30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the 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 Les Johnson, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas your Petitioners respectfully request consideration be given to:
Both of the above being without the prerequisite of referral by a medical practitioner.
Therefore your Petitioners pray your Honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we, citizens of the Commonwealth, earnestly request our government to include Chiropractic as an allowable cost on Medibank and Private Health Fund.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Giles.
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 of 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 Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a GovernorGeneral to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as GovernorGeneral is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian GovernorGeneral.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Afrcia.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the quota of 150 000 hens is inadequate to meet the demand of the public of Canberra. That it is approximately 25 000 less than the number of producing hens already in Canberra. That an appropriate quota for the 200 000 people in Canberra would be 190 000 producing hens, thereby fixing a quota below the actual number of producing hens in Canberra will require that approximately 25 000 hens be taken out of production. That as a result of this Canberra consumers will have to pay four (4) cents more per dozen for eggs to be imported from New South Wales, which are inferior in quality to the locally produced eggs in that they are not fresh.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The Australian Agricultural Council reconsider the decision and set a more realistic quota for Canberra, at least equal to the number of egg producing hens already in Canberra. The Canberra producers contribute approximately $175,000 per year to the CEMA Equalisation Fund from which they receive no benefit. As retailers they do not wish to be deprived of the regular supply of high quality locally produced eggs which can be retailed cheaper than eggs imported from New South Wales.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members at the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the government should reconsider its decision to cut the budgets of these institutions and immediately restore the grants to enable these institutions to continue their high standard of dedicated and unselfish care for the aged and infirm in the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hayden.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should:
extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown lands in the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal claims. The hearing of Aboriginal claims have been postponed as a result of Government decisions. Aboriginals should not be penalised;
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. 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 Les Johnson.
Symphony Orchestra in Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Hunter Valley Region respectfully showeth the lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral instruments and career opportunities for young musicians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Govenment,
Local Governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones.
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 SO 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 Goverment 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.
-Mr Speaker, I give notice that at the next sitting I shall present a Bill for an Act to provide for the granting of Supply and the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament in case of certain deadlocks between them.
Copies of the Bill are now available for the information of honourable members.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. On receiving the Fox report on the Ranger inquiry into uranium mining will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that the
Government will make no decision on mining and export of Australian uranium until there has been a widespread public debate on the issue in accordance with Commissioner Fox’s statement that the findings should be used as a startingpoint for a public debate, not as a final decision on the matter?
– I think the honourable gentleman might well be trying to pre-empt what is in the report itself. When I know what is in the report we will have the background information against which it will be possible to make whatever decisions the Government thinks fit and proper to make.
-I address my question to the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade. Is the Minister aware of reports that the European Economic Community is likely to restrict imports of sheep meats? Would such restrictions harm Australia’s important sheep meat markets, in the EEC and make competition with New Zealand more intense in other markets, especially those in the Middle East? Is this another example of the selfish protectionist attitude of the EEC towards international trade? What will the Government do to ensure continued access for sheep meats to the EEC?
– I am aware of certain discussions that have been going on in Brussels for some time between the member states of the European Economic Community relating to the removal of quantative restrictions between those member states in respect of sheep meat If those arrangements are in fact introduced they are not expected to have any immediate effect on Australia’s exports of sheep meat to the United Kingdom. However, the possibility does exist that such arrangements could include a provision which might in the future be used to restrict the imports of sheep meat from Australia and other third country suppliers. Needless to say, the Government would be very concerned if this were to occur. The Department of Overseas Trade is very carefully monitoring the situation and has already made the EEC aware of our concern if those developments were to occur.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Has the Minister seen recent media reports that the Federal Government was withdrawing from the field of environmental impact inquiries? Are the reports correct? If not, can the Minister assure the House that a complete environmental impact assessment has been made of the major Coffs Harbour woodchip proposal to export 300 000 tonnes of woodchips per annum for the next 1 5 years?
– If the newspaper report to which the honourable member for Scullin refers is the one which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning I suppose I have to start by saying that I could hardly have missed it. The position is this: In response to other questions asked in the House about the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act I have made it very clear that we are not satisfied that the Act is being administered properly. We wish to try to strengthen the way the Act works by going to the States and working out consultative arrangements to aviod duplication and so on in this area. I am sure that the honourable member knows what I am talking about.
I believe that the New South Wales Government is presently investigating the matter that the honourable member raised in respect of Coffs Harbour. If the New South Wales Government comes to us with a proposal of course we would look at it. The only other thing I would say is that the Herald report this morning seemed to contain a rather odd paradox. On the one hand the thrust of the article was that we were passing the buck on environment; yet in the middle of the article the writer says that the Government wants to adopt a strong leadership role. These 2 claims do not seem to match up.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. What effect does the Minister anticipate Canada’s intention to control meat imports will have on Australian beef exports? Does the Minister regard statements attributed to Mr Whelan, the Canadian Minister for Agriculture, as being justifiable?
-I think that it is most unfortunate that Canada in particular and Ireland are the only 2 countries that have not subscribed to voluntary restraint arrangements with the United States of America. I do not really regard it as a desirable practice for a responsible Minister of one country to make comments about actions taken by another. In this instance I believe the comments made seem to reflect rather the inadequacy of the Canadian Government’s measures to ensure that there will not be, through actions of that Government, sufficient disruption to require the sort of restraints that the enforcement of quotas by the United States represents. It is true that there will be a quite profound effect on Australian exports to Canada as a result of the decision of the Canadian Government to impose trade restraint against imports of meat into that country. I am told that Australia’s share of the 17.5 million lb will be 8.2 million lb, which is 46.8 per cent of the total. New Zealand’s share is 4.8 million lb, and there is 4.5 million lb for the United States. At this stage we are not completely sure of the full effect on the Australian meat export trade. There is about 14 million lb of meat currently on the water and another 1 1 million lb, awaiting entry in Canada, which makes a total of about 25 million lb, which is currently in transit. This represents the difference between the Australian Meat Board’s estimate of arrivals and Canadian official import statistics. As a result of this decision, up to 16 million lb may have to be bonded, with contracts for a further 17.7 million lb perhaps unable to be filled.
This circumstance is certainly going to have an effect on Australian exporters. At the same time, I should say that since 1 July, when the minimal pricing arrangements were imposed by the Australian Meat Board at my request, to the best of our knowledge and belief no meat has been shipped to Canada other than in accordance with those minimal pricing arrangements, which set a parallel to United States eastern seaboard cif point of landing imports. For that reason, we believe that we have completely complied with arrangements with Canada and it is not as a result of price cutting by Australian exporters that this action is being taken.
For the hard pressed beef exporters it is certainly yet another blow. We are most concerned at the effect of this restraint measure by the Canadian Government. It is certainly going to have an effect on opportunities for Australian exports to Canada. As I have explained, there are some statistics which show that a considerable volume of meat which had already been negotiated for sale to the Canadian market will be adversely affected. One can only hope that with the opening of markets elsewhere around the world there will be an offset which will ensure that prices paid to Australian producers will not be affected unduly.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Did he go to Jakarta with a request from Ampol for the sale of Indonesian crude oil at favourable rates? Is he negotiating a sea border between Timor and Australia which will be of great potential benefit to Australian and multinational oil companies? Does he consider that de facto recognition of Indonesian integration of East Timor is a reasonable price to pay for such benefits to the oil industry?
-There is no foundation in any aspect of the honourable gentleman’s question. There is no question to answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware that the company ACTUSolo is able to buy petrol at a wholesale rate which ranges from 13c to 20c a gallon below that charged to other petrol resellers? Does the Minister agree that this practice creates unfair competition amongst petrol resellers? Can the Minister indicate when the Government will be making a decision on the recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Petroleum?
– There is evidence, some of which was contained in the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum, of differential pricing practices within the petroleum industry. This issue raises one of the more difficult situations where it is necessary to try to preserve some balance between the benefits that consumers derive from price flexibility and the need to have rational marketing practices, with a proper accommodation of the interests of small independent resellers who constitute a sizable number of small businessmen. The recommendations of the Royal Commission have been under consideration by the Government since the report was tabled in May of this year. An interdepartmental committee report on those recommendations has been completed and I hope to bring the matter before the Government in the very near future.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to comments by the Deputy Premier of Queensland, Mr Knox, on this morning’s AM program in which he called for increased Government spending on various public works programs to stimulate the economy and provide employment rather than just waiting around for the private sector activity to increase? Is it a fact, as Mr Knox alleged, that the Government has had some difficulty in understanding the benefit that such expenditure would provide to the private sector but that it is now coming to appreciate the point? If so, can the Prime Minister inform the House when the Government’s new insight into economic reality will be translated into legislative action?
– I have discussed these matters with Mr Knox at a Liberal Party convention in Queensland where I made it quite plain that if the Queensland Government wanted to devote more of its own funds to public works and welfare housing it had the capacity to do so and it could have done so. It chose instead to devote more of its funds to other purposes. If honourable members look at the Queensland Budget, they will see that there are some areas which received very significant increases in expenditure and there are other areas where there were very significant concessions. For example, the concessions in regard to probate, however justified they might be, will cost between $30m to $40 m a year as I understand the position. I do not quarrel with that priority. But if the Queensland Government believed that it was a higher priority to put more funds into welfare housing or other public works, it was entitled to make that judgment. It did not make that judgment and with the much greater flexibility that is available to the States under the present financial arrangements, they cannot merely follow their own high priorities and then come to the Commonwealth on matters which they themselves have judged to be of low priority.
It ought to be stated again that the Commonwealth has made available to the States about 15 per cent more funds this year and about 20 per cent to 2 1 per cent more funds in areas which are completely under the discretion of the State governments as to how they spend those funds. Revenue expenditure from all sources under State Budgets has been increased from between 13 per cent to 18 or 19 per cent. I think that Queensland was at the higher end of the scale with an increase of about 18 per cent to 19 per cent. I do not want to be held to ransom on those last 2 figures. They can be checked. This demonstrates that there is flexibility within State budgeting arrangements.The States must accept the responsibility that goes with that. One of the things that is yet to be understood is that the federalism arrangements not only give the States greater financial capacity but also carry with them the absolute necessity to accept the responsibility that goes with that financial capacity. There are some States that are unwilling to accept that responsibility.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the article in the Courier-Mail today which reports that Taiwanese fishermen held on 3 vessels in Mackay awaiting court proceedings are alleged to be starving? Can he assure the House that these fishermen are not being left to their own devices while awaiting court proceedings?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for this question because I think it is of real concern to all Australians that there should be a suggestion that in some way action taken to protect Australian fishing grounds is resulting in the starvation and other privations to those who have been arrested. Obviously, this is completely contrary to the sorts of procedures and practice that this Government would wish to follow. The first thing that needs to be said is that after the arrest of the vessels a stock was taken of the foodstuffs on board. On one vessel, there were no fish in the hold. There were 2 kilograms of macaroni, six hundred 15-oz tins of mixed vegetables, 24 bottles of chilli paste, 1 kilogram of dried beans, three 5-oz bottles of herbs, 20 kilograms of sugar and nineteen 25-kilogram bags of rice. Indeed, if the vessel had stayed at sea, considering the number of crewman on board, it is highly likely the crew would have starved. On arrest, each ship was supplied with 15 lbs of beef, 10 lbs of pork, 25 kilograms of rice, 10 lbs of onions, celery and lettuce. A constant effort has been made to ensure that each vessel has adequate supplies of food. I noted a report that some grass was apparently being eaten by the crews of both vessels.
Honourable members interjecting-
– Honourable members need have no fears; it was a different sort of grass. The particular species has been identified by the Queensland Department of Forestry as a common sow thistle, sonchus oleraceus, which, apparently together with ink berry, the scientific name of which is unknown and which has a sweet tasting fruit, tends to be regarded in Taiwan as a particular delicacy. So rather than eating the grass because they were starving, the crew were eating it because in their home country it is regarded as being of a particular succulent character. The officers of my Department who are responsible for the control of these vessels until prosecutions proceed against them have in fact been instructed to ensure that all vessels are inspected regularly. This includes not only the vessels to which the honourable gentleman’s question referred but to others. They are to ensure that there is no shortage of necessities such as food, fresh milk, etc. Since the first publicity was given to this matter I have asked that a further inspection be undertaken by the departmental officer on the spot. He assures me that the Courier Mail report is based on totally incorrect material. The position is that the crews are adequately supplied with food. All have received medical attention, some of which has apparently been needed badly. I am told that the lasses of Mackay need to be careful in one respect in that regard.
A preliminary count of the catch indicates that 8 tons of clams- possibly over 30 000 clamswere aboard the vessels that have been arrested. I think members of this House should be aware that giant clams take 30 years to mature and many live for over 200 years. The action of these particular vessels does indicate quite extensive reef damage if these depredations are to continue. We do ensure that adequate, humane conditions are preserved for the persons arrested. The vessels are arrested because of the damage they do in reef waters and, of course, because they are within Australian territorial fishing areas and are not only damaging the reef but also prejudicing fishing resources that rightly belong to Australian fishermen.
– I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development: Is it a fact that the United Nations General Assembly will debate the Habitat Plan for Action next week? Is it also a fact that at the Australian Institute of Urban Studies Conference yesterday the Minister admitted that the Australian Government had no firm policies on human settlement? When will the Government announce its policy towards these vital concerns?
-First of all, to deal with the matter of the Conference yesterday, the honourable member is in error in quoting what I said. What I said at the conference was that I was not prepared at that stage to talk about our policy programs. That is a totally different construction from what the honourable member put on it. Secondly, as regards the Vancouver Plan for Action, there were 64 recommendations. These are a very wide ranging series of recommendations which this Government is not prepared to comment upon one way or another at this stage. Obviously a very wide ranging examination will be required and we will carry that out. It is equally obvious that some recommendations may be acceptable to us and some may not. In the meantime we welcome the document because it will promote much debate in Australia. We will welcome all the views that will come out of that debate.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education aware that at universities and other tertiary institutes in Australia there are a large number of splendid theatres, theatrettes, auditoriums and the like which are suited to a variety of theatrical and other recreational purposes and which are being provided almost totally from the public purse? Does the Minister agree that these premises should be made more widely available to the general public and to performing groups not directly connected with the educational establishments themselves? Will he consider negotiating with the appropriate authorities in each State to have these premises more widely used, as it could relieve the demand for government subsidies for the performing arts?
– The matter raised by the honourable member for Swan is a very interesting one. Judging from the response from honourable members to the question, it is obviously a suggestion that would have the support of many of them. For a number of years there has been considerable discussion about the greater public utilisation of facilities in schools, not only of the kind relating to the arts, which was mentioned in the question, but also recreation facilities such as gymnasiums, playing fields and the like. I think it is obviously a matter deserving further consideration because the greater the utilisation and access that the public can have to facilities of this kind provided with public money, the better off the public will be in these various fields. I will refer the suggestion to my colleague in the other place, Senator Carrick, and also to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in matters concerned with the arts. I understand that discussions are going on in the field of the arts and education, and this suggestion is worthy of further consideration.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. He will recall his recent discussions in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with Mr Guzhenko and Mr Bugayev the Minister for Civil Aviation in the U.S.S.R., and the recent statement about greatly increased prospects for Soviet-Far East trade with Australia. During those discussions were the activities of Fesco, the Soviet shipping line, and the proposition concerning landing rights for Aeroflot in Australia raised? Can he inform the House of the result of the discussions and the implications for the European Conference lines?
– Both the matters mentioned in the question were discussed. The matter of Fesco was discussed in the context that the shipping line proposed to run an independent service through to Nahodka. using the Trans-Siberian railway for the carriage of freight at a rate 15 per cent or 30 per cent less than that charged by the other Russian shipping company, the Baltic shipping company, which is a member of the European Conference and is using the normal route via South Africa. The discussions I had with Mr Guzhenko revolved around the point that there was some concern in the Western shipping world that the Russians should allow one shipping line, which is a member of the Conference, to operate at one set freight rate and another shipping line to run at a different freight rate independently. I will not enlarge on the conclusions we reached on that matter. That was the subject of the’ discussions.
Discussions were held with Mr Bugayev on the question of Aeroflot coming to Australia. I pointed out to him that the approach taken by the Australian Government was that there had to be a fair amount of end-to-end generation of traffic. In other words, there has to be an interest in the number of Russian tourists coming to Australia as well as in Australian tourists going to Russia, apart from the picking up of fourth and fifth freedom traffic along the route. Therefore, I did not think it was in the best interests of either airline at this time for us to agree that landing rights ought to be extended. But I would be prepared to agree that top officials of Qantas Airways Ltd should go to Moscow and have discussions with Aeroflot about the prospects for future extensions of the services. In fact this has now happened.
– What about the Siberian railway services?
– The Siberian railway services came into the discussions in respect of the operations of Fesco and the freight rates charged on the total route from Moscow to Leningrad and to Nahodka were disclosed to me as well as the freight rates south.
-Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to Press reports suggesting that the Government should hold a referendum on price and wage controls? Has he received any advice on this matter from the Board of the Reserve Bank or any of its members?
-Indirectly some advice has been proffered by the Board of the Reserve Bank- at least by one of its members. I do not think that it was necessarily on behalf of the Board, so there probably should be some change to the first part of the reply that I gave to the honourable gentleman. There is a report in the Australian Financial Review which indicates that the Government could be considering holding a referendum concerning wages and therefore, it was hoped, concerning prices. I do not like disabusing the editorial writers of the Australian Financial Review, but I have to say that on this rare occasion their editorial is badly based. We are not intending to have a referendum on these matters. I do know that this was one element of a policy that was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition a. short while ago. Unfortunately, whenever there was a problem when he was in government, the honourable gentleman tried to find somebody else to blame for it by changing the Treasurer or, alternatively, by having a referendum. Referendums have rarely solved problems in Australia. They are not going to solve economic problems in Australia, which, unfortunately, require difficult decisions to be taken and a determination to take the course which will get the rate of inflation down. The Government has embarked upon that course and it has highly successfully embarked upon it.
Opposition members- Oh !
– Honourable gentlemen opposite should wait an hour or two to see whether their guess is better than my guess about what is going to happen when the consumer price index figures come out. They will come out at 12 o’clock or one minute thereafter. Even though referendums have rarely given answers to problems in Australia, I should have thought that any prospect of a referendum being held had been immediately knocked on the head by the President of the Australian Labor Party, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the member of the Board of the Reserve Bank, Mr Hawke, who, in his usual way of making sure that the Labor Party is fully united on every matter, immediately came out in full opposition to the Leader of the Opposition on that point.
-He had not read the Party’s platform.
– I am grateful indeed to the honourable gentleman for his assistance. That only provokes me to repeat for the benefit of honourable members the remarks that
Mr Hawke, under one of his 3 hats, had in fact made. If the Hobart Mercury is accurate, and I have no cause to doubt it, he said:
Mr Whitlam, as he is entitled to do- has expressed a personal point of view.
My own personal view has been that the Government should have relevant economic power, but at this stage the Labor movement does not necessarily agree with the proposal.
As I understand it the parliamentary party has not expressed a view on it, and the current trades union policy position would not be in support.
-He was talking through another hat.
