouser’.
What better description is there of the Leader of the Opposition on 11 November and subsequently. Any honourable member who would lend his name in support of this function on 20 September, who would lend his support to the publication of this document or who says that the $3,600 worth of damage that has been caused to Commonwealth vehicles is justified stands condemned in this House and stands condemned in the eyes of the Australian people.
– Firstly, I would like to answer some of the remarks the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) made about a pamphlet dealing with men of the calibre of John Ducker, the President of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party; Senator Kerry Sibraa from New South Wales; Senator Jim McClelland from New South Wales and many other prominent people. My name was involved also. I was asked whether I would lend my support to a peaceful demonstration at the Sydney Town Hall next Monday night to discuss why the Governor-General did certain things to change the Constitution of this country. I agreed to do that. Does the honourable member for Evans and do other honourable members of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party class men of the calibre of John Ducker, Kerry Sibraa, Senator Jim McClelland and others, including me, who go to peaceful demonstrations as communists? I ask them to say anywhere outside that I am a member of the Communist Party or to say that I am procommunist. Let them say it. This matter was raised tonight because there would be some publicity. I am disgusted that honourable members opposite are so right wing in their thoughts. If a person disagrees with their thoughts he is branded.
I have an important matter to raise dealing with unemployment. As I said tonight in my speech on the Budget, the unemployment situation in New South Wales is so dangerous that by March next year 200 000 people will be unemployed in New South Wales. I have here a statement from the New South Wales Minister for Industrial Relations, Mines and Energy, Mr P. D. Hills, who is the State member for Phillip in my electorate of Sydney. I seek leave to have the Press statement from Mr Hills incorporated in Hansard because I will not have a chance to read all of it. I also have a paper entitled ‘Youth runs own employment exchange’. It deals with the people whom honourable members opposite call dole bludgers. I seek the permission of the House to have it also incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
PRESS STATEMENT Thursday, 2 September 1 976
Four-pronged plan for young unemployed.
A New South Wales State Government scheme to have young unemployed people paid at least the equivalent of the dole allowance while they train for future trade callings and professions will be put to the Commonwealth Government at a meeting in Adelaide tomorrow.
New South Wales Minister for Industrial Relations, Mines and Energy, Mr P. D. Hills, said today he would put this proposal to the Commonwealth Government at a meeting of Ministers for Labour. ‘The Fraser Government must do something concrete to help us arrest some of the brutal facts of 1 16 000 unemployed people in New South Wales ‘, Mr Hills said. ‘His government’s policies on capital works cutbacks and unfair tariff provisions are destroying the key manufacturing industries of New South Wales which employ 47 per cent of all Australia’s workforce in these industries’.
The Minister said there were now 5000 unskilled building and construction workers unemployed in New South Wales, 3700 skilled metal trades workers, including 800 fitters, 122 turners, 470 welders and 67 1 electrical mechanics.
Mr Hills said that one of his greatest concerns was the absence of opportunity which existed for nearly 43 000 unemployed young people in New South Wales who will be joined by a large proportion of the 85 000 leaving schools and universities in December. ‘It is my firm belief that the Commonwealth should be forced to recognise the social evil which confronts this nation in respect of providing for our future skills in the workforce’, Mr Hills said. ‘I believe that if the Federal Government was prepared to accept its responsibilities in regard to this, then it should accept an offer of co-operation with New South Wales to immediately implement this scheme of industrial training for young unemployed persons’, he said. ‘The Commonwealth must realise that instead of handing out the dole, these people would much rather receive the same subsistence payments to undergo training for their future trades and professions’.
The Minister said the State Government was having urgent discussions to review the resources of training facilities and teachers in New South Wales to get such a scheme under way.
Mr Hills said he intended to take a four-pronged approach to the present serious unemployment situation for young people, including
A call by the Minister for an urgent meeting of the Apprenticeship Council for next Monday to go into every facet of the problem.
The modernisation of industrial training legislation to get New South Wales ‘out of the horse and buggy phase ‘.