– I agree that it is not always possible to tell under which or through which hat Mr Hawke is speaking, but it is relevant to note that when there was a referendum on this matter some time ago Mr Hawke led the trade union movement in opposition to his own Government. We have just had a wonderful example- I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for assisting me- of how the Labor Party under Mr Hawke and the Leader of the Opposition is totally incapable of doing anything other than going in 2 different directions at the same time.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. I wish to pursue answers he gave me to questions without notice and on notice in April and May about the Administrative Review Committee under Sir Henry Bland. In his first answer he told me he was certain that Sir Henry would advise him of any conflict of interest. In his second he told me that he and his colleagues in the Cabinet would discuss the tabling of the Bland Committee’s reports. In the light of an answer the Minister for Post and Telecommunications gave me yesterday, that Sir Henry is a director of 5 companies, some of which are being examined by the Prices Justification Tribunal, and in the light of the Prices Justification Tribunal’s annual report hr which it stated that the Bland Committee had recommended, and Cabinet had approved, the abolition of some of the Tribunal’s activities, I again ask whether Sir Henry Bland advised the Prime Minister of any conflict of interest and will the Prime Minister now table the Bland Committee’s report on the Prices Justification Tribunal?
– I shall try to answer the honourable gentleman precisely and shortly: No and no.
– Will the Acting Treasurer advise the House of the progress made towards implementing the Government’s undertaking on the income equalisation deposits scheme? Will he indicate whether taxpayers interested in the scheme will be required to lodge returns before the exact terms of the legislation are known? Will he indicate under what terms farmers who are at present in the grip of a declared drought will be able to redeem these deposits?
-I assure the honourable member for Moore that I had discussions with the Treasurer before he left for overseas. This matter has been resolved and legislation will be introduced in the Parliament this session. It is recognised by the Government that this assistance is needed. I do not want to be specific about taxation matters because the Commissioner of Taxation is responsible for administering the Income Tax Act. However, my understanding is that a reasonable time will be given after the enactment of the legislation to people who want to use the scheme for their 1975-76 income year. As regards the detail relating to declared drought areas, I will give the honourable member a considerable reply. We recognise that assistance is needed and it will be given.
-Of course the high rates of unemployment, particularly in non-metropolitan areas of Australia, cause the Government great concern. Unfortunately the problem is not confined to the areas the honourable member mentioned. It is due to 2 basic causes. The first is the difficult circumstances being experienced by many primary industries, through seasonal factors and the prices obtained for their products. The second is the overall economic and inflationary situation in Australia. Until the overall inflation rate in Australia is brought down to one which makes us more competitive with our trading partners we can expect no permanent or substantial improvement in the situation which the honourable member mentioned. As honourable members know, all the Government’s policies are directed to that end. There are no short term solutions to this problem but we are keeping the high rates of unemployment in specific areas under constant review.
-Does the Minister for Defence consider the recent coup in Thailand of any special significance to the defence situation in South East Asia and adjacent areas or to any defence agreements or arrangements which we may have with our South East Asian neighbours?
-The question asks the Minister for an expression of opinion which he is entitled to give.
– I will not take the time of the House for very long. I appreciate my honourable friend’s interest in Thailand. I take this opportunity to correct the impression which I may have given to the Leader of the Opposition a week or so ago. During the absence of the Prime Minister the honourable member for Kennedy asked me a question about the coup and whether one would be staged here. I did not treat the matter, I thought, in any mood of excessive levity. I treated the question as I thought I should because it seemed to me to have been put with a singular touch of facetiousness about it. The Leader of the Opposition, to my dismay, was sententious and offered me a public rebuke. I assure the honourable gentleman that the unrest in Thailand should be a matter of concern to all Australians. One of the great dangers I see facing this country is that it is in prospect of losing its corporate sense of humour and, beyond that, of also losing its capacity to get indignant. The honourable member for Kennedy has pointed to the fact that conditions in South East Asian countries are not as settled as we would like them to be. This points to the uncertainty into which all defence plans are thrust. We were reminded of this last evening during the Estimates debate by the honourable member for North Sydney. There are very few certitudes in this world and the political and social instability in South East Asia, wherever it is manifested, must remain a matter of concern to us all.
– I preface a question to the Prime Minister by saying that the people of Australia now know that the Government recognises the realities of the Indonesian takeover by force of East Timor. I ask the Prime Minister: Does this mean that the Government will do nothing to further resist that takeover? Does he agree that this destroys and repudiates the bases of policies stated yesterday by the Minister for Foreign Affairs? Will he say what he said or what he did in Indonesia which would have prevented this unfortunate result, especially in relation to the self-determination of the people of East Timor?
-These matters are fully on the record from the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday and from myself earlier, also in the terms of the communique itself. There is no need to add to that record.
– Is the Acting Treasurer aware of a report in the edition of the Melbourne Age dated 20 October 1976 that the Australian Council of Local Government Associations claims that Federal Government funds for local government in 1976-77 have been cut by 30 per cent? Is this claim valid, having regard to the statistical data on which the claim is based?
– The report in the Age referred to by the honourable member for McMillan is misleading. It is clearly known and understood by Australians that there have been substantial increases in the funds made available to local governments throughout Australia. If we look at the total payments for 1976-77 we see that they total $194m as against $165m for the previous year. This is an increase of 18 per cent, excluding, of course, the temporary schemes such as the Regional Employment and Development scheme. It is, however, important to recognise that within that general increase the untied grants have increased by up to 75 per cent to $140m. These are, of course, of enormous benefit to that sphere of government.
-I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What are the factors in the friendship and relations between Australia and Indonesia which are more important than the principles involved and the welfare of the people of East Timor?
-I thought when I detailed the Government’s approach yesterday that Opposition members were becoming restive at the length of the answer I gave. I talked about the regional responsibilities. I also re-expressed the bases of our policies. All I do in following the line of the Prime Minister today is to refer the honourable member to the answer I gave yesterday and indeed -
– I listened with disgust.
– Well, your conscience must be stirring if that is the case. The first statement that was ever made on Timor by any Australian politician was made by me on 9 September 1974, not 1975.
– As soon as you got into power you backed off.
– As soon as we got into power we took action in the United Nations.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat I allowed that exchange between the honourable member for Wills and the Minister for Foreign Affairs but I will not permit any more. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will address his reply through the Chair.
-Mr Speaker, the policy once we came to power- in response to the remark that was made- was reflected and gained international recognition not merely through the United Nations General Assembly but alsoalthough we were not members of the Security Council we sought a voice- through the unanimous vote of the Security Council. I indicated yesterday that there are limitations to what Australia or indeed any other member state of the United Nations or indeed the United Nations itself can do. I have set it out in great detail. I shall not now involve myself with the history of the matter. I am intrigued to note, however, the transcripts which are allegedly cleared by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition regarding his Leader’s activities and which relate to meetings in Townsville. I simply prefaced my answer by referring to the fact that the first statement that was ever made was made by me on 9 September 1 974 following discussions that actually occurred in Jakarta well before any discussions in Townsville, and of course prior to the General Assembly debates of 1974 and well prior to meetings of the Committee of Twenty-Four on Decolonisation during 1975 when the honourable member asking the question today was a member of the Ministry.
-Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware of the Press reports of 13 October on page 1 of La Fiamma, an Italian language newspaper, relating to the socalled Handbook of Hate? Is it true that one of the reasons for the veto on publication of the booklet is ‘an unnecessary expense considering that discrimination is an everyday event’? What is this Government’s stance in relation to discrimination against ethnic groups in this country?
– I think it is important that I put the context of the honourable gentleman ‘s question clearly to the House. The so-called Handbook of Hate came about as a response to a request by me to the Commissioner for Community Relations following a statement he made- I believe it was in April of this year- in which he quoted various figures. I asked what was the basis for the figures which he used. He referred to some research upon which he based the figures. I asked him for copies of that research so that I could read the material myself. He took up my request and provided me with a compilation of that research put into the form of a booklet which he called the Handbook of Hate. At no stage was there any suggestion that I had asked for a compilation of a handbook but this was the form in which the Commissioner provided me with the information which I had sought. There was no intention at any stage that the material should be published. The material within the handbook, from memory, is readily available publicly. There is nothing classified in the research or the material collected together in this publication which he has entitled the Handbook of Hate. Essentially, as I mentioned in the House some time ago, I did not believe that the standard of the booklet or the collection of material was such as to enhance any attitudes against discrimination in the community if it was publicly made available. The Government is quite clear in its opposition to any form of racism. We make that opposition quite clear and we remain committed to opposition to racism. I would like all honourable gentlemen and all ethnic and other newspapers to have that commitment quite clear in their minds.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is the Minister aware of the statement by a leading employers’ organisation that the Industries Assistance Commission is a major influence on unemployment in this country? Is the Minister also aware that the Clothing Manufacturers Association of New South Wales and the Footwear Manufacturers Association of New South Wales have stated that there could be 250 000 people unemployed by the end of the year and that they condemn his Government’s policy? If so, is the Minister concerned at this state of affairs? What action does the Government intend to take to rectify this alarming and ever-increasing decline in our standard of living and job opportunities?
-I am aware that in recent weeks there has been considerable public comment not only by leaders of industry associations but also by other persons, some wearing various hats, about the position of the Industries Assistance Commission. Let me make it very clear to the honourable gentleman that this Government is committed to retaining an independent body to give advice- and I stress the word ‘advice’- to it on industry assistance matters. This position has been stated and reaffirmed over the past few months by the Prime Minister, myself and other Ministers with responsibility in the policy protection area. I do not believe that all of the economic problems attributed by some of these bodies to the IAC can in fact be laid at the door of that body. But what I think the honourable gentleman and all members of the House should recall is this: The most damaging action to manufacturing industry in the last 10 years was the 25 per cent tariff cut by the previous Government. That was undertaken prior to the establishment of the IAC. So the honourable member cannot blame the IAC for that.
The Government regards the IAC as an important element in the advisory process on industry assistance. There will be occasions in the future when the Government will reject the recommendations of the IAC. Naturally, in considering reports from the IAC, the Government is very concerned about employment matters. It was our concern about employment matters that prompted us in April of this year to send certain reporting rules and guidelines to the IAC. We intend those reporting rules and guidelines to be meaningful. We intend that they be adhered to. We intend that the Commission’s response to those guidelines be reflected in all reports issued by it, subsequent to the sending to it of those guidelines.
This is a difficult area. It is an area that has been the subject of controversy in Australia for many years and is likely to continue to be so. But the Government believes that the purposes of industry and of a balanced approach to the economy will not be served by the elimination of an independent advisory body on assistance matters. The Government intends to retain the Commission to fulfil precisely that role- the role of an advisory body.
Mr W.H. NICHOLLS
– With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, might I suggest that all members of the House may wish to join together and send Martin Nicholls all good wishes for a full and speedy recovery. All members may not be aware that he became seriously ill last night. I think we would want to send our good wishes to his family and to him.
– On behalf of my Party, I thank the Prime Minister for his expressions concerning the Opposition Whip. May I also take this opportunity to say that we very much appreciated the prompt and humane action last night of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in making an HS748 available to bring Mrs Nicholls and one of her sons from Edinburgh to Canberra early this morning.
-I am sure the House would wish me to take the course of action suggested by the Prime Minister.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955 I present the annual report on the Tobacco Industry Trust Account for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the election statistics for each State showing the voting within each subdivision in relation to the Senate election 1975 and the general election of members of the House of Representatives 1975. Each member will receive a copy of the appropriate State volume. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that the tables of statistics have been redesigned and additional information has been provided. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of the full set of these papers have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and the Parliamentary Library.
Mr ERIC ROBINSON (McPhersonMinister for Post and Telecommunications)Pursuant to section 91 of the Superannuation Amendment Act 1976 I present the annual report of the Superannuation Board for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 I present the annual report of the National
Capital Development Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the record of the eighteenth meeting of the Australian Water Resources Council held in Perth on 27 September 1976.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the River Murray Working Party report to the Steering Committee of Commonwealth and State Ministers, dated October 1975. I seek leave to make a statement on that matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report has been under consideration by the 4 governments which are party to the River Murray Waters Agreement- the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia- and I would like to take this opportunity of explaining to the House the significance of this report which has now been accepted by all 4 governments. The Working Party was established by the 4 governments in March 1973 to consider what changes might be necessary to the River Murray Waters Agreement to provide adequate management of River Murray waters in respect of quality as well as quantity. The original agreement was reached in 1914 and amended several times since then, but the number and complexity of problems associated with development along the river system over recent years have been of increasing concern to water users.
The Working Party has recommended that the functions of the River Murray Commission be amended to take account of water quality matters in its operational procedures and in the investigation of future development proposals. I expect that work will now commence on updating and consolidating the River Murray Waters Agreement to include the necessary amendments. A number of salinity control works have also been identified for priority construction by the State governments. The 4 governments have accepted the Working Party’s recommendation that the River Murray Commission be authorised to set up committees of appropriate expertise to carry out water quality salinity and other investigations.
I am particularly pleased that the States have also agreed to the recommendation that the Commission be authorised to consider further changes to its charter for submission to the 4 governments for their consideration.
These could include such vital aspects as flood mitigation, flood plain management, environmental matters, etc., but I must stress that any further changes to the charter of the Commission would still require the unanimous approval of all 4 Governments. The way is now open whereby the 4 Governments can pool their expertise to provide advice to the River Murray Commission on current and emerging problems, having regard to the needs of rural industries and urban development, as well as recreational and environmental aspects along the river system.
- Mr Speaker I seek leave to make a similar statement.
-Is leave granted? There being on objection, leave is granted.
-This is a very satisfactory outcome. It is an excellent example of cooperation between the Australian Government and 3 State governments to bring about an objective which could not have been achieved by any one, two or three of them. There had to be co-operation between all 4 governments if anything was to be done. I take a particular satisfaction in the outcome. In January 1973 my Deputy and I met in Albury-Wodonga with the then Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of Victoria and made arrangements to develop that centre astride the Murray, Australia’s greatest river intersected by Australia’s busiest railway and busiest highway, as a growth centre. In March 1973, Dr Cass, Minister for Environment and Conservation, and I met in Canberra with the then Premier of New South Wales and the Premiers of Victoria and South Australia to consider reforming the charter of the River Murray Commission, the first time the heads of the 4 participating governments had met in 60 years. We set up this working party. The working party’s report was received by my Government 12 months ago. It was sent to the 3 State governments. Now I am delighted to acknowledge and applaud that they have agreed to the proposals of the working party. I have no doubt that any Australian government on either side of politics would have accepted the working party’s recommendations.
It was certainly time that the charter of the River Murray Commission should be basically amended. When it was first drawn up over 60 years ago the big issue concerning the Murray was shipping and navigation. Under section 98 of the Constitution, this Parliament’s powers to make laws with respect to inter-State trade and commerce extend to navigation and shipping. There was at that time considerable inter-State shipping on the River Murray. Navigation was becoming difficult. In the course of some half a dozen amendments to the constitution of the River Murray Commission, there were a great number of provisions made for the erection and the maintenance of weirs on the Murray. This does not appear to be a matter of the highest moment today. What is important now in considering the Murray, our only considerable river by any international standards, is not the quantity of water in the Murray but the quality of water in the Murray. The River Murray Commission had no charter to deal with the quality of the water in the Murray. This Parliament had no charter to deal with the River Murray other than in respect to inter-State shipping and navigation. Accordingly, because we were a party to the River Murray Commission, we were able at least to call meetings together. This is what my Government did in March 1973. We persuaded the State governments to join with us in setting up this working party to consider changing the charter of the Commission from the aspect of the quantity of water to the aspect of quality of water.
– Would you drink it?
– I would boil it first. Of course, the quality of the Murray water has been changed completely in the last 60 years or more since the River Murray Commission was set up. In the intervening years the use of fertilisers and insecticides has grown apace not only by people who work along the Murray but also by people who work along its tributaries. Whatever the New South Wales Government might do about land use along those tributaries or along the right bank of the Murray or whatever the Victorian Government might do about land use along the tributaries in Victoria or along the left bank of the Murray, there would still be nothing that the South Australians could do about the water that came down the river. They have to use it for drinking not only in Adelaide but in Whyalla as well. It was very necessary to deal with the quality of the water in the Murray.
There are immense pressures on State politicians against dealing with land use or restricting the use of fertilisers or insecticides despite the consequences of the flow-off from the lands where the insecticides and fertilisers are used into the tributaries and into the Murray itself. It was very difficult to get the State governments to resist those pressures and come to this agreement. It was not such a difficult political exercise for an Australian government. We could only bring the parties together. We had no constitutional basis except in regard to shipping or navigation. But because of the initiatives of an Australian government- my Government- the State governments considered it. They have come to what in many cases would be a courageous decision. But certainly, it will be a decision in the interests of all Australians who use the Murray in any of its aspects. I applaud the State governments, of different political complexions as they have been over the intervening Vh. years, on the decision they have made to endorse, as any Australian government obviously would readily and relatively easily have endorsed, the recommendations of the working party set up by the four of us in March 1 973.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the text of 2 statements made recently by the Minister for Science relating to the Bureau of Meteorology flood warnings and the forthcoming solar eclipse.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 2 November next at 3 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
– I rise in support of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) on this question. Whilst it perhaps ignores the presidential elections in the United States of America, it does take into account one of the great cultural events of Australia- the Melbourne Cup. It overcomes the problem that we were confronted with in 1975 when the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), exploiting his excessive sense of humour, called for a quorum when the horses were 6 furlongs from home. We all had to return to the House. The sweeps, legal and illegal, the betting, legal and illegal, are very much part of cur cultural make-up. But as it is a day for talking about wearing other hats, I will put on my hat as shadow Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and recommend to the Government that this is one event that we do not refer to the Industries Assistance Commission.
– It is evident that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) does not know too much about the event of Tuesday week. If the bells had been rung to call a quorum when the horses were 6 furlongs from home- in view of the fact that they ring for 3 minutes- he would have had plenty of time to hear the Melbourne Cup right through.
-Briefly, the Opposition supports the proposition. Actually, the bells in this House ring for 2 minutes for the calling of a quorum. The honourable member might take a reading course during the half-hour he will have off next Tuesday week. The Victorian Parliament treats the matter much more seriously. Its members take off the whole week so they can go to the Melbourne Cup race and afterwards recover.
-I welcome this motion. I feel that it is an advance. I congratulate the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). I think that in the past there has been only one occasion in 20 years when the House did not actually sit on Melbourne Cup Day. But I shall not hold the House any longer on those reminiscences.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That grievances be noted.
– I wish to raise a matter which is of growing concern and which, unless something is done about it, could have serious consequences for any business recovery which may take place or which may be taking place in this country. During recent months and over a protracted period of 2 Governments, the activities of the Industries Assistance Commission have been a source of considerable concern to substantial proportions of manufacturing industry, in the latter period to trade unions and, I think now, to most sections of the community. The problem is related to the announcements of inquiries and the delays which take place before reports can be presented. But latterly there are also the interim reports which are being made which immediately give some indication of the intention of the Commission but which also stir up considerable agitation in the community. Then there is a period while further evidence is heard. A final report is then made. Subsequently there is a government decision which is fairly regularly different from the terms of the final report and which rarely is as stringent as the recommendations of the Commission’s report.
The problem I see is that the Commission itself appears to take no cognisance of the importance of employment, especially outside the metropolitan areas and of those specific industries which seem to operate in greater numbers outside the capital cities. Also when it is suggested that there are more efficient areas of production to which the work force could be diverted, the Commission makes no announcement as to where those efficient areas of production exist. One of the things that is said regularly in economic and academic circles and unfortunately in political circles is that human resources ought to be diverted into more efficient areas of production. If one looks at the Australian scene at the moment and looks at specific industries, it will be seen that the effect of a number of IAC reports over a considerable period has been to take away from Australian industry the skilled areas such as design, drafting and tooling and to maintain in Australia the production areas which require practically no skill and are numbing and demoralising for those people who work in the industries involved. Even now, with high unemployment, some of these sections of industry have extraordinary difficulty in filling the jobs which are available because they are jobs which no people, or very few people, would choose to perform except in the most dire circumstances and then only for very short periods. Migrants brought here over the years for the specific purpose of filling those jobs have usually managed to find other employment of a more attractive nature within 6 months.
What I am concerned about is that the IAC reports and preliminary reports do considerable damage to confidence in that they are announced publicly. I do not object to public discussion on them or to their being available to the industry, but they rarely appear to be in line with the general feeling of the Government of the day as to what sort of action should be taken and what policies should be pursued relating to industry. They are also based on a premise which is almost a prayer. It is certainly part of the conventional wisdom of those people who make pronouncements on economic policies without accepting the responsibility for the ultimate conclusions which would come from their pronouncements if carried through. I suggest that the test of economic advice is to have a look at the advice given by people 10 or 20 years previously as to long term policies. Unfortunately or fortunately, few academics have been able to have their advice put to a long term test of that nature. The fact that we still have some people working is most likely a tribute to that.
Recently there was a statement in the annual report of the IAC which recommended a toughening up on assistance and references to the Temporary Assistance Authority. At one stage the Authority rejected 13 applications straight. The Chairman says that the Authority should toughen up on these matters. I presume he means that the Authority should refuse the applications in the first place so that hopelessness becomes the norm rather than the result. The other thing which I find of concern is that most of the industries which are due to be wiped out or which are recommended by the Commission to be wiped out are industries which have a high employment content of females. In most instances they are the only substantial female employment areas in non-metropolitan areas. I do not want to have my remarks looked upon as being too unbalanced in this area. But there are serious problems in some of these industries. Some of these problems may be due to employees, although in the textile industry I think it would be hard to substantiate that the employees have been the fat cats in the labour reward market. One of the problems which did confront the industry was equal pay for women. But it has been a traditionally low pay area. One of the problems that has confronted the textile industry and which still confronts that industry and a number of other industries with which we are concerned has been a lack of re-investment and in some cases, a lack of continuing professional management competence. For instance, numerous textile firms are still using machinery which would have been replaced in other countries 20 years ago. Also, a person with a particular skill in keeping his firm profitable and going has been able to maintain a firm which is largely inefficient by marketing methods of some other means. But when that person drops out the whole structure of the firm disappears, because it is not on a viable management basis. These are real problems which should be tackled and which, I believe, could be tackled without wiping out the industries completely. It is also true to say that the consumer has to be considered. At the moment, in some of the areas we are talking about, the consumer is paying very heavily for the privilege of having Australians manufacture his goods. These are problems. But the point I really wish to make is that uncertainty is being generated by the activities of the IAC and the numerous reports which are issued and the fact that the reports on major employment industries, anyhow are rarely in line with the final decisions.
The other matter which I should raise is the difficulty in which some industries find themselves in getting a reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority. I mentioned previously that 13 applications in a row were rejected. Most of the industries which sought assistance went out of business before the reports were made. I think of one particular instance, that of International Harvester Australia Ltd which put forward a reference earlier this year seeking emergency assistance. Six months later the report still had not been furnished because of objections from importers and others in the truck assembly area. A report was never provided. Now a full IAC report on commercial vehicles is in fact being undertaken again, the previous one having been prepared in or about 1974. Another matter I raise briefly concerns the different criteria used in different industries. A garment manufacturer cannot use the argument that he can supply the garments which are being imported but a material manufacturer can.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is indeed pleasing to get a chance at last to speak on grievance day about a matter of great concern in my electorate of Eden-Monaro. It was quite frustrating, I must admit, 2 weeks ago when the whole of the grievance day debate was successfully blocked by the Australian Labor Party at a time when my problems were becoming very evident. I can assure the House that the problems have not gone away. My electorate adjoins the Australian Capital Territory. It is in a unique position in the sense that the A.C.T. has a great deal of social intercourse and trade with my electorate. Of course, there are some good things and some bad things about that very fact, and I am the first to admit it. In some ways the fact that we have 200 000 people living on our border in the Australian Capital Territory benefits us.
The Australian Capital Territory people provide some markets for my primary producers and fishermen, although most of our produce goes elsewhere- in fact most of it is exported. The A.C.T. also provides a certain amount of business for my electorate in the tourist areas along the coast and in the skiing resorts, which I am told by the good skiers are the best in the southern hemisphere. The Canberra people can get some deal of satisfaction at the same time as they are helping the businesses and the tourist industry of my electorate. In the Australian Capital Territory the biggest industry in Australia, the Australian Public Service, provides direct employment for a certain number of my people in Queanbeyan. I understand that about 25 per cent of the work force in Queanbeyan travel to Canberra each day, and of course that is of some use to Queanbeyan. The converse is also true. At a time such as now when there are certain stringencies on the Public Service, for very good reason, the reverse applies, and the fact that there has been a boom in Canberra has created the reverse problem of unemployment in Queanbeyan.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Australian Capital Territory in some ways is good for my electorate, in balance it is probably bad. There has been a long term relocation of growth away from my electorate towards the rather false impetus that has been created by the A.C.T. In fact, I wonder sometimes whether we have had reverse decentralisation in that some of the life blood of my electorate has been sucked back towards this artificially created region in the A.C.T. When the proposal came forward under the Labor Administration for the borders of the Australian Capital Territory to be expanded shivers of worry ran down my spine. It looked to me as though the proposal of the Labor Party would create a greater expanding business force and work force in the A.C.T. which would further suck the life blood out of my electorate. The city of Goulburn, which is the oldest provincial city in Australia and is located only 60 miles from Canberra, has experienced a steady decline in terms of growth in the past few years as the Australian Capital Territory has grown. Numerous industries have relocated from Goulburn, which is a fine city, because of the special benefits that obtain in the A.C.T. I often wonder whether, if it had been possible, even the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church would have taken down the 2 priceless cathedrals in Goulburn and moved them to Canberra. We are very pleased that they have no chance of doing that.
Further to the long term relocation of growth towards the Australian Capital Territory there are a number of other things I would like to mention briefly. The tourism of which I spoke a minute or so ago is not all good. The power costs of people on the South Coast are artificially high because of the very high demand factor in peak periods. The drain on services in those towns is quite damaging at times to local government. We find that the sewerage resources are stretched to the absolute limit during the Christmas period. Last Christmas there were some medical problems on the South Coast because the sewerage facilities just could not cope with the very large influx of people. The medical problem raises its head every Christmas. In Narooma, for instance, there is a doctor who has been working very hard this year but who cannot get help at the moment. When people come down to spend their hardearned Public Service cash at Christmas time they will stretch the facilities of my electorate to the absolute limit. The retirement areas in my electorate are also stretched. I refer to the aged people’s homes. We are always having to provide aged care facilities in my electorate and to ask the Federal Government for assistance in this regard. We find that many of the people who go to those places retire from the Public Service in the Australian Capital Territory.
There is a heavy drain on the raw materials in my area. We do not mind that. We do not mind accepting a certain amount of royalties for those raw materials. But the heavy traffic on the roads creates special problems for local governments and the State Government. In fact, in a survey by the South Eastern Regional Advisory Council titled Roads of Regional Significance, Trunk Road 57- that is the road from Canberra to Batemans Bay which people from Canberra use a great deal- it was found recently that between 60 per cent and 65 per cent of traffic on the road is generated by the population of the Australian Capital Territory and that this volume of A.C.T traffic will grow. That is evident by the fact that the minimum current projection forecast for the A.C.T. population provides for a doubling in the next 25 years. The report said:
Given that the projections quoted are correct, the A.C.T which, at present, represents two-thirds of the total Regional Population, will be at least four-fifths of the total within the next 25 years and given . . .Vehicle Volumes per person remain with present day accepted levels, then the traffic generated will also double, rating this road even more important to the A.C.T. than at present.
Roads such as Trunk Road 51 to Batemans Bay cannot be wholly financed by local and State governments. The New South Wales Government accepts a certain percentage of revenue from the Commonwealth. It is a greatly increased revenue this year, but it is still kept in the position of a percentage of revenue. It seems to me that because of my region, in particular, the New South Wales Government should perhaps have a reconsideration of this percentage in the same way as under traditional terms South Australia and Tasmania receive specialised treatment. The roads in my area are knocked about terribly by the heavy trucks that come in and out of the Australian Capital Territory to fuel the growth of that big area. Certainly local government in my area is finding it very hard to service the people of Canberra.
It should also be remembered that the people of Canberra get other goodies such as cheaper bread, cheaper cigarettes, no stamp duty on the sale of cars, cheaper liquor licences and cheaper electricity. That is not to mention the special facilities in the schools, the medical facilities and the recreation areas. I am not making these points lightly. This point that the Australian Capital Territory is draining my electorate, giving back a certain amount but not anywhere near the cost to my electorate, is a very important one to me and to the 65 000 people who elected me. The fact does not go unnoticed in Queanbeyan which is just across the border where my constituents provide, at their cost, so many of the prerequisites of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. There has not been an honourable member for Eden-Monaro for some time who has appeared to be genuinely interested in recognising this and in pressing to redress the situation. I am.
– I do not think that it does the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) any good to disparage the very fine honourable member who preceded him in this House.
– Or the gentleman before him.
-Or the gentleman before him, as I have been reminded by my friend, the honourable member for Lang. I point out to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro that he will find out after the next Federal election that the people of Eden-Monaro have treated him in the same way as they have treated previous representatives of the Liberal Party of Australia from that area. I was also reminded by the honourable member’s opening remarks of something that should have been uppermost in my mind. I refer to his remarks about the occasion 2 weeks ago when the Grievance Day debate was interrupted. The honourable member, like myself, is a private member of this House. He and I are back bench members of it. The only difference between us is that I have had the pleasure of sitting on the back benches on both sides of the Parliament. If he is still a member of this Parliament after the next election I think that he will have the same experience as I have had.
One of the 3 opportunities only that are available to private members of this House to express their points of view on matters that affect them or their electorate is the Grievance Debate, which we are engaged in today. On a General Business day the opportunity exists for private members to introduce legislation into this House. The only other opportunity on which a private member has an opportunity to raise any matters of concern to him is during the adjournment debate each evening.
The Government, with its brutal weight of numbers and its insane belief that the floor of this chamber is its private property, has taken away from private members of this House the opportunity to introduce legislation by suspending the holding of General Business days. I should have thought that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro would have stood up and resisted that move most vigorously, but he acquiesced in it and in doing so gave away time that was available to private members to introduce legislation. He did so without demur.
On the Thursday about which the honourable member spoke there were matters to be raised by private members on both sides of the House and the Government, with its brutal weight of numbers, attempted to intrude into the limited time that is available to private members. Of course, honourable members on this side of the House- the members of the Australian Labor Party- resisted that valiantly and fought for the rest of the day to preserve the rights of private members. If the honourable member for EdenMonaro is interested in the rights of members of this chamber I should have thought that he would have been fighting with us on that occasion, but he was not. He voted against us every time. He sat in his position and blandly accepted the assertion of the Government that this chamber is its private domain. Mr Deputy Speaker, I have known you for some time and I know that you do not believe that this Parliament is the private domain of a Government; rather that it is a forum for honourable members to express their views on issues. For that reason I am rather disappointed in the attitude of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro.
The matter that I want to speak about today relates broadly to education but specifically to libraries. Education is provided for in a number of places- in schools, colleges and universities. But it has been my experience after quite some years of living that education does not necessarily end when one ceases to attend the formal places of learning; rather does it continue throughout one’s lifetime. Perhaps the most accessible place at which to gain further knowledge without hiring private tutors is at municipal or public libraries. But libraries do not exist only in the form of municipal or public libraries. They exist in schools, colleges and universities.
Having looked at this matter for a long time and having been the Chairman of the Moonee Valley Regional Library Committee in Victoria, it has become more and more apparent to me that there needs to be Australian Government funding of libraries. The municipal libraries in Victoria are funded at the moment by a contribution from the municipality concerned that is matched by a subsidy from the State Government. It is done on a per capita basis, which means that the necessary finance is not always provided. Schools are financed by the Australian Government, the Victorian Government and contributions by parents. It seems to me that unless there is a rational approach in relation to the whole system of libraries there will be a duplication of resources. All resources- whether they be buildings, people or books- are scarce. Therefore it would be better if we were to do as is being done at one of the high schools in my electoratethe Gladstone Park High School.
I visited that school quite recently. Its Principal, Mr McKenzie, is quite proud of the fact that the school has come to an arrangement with the local council, which is making a contribution, and the Australian and Victorian governments. The Australian Governmnent is involved because it is a secondary school library. The Victorian Government is involved because it is a Victorian State school. It seems to me to be a far more sensible way of providing this facility to the community at a lower cost because there is no duplication of buildings, books or personnel. Mr McKenzie told me that the service there, because it is new, has experienced some difficulties, but he has assured me that the bugs are being ironed out and that there are no real difficulties that cannot be overcome.
If it can work in that instance- I have no doubt that this is happening in other places, but this is one about which I know something and know it for sure- I cannot see any reason why the Australian Government does not accept greater responsibility for the financing of libraries, provided the libraries are organised on a rational basis. I am not for one moment suggesting that the Australian Government, no matter what political complexion it might be, should engage in open-ended contracts to provide funds for libraries per se. That could lead to waste and duplication, the waste being caused by the duplication.
I keep mentioning the Australian Government because I think all honourable members are well aware that we on this land mass of Australia are in a rather unique position insofar as the land masses throughout the world are concerned. Australia is the only land mass that has the one flag flying across it. It is the only land mass that has one national government. Australia is the only continent whose national government can look into every corner- the poorest corner of the Northern Territory and the richest corner of Victoria and can equalise the situation. I do not think that people ought to be disadvantaged because they choose to live in particular parts of this country for reasons best known to themselves. They ought to be supported. They can be supported only by a government that has access to the people in the 4 corners of this continent. Therefore I strongly urge the Australian Government to look into this matter and to examine the possibility of coming to arrangements with the municipal and the State governments, if you like, on the basis of there being a rationalisation of the provision of libraries because of their importance in the community, they being generally the only source available to the average person to further his knowledge and his education in his own way. If the Australian Government can through its attitude- I am sure that it can because it holds the purse strings- bring about a rationalisation of the situation that I have suggested the community would be better off, the cost of libraries would not be so high and the people in all areas, particularly in my own area, would be provided with a service that does not exist now in many areas.
-The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) made some rather uncharitable remarks about my colleague, the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury). They were, of course, unjustified. I just make the observation that one can understand the honourable member for Burke’s nervousness in view of the coming event on Sunday. Nevertheless I am sure that we all wish him well.
I take the opportunity to make a few comments on disputes within the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the role of the ABC and the community. I hope that it is realised fairly widely that the battle that is going on from the community’s point of view comes down to the question of who is to manage the ABC. Is it to be the Commissioners or separate groups on the staff? The argument is not about Alvin Purple. I do not express a view about that program; unfortunately I have not been able to see an episode of it. The argument is in part about the right of management to see scripts being prepared for programs by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to see program material being prepared. Of course the management has the right to see that material in advance.
The institution of the ABC is important to the Australian community. It provides great services at a cost to the taxpayer. It provides much information and entertainment for many Australians and I believe it has many dedicated staff members. I believe that most of the management are men who are strong, dedicated and able. The people want the ABC to have a strong role in the community and many people watch its programs. My family and many of my friends watch ABC television more than the other television channels.
Clearly it has many objective staff members who take great pride in the conduct of programs which are fair, balanced and of high quality. But equally many people are dissatisfied, and I believe increasingly dissatisfied with the conduct of some of the staff. I have heard increasing criticism of the ABC by honourable members in private conversation, honourable members in all parties in this House. Certainly members of the Parliament publicly criticise the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the members of its staff and its programs from time to time. Why not? The ABC and its program staff and guests do not hesitate to criticise members of Parliament, as is their right. It is part of the democratic process. But the ABC and members, because of their privileged position, because of the captive and large audience, have a responsibility to see that criticisms are well based and not idle or mischievous.
It has been asserted quite recently by some of the staff, certainly not all, that sections of the ABC can do and say what they believe is best. What on earth is the Commission for if it has no control and say in such matters? What is the system? There are 9 persons on the Commission and they are appointed by the government of the day, as is the case with the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. At present there is one vacancy. There are 8 commissioners, two of them appointed by the present Government and six appointed by the previous Labor Party Government. Informed people do not doubt their independence and the independence of the ABC.
It is quite wrong to state, as has been stated recently, that Sir Henry Bland is some sort of Liberal representative, just as it was wrong to suggest that the late Professor Downing was a Labor representative. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the late Professor Downing as Chairman of the ABC. This does not mean that no criticism ought to be made of the ABC and its decisions. How artificial and unreal that would be. But there is no interference by governments or oppositions in our system. The ABC has a high tradition of independence. The community wants that and the Parliament wants it.
I return to my earlier point. I think the belief is growing that the ABC is not using its resources and its privileges in an entirely fair way. I believe many people are dissatisfied with it. One hears this in conversation with honourable members of all political parties here and whenever the subject arises elsewhere in the community wherever one goes and the subject arises. It is my view that the reputation of the public affairs programs in articular has gone down very greatly in the last years. I believe, to use the jargon, that the credibility of the ABC has been significantly diminished in consequence. Threats by staff organisations of blackouts of programs should not deter anybody and I do not think they do. Furthermore, they damage the reputation of the ABC because they break down the appearance of objectivity and impartiality.
There is a need for overall administration of the ABC. It is inconceivable and unacceptable that the Commissioners cannot control programs or programming. Such management is not censorship but a choice from many competing programs, the best use of resources and quality and impartiality control. That indeed is the Commission’s responsibility and that partly is why it exists. I think it is hard for many people to see the actions and statements by staff that we have read of recently as being compatible with the ABC’s responsibility to the Australian people or compatible with conduct consistent with engagement in employment in a high calling. My belief is that much of the audience of the ABC consists of people with higher education. I further believe that those people are able to discount views expressed in public affairs programs but it is hardly in the interests of Australia or the ABC for it to lose the confidence of that audience. In conclusion I say that Australians should be behind the Commissioners and the present Chairman in regard to the present disputes. Indeed, support of the Commission by the Australian people is their way of exercising their influence and ensuring that the ABC reflects their wants, including impartiality. They should not allow groups to push their own barrows and, uncontrolled, to do what they alone think is right and in accordance with their own political views.
– I also wish to draw the attention of the House to the role of Sir Henry Bland and the attitude of the Government towards him. This morning at question time I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) whether Sir Henry Bland had advised him of any conflict of interest and whether he would now table the Bland Committee’s report on the Prices Justification Tribunal. In each case the Prime Minister said that the answer was no. This was a precise and clear response.
The situation which the Prime Minister reveals is not one that the Parliament should accept. I said by way of preface to my question to the Prime Minister that I was pursuing answers he had given me to questions without notice and on notice in April and May last. On 17 March last I placed a question on notice to the Prime Minister concerning directorships held by Sir Henry Bland. The question was in 4 parts and the Prime Minister gave me a general reply in these terms:
Sir Henry Bland is a consultant to the Government and I am certain that he would advise me of any conflict of interest.