This proposal on Friday that the Commonwealth participate with the State for the industrial training of young unemployed people in New South Wales. ‘Unless such a scheme is accepted by the Commonwealth there are obviously going to be quite critical skilled manpower shortages in New South Wales in the near future,’ Mr Hills said. ‘About 70 per cent of the normal apprenticeship intake comprises those highly essential fields such as fitting and turning, motor mechanics, electrical fitters and mechanics, carpentry and joinery, brick laying and plumbing, ‘ he said. ‘The intention of New South Wales plan is to similarly train unemployed young women receiving the dole allowance for careers of their choice, including full time secretarial courses, technical occupations and other professions, including computer operations for example, ‘ he said. ‘The Commonwealth would not be asked to pay out more than they are already paying by way of the $36.00 a week dole allowance to which these young people are entitled. ‘If the Commonwealth refused to accept this offer, or attempted to delay it, then on their heads will rest a national disgrace which would never be forgotten, ‘ Mr Hills said.
The Minister said that a meeting of State Ministers for Labour at Mt Isa in 1974 agreed unanimously that the States introduce modern industrial training legislation. ‘I am plainly astonished that despite this decision the previous Liberal Government in New South Wales, like so many things I have come across, dithered and did nothing,’ Mr Hills said.
He said bills had been introduced successfully in Victoria and Western Australia.
This week advertisements appeared in the Press by the Minister requesting unemployed apprentices to contact him. ‘This is the first step to obtain a true picture of unemployed apprentices. ‘ Mr Hills said.
Youth run own employment exchanges
At least four Regional Councils for Social Development have taken positive action to meet the challenge of the unemployment problem.
At Mt Druitt, Sydney, where the Outer Western RCSD established an experimental employment bureau for the under 25s, the response has been considerable. Within four weeks of being established the employment bureau had received 950 registrations from people seeking work; 147 calls from employers with vacancies and by January 30, 98 applicants had been placed. Three applicants were placed in apprenticeships and more than 80 were still seeking apprenticeships. Altogether the bureau received 1700 telephone inquiries in those four weeks. Of the 950 registrations, 240 were made by women.
The Sydney team in action is shown on our front cover photograph. Cris Moran (facing, left), Larry Bartley and Sandra New try to help two applicants. (Photograph by courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, Sydney).
In Geraldton, Western Australia, a Community Development Officer, David Perso advertised in the local press for people who were out of work and who were therefore free to do things for the community. Among other tasks lined up were verge trimming, sign painting and grass planting.
Volunteers were also invited to suggest things that would improve Geraldton and which the volunteers could fix themselves. Arrangements were made for materials to be available.
The idea caused a good deal of interest in Geraldton and about a dozen volunteers came forward initially. Surveys were undertaken on community services, the location of doctor’s surgeries, and so forth; including the question: how often do you contact your MP?
A rubbish drive to clean up the highways into town was organised and some other streets cleared up. Among those who volunteered were an unemployed teacher, a cray fisherman, housewives and unemployed young people.
In Rockhampton, the SLUMP (School-leavers Unemployment Mobilisation Scheme) has aimed not only to place young people in jobs but to help applicants with their presentation at interviews and to find them occupation while still unemployed (so they could not be dubbed ‘dole bludgers’). Some volunteers have mowed lawns and collected shopping for elderly people and carried out other community tasks. A team of young people have also kept in daily touch with business nouses to see if any vacancies were likely to occur.
After four weeks the SLUMP employment bureau had received 210 registrations of people seeking work; 36 employers had offered jobs; and 28 young people had been placed in permanent jobs.
Twenty-four temporary jobs were also offered of which 2 1 were subsequently taken. Although the exchange closed after four weeks (as previously arranged) a temporary jobs pool is to continue.
The young people are also taking over the production of a community newspaper, run previously by the Rockhampton Social Development Council and directed at social welfare readers. The new team is going to develop it as a young people ‘s paper in the direction they think best.
Albury-Wodonga Regional Council for Social Development has begun a Youth Employment Exchange. The young people, from 15 upwards, are running the exchange and are visiting businessmen in the area to canvass jobs. Reaction from the business people has been excellent because they were impressed by the fact that young people were doing something to help themselves.
To begin with the exchange is concentrating on unemployed people in the city area, but it is planned eventually to help those living in the rural areas, who also face transport difficulties.
Through the exchange applicants can learn how to present themselves for an interview; how to write a letter applying for a job; and how to fill in application forms. Applicants receive information sheets describing the best ways of looking for a job.
Before the exchange had had time to open officially, the exchange team had received information about 34 vacancies from employers- four jobs were filled immediately and 61 applications were received from young people seeking work.
Moves to establish the exchange began after a girl put an advertisement in the local paper asking someone to help her find a job because she did not want to go on unemployment benefit. The exchange had the blessing of the local Commonwealth Employment Service.
– Tonight the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife), speaking on the Budget, denied that there was unemployment in New South Wales. He should know, because he was the Minister who had to leave his seat in the New South Wales Parliament and leave the sinking ship. Other honourable members from New South Wales who discussed this matter were the honourable member for Evans, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) might have time to take this matter further. I am running out of time. He was the person who looked after the young people concerned in Mount Druitt. The document entitled ‘Youth run own employment exchanges ‘ states:
At least four Regional Councils for Social Development have taken positive action to meet the challenge of the unemployment problem.
It refers to Mount Druitt and mentions the team of Chris Moran, Larry Bartley and Sandra New. It also refers to young people in Geraldton in Western Australia helping the community and to SLUMP or School Leavers Unemployment Mobilisation Scheme in Rockhampton.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am very pleased to be allowed to speak on the adjournment for the first time this session in order to reply to some of the more outrageous remarks of the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon). I think a little while ago, if my ears amazingly enough were working straight, he said words to the effect that the Governor-General changed the Constitution. If he said that, I would expect him to withdraw it out of deference to a man appointed by his own Party as the head of state in this country, because it is totally untrue. It is also typical of the untruths, if I might use that word, and the exaggerations that members of the Opposition have been going on with today.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Angas just accused the honourable member for Sydney of being untruthful. I think that is a reflection on the honourable member concerned and it should be withdrawn.
-If I recall correctly, the honourable member for Angas said; ‘that is untrue’. That is a remark that has been used in this House by honourable members on both sides and they have not been required to withdraw it.
– What the honourable member for Angas said was that the honourable member for Sydney had spoken an untruth.
-The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat.
– What the honourable member for Sydney said was untrue. I stick to that because patently it is untrue, and the honourable member for Chifley would agree with me. I ask him: Is it or is it not untrue? He gives no answer. There are rational people- I know the honourable member for Sydney is normally a rational person- in society who are getting fed up with over-exaggerated statements. To say that the Governor-General was guilty of changing the Constitution, as the honourable member for Sydney did tonight, is not only absurd but would not be believed by 99.99 per cent of the people of this country who have tried to follow the controversy that flowed on from the GovernorGeneral’s decision to dismiss the Whitlam Government. I am glad that 2 honourable members opposite at least are nodding their heads in agreement. I accept the sincerity of their viewpoint. If a mistake has been made, I will not grind that issue any further.
What I rose to do tonight was to quote one or two statements that appeal to me enormously. They are as follows:
There is another attrition of our freedoms taking place today, and this disturbs me even more than does the fomenting of industrial strife.
This is violence in demonstrations.
Recent events at Australian universities, which are surely the seats of civilisation, present and past, have saddened me.
Demonstration is one thing and an important privilege of freedom.
Riot is quite another.
I have no doubt whatever that management is at times as much at fault in industrial disputes as are the unions, but management is precluded from the use of force or violence in preventing a strike.
The statements go on to mention the responsibilities of unions. Who is the man who said these things? He is not the Labor-appointed Governor-General, an honourable man, as head of state in this country. He is the Governor of South Australia. To my regret, some time ago members of my own Party criticised his appointment. He was called a left wing appointment, a neo-communist and all sorts of things. He retired today with the biggest reputation of any Governor who has presided over a State- in this case the State of South Australia. I ask honourable members of the Australian Labor Party to listen to the remarks he made because they are valid.
– Read out what else he said.