That answer was given on 27 April. On 26 May I asked the Prime Minister without notice when the reports of the Administrative Review Committee under Sir Henry Bland would be tabled. The Prime Minister replied:
The question of handling the reports by Sir Henry Bland in final detail has not yet been determined by my colleagues in the Cabinet and myself. When we have had discussions on that matter we will take the appropriate decisions in relation to those reports.
We now know as a result of the Prime Minister’s answer to me this morning that Sir Henry Bland has not advised him of any conflict of interest and that the Government will not table the report by Sir Henry Bland, at least in relation to the Prices Justification Tribunal. I raise the question of the propriety of Sir Henry Bland, as a director of companies and therefore under duty to protect their interests, reporting on the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal which may have the duty to examine the activities of those companies.’ I am not alleging, nor do I suspect, any impropriety by Sir Henry Bland. I have for many years expressed misgivings about heads of departments who are on large retirement benefits taking paid positions in outside activities. Nevertheless, I merely raise the matter on this occasion because I believe that in the interests of the public and of the appearance of propriety, the public is entitled to be informed of Sir Henry Bland’s commercial interests. The public is entitled to know what Sir Henry Bland reports to the Government on any related matters.
– That is only our appointments; the Government’s appointments are safe. They can do anything.
– I have no doubt-I say this in response to the honourable gentlemanthat if any person appointed by my Government had directorships of the character which I am about to mention, we would have heard a great deal about it in the Parliament and outside. However, I was not prepared to make allegations or even raise the matter until I knew more about it. Yesterday the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) gave me a reply to a question which I put on notice on IS September. It is in these terms:
Sir Henry Bland is Deputy Chairman of Blue Circle Southern Cement Ltd; and a Director of Australian Mining and Smelting Ltd, Tubemakers of Australia Ltd, P. Rowe Pty Ltd, and Associated National Insurance Co. Ltd.
We learnt recently from the third annual report of the Prices Justification Tribunal that following inquiries undertaken by it during the year the Administrative Review Committee recommended the abolition of the development and consultancy branch and a reduction in the support staff in the retail industry branch. That information appears on page 6 of the roneoed version of the report which Mr Justice Williams, its chairman, gave to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) on 16 September. We also learnt from the report that following Cabinet approval of the recommendation of the Administrative Review Committee, referred to earlier, the Tribunal’s development and consultancy branch would be abolished. That appears on page 1 18. 1 am in the position where I can assure the House that Sir Henry Bland is the director of certain companies and is known to the Government to be a director of those companies. We are all in the position of knowing that the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal have been greatly reduced in 2 vital areas as a result of the recommendations of the Bland Committee and that those recommendations have been accepted by the Government. I know of these matters and I can bring them to the attention of the House because of the tabled annual report of Mr Justice Williams and a written reply given by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I now have to rely on statements in newspapers. I quote from the Nation
Review of 16 January. The article was written by George Munster who has long been respected as a very diligent and effective researcher of company records. The article states:
Tubemakers of Australia’s wide interests in steel extrusion include gas and oil pipes and bicycles . . . BHP and British companies each hold 43.73 per cent of the shares . . . Blue Circle Southern Cement Ltd is the result of the 1974 merger between Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers and the BHP cement subsidy Southern Portland Cement.
In relation to that company, Mr Munster states:
Blue Circle has also made repeated appearances over the pricing of cement before the Prices Justification Tribunal and in a recent annual report indicates that it wasn’t always pleased with the results.
Mr Munster then goes on to give the history of Australian Mining and Smelting. In particular, he analyses its ownership which is very largely foreign. He further states:
I draw attention to those references and to the companies mentioned in the Minister’s reply to me yesterday, insofar as Mr Munster refers to those companies in his article of 16 January last. I do not refer to other companies which Mr Munster has mentioned as having Sir Henry Bland among their directors. I limit myself to the companies which the Minister has identified as having been declared by Sir Henry Bland. I also quote from the Australian Financial Review which has had more than one article on the Bland Committee and its recommendations concerning the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Industries Assistance Commission. In particular, I quote from an article by Brian Toohey in the issue of 9 July last. It states:
In fact, he is on the board of Tubemakers of Australia Ltd, which was giving evidence before the IAC in Sydney yesterday.
So it is stated in public journals- I have not seen any denial or refutation- that Sir Henry Bland is the director of several companies at least two of which have come before the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Industries Assistance Commission. He is the chairman of a committee which has made recommendations concerning the scale and nature of the operations of the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Industries Assistance Commission. I believe it is in the interests of the public and I also think it is in the interests of Sir Henry Bland, that the Government should table his reports and that he should explain an apparent conflict of interest.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I say to those who are listening, in a brief reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is not in the House at the present time, nor is it normal for him to be here during a grievance debate. This is one of those times which is normally allowed for back bench members to be able to express their grievances and their problems. But I am quite sure that the Prime Minister, as he has so effectively done so often in the past, will give a very effective and adequate reply in due course to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition. In the short time available to me I shall express my grave concern at the actions of the United States Government in reducing Australia’s meat imports at a time when the Australian meat industry is in such grave need of meat outlets. This has been done in spite of Australia’s strict adherence to the United States requirement that we be willing to make up the shortfall of requirements from other countries whenever required to do so by the United States. This position has now been aggravated by the decision of the Canadian Government to limit imports from Australia for the remainder of 1976 to 8.2 million lb. I add that this is less than the monthly average which we have been exporting to Canada during this year and we still have Vh. months to go.
It should be noted that this year Canada has been exporting large quantities of meat to the United States. When in Canada in August this year I expressed to the Canadian authorities my grave concern at the effect this could have on Australian suppliers. I was told that the supplies of Canadian meat to the United States would fall off, it was expected, later in the year and that this was not expected to cause any triggering off of the meat import provisions by the United States. But this, of course, has now occurred. I commend the Australian Government for its quick and strong reaction to the United States decision. I also commend the recent reaction of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I thank him for his quick expression of grave concern about the action taken by the Canadian Government.
Today I lay stress on the very large amount of assistance which has been given by this Government to deserving people and industries. Time will allow me to make only brief reference to many of the actions taken. I mention these matters in answer to some of the criticisms that have been levelled at the Government. We must remember that the Government has as its prime objective the reduction in the inflation rate. It is against that background that these provisions should be considered. The Government is making special efforts and very creditable efforts to have our inflation rate reduced in the interests of all Australian people.
The assistance measures that have been provided include a 40 per cent investment allowance which is designed to assist manufacturers and primary producers to up-date their equipment. There is a provision of income maintenance support by varying the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits to include farmers suffering financial hardship who have registered for employment. That was an anomaly that has been operating for a long time and this Government deserves great credit for changing the previous situation.
I should like to refer also- I am pleased to see that the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) is at the table- to the extension of the distance for free telephone installation in country areas to 12 kilometres from 8 kilometres. This represents a reversal of the Australian Labor Party policy decision. It does not extend quite as far as I have advocated, but I realise the problems that we face in government with regard to financial difficulties and the inflationary situation. Also, there is now to be no property component in deciding eligibility for pensions. The only test will be income. This will help many people who have no income but who have owned an amount of property, such property has often been unsaleable, and they have therefore had to sacrifice it completely or live on very meagre means. I am pleased to be able to say that the term and farm development loan funds of the major trading banks are to be replenished by no less than $ 1 5 9m.
There are many other areas in which the Government has acted but, as I said, time will not permit me to elaborate on them. The meat industry has been assisted. Surely everyone must agree that meat producers deserve everything that has been done for them and more. I point out that the export levy on meat of 1.6c a pound has been withdrawn. This will save producers some $25m annually. The Government has paid to the Australian Meat Board some $1.2m to offset the loss of Russian beef sales. To those who criticise us for selling meat to Russia I say that it is better for us to sell out meat, even if we subsidise the sale by meeting part of the price, rather than have the meat destroyed. We want to keep our meat industry established. It will be a sorry day when we just destroy meat These sales are one way in which we can avoid that to some extent. We have gained Japanese approval for greater Australian meat exports to Japan. Carry-on finance of $10,000 each at 4 per cent interest over a term of 7 years has been provided for beef farmers. Indeed, that assistance has been applied also to dairy farmers. Another $15m has been made available by the Government in partnership with the States, in loans to beef producers this financial year. The limit has been increased substantially.
Most people who are interested in wool would know that the Government authorised the holding of the minimum reserve price for wool at levels not less than 230c per clean kilo on the whole clip throughout the whole of 1976-77 and 1977-78 wool selling seasons. I point out that for the first time this is a 2-year program and is designed to overcome uncertainty in the industry. This is an important aspect of the assistance the Government has given in this field. I could refer also to the amount of drought aid assistance and the assistance to the wheat industry, but I want to deal with the fruit industry which is having a difficult time indeed.
Increased tariff protection from orange juice imports has been extended to orange juice producers. Further funds have been made available for price support of export apples, pears and dried vine fruits in 1976. A grant of $250,000 have been made to the Apple and Pear Corporation to supplement its funds. An amount of $65,000 is being made available to the Australian Wine Institute in 1976-77 to support its activities. The wine industry is a growing and beneficial one for the Australian Commonwealth and its people. The Government has provided an extra $lm for the continuation of the fruit growing reconstruction scheme for the removal of surplus fruit trees, and the application date has been extended to 3 1 December 1976.
Despite the benefits that have been given to the fruit industry I am gravely concerned about the position in which mainland apple and pear growers now find themselves due to a combination of depressed export prices and the likelihood of a marked increase in the amount of Tasmanian apples coming on to the mainland market. I am quite conscious of the problems that confront the Tasmanian fruit growers. I have said that before in this House. This concern that I express with regard to mainland fruit growers is shared by a number of honourable members representing mainland fruit growers. To counter the problem I think we must look towards using export markets for apples and pears which normally have been exported. In my view we cannot allow a drop in exports in present circumstances even if it means a greater cost to the Government to maintain our export markets. That will be in the interests of Tasmanian fruit growers and indeed of fruit growers throughout the Commonwealth, and that is the attitude that this Government, as a Commonwealth government, must take. When an industry is in the difficulties that the fruit growing industry is in at the moment it needs special and sympathetic consideration of this Government, and I look forward to it getting it.
There is so much more that I could have said with regard to what had been done by this Government. As I have said, time does not allow it. I have not touched on the assistance to local government, which has been very maxnaminous an increase of 75 per cent. A situation has arisen where we simply have to try to provide the assistance that is required to keep our economy in some degree of prosperity even though we are at the same time trying to maintain a policy which will control inflation, because that is vitally important to everybody. The main thrust of my remarks today- despite some attempted interjections which are not readily understood, and that is understandable I suppose because that is the way the interjectors are- is to show that we have done so much for which we have not been given credit, and we will continue to do that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise today to discuss the matter of the Fairbridge scheme for migrant children. I should like to commence by providing the House with some background details of the scheme, for it is not only significant in its own right but stands as a monument to one man’s compassion and vision. Mr Kingsley Fairbridge was a South African born scholar and aristocrat who was distressed at what he saw to be the plight of the children in the overcrowded cities of England at the close of the 19th Century. Noting this picture of squalor and starvation, he determined to do something about it and formed the Child Emigration Society at the turn of the century and eventually realised his dream in the form of Fairbridge House, a large old mansion in Western Australia which became the home for thousands of underprivileged English children who learned in the precincts of its spacious grounds the basics of farming and domestic work before taking their place in an Australian society which offered them much greater opportunity than would ever have been possible in their native England.
Mr Fairbridge did not long survive the realisation of his dream, for at the age of 39 this poet, scholar and great benefactor died. When I consider the depths of compassion and unselfishness of which this man was capable I appreciate more than ever the superiority of the co-operative values which inspire the Australian Labor Party over the morally barren individualism which is preached from the other side of the House. Mr Fairbridge is long dead but his dream lives on. Nowadays the children of Fairbridge are not necessarily from under-privileged homes. Today they attend schools like any other children and learn a much wider variety of skills than in the days when the emphasis was exclusively on farming and domestics. But Fairbridge still caters for a category of migrants who face handicaps which most migrants do not normally have to worry about.
Fairbridge is now a temporary haven for oneparent families where that parent is unable to cater for either boy or girl. Moreover, where a family with more than 4 children migrates to Australia the additional children can be accommodated at Fairbridge.
In this respect Fairbridge plays a vital and extremely important role, because Commonwealth Hostels will not accept more than 4 children from one family. I wish to protest about this situation. It is a scandalous state of affairs. Why should there be such discrimination against large families? Why cannot Commonwealth Hostels accommodate families with more than 4 children?
The first few days in a new country are invariably traumatic and full of subtle fears for migrants. Will they like the country? That is the big question. Will they be able to make a go of it? Customs will be strange and confusing. In these circumstances the migrant’s greatest comfort and support is his family. It is an intolerable situation when families are divided in this way. How inhuman it is to separate families at this time, when above all else, migrants need the comfort and security of their family. Children need the proximity of their parents at this time, and no less, parents need their children. If there is a good reason why Commonwealth Hostels will not accept more than 4 children from one family, we in this House should know it. It is up to the people who take this responsibility to inform the House why it is done. Furthermore, even if the reason for this policy stands up to scrutiny, it is my hope that all members of this House who have the welfare of migrants at heart will demand that the state of affairs which necessitates this callous policy be rectified forthwith.
Finally, there is one other aspect of this matter which gives cause for unease. F airbridge is open to the children of English migrants only. Yet in many ways English migrants face fewer problems than do people from other lands, and are better equipped to face the problems they do face, because they do not suffer the same language barriers nor the same cultural dislocations as confront non-English speaking migrants. Fairbridge is of extreme importance for English families with more than 4 children. What happens to non-English families with more than 4 children who require Commonwealth hostel accommodation? I think it is a very good question that needs to be answered. The Fairbridge institution is a private one, and it is not for us to urge it to change its policy on this matter. But there is obviously a need for the Commonwealth Government to act to minimise the distress which current Commonwealth hostels policy must cause non-English speaking migrants.
I will not take up the time of the House any further. In conclusion I would like to say that Australia owes a debt to Mr Kingsley Fairbridge and his expansive vision. It would be tragic if the Commonwealth Government was not willing to build on his example and achievement by removing this inhuman and anomalous practice of limiting Commonwealth hostel accommodation to only 4 children from one family.
– For a number of years now I, along with other colleagues from the City of Brisbane, have presented the case for the re-siting of the Brisbane Airport. Many words have been spoken. One of the most unfortunate aspects of this matter in recent years was that when the Liberals went out of power in 1972 so did the fulfilment of our promise to the people that we would get on withthe establishment of the new airport. The Labor Government received the Coombs Committee’s report in which unfortunately Dr Coombs suggested that the Brisbane Airport resiting program should be scrapped. Many suburbs in Brisbane are affected by the noise. These include Wynnum North and many other suburbs in my electorate. I have estimated that some 50 000 people in the City of Brisbane are affected every day by aircraft noise. Many of these people had built their homes before the introduction of jet aircraft. I cannot reproduce the aircraft noise myself but the recording that I am now playing will give honourable members some idea of what the people of Brisbane have to suffer. The noise produced by the larger jets causes havoc within the homes over which they pass.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 15 minutes to 1 o’clock, in accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted. I put the question: ‘That grievances be noted’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 23 (1976) give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on Cosmetics and Toilet Preparations. The effect of this decision is that initially a general rate of duty of 25 per cent and a preferential rate of duty of 2 1 per cent will apply to the majority of imports of cosmetics and toilet preparations, reducing to a long term rate of 20 per cent on 1 July 1 977.
In making this decision the Government has not reduced all duties by as much as the Commission had recommended. The Government believes that any further reduction could have caused the possibility of reversion to imports by local manufacturers with a consequential effect on production and employment. A comprehensive summary of the changes which will operate from tomorrow is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Minister for
Primary Industry) ( 12.48)- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Beef Industry) Act 1975 to enable the Commonwealth to provide up to $ 15m to match on a dollar for dollar basis State funds approved for lending in 1976-77 under the beef carry-on loans scheme. The scheme provides low interest carry-on finance to specialist beef producers with a sound asset structure who would be viable given a return to more normal beef market conditions.
Last year the Industries Assistance Commission, in its report on short term assistance for beef cattle producers, recommended, among other things, that the carry-on loans scheme be extended ‘ to provide up to 2 years carry-on finance- presently the scheme provides for 12 months finance- and that the terms and conditions of the loans be liberalised. The States have indicated their general agreement to the revised terms and conditions, which will closely follow the recommendations of the IAC. Formal acceptance by the States is to be sought by means of a Prime Minister/Premier exchange of letters. Up to 2 years carry-on finance will be provided, with the loan limit of $ 1 5,000 per year presently applying only to Queensland to be extended to all eligible producers in the pastoral zone or on pastoral or similar leases. Elsewhere the existing limit of $10,000 per year will apply. Limits in all areas may be relaxed in special circumstances at the discretion of the loan administering authority. Rates of interest will average not less than 4 per cent per annum for all loans.
The estimated cost of the Commonwealth’s contribution in 1976-77 under the extended scheme is $15m. The Commonwealth’s commitment to 30 June 1976 under the existing scheme was some $ 12.3m and hence the Bill provides for a total Commonwealth outlay of $27.3m from the inception of the scheme. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
On 15 May last year a Bill was introduced into the House to implement changes in the long service leave conditions of Commonwealth Government staff. Debate adjourned and did not resume before the last elections. The Government has considered the content of that Bill and has decided to introduce a new Bill which proceeds with the changes, with the exception of the previous Government’s proposed increase in the rate of long service leave accrual. A very significant change such as an increase in accrual rate could set an unduly generous standard which could lead to pressure on other employers in the community to match it. I need not emphasise the difficulties inherent in such a course in present economic circumstances. The remaining changes, on the other hand, are generally supported by practices elsewhere and are not substantial in terms of cost. Most of them were agreed to and announced by the LiberalCountry Party Government in the latter part of 1972.
Passage of the Bill will mean that a single Act will cover long service leave conditions of permanent and temporary staff of the Australian Public Service and of most Commonwealth authorities, thus providing a uniform code. For this reason, repeal of the separate long service leave provisions for permanent officers under the Public Service Act is being proposed in a Public Service Amendment Bill which I will presently introduce. A significant provision in the Bill is the extension of long service leave to part time employees. Provision is also made for payment in lieu of long service leave after one year’s service on cessation due to age retirement, ill health, retrenchment or death. Other changes are recognition of prior service with local government bodies, payment in lieu of long service leave as a right and payment to the estate on death where no payment is made to dependants.
Since the introduction of the Bill last year, Papua New Guinea has become independent. This Bill protects the long service leave rights of persons who were in public employment in Papua New Guinea prior to independence, who worked for the independent state of Papua New Guinea after independence and who then entered, or in the future will enter, Commonwealth employment. The Bill provides for the changes to be retrospective to 1 January 1973. This is in recognition of legitimate expectations arising from past public announcements and the Bill introduced last year. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
As I said in my second reading speech on the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1976, permanent officers in the Australian Public Service are covered by that Bill. The Public Service Amendment Bill 1976 therefore repeals the Public Service Act provisions for officers relating to long service leave. Clause 3 of the Bill amends section 47E of the Public Service Act to protect the sick leave rights of persons who were in public employment in Papua New Guinea prior to independence, remain there after independence and then enter Commonwealth employment. Clause 5 of the Bill provides for payment in lieu of recreation leave to the estate of a deceased officer where no payment is made to dependants and the provision is retrospective to 1 January 1973. This is consistent with similar long service leave provisions in the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Bill.
There are some other minor amendments of a consequential nature arising from the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Bill.Schedule 1 to the Bill repeals Schedules 1 and 2 of the Public Service Act, which list departments and offices of Permanent Head respectively, and substitutes new Schedules which take account of recent changes in administrative arrangements. In Schedule 2 amendments of the Act are also made by the insertion, as appropriate, of the words ‘the Commonwealth’ in substitution for the word ‘Australia’. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise an agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to provide for the transfer to the Bank’s Asian Development Fund of moneys previously contributed by Australia to the Bank’s Multipurpose Special Fund. The Asian Development Bank (Special Funds Contributions) Act of 1970, which this Bill is designed to amend, authorised, inter alia, a contribution of US$9.75m to the Multi-Purpose Special Fund (MPSF) of the ADB. This Fund at the time served as the principal vehicle for the Bank’s concessional lending operations; contributions were made on a voluntary ad hoc basis by individual contributors and were frequently tied. Our contribution was tied to procurement from Australia and was made in the form of promissory notes encashable on demand.
The Asian Development Fund (ADF) was established in 1973 following a comprehensive review of the Bank’s concessional lending operations. Funds for the ADF, which is now the principal vehicle for concessional lending operations, are mobilised on an organised basis with uniform terms and conditions for all contributors. One condition is that funds must not be tied to procurement from the donor country. Honourable members will recall that Australia supported the establishment of the ADF and has contributed to it. One of the objectives in setting up the ADF was to simplify the Bank’s administrative procedures. This involves, inter alia, the closing down of the old Multi-Purpose Special Fund and the transfer of contributed resources in that Fund to the ADF. Where such contributions are tied or other special conditions not consistent with the ADF are attached to them, donors must agree to waive these conditions before such contributions may be transferred to the ADF. All other countries have transferred or agreed to transfer their MPSF contributions to the Asian Development Fund in this way.
Last August the Government decided to untie the outstanding balance of our MPSF contribution in order to facilitate its transfer to the ADF. However, following substantial encashments of notes over the last few months, all outstanding notes have now been fully encashed and the whole of our MPSF contribution will in fact be used to finance Australian procurement. Accordingly, the main purpose of the legislation is now to authorise a transfer to the Asian Development Fund, in order to simplify the administration of loans granted from Australia’s contribution to the MPSF. Co-operation with the Bank in the manner proposed would be consistent with the strong support Australia has always accorded to the Bank in the past. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
All members of the Parliament are, I am sure, committed to democratic control of trade unions and employer organisations. The cornerstone of democratic control is membership participation. The essential question is how to provide for the fullest participation of membership in a manner which recognises the structural diversity of organisations. In 1973, the then Minister for Labour, the honourable Clyde Cameron, introduced amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which had the effect of requiring the election of the holder of each office in an organisation by direct vote of the appropriate section of the membership. An exception from this requirement was permitted in relation to those offices of a part-time nature on an organisation’s federal committee of management where the rules of the organisation provided, before the commencement of the amendment, a form of election other than by direct vote. Organisations were allowed a period of 3 years to bring their rules into conformity with the Act. That period expires on 13 November this year.
The fact is, however, that direct election is not, in all situations, a guarantee of proper democratic control. For example, direct voting may result, in an organisation which has a substantial proportion of its total membership in one branch, in the smaller branches having no representation on the management committee. Since the amendment of the Act in 1973, there has been widespread public discussion and the development of active lobbies for and against direct elections. I have received numerous representations as had, I believe, my predecessors. It is clear that there are deep divisions on the issue of how membership control is best asserted.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Government has taken account of a wide spectrum of opinion in deciding upon the course of action it now proposes. The solution which has been decided upon represents, in the Government’s view, the most appropriate and most workable solution overall. In a matter as contentious as this, no approach will meet with universal acclaim. But I am confident that the merits of this Bill are evident and will meet with wide support. The amendments proposed will now give organisations a choice in the manner by which they elect their officers, whether full time or part time. Offices, the duties of which are full time in nature, may be elected by direct vote of the appropriate section of the rank and file. Alternatively, the organisation may choose a one-tier collegiate system; that is, a system whereby a conference or council is elected by direct vote of the appropriate section of the rank and file membership and that conference or council elects from its members the fulltime officers.
In relation to offices, the duties of which are not full time in nature, the position whereby organisations may adopt a direct election, onetier or a multiple-tier system of collegiate election, for example, a system whereby the conference or council which is elected by direct vote may elect from its members another body which then elects from its members the part-time officers, will be restored. This type of situation operated prior to 1973. Where the rules of organisations are not already in conformity with the new requirements, organisations will be permitted a period of 2 years from the date of operation of the amendments to do so. If at the end of that period an organisation has not made the necessary alterations to its rules, the Industrial Registrar, after inviting the organisations to consult with him on the matter, will be able to make the alterations.
As I have indicated, the Bill distinguishes between full-time and part-time offices. Holders of full-time offices generally play a key role in the formulation of policy as well as being responsible for the implementation of policy decisions and for the management of the day-to-day affairs of the organisation. There will be agreement that persons exercising such functions should not be permitted to become organisationally remote from the membership. The Government believes that either direct election or a one-tier collegiate electoral system proposed for full-time offices will reduce the chances of this occurring and is, at the same time, consistent with the principle of fullest participation by members. In both cases, there is a directness, or nexus, between the exercise of the individual member’s vote and the election of full-time officers, to make effective participation by individual members a reality. Of course it is essential that the nature or composition of the college be truly representative of the membership. The provisions of the Act in section 140 (1) (c)- that the rules of an organisation may not impose conditions which are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust- and the associated regulation 1 15 will continue to provide the basis for members to enforce the representative nature of any such electoral college as may exist or become established.
The conditions referred to in relation to fulltime offices do not apply with the same force in the case of part-time offices. At the same time the arrangements which organisations choose for the election of part-time officers will still be subject to review by the Industrial Court upon application by an aggrieved member. The Bill also proposes that the Act be amended to delete from the definition of ‘Office’ in section 4 of the Act those positions the duties of which are substantially similar to positions for which elections are required to be conducted, and positions which have duties substantially similar to offices for which elections were required to be conducted under rules in force prior to the 1973 amendments to the Act. The effect of the amendments will be to restore the situation prior to the 1973 amendments of the Act; that is, organisations will be able to appoint persons to them without the necessity of providing for their election.
The proposals I have detailed are acceptable to the employers. The peak union councils have also been informed of the Government’s proposals. When I previously discussed the question of collegiate voting with the unions last May, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, pointed out that there is a division of opinion within the trade union movement on this issue and that he could not put a monolithic trade union view on the matter. The Bill gives effect to the commitment I made on the Government’s behalf at the end of the last sessionthat it intended to have enacted before 13 November, the date by which the 1973 amendments were to be effective- legislation which reflects its acceptance in principle of a form of collegiate voting provided the system adopted is consistent with its policy of fullest participation by members. With the passage of this legislation, organisations, whether of employers or unions, will of course no longer have to comply with the current requirement of amending their rules to provide for direct elections for officers. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is designed to amend the Airports (Surface Traffic) Act 1960 to overcome a number of problems being encountered in administering that Act. The Act provides for the control of surface vehicular traffic and the charging of parking fees for parking vehicles at airports owned and operated by the Commonwealth. The Act has not been amended in any material respect since it was passed in 1960. Practical experience in the operation of the Act since that time has disclosed some problems and deficiencies which can be remedied only by the amendments proposed in this Bill. Several proposed amendments are purely to clarify or improve the existing wording of various sections of the Act in order to achieve its purposes. In some instances, the introduction of modern car parking control equipment such as ticket spitting machines’ at the entrances to car parks, where the parking fee is payable on leaving, has produced situations which were not envisaged when the Act was originally drafted.
Several other proposed amendments relate to the monetary value of the fines and penalties specified in the Act. The Bill proposes to increase these amounts to compensate for the effects of inflation since they were set in 1960. For example, the maximum general penalty for illegal parking, damaging signs or notices is increased from $40 to $100. This will restore the deterrent value of the fines and penalties which is necessary for efficient airport traffic control.
A new matter provided for by the Bill is the disposal of derelict motor vehicles left on airports. This has become a problem at some places. The Act in its present form does not provide any machinery whereby these vehicles may be disposed or.
The Bill inserts provisions conferring on the Secretary to the Department of Transport powers similar to those conferred on local municipalities under State laws. He may give notice requiring payment of parking fees owing and for the vehicle to be removed. This notice may be served personally, by registered letter or by means of a newspaper advertisement. If the notice is not complied with the vehicle may be sold by public tender. The proceeds go to consolidated revenue. Any excess of the sale price over the costs of disposal can be claimed by the owner. If no tender is received for a vehicle it may be disposed of in any appropriate manner.
The provisions as to operation of the owneronus system have been revised to simplify the procedures and to apply to cases when the owner of the vehicle is a corporation and not a private individual. New provisions are made to enable undefended prosecutions for parking offences to be dealt with without the necessity for departmental traffic officers to attend a court to give evidence. This provision is also modelled on State legislation. Where at the hearing the defendant pleads guilty or does not appear a certificate may be given as to any matters relating to the offence. This certificate is evidence of the matters stated in it, by virtue of existing provisions in the Act. This amendment will produce significant cost savings in salaries paid to traffic officers.
The amendments to the Act proposed in this Bill are expected to improve the Department’s general administration in enforcing the Act, thereby resulting in greater efficiency of airport traffic control, some increase in Commonwealth Revenue and various administrative cost savings. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to establish a new federal court, to be known as the Federal Court of Australia. Proposals to create a new Federal Court have been under consideration now for many years. The case has been discussed in this Parliament, at legal conventions and elsewhere. Sir Garfield Barwick, when Attorney-General, had been authorised to proceed with the drafting of a Bill. His proposal was for a superior court that would have jurisdiction in matters of special federal concern. A Bill was introduced in 1968 by Mr Justice Bowen when he was AttorneyGeneral, but was not subsequently proceeded with. Bills to establish a superior court of Australia introduced by the Whitlam Government were rejected by the Senate.
As the concept of a superior court was developed by the Labor Government from the original proposal by Sir Garfield Barwick, it was found to involve not only technical constitutional difficulties but it was opposed by some of the States and many members of the legal profession. As conceived by the Labor Government, it would have removed from State courts the bulk of the federal jurisdiction exercised by those courts and greatly weakened the status of those courts and the quality of the work dealt with by them. The Bill presented by the Labor Government was rejected by the then Opposition.
Nevertheless there has remained a need for the existing federal court system to be put on a more rational basis. The Australian Industrial Court, created under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, has had added to it in piecemeal fashion jurisdiction in a diverse variety of matters. That Court is neither appropriately named nor structured to serve federal judicial administration in an adequate manner. As presently structured under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it is not really suitable for more general work. Unless a restructuring takes place, appointment to the Industrial Court must be based largely on experience in industrial matters, which is not directly relevant to the other important work of the Court in the trade practices and administrative law fields.
The Federal Court of Bankruptcy has not, in practice, sat elsewhere than in New South Wales and Victoria. In the other States bankruptcy has been administered through the State courts. Because the judges of the Bankruptcy Court are in a separate court, they have not been available to sit on the Industrial Court in commercial-type matters under the Trade Practices Act. Nor would it have been appropriate for the Bankruptcy Court, so named and established under the Bankruptcy Act, to be given a wider jurisdiction.
At the same time there is a need to relieve the High Court of some of the work-load it now has in matters of federal and Territory law. This need will be partly fulfilled by plans the Government has to ensure that State and Territory Supreme Courts will have exclusive original jurisdiction in some matters in respect of which jurisdiction has in the past been vested in the High Court. Specifically, what is intended is that the original jurisdiction the High Court now has under such laws as taxation and industrial property legislation should be taken from that Court and vested exclusively in State and Territory Supreme Courts. Since 1973, income tax appeals from the Commissioner of Taxation or the Board of Review have been vested in State Supreme Courts, but nothing was then done to remove from the High Court appeals of this kind under other taxation legislation. Separate legislation will be introduced for this purpose, and also to extend the jurisdiction of State and Territory Supreme Courts in patents, trade mark, design and copyright matters.
The Government believes that only where there are special policy or perhaps historical reasons for doing so should original federal jurisdiction be vested in a federal court. This has been so in relation to industrial matters, bankruptcy and trade practices. It is also appropriate that judicial review of administrative decisions by Commonwealth officers be vested in a federal court.
Appeals from Territory Supreme Courts now lie directly to the High Court. Besides adding to the work of the High Court, this is often inconvenient and expensive for Territory residents. The residents of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are entitled to have an appeal court that will sit locally and regularly in these Territories. Having regard to the expected work-load, the Government does not think it appropriate to create a system of internal appeals within each of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory Supreme Courts at this stage. Needless to say, the course of constitutional development for the Northern Territory may eventually require that the Supreme Court of that Territory have its own internal system of appeals and the Government recognises this.
If, as is appropriate, this jurisdiction is to be taken from the High Court, there is now no existing federal court that is really suitable to serve as an appellate court, either from the Territory Supreme Courts or from State courts exercising federal jurisdiction in matters of special federal concern such as taxation, bankruptcy, industrial property and trade practices. The Government therefore believes that the time is opportune to establish a new federal court that will meet the specific needs I have mentioned. The Court now proposed will not, as would previous Bills to establish a Superior Court that have been introduced into the Parliament, perform judicial functions that can better be performed by State courts or create jurisdictional problems of a kind that might delight constitutional lawyers but only add to the hazards of litigation for the parties concerned. The present BUI therefore differs from previous Bills relating to a Commonwealth superior court in that the original jurisdiction that is to be exercised by the proposed Federal
Court of Australia will be limited initially to that now exercised by the Industrial Court and the Bankruptcy Court, instead of the much more extensive jurisdiction previously proposed, and secondly in that the court will serve as a court of appeal from State courts in certain matters of special federal jurisdiction as well as in Territory matters. The proposed Court would thus operate in well-defined fields of federal and Territory law. It would not enter any field of original jurisdiction now exercised by State courts.
It will be implicit in what I have said so far, but I should make it clear, that the present Bill would in no way affect the functions of the Family Court of Australia. The Court will continue as a separate court, as at present. Further, the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will be allowed to develop as separate courts exercising original jurisdiction in their respective Territories. The Bill contains, however, provisions to enable judges of the Territory Supreme Courts to sit in the new court on appeals from their own courts. This will ensure that the appellate work of the new Court in Territory matters can benefit from the particular experience and expertise of the Territory courts.
I now turn to a discussion of the provisions of the Bill. The present Bill would establish the Federal Court of Australia. The Bill does not specify what original jurisdiction the Court is to have. The Court is intended to have the original jurisdiction now conferred on the Australian Industrial Court and the Federal Court of Bankruptcy. That is, it will have original jurisdiction under the Bankruptcy Act, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Trade Practices Act, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act and a number of other Acts. Separate legislation will be introduced to transfer this jurisdiction from the existing courts to the new Court. With regard to appellate jurisdiction, the full court of the Federal Court of Australia will have jurisdiction to hear appeals from single judges of the Court and from the Territory Supreme Courts by virtue of the present Bill. Clause 24 of the Bill also provides that the Court will have jurisdiction to hear and determine, in such cases as are provided by any other Act, appeals from State courts, other than the full courts of the Supreme Courts, exercising federal jurisdiction. Separate legislation will be introduced to provide for appeals from State courts to the Federal Court of Australia in taxation, industrial property, bankruptcy and trade practices matters. I should say here that it is intended that the State courts will continue in practice to exercise bankruptcy jurisdiction in
States other than New South Wales and Victoria. It is only in these 2 States that the Federal Court of Bankruptcy has regularly sat in the past.
The Court will sit in two Divisions, the General Division and the Industrial Division. All of the proceedings in the Court, whether original or appellate, will be in one or other of these two Divisions. A judge of the Court, other than the chief judge, may be assigned to only one Division of the Court by the Governor-General on his appointment. If so assigned, he may not sit in the other Division, except by virtue of special arrangements made by the chief judge in any particular case. However, with his consent, this assignment of a judge may be varied by the Governor-General at any time. The primary purpose of these proposals is that the special character of the industrial jurisdiction under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will be preserved and will be exercised in the Industrial Division of the Court. It will also enable judges to be selected specifically for the General Division of the Court and with regard to the appellate and original jurisdiction it is likely to exercise. The main provisions relating to the Divisions of the Court are to be found in clauses 13 and 14 of the Bill.
Clause 5 of the Bill would establish the Court, to consist of the chief judge and other judges from time to time holding office. The judges are, in accordance with the Constitution, to be appointed by the Governor-General. The constitutional requirement, that a judge may be removed from office only by the GovernorGeneral on an address from both Houses of Parliament in the same session praying for his removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity, is contained in clause 6 of the Bill. The Court may be constituted either as a full court of at least three judges or by a single judge. At present, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides for the original industrial jurisdiction to be exercised by a bench of three judges except in certain specified matters.
Clause 15 of the Bill would give the chief judge of the Court specific responsibility for arranging the business of the Court and, after appropriate consultation with the other judges, the judges who are to sit in any matter or class of matters. Provision is also to be made by that clause forjudges of the Court who are additional judges of the Territory Supreme Courts to be made available, by arrangement for the work of the Territory courts. Provision is also to be made for Territory judges who are also judges of the new Court to be made available, by arrangement, for work of the new Court. Sub-clause (3) of clause 15 makes it clear, however, that the primary responsibility of a Territory judge who is also appointed to the new Court is for the work of his own court. These inter-curial arrangements will be made between the chief judge of the new Court and the chief judge of the Territory court concerned. The Government has decided that there should be an office of chief judge in each of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory Supreme Courts. Bills for this purpose will be introduced later in the present sittings of the Parliament. The role of the Territory judges in the appellate work of the new Court in hearing appeals from Territory Supreme Courts, to which I have previously referred, is recognised by clause 25 (2). This provides, in effect, that on an appeal from a Territory court the bench, where practicable, shall include at least one of the full-time judges of that court.
Clauses 19 to 23 of the Bill deal with the original jurisdiction of the Court. Clause 19 provides that the Court has such original jurisdiction as is conferred on it by laws made by the Parliament from time to time. The clause indicates the intention that the Court is to have jurisdiction only in specified matters arising under laws made by the Parliament. Jurisdiction in other federal matters will remain with or be vested exclusively in State courts so far as the Constitution permits. For example, common law actions in contract or in tort by or against the Commonwealth and its authorities will continue to be a matter for State and Territory courts, except to the extent to which the High Court has and exercises original jurisdiction, which cannot be taken from it under the Constitution. The State and Territory courts are the courts of common law and general jurisdiction, and should deal with these matters in federal jurisdiction. I have already indicated the scope of the original jurisdiction that is to be conferred on the new Court.
The appellate jurisdiction of the Court is dealt with in clauses 24 to 30. The intended scope of the appellate jurisdiction of the Court is indicated by clause 24. 1 have already discussed this clause. Specific provision is made in clause 26 for State and Territory courts from which an appeal lies to the Federal Court of Australia to state a case or to reserve a question of law to the Federal Court and to that Court alone. In those special matters of federal jurisdiction in which an appeal will lie from the State courts to the Federal Court of Australia, federal jurisdiction will not be vested in the full courts of the State Supreme Courts to hear appeals. The effect of these arrangements will be that, subject to the provision for appeals by special leave to the High Court from the full court of the new Court, the Federal Court of Australia will be the authoritative exponent of the law in the special federal matters and will thus ensure uniformity of interpretation of the law in important areas such as income tax and industrial property. It will be recalled that at present an appeal in income tax matters lies from State courts to the High Court. This will be taken away and given direct to the new Court.