– I agree I have been selective, but I have only 30 seconds left to speak. I have left out his remarks about industrial disputes sometimes being the responsibility of management and I left out his comments on the Central Intelligence Agency; but I am not here to talk about these matters tonight. What I am here to do is to remind members of the Opposition that as their pre-selection is determined by unions in most cases, they have some responsibility to the Australian people, and that is all that the Governor of South Australia meant to convey by his remarks. There are responsibilities on the Opposition, and I hope honourable members opposite will take the Governor’s remarks to heart.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I require the debate to be extended. This evening for the second time the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) has raised the question of the situation in the Lebanon and the Australian Government’s response to it. I think this is a very serious question and should be treated as such. I believe that it should be treated in a non-political manner, and anybody who seeks to make political capital out of the situation is doing a disservice to himself, to the Australian nation and to the Australian Lebanese community. Perhaps I can briefly recount the position. As a nation we were faced with a situation in the Lebanon where there was over many months an increasing escalation of the undeclared civil war. The previous Government maintained the Australian presence in Beirut and, following the change of government, the present Government maintained that presence in Beirut. As I mentioned last week, the officers who were working in that area did so often in circumstances of extreme danger. In March an untenable stage was reached and it was decided to withdraw the Australian presence from Beirut. I mentioned at the time that the Australian Government, and I in particular as the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, would keep a close watch on the unfolding events in the Lebanon and would respond to them as they occurred. On both sides of the Parliament we all hoped that the unhappy civil situation in the Lebanon would be resolved quickly. Unfortunately, that has not occurred, and from the information I have it appears that that resolution will not be achieved rapidly. In other words, it appears that the undeclared civil strife in the Lebanon will continue, at least for as long as we can foreshadow, and I say that with the utmost regret.
As I have said, the Government took a decision to maintain a watching brief over this Middle East situation, and when the quasi refugee buildup was such that something extra needed to be done the Department of Immigration, with the co-operation of the Syrian Government and also the Royal Netherlands Government, placed an officer in Damascus. That officer operated by himself in Damascus in conditions of extreme difficulty for more than a month and processed a great number of people. At that stage we were concentrating on re-uniting families in category A- husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, dependent children. While I was overseas in June I took the opportunity during a visit to Athens to look closely at the situation as it was unfolding, particularly in Nicosia, which was becoming the centre of our operations for Lebanese people who wished to come to Australia. As a result of that consideration the presence of Australian immigration officials in Nicosia was strengthened, exactly in line with the actions of a number of other countries. In other words, here again was a graduated response to a developing situation. As I have already mentioned, that situation has continued and now we are faced with the problem of some 8000 Lebanese people in Cyprus- in Nicosia- wishing to travel to other countries, and in most cases to Australia.
Again in a continuing response to the situation, some 10 days ago I sent a senior officer of my Department to Nicosia. I mentioned this last week. That officer has already sent in one detailed report. His objective in going to Nicosia was to report to the Government on ways by which the backlog of cases there could be overcome. He has put forward suggestions which will be taken into consideration in the very near future.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired. As no other Minister has risen, if the Minister wishes to continue his remarks, I do not think there would be any objection.
– I am seeking to point out to the House that, in line with its policy, clearly stated on more than one occasion over a number of months, the Government has made a series of policy decisions in relation to the continuing situation in the Lebanon. The first report from my senior officer in Nicosia has been received and will be the basis of a submission to the Cabinet which will be considered in the very near future.
I should like to say a couple of things in relation to numbers. In the 12 months ending in midAugust 1 976, 26 10 visas were issued to Lebanese people wishing to come to Australia. The rate of approval since the temporary closure of the embassy in Beirut has been running at a level equivalent to 3500 a year. More recently the rate of applications and approvals has increased, and from 1 August to 16 August, 211 visas were issued in Nicosia alone. That is equivalent to an annual rate of approval of some 4800 visas. In a situation like that there will always be individual circumstances where cases are mislaid, where difficulties occur, where delays occur. I hope that we are all reasonable people and will understand that they can happen. I have pointed out to the honourable member for Lang that if he knows of specific cases he should bring them to my attention and I will consider them. Other people are doing the same sort of thing and I am considering those cases and so is my Department.