Clause 3 1 of the Bill gives to the Court a power to punish contempt of court. Where contempt relates to the exercise of jurisdiction in a Division of the Court, the jurisdiction to punish that contempt shall be exercised in that Division of the Court. Again, this is intended to preserve the special character of the jurisdiction exercised under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, by ensuring that all industrial matters are dealt with in the Industrial Division of the Court. Clause 32 of the Bill would confer on the new Court, so far as the Constitution permits, jurisdiction in matters that are associated with matters of federal jurisdiction before the Court. The intention is to confer jurisdiction on the Court in matters which, if they arose in isolation, might not be matters of federal jurisdiction but which, arising in association with a matter of federal jurisdiction, must be disposed of at the same time as that matter in order that the rights of the parties may be finally determined.
There is to be no appeal from the full court of the new Court to the High Court otherwise than by special leave of the High Court. It might be noted that this provision for appeal to the High Court is more restricted than the provision for appeal from State Supreme Courts under the Judiciary Amendment Bill now before the House. The more restricted nature of the appeal to the High Court from the Federal Court of Australia is to emphasise the role that the new Court will have as the exponent of federal law in the special areas of jurisdiction vested in it. It is also a concession to the view that ultimately it may be necessary for this Parliament to provide that all appeals to the High Court shall be by special leave, whether from a federal court or a State court.
Registries of the Federal Court of Australia are to be established in each State, in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This geographical distribution is intended to reflect the nature of the Court as an itinerant court, that will go on circuit and sit in each State and Territory as required. The practice and procedure of the Court is to be regulated by the judges themselves by rules of court, subject to any special provision made by or under any Act.
It is intended that the existing rules under the Bankruptcy Act, regulating the practice and procedure of both the Federal Court of Bankruptcy and of State courts exercising bankruptcy jurisdiction, will for the time being continue in operation. Likewise, the practice and procedure in the Industrial Division of the new Court will continue to be regulated by rules made under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Clauses 39 to 58 of the Bill deal with matters of a machinery nature. Provision is made for the Court to sit with a civil jury where it so orders. The Bankruptcy Court has power to sit with a jury, although this seems not to be done in practice. No provision is made in the Bill for criminal juries, because it is not intended that indictable offences will be prosecuted in the new Court.
This Bill must be seen in the context of other measures the Government has taken or is already taking to reform the area of Federal jurisdiction. The Judiciary Amendment Bill now before the House, together with other measures yet to be introduced, will give to the State courts new jurisdiction in constitutional matters and in tax and industrial property. The role of the State Full Courts in common law and general jurisdiction in Federal matters will be enhanced. The Federal judiciary will, by this Bill, be better placed to handle the important areas of trade practices and administrative law, in addition to bankruptcy and industrial law. A comprehensive appellate structure for the Territories will be established. Uniformity of interpretation of major special areas of federal jurisdiction will be enhanced by the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia. The High Court itself will be better able to concentrate on its role as a constitutional court and the final appellate court in Australia. The High Court itself will be better able to concentrate on its role as a constitutional court and the final appellate court in Australia. These are important reforms, of which this Bill is an integral part. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
This is a Bill to amend the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974. It is a simple amendment, designed to provide flexibility in programs developed with the States for nature conservation. The Government has a clear policy to work through the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers in the development of cooperative programs for the conservation and management of Australia ‘s wildlife.
In October 1972 a select committee of the House of Representatives reported on the broad subject of wildlife conservation. It recommended, among other things, that the Commonwealth Government should initiate a national policy aimed at acquiring land in the form of national parks and reserves for the protection of habitat sites and that a program of grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution be instituted to enable the States to acquire areas of wildlife habitat that are of national significance. The report of the select committee which was established under a Liberal-Country Party Government in May 1 970, is a landmark in Commonwealth Government policies for the protection of Australia’s unique fauna and flora; it set the pattern and provided guidelines for much of the future legislation for nature conservation in Australia.
In 1974 the Parliament legislated to make it possible for the Commonwealth to provide financial assistance to the States for purposes connected with nature conservation. This Act makes provision for the Minister to agree with an appropriate Minister of a State upon programs of land acquisition for nature conservation and for payments of financial assistance to be made to the States in accordance with the approved programs. Since the Act was passed, there have been some highly significant land acquisitions carried out by the States with funds provided from the Commonwealth. A project of current interest is the land at Yellingbo, Victoria, on the eastern side of the Dandenongs. The Commonwealth and the State governments are co-operating in a program of acquisitions to secure the habitat of the helmeted honeyeater. This bird is the emblem of Victoria, and occurs only in this area. It is an endangered species, whose existence is threatened through loss of its native habitat.
This financial year the Government has included an amount of $3.3m in the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1976-77, of which $75,000 has been set aside- I am very glad to be able to say this- to assist the State of Tasmania to develop management plans for the establishment of the South West National Park. This extension of the Commonwealth’s role in nature conservation, from land acquisition to management activities, is in response to a general view expressed among the States that the acquisition of land in itself is only the first step towards creating secure areas where flora and fauna can be protected and preserved. An equally important activity is the management of these areas and this has led the Government to decide on an amendment to the Act so that the States can be given flexibility within an overall program of financial assistance for nature conservation to determine in consultation with the Commonwealth where the priority needs lie in the particular circumstances of their own State responsibilities. The decision of the Government to include an appropriation for Tasmania this year is, of course, in fulfilment of our announced policy to assist the Tasmanian Government in establishing a national Park of world significance in south-west Tasmania.
I take this opportunity to refer more broadly to the role of the Commonwealth Government in respect to its policies and practice for the conservation of our national heritage. I know there has been a lot of criticism made of the Government recently and a good deal of concern expressed within the community about our priorities. I would like to refute the assertions that are made from time to time that this Government is giving very low priority to matters that affect the environment and the quality of life. The record shows otherwise. Since coming to office the Government has made appointments to the Australian Heritage Commission, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The Government has provided appropriations for these statutory bodies to enable them to begin urgent and priority tasks. Appropriations are made for conservation programs involving the National Estate, nature conservation and grants to the voluntary conservation bodies such as the national trusts and the environment centres. The appropriations are not as large as we would have liked, but the Government has made it perfectly clear that its overriding objective this year must be a return to economic stability, and that part of the strategy must be restraint in Government spending. Equally, the Government has made it clear that it accepts a role and responsibility for the conservation of our National Estate, whether it be of the natural environment or of the built environment. The introduction of this Bill today and the inclusion of funds in the Appropriation Bill is evidence of our determination to work with the States in trying to conserve out national heritage, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 August, on motion by Mr Newman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that:
the total amount appropriated under the Bill is insufficient;
the distribution as between the various States does not recognise the resource capabilities in the various States, and
it does not pay due regard to the nature and extent of the welfare housing needs as between the various States’.
The Australian Labor Party does not intend to delay the flow of the much needed funds being appropriated by this Bill. They are funds that are needed to help some of the less well off in the community to obtain access to minimum housing requirements. But the Australian Labor Party does intend to demonstrate that the Government’s proposals for allocating welfare housing funds are inadequate. We will demonstrate that these proposals ignore the nature of the real problems facing the less privileged in their desire to achieve the fundamental right to proper living quarters. It also ignores the economic problems confronting the housing industry.
The amount appropriated by this Bill is totally inadequate. It is exactly the same amount as has passed to the States for the provision of welfare housing in each of the last 2 years. This allocation makes no allowances for the increased cost of housing over the same period. In the last 2 years the cost of housing has risen by around 35 per cent. The cost of a land and house package has increased in the same period by a slightly higher rate- about 38 per cent. This means that to produce today the same number of houses for low income tenants as was produced in 1974-75 we would need to be appropriating about $500m this year. The current level of expenditure is intolerable to anyone who is concerned with the basic rights of the people within this income group.
The Labor Party recognises that access to proper housing is the right of all people. We regarded housing as a proper concern of a national Government and we did not wash our hands of this responsibility to the people. We gave housing its rightful place in public sector expenditure. In the first year of the Labor Government we allocated $2 18m to welfare housing. I might also say that we provided a much improved Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That was so just on the basis of interest alone. In the last year of the McMahon Government the long term bond rate was used and a special subsidy, a rebate system, was applied to the very poor. The long term bond rate is now something like 9.5 per cent or 10 per cent. The Labor Government made that money available at 4 per cent. This was an enormous subsidy in our new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement The Labor Government made $2 18m available in its first year whilst the McMahon Government made only $169m available in its last year. In the 1974-75 financial year we increased the amount to $385m. I would point out that $10m of that was made available in the last month of that financial year and that money was spent in the 1 975-76 income year when we also made available $364. 6m. It meant, when the figures are averaged that approximately $375m was made available.
While in 1975-76 we did hold the amount at the same level as that for 1 974-75 we did so because we thought there may be pressure on the private dwelling sector in the second half of 1975-76. It was thought that there would be an improvement in the private housing sector in the second half of that year, and although there were signs of an upward move, the sustained increase did not occur. We recognised that there was still a great deal of unused resources available, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland. I can state quite clearly that a Labor Government would have taken positive action to absorb those unused resources. We had agreed that if the overall situation had not improved in the second half of the financial year we would increase the allocation for welfare housing to those States where there were large resource surpluses. The former Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), would confirm that strategy and that proposal.
The provision of funds for welfare housing was one of the Labor Government’s major achievements in changing the resource allocation in our economy. We also realised that the building and construction industry plays a crucial role in the Australian economy. Traditionally this industry leads the cyclical movement in our economy. It employs directly and indirectly about 18 per cent of our work force. Nearly one in every five of the work force relies on this industry for their livelihood. The Labor Party realises that while an industry as large and as important as this one is depressed no genuine or sustained recovery can occur. There can be no doubt that if the Labor Party was in office today the funds being appropriated in this Bill would be much larger. This would have been done in a way which would not have added to inflation. Public expenditure does not add to inflation if the money is available and if it does not lead to competition for scarce resources. There can be no doubt that money is available. There is no doubt that unused resources are available. There is no doubt that there is a large unemployed force of workers available. It would be a matter of rearranging priorities. Greater public benefit would have resulted, in both human and economic terms, if the revenue forgone by the abolition of the coal export levy had been used to provide more homes and to boost the housing industry in the depressed States of New South Wales and Queensland.
There can be no doubt that the resources, both physical and material, to build more homes exist in both New South Wales and Queensland. By allocating more housing funds to both those States thousands of jobs would have been created. Thousands of people normally employed in the industry in those States would be back at work. This would have had a multiplier effect. The housing sector has a multiplier effect on the economies of the States. In New South Wales in particular it would lead to a boost in consumer confidence as the fear of future unemployment was slowly removed from the community. It also would mean that skilled tradesmen would return to the industry. Skilled tradesmen will be lost to the industry forever if unemployment in the industry continues at the current high rate. Does the Government not realise that there are definite benefits to be gained for the industry, the economy and the community by gaining stability in this industry? This stability can be achieved only by ensuring that we have an adequate, stable and secure resource base. In this context the physical resource question is the more important. I have no doubt that the material resource capabilities of the industry are adequate in the medium and long terms but I doubt whether we will have enough people with the special skills and knowledge required unless we create more jobs now.
This Government has not considered these aspects in drawing up its economic strategy. This Government is once again using inhuman and crude macro-economic demand management techniques. This is a narrow and short-sighted approach which ignores the underlying problems in our economy. Let us look quickly at the nature of the problems facing the industry as a whole and the housing sector in particular. In Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania the housing industry is now fully extended. There are shortages of labour and small delays in the delivery of materials. Yet the Australian Government deliberately aggravates the problem in Western Australia and Tasmania by increasing the amounts given to those States for welfare housing, thereby adding further to the strains on the dwelling sector in those States.
In New South Wales, one of the two key States in the nation’s economy, the situation is very different. Unemployment in the industry and future prospects are poor. Over 9 per cent of the work force in that State normally employed in the industry is now out of work yet this is ignored by this Government. There has been no increased allocation for welfare housing in that State which needs industry assistance, needs more employment opportunities and needs more welfare housing. In June this year 32 393 families were on the Housing Commission waiting list in New South Wales. The normal waiting period for a 3-bedroom dwelling is 45 months- nearly 4 years- while in Western Australia only 14 437 families are waiting and the waiting period averages 30 months for a 3-bedroom home. It can be as short as 18 months in some cases. Is this an example of concerned human economic management? I argue that it is not. I think if honourable members look at the allocation of moneys by this Government not only for housing but in the sewerage programs they will find that Western Australia has fared well as against New South Wales. One of the underlying reasons for that situation is that a State election is coming up in Western Australia. Therefore, people of the same political complexion have had to manipulate the figures to help their colleagues. We have to take this into consideration. While I am on the subject of waiting lists and the waiting period for the average size home, let me spell out the true situation as at the end of last financial year. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek permission to have a table showing the number on waiting lists for accommodation and the periods in relation to the State housing authorities, incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. As I have said, over 32 000 people are on the waiting list in New South Wales. In all, 103 000 people are waiting throughout Australia. I am not trying to say that the position in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania or in any other State is not acute. It is. Of course this situation was created basically because of the difficult period between 1950 and 1972 when this problem gradually built up. The position, as I will discuss later, will get even worse in the long term because of certain factors. This is particularly so in New South Wales and Victoria where the price of urban land has risen out of all proportion. The package cost of the land and dwelling is being priced out of the reach of most young people. It is even far beyond the reach of those who earn 95 per cent of average weekly earnings, as is permitted under this scheme. Under the present scheme the 103 000 people who have made application actually earn less than 85 per cent of average weekly earnings because to put one’s name down on the housing commission list one must have an income of less than 85 per cent. Under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement the money, in total, covers the advance section which allows money to be transferred through the builders account to terminating building societies. Those people who make application to the terminating building societies earn up to 95 per cent of average weekly earnings. If I have time later I shall explore the delicate position of those people who have incomes which are not only up to 95 per cent of average weekly earnings but also up to 1 35 per cent.
Under the Australian Labor Party Government the agreement proposed by my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), who will follow me in this debate, when he was the Minister for Housing and Construction, was a far sighted proposal- that is the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
He tried to alleviate the problems which faced the lower income groups. As I say, the position has now worsened to such an extent, particularly in urban Melbourne and Sydney, that the price of a house has been put out of the reach of those people who earn up to 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. The reason for this is the high repayments needed.
In Victoria the crisis facing the residential sector is a little better. The industry is working at near full capacity and there are hopes for further improvement during the rest of this financial year. There may be some better results. But there is a problem of major proportion on the horizon. This is the problem of a shortage of serviced residential land and related pressure on prices, particularly in Victoria. This Government, which has no policies for urban and regional development, is not prepared to face up to the problem. It has abandoned the only major Federal initiative ever undertaken to come to grips with this type of problem, particularly in relation to urban land. This problem faces all our major cities but it is particularly bad and worrying for the people and the industry in Sydney and Melbourne. This Government does not recognise the nature of the problem or, if it does, it believes that hard pressed State governments can solve the problem by themselves. The Fraser Government does not recognise the problem nor does it recognise the problems facing the people in the housing industry.
I refer again to New South Wales in particular but this is a situation which applies in varying degrees in all States. Let us look at the lower income groups to start with. Lower income groups are, more and more being denied access to housing, whether, it be their own home or rental accommodation. One of the causes is the shortage of rental accommodation. This shortage is very acute in Sydney. Let me make no bones about it. Without an upturn in the New South Wales economy there is no hope for an upturn in the nation’s economy. In Queensland additional welfare housing funds are justifiable on both human and economic grounds. Once again, the resources are available and they will be needed in the future. In today’s economic climate it is completely justifiable for this appropriation to be increased. The Opposition believes that there could be an increase in allocation of up to $ 100m this financial year. The resources that are needed exist in New South Wales. It alone could absorb another $75m. If that extra amount could be allocated it would mean that about 3000 extra homes could be built there this year. This would not put excess pressure on the economy of that
State. In fact, it would give the required drive necessary to stimulate the economy of that State. As I have said, that State would get the multiplier effect which would flow into other industries such as the white goods industry, the furnishing industry and the textile industry. This extra money would be utilised in other States. Money could be made available to Queensland. Other money could be allocated to a minor degree to other States. Basically, the major thrust should be in New South Wales.
Further assistance could be given to Queensland to try to stimulate 2 sectors of the economy. The housing sector alone is an acute area. The agreement deals with a very human problem. To some degree there are 2 areas which it does not assist. It does not assist the very poor. In other words, to some extent those people living in housing commission homes are what we might call a sector of the poor which is respectable. There is another sector with social problems which this Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement does not assist. The former Government, under the Australian Housing Corporation, was trying to move into that sector and to create co-operatives so that houses could be acquired in certain areas. New areas of housing policy will have to be examined. There may be some areas where people will have to be given direct subsidy assistance. These are the people in lower income brackets who really need assistance. At this stage they cannot get housing under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
I mentioned the other difficult area earlier. It is the area where people earn between 95 per cent and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. In Australia 48 per cent of the people earn up to 95 per cent of average weekly earnings, and 40 per cent of the people earn incomes between 95 per cent and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. So I am now talking about the area which covers 85 per cent of the Australian people. During this debate the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) interjected about the problems of those people on 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. The question was asked: Why can they not meet the situation? Basically, 1 believe the real problem occurs because of spiralling land prices. That is possibly why there is a waiting list for welfare housing in New South Wales of 32 000 people whereas in Victoria the figure is only 21 000.
In metropolitan Sydney urban land is so dear that the average price for a block of land and a new dwelling, even in the western suburbs of Sydney, is something much higher than the national average of $33,000. To repay a loan on a new dwelling and land costing $33,000 is very difficult. Average weekly earnings in Australia at present are around $180 a week. A person receiving $180 a week could not repay a loan of even $20,000 because on a loan of $20,000, at an interest rate of 10 per cent per annum over a period of 20 years, the repayments would amount to $193 a month. That figure would be far in excess of 25 per cent of the income of a person on average weekly earnings. Therefore we have to find some way in which we can get that group of people back with their feet on the ladder.
I know that there is no easy way out of this difficulty. When we were in government we tried to grapple with this problem. One of the proposals we put forward to overcome this problem was what is called a deferred mortgage repayment scheme. In other words, in the earlier years of the repayment period one pays less in repayments, and then more on the longer term. Within the Department of Urban and Regional Development, which I administered, there was a great deal of study of this scheme to determine an appropriate formula. The scheme has been used by housing societies in Britain for many years. Some Australian firms are now using it. However, I am aware that the scheme has certain limitations. If interest rates remain high- as I think they will for years ahead- we may have to give some consideration to a subsidy scheme if we want to maintain the proportion of home ownership. We may have to subsidise interest rates by 2 per cent for a loan on a first home for people earning up to 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. This subsidy could be paid for the first 5 years. This would allow people to get their feet on the ladder. After 5 years of course they could begin to pay normal loan rates.
I realise that before introducing such a scheme it would have to be studied carefully with consideration being given to the resources available to the Government. I am not saying that it will be a magic wand solution. I am saying that it would have to be studied in the broad context of the economy. Because of the cost of housing and land we are moving in the direction of having to consider such proposals.
In present conditions a person repaying a loan of $20,000 at 10 per cent interest pays $193 a month. If the interest rate were reduced to 8 per cent the monthly repayment would be only $ 1 6 7, which would mean a monthly reduction of $26. In the case of a $25,000 loan-which would be nearer to the mark for an average home in the western suburbs of Sydney which now costs more than $33,000- the present repayment at 10 per cent interest is $241 monthly. If a 2 per cent subsidy were paid it would reduce the repayment to $209, or a saving of $32 a month. In the case of a loan of $30,000- this is not an unreasonable loan for a house today- at 10 per cent interest the repayment is $289 monthly. But if a 2 per cent subsidy were given the figures would be reduced to $250 a month, and therefore mean a saving of $39 a month.
I am aware that this type of proposal is very costly, but we have to look basically at the housing industry and consider whether in metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne in particular people- I am talking about the great majority of people- will in fact be able to buy their own blocks of land and build their own homes. We are getting to a stage now where they are being priced out of the housing area and in the 2 major metropolises of this nation young people cannot afford to buy their own homes. I am not for one moment saying that there is an easy solution. Under the present Agreement established under the Labor Government money is made available at a subsidised rate of 4 per cent. With the longterm bond rate at about 10 per cent that means we are providing about a 6 per cent subsidy on these funds, and if such a provision can be made we can surely look at other arrangements. If we really need the stimulus necessary to keep the building industry going we may have to examine such a proposal as I put forward.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I do not know who wrote the speech that we have just heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) but one thing which was quite clear to the House is that -
– It was not very good.
– As my colleague said, it was not very good. That goes without saying. But what is more important is that whoever wrote that speech did know what he was talking about. The person who wrote it gave it to a good man to deliver because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not know what the problem is all about when it comes to housing, and particularly public housing. Clearly the Opposition still has its priorities wrong in respect of this matter, as of course it has in so many other matters that are presently before the Parliament. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the
Bill claiming that the amount of money provided is quite inadequate for the purpose.
– It is not meaningless, although the honourable member for Swan regards it as a meaningless amendment. It is more than that because it really reveals once again in an indelible manner the Opposition’s view of the country’s position at present. It also reveals something about its priorities when it comes to restoring some sort of economic sense to the country. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposes that we should spend vast quantities of additional funds. There is nothing unique about an Opposition member saying that. Every Opposition member in this Parliament is saying it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is saying it. He said it in what was alleged to be his major economic statement the other day in Melbourne when he said that Australia should spend its way out of the economic problems that are confronting us. He said at that time that public expenditure should be increased by $500m at once. Honourable members might reflect on the fact that when the Australian Labor Party was in government during the course of 1974 it took the same view about the predicament that existed in the country and increased public expenditure by 46 per cent in that one year. We might look back for a moment and see what happened. The Labor Government increased expenditure by 46 per cent, but the effect of this was that the rate of unemployment went up by 300 per cent. Today the Labor Party still has not learned the lesson. Members of the Labor Party do not understand what might or will bring about recovery. They are completely sold on the view that the way to deal with immediate problems is to spend more money. I must say though, in passing, that I am not entirely sure that that view is held by some of the more responsible elements of the Australian Labor Party.
– Are there any?
-Well, that is very questionable. My colleague asks whether there are in fact any responsible persons within that Party. I understand that the Federal President of the Party takes an entirely different view.
– He is man with two heads.
– When are you going to talk about housing?
– Despite the interjection by the honourable member for Hughes, we are talking about money- the commitment of public money. When the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party put on one of his hats the other day to deal with economic matters he effectively reprimanded the Leader of the Opposition for his puerile approach to the problems that are confronting us.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about the leasehold and freehold sectors of housing. I thought for a moment that the leopard had changed its spots. I thought for a moment that the Deputy Leader was going to say that more attention should be given to the provision of moneys so that people could buy their homes. Of course, it would have been a major departure for the Australian Labor Party to adopt a policy view that Australians should own their homes because we know quite clearly what its position is- namely that we should be a nation of leaseholders.
– Like the Soviet.
-Like the Soviet, as my colleague says. That is exactly what the Labor Party is like because it does not believe in individual ownership. It believes in corporate ownership by the state, and this belief extends right into the field of housing. In fact, housing is its first priority for national ownership.
-I do not think that honourable members who are interjecting are helping the honourable member for La Trobe make his speech.
– The fact is that the Australian Labor Party has taken the view- it has held this view for a very long time; for far longer than I have been around this place and in fact around at all- that home ownership should be a national responsibility, that houses should be provided by the Federal Government and that individual people should lease their houses back.
I think it is important at a time like this that we should reflect on the patterns of home ownership during the course of 23 years of Liberal-National Country Party government. More than 72 per cent of Australians either owned or were buying their homes. That was a position of which we were very proud. It was a priority that we regarded as thoroughly appropriate. It was an end to which we were very committed. In fact we would have liked to have seen a greater percentage of home ownership. But then in 1972 there was a change of government and the Australian Labor Party came in, threw the rule book out of the window and assaulted the private sector of housing as it had never been assaulted before. The Labor Government generated the highest inflation levels that we ever had and this meant that land and building costs escalated at most dramatic rates of increase. Land and building costs increased at rates which had never been thought of and which had been thought to be impossible in a country like Australia. This had the immediate effect of putting home ownership beyond the reach of thousands of Australians, particularly young Australians. That brought about a most dramatic change of events, as one could imagine. I believe that the percentage of Australians who owned or who were buying their homes at the end of 1975 when the Labor Party lost government had fallen to little more than 62 per cent. This was a most dramatic change of events. What the Opposition overlooks, of course, is the fact that one of the very first priorities that Australians have is to own their home.
– That is fundamental.
– It is a fundamental attitude that they have; this Government believes that it is a fundamental right that they have. That is why we have taken steps to see that the inflation rate is brought down, so that the escalation in land and building costs tapers off instead of going right through the roof, if I might express it m that way.
– Pie in the sky.
-I know that the honourable member for Melbourne does not like any move or policy that might bring down the inflation rate. He sat in this House for 3 years when his Party was in government and during that time there was not one murmur from him about the way the inflation rate was rising. He sat there as passively as a little mouse on the back benches, and not once did he object. Today he comes in as someone who has changed his colours. Now he takes the view, for some extraordinary reason, that a high inflation rate is wrong. He has had his time and he has muffed it.
I think the thing that we might also reflect on when discussing housing legislation is what is happening in the industrial scene within the building industry.
– Norm Gallagher.
-The honourable member mentions an official of the Building Workers Industrial Union. What a notable contribution this person has made to the state of the building industry in the last few years! On my way to Canberra this week I passed a computer building in Doncaster which must have cost many millions of dollars to build. This building has been completed for quite some time. However, unfortunately, there are still 2 windows missing from the building, because of an industrial ban tradesmen will not fit the windows. The building has effectively been declared black. This means, of course, that the air conditioning in the building cannot work properly and as a result the sensitive equipment which makes up the computer cannot be installed. The investment of millions of dollars, the work opportunities of many people and the development of an area are being effectively destroyed by this form of industrial thuggery. This sort of action has been far too evident within the building industry.
Industrial bans imposed on a big project in Collins Street, Melbourne, are costing the contractors or owners, or both, literally millions of dollars. Work on this building is stop one minute and go the next. There have been instances where even the pouring of concrete has been impeded specifically to inhibit the completion of the building.
– What about the Newport power house?
-If the honourable member gets me going on that I would have to ask for an extension of time.
-I would advise the honourable member to return to the subject matter of the Bill rather than talk about a power house.
-I am happy to do that because this is a very important Bill and perhaps I was digressing just a little wide of the mark. I make the point that industrial relations within the building industry are very critical to the final cost of building. They are also very critical to the final cost of available land, and it is the policy of this Government to see that adequate urban land is available for private and public building purposes. In that regard, we do not take the view which the previous Government took that enormous quantities of public money should be spent to provide serviced land. We take the view that such provision can be made just as efficiently and quickly, and in many cases a good deal quicker and a good deal cheaper, as it can be made by using the public dollar. At a time when public expenditure has to be curtailed in the interests of bringing about some sort of economic recovery it is necessary to see that the public dollars are used as judiciously as possible. For that reason the Government has set the pattern for individual developers to take the necessary steps to see that an adequate quantity of building land is available.
I should like to make the comment that in terms of home building there is considerable scope for local initiative to be applied. Homes should be built to satisfactory standards, but in many instances consideration could be given to whether some of the building regulations are too restrictive. As you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I represent an area which covers a lot of the very attractive Dandenong Ranges. Where land has been subdivided for many years we have considerable problems in areas which are steep, for instance, where drainage is a problem, or where natural timber abounds and makes the area of great scenic interest. We have existing subdivisions where local authorities insist, for instance, on a certain setback from a road reservation or from an adjoining property line, and this can mean that only very restrictive development procedures can be carried out. I would suggest that local authorities give consideration to the location of houses in many of these areas to ensure that the very best of the scenic qualities are retained while giving land owners scope to build a home.
There are a number of aspects involved in this. One, of course, is the size of the building. I personally have the view that a lot of people are building homes on a scale which even the owners themselves find is not really necessary. There is a national tendency, I believe, for Australians to build homes which are in many instances more expensive than they eventually realise they require. In an area of great natural scenic quality, consideration should be given to the way houses are located on blocks, the minimum permitted size of the house, and in some instances even the minimum room size that is permitted. I believe there is a lot of scope for flexibility and for local initiative, and in the course of this debate I wish to call on local authorities to look at that problem. As long as a room has to be of a particular minimum size and not an inch below, as long as a ceiling has to be of a particular height and not an inch below, it can be very restrictive in specific areas.
The time has come when we must ask local authorities, which have the responsibility for those matters, to have a very good look at whether the uniform building regulations which might apply in a particular area are in fact a little too stringent. I would not want my remarks to be interpreted as being a call for jerry-built homes, for example. It is a question of building adequate homes to serve a particular purpose without requiring vast quantities of money to ensure that buildings comply with the most prohibitive of restrictions. In closing, I make that plea in an unemotive and non-political way because I think there is an enormous amount of scope for such steps to be taken nationally.
-The affluent and uncaring honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) has demonstrated his complete indifference about the needs of welfare housing in Australia. Moreover, his speech was notable not for what he knows about housing but for what he obviously does not know. I think he should be reminded of the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) moved an amendment, the purpose of which was to indicate that there was a deficiency in funds for welfare housing. The honourable member disparaged the Deputy Leader for putting forward a contention along those lines. I doubt if the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) would have done that because I know that on previous occasions the Minister has indicated that there is a great need for additional funds. When one takes into account the fact that something like 106 000 people around Australia comprise the waiting lists of the various State housing authorities and that many more would be added to that list if people thought they had a chance of getting a house in a reasonable time, one does not need much more evidence of the need for additional funds for welfare housing. If one takes into account the long waiting period to which people are subjected, one would support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
The second point in the Deputy Leader’s amendment was that the distribution as between the various States does not recognise the resource capabilities in the various States. The third point stated that the distribution does not pay due regard to the nature and extent of the welfare housing needs as between the various States. Perhaps the honourable gentleman might like to explain in the Committee stage of the debate why it is that the States of Queensland and Western Australia have had their allocations increased while on the other hand the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, where the housing problem is said to be of more serious dimensions, have not had their allocations increased. It seems to me, after consideration of those facts, that the proposition put by the Deputy Leader is completely reasonable. All we heard from the honourable member for La Trobe was the old cliche ridden type of speech, which I believe is quite unbecoming from someone who takes such a place of priority in the speaking list of the Liberal Party.
Let me put the honourable member in the picture on this matter, The Government is bound by the S-year Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement which the Labor Government negotiated and concluded with the States in 1973. Under that Agreement the States have been provided with greatly increased financial allocations on the most reasonable terms to finance housing for low income earners. The period of repayment is 53 years and the interest rate is 4 per cent in respect of advances to State housing authorities and 4’/2 per cent in respect of the home builders’ account, from which funds are allocated to the terminating building societies. Eventually funds go out to the home purchaser at 53/4 per cent from those terminating building societies. The Minister has pointed out that this Bill allocates $375m to the States, about which he said in his second reading speech:
This is $ 10.4m more than was made available in 197S-76 and is 70 per cent higher than the level of advances in 1973-74, the first year of operation of the Agreement.
Let me put this historical sequence of events in its authentic and revealing perspective for the benefit of the honourable member for La Trobe. Even before the new housing agreement was concluded in 1973, the Labor Government advanced $6.6m to enable the States to commence before 30 June 1974 additional homes for letting to low income earners. The 1973 agreement was the beginning of a new era in housing for the under-privileged. Under the provisions of the agreement, a record $2 18.65m was allocated to the States in 1973-74, a 26 per cent increase over the previous year’s allocation of $169.8m. Of course, what I am talking about in that context is the last allocation by the Liberal-National Country Party Coalition on the one hand and the allocation by the Labor Government in its first year of office on the other hand.
For 1 974-75 the allocation was $3 1 8m, almost double the amount available under the LiberalNational Country Party Government in 1 972-73. In 1975-76, the allocation was increased to $364.6m- an effective $375m, as Labor’s Treasurer explained in bis Budget speech. He said:
Bearing in mind the $ 10.4m advanced in June on the basis that it would be taken into account in this year’s allocation, we are thus maintaining advances in 1975-76 at the greatly increased 1974-75 level and well above the $2 18.6m allocated in 1973-74.
In essence, therefore, there is no increase this financial year in money terms. In real terms, given the Budget’s predicted level of inflation of 12.4 per cent, there is an effective reduction to that extent. The plain fact is that the State housing authorities have less purchasing power this financial year in the face of rising building costs, in the face of increased demand -
– Building costs have come down.
-I would like the honourable gentleman to verify the contention that he made. He may say that the rate of increase has moderated or something like that. But it is an absurd proposition to suggest that building costs have come down. I repeat what I said: The plain fact is that the State housing authorities have less purchasing power this financial year in the face of rising building costs, increased demand and a serious downturn in the home building industry. Except for the Labor initiative taken in 1973, which pegged the interest rate down to bedrock level of 4 per cent per annum over the 53-year repayment period, State housing commissions would by now be out of business. They are not my remarks. I have been at gatherings where directors of State housing authorities have said that the innovation of the Labor Government was the greatest bonanza for the public housing authorities. They are extremely grateful that they were assisted to survive in the difficult period that followed the flooding of the market with money by the Liberal-National Country Party Government in the period that preceded the election of the Labor Government.
The Liberal-National Country Party concept, which Labor’s agreement replaced, provided for an interest rate not of 4 per cent but of 1 per cent less than the bond rate. Of course, with the longterm bond rate now being in the vicinity of 10.2 per cent, that would mean that low income families renting or buying housing commission homes would pay approximately 9.2 per cent or maybe 5 per cent more interest. So all rents and sale prices would have soared to astronomical levels well in excess of the consumer’s paying capacity. Under this Bill, as I have mentioned, 3 States are allocated the same amounts as they received for the previous financial year, regardless of changes in need, the state of the industry in those States or the level of unemployment in the building trades. The 3 States have been deprived of additional funds this financial year. None is undeserving. But the State experiencing the greatest difficulty and obviously due for a substantial increase is New South Wales. Everybody acknowledges that. I believe that the Minister, even by his silence, would acknowledge that New South Wales is the crisis element of housing. He is not even silent. He is prepared to nod his head in acquiescence.
It is a fair proposition to put that New South Wales should have received an increased allocation. Of course, the fact is that the Minister has to bear responsibility for the way in which the funds have been dispersed. I know his obligation under the agreement because I negotiated it. In addition to that, in subsequent periods I talked to representatives of the States about their relative needs as the allocations were being drawn up. I was never in a position to give them everything they wanted. But finally I had to take the responsibility for what they received. Here we have a situation in which a State- New South Wales- is suffering the most parlous conditions, in which there is massive unemployment in the housing industry, in which there are enormous problems confronting home seekers and the like and in which there is a very great obligation on the part of the State housing authority, and no increase in funds is provided.
The Indicative Planning Council for the housing industry is one of the Labor Government’s many innovations. I am pleased to see that its prowess and work is universally acknowledged and that the Minister has spoken eulogistically of its work. The Council has a difficult task. I think it is important to place credence in it to the extent of making some reference to the findings that it has provided in its report tabled in the House in August last year for the period 1976-77 to 1 978-79 in respect of housing in Australia. It was pointed out that in 1976-77- the current yearthe desirable level of dwelling completions would be 148 700 homes. The Council goes on to point out that the feasible level of dwelling completions is 138 400 homes, a shortfall of 10 000 homes in this year alone. Over the 3-year period commencing from 1 976-77, the Indicative Planning Council states that whereas the desirable level of housing completions for Australia would be 465 000 homes, it can only recommend goals of 428 000 homes. This is the case for a number of reasons which I will not have time to enunciate but which honourable members can read for themselves in the report. That is to say, in Australia over those 3 years there is to be a shortfall of 37 000 houses.
The figures are equally revealing in respect to New South Wales. The desirable level of dwelling completions for the current financial year in New South Wales is 46 800 homes. The recommended goals are 39 000 and the forecast actually is for 32 000 homes. The differential between the forecast actual level and the desirable level is 14 800 homes. Over the 3-year period in New South Wales the difference between the desirable level of home construction- 147 000 homes- and the recommended goal- 126 000 homes- provides a shortfall of 2 1 000 homes. I mention those figures although I know that it is difficult to comprehend them in the way they are put or in any way they can be put simply to show that there is a problem of very serious proportions in New South Wales. Of course there are many parts of the report that make reference to the problem in that State. At page 5 of the report, under the heading ‘New South Wales’ it is stated:
New South Wales is in by far the worst position; the present capacity of the industry is well below what it was some years ago and well short of the desirable level; and expected construction activity is substantially below the recommended goals.
I mention that statement to support my case that additional funds could have been made available to that State this year. This is so even if the total allocation under the agreement had not been increased and the increase had been at the expense of some other State. There is obviously a case for New South Wales to receive more money on this occasion. I might add that there is nothing unusual about varying the allocation for various States. I was required to do this from time to time, having regard to the unused construction capacity and to the demand that was measured and upon which advice was provided by State authorities and by the Department of Housing and Construction as it was then called. The report goes on:
Major efforts are also needed to solve the problem of suitably developed land in the Sydney region. The high cost and poor location of much of the available land relative to employment opportunities and community amenities is likely to prevent the achievement of the desirable levels of construction for some time to come.
To ease the structural land problem in Sydney the Council urges that the Commonwealth Government explore a wide range of issues with State and local governments and industry.
The report goes on to advocate decentralisation, regional development and matters of that kind. I mention as an aside that it seems peculiar that in a situation like that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development is presiding over a situation where allocations for land commissions have been cut by $28.9m in the Budget that has been debated recently.
– Fifteen hundred building works apprentices have been sacked in New South Wales.
-Yes, I shall mention the matter that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has just raised in a moment or two. I am simply making the point that in the face of these recommendations by the Indicative Planning Council that special attention be given to the land problems in the Sydney region, we have cut that allocation for the land commissions from $54.4m to $25.5m-a reduction of $28.9m. The Minister obviously has something to answer for in respect of these matters.