I again make the point that the Government has responded to a situation of real humanitarian concern. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Lang, who said that those people coming to Australia should not bring with them the hatreds and enmities that they have had in countries overseas. I point out to the honourable member for Lang that the Government has moved consistently to deal as practically as possible with the escalating problem of quasi refugees from the Lebanon. The Government will continue to do that, but I make the point that no country has the capacity to bear the full burden in such circumstances. As Minister for Immigration, my first responsibility is to the Australian population, the Australian society, the Australian nation. That responsibility is, amongst other things, to safeguard the national health and the national security of this country. Any person, no matter from which area he comes, must be assessed in terms of his capacity to fit in with Australia’s national health requirements and national security requirements. I make that point very clearly, and I am sure that the honourable member for Lang will agree with me when I make it.
The situation in the Lebanon is most unfortunate, as we all recognise. I hope that no member on either side of this Parliament would seek to make political capital out of a situation which we all deplore in relation to a most unhappy and devastated nation such as the Lebanon is today. I do not suggest that the honourable member for Lang is seeking to do that. I am sure he is not. I do say that the Government has accepted its responsibilities. It has responded progressively to the situation. It will combine to respond progressively, but again I make the proviso that there is no way by which any nation, let alone Australia, can bear the full brunt of the horrific national tragedy which is the Lebanon today.
-Order! The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Facility carries out a variety of research projects, the results of which are available to both countries.
Space research is concerned with satellites.
The nature of the research is classified.
Speculation about its purpose will neither be confirmed nor denied.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth Government Receipts and Expenditure (Question No. 861) Dr Klugman asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)and(2)-
Source: National Income and Expenditure 1975-76.
Note: These figures do not include transfer payments and net advances; these items must, of course be included for purposes of calculating budget deficits.
The manner in which past Commonwealth Budget deficits have been financed is set out in Statement No. 6 attached to the Budget Speech. Net borrowings (total financing transactions less use of cash balances) were $ 1,907m in 1974-75 and $3,289m in 1975-76. Total deficit financing transactions (which by definition equal the deficit) were $2, 567m in 1974-75 and$3,585min 1975-76.
Total deficit financing transactions of Commonwealth authorities as a whole (i.e. including public trading enterprises operating outside the Budget Sub-sector) totalled $2,555m in 1974-75 and $3,468m in 1975-76. Net borrowings included in these transactions were $l,932m and $3,338m, respectively.
Deficit financing transactions of all Australian government authorities (Commonwealth, State and local), including public trading enterprises and excluding transactions between different levels of government, amounted to $3,39 lm in 1974-75 and $3,888m in 1975-76. Net borrowings in 1974-75 amounted to $2,493m; no breakdown between net borrowings and other financing transactions is yet available for 1975-76.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
As the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition will be aware, there are three United Nations resolutions on the Cyprus dispute which contain specific references to the withdrawal of foreign armed forces: General Assembly resolution no. 3212 (XXIX) of 1 November 1974, Security Council resolution 353 of 20 July 1974 and General Assembly resolution no. 3395 (XXX) of 20 November 1975. These resolutions, the texts of which are available in the Parliamentary Library, respectively urge, request and demand the speedy withdrawal of foreign troops from the island, in the context of interrelated measures designed to achieve a peaceful overall settlement of the dispute.
The answer to the question by the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition cannot be exact, as exact information on the relative troop strengths is not freely available. As far as we have been able to ascertain, reasonable estimates of the numbers involved are:
(a) 35 000-40 000 Turkish armed forces personnel, (b) 1000 Greek armed forces personnel.
(a) 28 000-30 000 Turkish armed forces personnel. ( b ) 1 000 Greek armed forces personnel. (l)(b) and (2)(b) include a number of advisers and senior officers of the Cypriot National Guard who are on secondment from the Greek regular army.
Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration (Question No. 883)
am asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
What decision has been made on resuming membership of the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Consideration is currently being given to the question of whether the Australian Government should seek the status of an Observer Government with ICEM
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A working party established by the 1975 Australian Health Ministers’ Conference has met with representatives of the following sections of the liquor industry to discuss the voluntary advertising code applicable to the whole liquor industry:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
How many persons (a) were in receipt of unemployment benefit, (b) ceased receiving unemployment benefit, (c) commenced receiving unemployment benefit (d) ceased receiving unemployment benefit because they were found to be ineligible to continue receiving the benefit by departmental investigation and (e) were prosecuted for unlawful behaviour resulting in their receiving unemployment benefit during each month since 1 June 1 975.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760914_reps_30_hor100/>.