I believe that a lot can be done to improve the housing agreement. The housing agreement does not represent my ultimate aspirations about housing. It is an agreement which represented the best deal I could get with the States. Nevertheless, it does provide for some extremely great benefits. One of them was that we set out to preserve a stock of rental housing. We took that attitude because it was realised that houses were being sold off at a massive rate in the areas close to the cities and people of low income were being forced out onto the perimeter of the cities where travelling costs were high and where travelling time was long. The important need- this was recognised by most of the States, especially New South Wales- was to retain a stock of housing commission rental homes so that people could have the opportunity of obtaining low rental housing while they saved a deposit and got a loan from a building society or some other similar authority. The contention has often been made that the restrictions on income levels which were referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) should be lifted. Of course the qualifying income level is low. To receive a housing commission loan one has to have an income under 85 per cent of average weekly earnings. Allowances are made for a person with two or more children. In my view they are very modest and inadequate allowances. The people applying for loans from a terminating building society are not eligible if their income is in excess of 95 per cent of average weekly earnings. Unless the Government makes more funds available, it is useless extending that particular limit because it will only extend the queue. There will be more people fighting over the limited resources that the Government is making available. There are plenty of takers now for housing commission homes being built around Australia. To my mind much more has to be done than is represented by the potential of the housing agreement. I think the potential of the Australian Housing Corporation is something that should be explored. I see the Minister shrug his shoulders in a state of nonchalance. As the undertaker of housing and regional development the Minister is about to wind up the Australian Housing Corporation.
-We of the National Country Party support the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill and are totally opposed to the amendment. We are very concerned that the Opposition should move an amendment which is obviously designed to gloss over the Opposition’s own inefficiencies and to whitewash its own stupidities and absurdities.
– Hear, hear!
-I am grateful to the honourable member for Petrie for indicating his great concern at the amendment moved by the Opposition. The allocation of an extra $ 10.4m as compared with funds made available in 1975-76 and this year is very timely indeed. Of course one can always advance the proposition that not enough money is being made available by the Federal Government for the essential demands of the Australian people. This Government is committed to expenditure restraint in its overall economic policy and I submit that this is indicative of the fact that the Government has its priorities right.
We are determined that the twin problems of inflation and unemployment will be controlled. Neither of these problems will be controlled if a government adopts as a deliberate instrument of its policy total disregard for economic restraint. That has been the policy adopted by members of the Opposition during their speeches in this debate. The increased allocation is timely because the great social revolution of the post-war years is being reversed. The proportion of Australians owning their own homes rose from 52 per cent in 1 947 to 72 per cent in 1 966. At the present time it is estimated that 64 per cent of the people own their own homes. Quite obviously successive Liberal-Country Party coalition governments were what might be termed warm-hearted battlers for traditional Australian housing aspirations, that is, home ownership. A home continues to be one of the best assets the average person can acquire. One regrets that the proportion of home ownership is declining. Real estate continues to be one of the most secure and rewarding ways in which one can invest savings.
Home ownership therefore is not only desirable but is a common sense necessity for the majority of our people. The asset of a home is a hedge against inflation and from an ascetic point of view the home buyer has greater freedom in choosing what he or she requires as a standard of accommodation, location, and in particular, environment. Additionally it has been proved that in the community sense the home owner tends to take better care of his home and becomes more interested in his surrounding community. It is interesting to note a comparison between the cost of repayment for a home and the costs involved in a hire purchase loan for the purchase of a car, payments for its insurance, registration, petrol, oil and servicing, plus an allowance for some repairs. The total outlay would be $72 a week for the ordinary standard car and $86 a week for a home of $27,000. If the car is traded in every 3 years, at the end of 25 years the car that one has then will be worth only a few thousand dollars whereas the home will have increased in real value. We find it difficult therefore to realise that there is this trend in Australian society of a declining proportion of home ownership.
This Bill does not seek to analyse the causes for the decline in home ownership; rather, it seeks to overcome in a meaningful and significant way the serious situation which has raised its head. Why are more people looking for housing commission homes? I understand from inquiries made that the number of people on the waiting list in Queensland for a housing commission home at the present time is 6389, 2242 of whom are inadequately housed. I understand that last year 2004 homes were completed under the terms of the homes savings welfare legislation. This year only 1300 homes will be completed. We are concerned about this. I have also been advised that in Queensland there is a demand for 1500 pensioner units. I suggest that this is an appropriate time to make representations to the Government for more money to be made available to the States under the State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act and for an extension of the 1974 Act to make more money available for the provision of pensioner units in good surroundings where these people can live in peace and dignity with people of a similar calling, with similar interests and of a similar age group. This should be encouraged.
Side by side with welfare housing, let us not forget about the welfare housing needs of our pensioners, the grand old people who have been the pathfinders and the trail blazers of yesteryear. I appreciate the wonderful agreement that has been given to that proposition by my fellow members of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) have indicated their great concern that these old people should be housed in dignity. People without capital have difficulty in finding a deposit to buy a house. I was interested in the remarks of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), a former Minister for Housing, when he deplored the fact that a government was making homes available for sale. I would have thought that in a sense of decency, sincerity and honesty of approach he would have castigated his own Government for not allowing those people who were in Housing Commission homes to purchase those homes- to pay a low deposit and to have the rest of the money made available to them at low interest rates- so that they could be close to their work, rather than criticising the principle of home ownership. Unfortunately, the principle involved in purchasing a home is that the higher the interest rate the less one can borrow. Expressed simply, to buy a house one usually borrows three or four times one’s annual income but one can afford to pay only about a quarter of one’s income in annual repayments. One quarter of the average person’s income works out at about TA per cent of the whole amount borrowed. Each year a person can therefore pay up to * 7 1/2* per cent of the amount borrowed. That has to include interest as well as some capital repayments. Therefore, the rate of interest needs to be below * 7 1/2* per cent.
I congratulate the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) for insisting that in the Agreement with the States the long established interest rates of 4 per cent and * 4 1/2* per cent be maintained, although when the original agreement was made interest rates at 4 per cent and * 4 1/2* per cent were approximately only 2 per cent below the current long term bond interest rate. At present the long term bond interest rate is 10.2 per cent but the Liberal and National Country Party Government has kept the interest rates under this agreement pegged at 4 per cent to 4Vi per cent. I think that is a positive initiative and a good move to show that the Government is concerned about housing people who, unfortunately, have to obtain housing by rental. It has been estimated that in a situation where a person purchases a home for $27,000 and is earning $8000 a year, a quarter of his income, namely $2000, will be allocated in paying back the interest and principal. At an interest rate of 5 per cent he can pay the interest plus *Vh per cent capital repayment on the basis of the * 7 1/2* per cent about which I spoke earlier. At an interest rate of 1 1 per cent the interest alone would be nearly $3000 per annum, or $60 a week. The person on an annual income of $8000 a year could not afford that so the bank would not lend to him. Consequently, families either are forced to have both the husband and wife working or they have to look for rental accommodation.
A simple multiplyer, allowing for costs and capital repayment, is for each 1 per cent of interest to take 4 per cent to 5 per cent of the borrower’s income. A housing loan at 4 per cent interest can typically be repaid from 20 per cent of income. A loan at 1 1 per cent interest takes 45 per cent of one’s income. In inflationary conditions a person will soon be all right if he can manage the higher repayments through the first few years. His income, no doubt, will rise with inflation, but the housing repayments will not, so the real demand on his income may fall quickly after the first few years. But those first few years are critical for they determine whether one can get a loan at all, and how big it can be. An updating of the Housing Commission principles is surely one way in which the great demand for housing can be somewhat alleviated. People on lower incomes at the specified limits can claim access to Housing Commission homes on a priority basis. When they are established in the home they can apply to the Commission to purchase that home at a valuation decided by the Commission and with some remission being made from the purchase price for rent already paid.
Quite obviously, any refinement of the welfare housing system under the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1976 is to be applauded. I believe that the Liberal-National Country Party Government will endeavour to up-date this legislation in consultation with the States. It believes that if a person on a low income has obtained a Housing Commission house and has converted that house into a real home by his own work, with cementing and gardening, he should be allowed to purchase that home in which he has resided on a rental basis. He has become part of the local community, his children go to a certain school, he is progressing in his own business enterprise or in the work in which he is employed and he is getting a higher income. We are firmly convinced that that is a desirable aim of any housing policy.
There are areas of great neglect. We know that the Government cannot correct them all overnight, but if we move religiously towards that aim surely much can be done in close cooperation with the States and the Commonwealth. As members of Parliament all of us are acquainted with many cases of hardship concerning families who are seeking government rental accommodation. Private enterprise is not willing to invest savings in providing rental accommodation. The high cost of land and of the development of sewerage and other essential services has resulted in an unattractive return on capital investment. If private enterprise is willing to invest we find that the rental charged to recoup the insurance, repairs and maintenance at a reasonable rate is beyond the resources of those most in need. There is a long waiting list of families from broken homes, people on transfer, and people living in sub-standard accommodation such as old dilapidated buildings, caravans and tents. There is a memorial however, to successful housing policies in past years. In Australia 80 per cent of retired householders now own their own homes. It would be good if we could maintain that situation. This is a memorial to the fact from 1947 to 1961 home loans were made available by the government of the day at rates of interest which varied between 3 per cent and 4V4 per cent. Consequently, nearly everyone who wanted to buy a home could do so. But that is not the situation now. In this Bill we have to analyse the present situation.
We must remember that the best reforms in housing will still be fairly effective if half the people can buy houses and private enterprise can be attracted to new rental investment. No other housing policy can do much good until the capital mistake is put right and we can, once again, borrow long. We must be cognisant of the fact that at the last census for which figures are available, that is 1971, well over 41 000 families were living more or less permanently in tents, huts caravans and house boats, and that at present, according to the latest statistics, some 1 10 000 families in Australia are waiting for welfare housing. Obviously, the reality of the situation has shattered their dreams of owning their own homes. It is to be regretted that at the present time this country simply cannot afford for everyone to own his own home. Rising labour and material costs have pushed up the price of an average brick veneer cottage by 18 per cent to around $1,860 a square over the past year, whilst average weekly earnings have risen by only 13 per cent to $171.20. Whilst the wage spiral has shown convincing signs of abating, building costs are still contributing to the high cost of building a home. It is to be regretted that, following these trends, the size of the average suburban home is now back to its 1950 level, which is a level from which it took a decade to build up to the 18- square average ruling only a year ago.
What responsibilities do the States have in the area of welfare housing? Recently the States requested the Commonwealth Government to make available to them $75m more for welfare housing. It is to be regretted that one of the State Premiers criticised the Federal Government for, as he described it, hitting the poorest and most underprivileged sections of the community, that is, the people who desperately need rental housing. It is easy to offer criticism, but, as the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development quite rightly stated in his second reading speech on this Bill, the States are able to make money available for welfare housing from their own funds.
– Hear, hear!
– I point out to the honourable member for Petrie that that State Premier was the Premier of South Australia. Was he really sincere in his criticism? He could quite easily have altered his own priorities. The States have the right to make money available for welfare housing out of their own funds. The Premier of South Australia could have made this money available rather than run round criticising the Federal Government. Where is his concern? The Premier of South Australia is attempting to make political capital out of a very desperate situationa situation of which we of the National Country Party of Australia and the Liberal Party of Australia are fully aware.
There seems to be a growing feeling within the State governments that the Commonwealth Government is to provide funds for all these differing types of services and that the States have no responsibilities whatsoever. I believe that it is time to point out to the States that they are equal partners with the Commonwealth in the fight against unemployment and inflation and that it is a responsibility of theirs if they believe that there are certain injustices, hardships and grave disabilities in their own States to allocate sufficient funds, out of their own budgets, to overcome the problem. That is the spirit of Commonwealth and State relations in a co-operative partnership.
One can, however, use this debate to illustrate the particular hardship of Queensland under the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Act allocations. In recent legislation concerning local government the cardinal point was that there were to be allocations on a per capita basis for local government from funds supplied by the Commonwealth Government. An analysis on a per capita basis of the funds made available for welfare housing under this Bill will indicate that Queensland obtained only $18 per head against the Australian average of $28 per head. Expressing that in another way, it means that Queensland, with 15 per cent of the population of Australia, gets only 10 per cent of the funds. New South Wales obtains 32.9 per cent of the total and an allocation of $25.58 per head. Victoria obtains 26.2 per cent of the total and an allocation of $26.05 per head. South Australia gets 15 per cent of the total and an allocation of $45.30 per head. I wonder what the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, was talking about when he was criticising the Federal Government. His State is getting 15 per cent of the total and an allocation of $45.30 per head against an Australian average of $28 per head; yet he has criticised, the Commonwealth Government. He is getting the lion ‘s share of the funds.
– More than Queensland.
-As the honourable member for Petrie has said, South Australia gets more than Queensland. I was disappointed to note that other speakers in this debate primed the parish pump and did not give due regard to the national situation.
– You would not do that.
– As the honourable member for Dawson has said, I would not do that. I have the interests of Australia at heart. But I want to take the opportunity of highlighting the particular situation of Queensland. It receives the lowest allocation per head. Its allocation is well below the Austraiian average. The Australian average is $28.06 per head. New South Wales and Victoria are only slightly below the average. Queensland is far below. I hope that the Minister is listening to what I am saying. This means that over 4 years Queensland will get $78m less of this cheap money- 4 per cent- than it would be entitled to if it received the Australian average. On a total basis Queensland will get $76m less than South Australia, which has a population only two-thirds the size of Queensland’s population. I am informed that this situation has arisen because the Whitlam Government misled Queensland in 1974 and because no corrective action has been taken by the present Government in relation to 1976-77. I understand that there are another 12 months of the scheme remaining. We all know that the Minister is a most fair man and that he is always interested in making sure that justice is done. Perhaps he will be able to correct this anomaly over the next 12 months. I believe that this position must be corrected and that justice must be done in relation to Queensland. The distribution of Commonwealth funds for welfare housing is a highly emotional area.
An analysis of the population birth rates on a yearly basis over the periods 1970-71 to 1974-75 will show that in each of those years the population rate growths in Queensland were in excess of the population rate growths in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Obviously we in Queensland are far more fertile than the people in those States. However, Western Australia has the greatest population growth. On this basis and in view of the injustices mentioned earlier it is absolutely essential that these matters be corrected in the year 1977-78 when those funds are being divided up.
-Order The honourable member’s time has expired.
– in reply- In closing the debate I would like to take up the issues that have been mentioned in the debate by the 2 speakers for the Opposition as they addressed themselves to the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition. It is always difficult in these circumstances to come to grips with what the Opposition says because it always- I hate to say it but it is trueends up in a farrago of misrepresentation and exaggeration. As I have said, it is very difficult to come to grips with that. Let me state first of all a principal condition of improving the housing lot of all Australians. It has been stated many times in this House previously. We believe that unless we can get inflation under control any hope of putting home ownership back within the grasp of most people is remote. Reduction of the inflation rate that now besets us is central to the Government’s economic strategy. It is the absolute key to an increase in business confidence and a reduction in the rate of unemployment and interest rates. As I have said, it is also the way in which to produce a robust housing industry again in Australia.
It was interesting to hear the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). I have never heard in all my life such a chronicle of devastating criticism of the years of Labor Government mismanagement. If ever we were to see what the Labor Government did to the chance of people owning a house we saw it today. He made it perfectly clear. It brought about high interest rates, soaring bond rates, high land costs and high sewerage costs- the whole gamut. Why? Because the Labor Government never learnt the principal lesson that it should have learnt and that is that an unrestricted growth in government expenditure leads to all of those things. I would begin to suggest- I hope I am wrong when I say this-that, in all the hypocrisy about home ownership and the crocodile tears that we have had shed today, having a high interest rate may have been a convenient way of producing more and more money for public housing so that more and more people would be more and more dependent upon a handout of a public house because that is all they could get into.
The figures that were tabled by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition go only part of the way. It is very illuminating to go the full way. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition told us that in June 1976 there were 103 000 people throughout Australia waiting for public housing, but he did not tell us what was the position in the previous 2 years. Let us go back and see what is the real situation. In June 1974 there were 90 000 people on the housing list. By June 1975 the number had gone up to 105 000 people. If ever there is evidence of what the inflation produced by the then Government did it is to be found in those figures. At least by June 1976 we had the waiting list down to 103 000 people and it is still coming down. The situation at present is not good enough, but I am sure that our economic policies will get it to a reasonable position.
A fundamental element of the Government’s anti-inflation strategy is, as I have said, a reduction in public expenditure. We have demonstrated this in our willingness to exercise restraint in the way in which we produced the last Budget. But, despite the need to constrain public expenditure and the severity of the economies that the Commonwealth Government has imposed upon itself, the amount appropriated in this Bill for expenditure by the States on welfare housing is, whatever semantics the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) might indulge in, slightly higher than the allocation made last year by the previous Government. In passing, in talking about the need to restrict government expenditure, the honourable member for Hughes must remember that in his Government’s time it also saw the need for some restraint on the rapid increases that had occurred in the allocation of funds for welfare housing. Let me make it perfectly clear that the amount appropriated in this Bill by historical standards is still very high. It is 70 per cent higher than in 1973-74. As I said in my second reading speech, we want to avoid a re-kindling of inflationary pressures. House and land prices are susceptible to rapid increases when resources are over-extended.
It was pointed out by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) that the ability of the States to finance welfare housing is not restricted by the amount of money appropriated in this Bill. We have made available to the States, through capital loans and by tax sharing arrangements, about 15 per cent extra for that purpose. I think the example of Tasmania is well worth quoting in this regard. It made $4.2m more available for public housing this year. Let us be clear that about one-third of that amount came from capital loans made available by the Commonwealth.
One pan of the amendment was to the effect that the Government is not paying ‘due regard to the nature and extent of the welfare housing needs as between the various States’. The pattern of distribution of advances among the States is not even, I readily admit, particularly if looked at on a per capita basis. The honourable member for Darling Downs made that very clear when talking about the Queensland case. However, the fault cannot be placed at the threshold of this Government. It is largely the result of requests by the States in 1974-75 when I understand all the requests were met by the previous Government. The previous Government must also take its share of the blame. In reducing the overall allocation in 1975-76 it dealt more harshly with Queensland than any other State in the full knowledge that Queensland ‘s share of the total appropriation was, on a per capita basis, well below the all State average. The Opposition cannot expect this Government to redress in one year all the inequities that arose during the previous 3 years, particularly in the present situation which requires financial restraint by governments. When the total advance cannot be increased substantially, from which States would the Opposition suggest that the Government make a reduction to correct the present imbalance?
Another part of the amendment stated that the distribution as between the various States does not recognise the resource capabilities in the various States’. There is no argument- at least we have common ground in this respect- that generally all the States in the southern part of the country are doing pretty well. In Queensland the situation is improving. In New South Wales we do have greater difficulties and that I admit but I am sure that the honourable member for Hughes, in particular, well knows the problem because he touched on it in his speech. The difficulty is not so much a shortage of finance but a structural problem. I have spoken about it before in this House. Although stocks of some home building sites are sufficient in aggregate to meet the demand much of the stock is in areas far distant from the city and in these areas there are limited job opportunities and a lack of amenities. This means that people face long journeys to get to their places of work. That is the problem. The honourable member for Hughes mentioned this problem of land and asked what we are going to do about it. We are very conscious of the land problems and I am hopeful that before Christmas we will be making some pronouncements about how we view this problem and what we are going to do to redress the balance.
A comment made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition needs answering. It is an example of the exaggeration and misrepresentation that is becoming fairly common in debates in this House. He made the wide, wild and sweeping assertion that there were thousands of people unemployed in New South Wales and then said that this was the fault of this Government. Let us get back to the facts of the matter. I want to quote from the forms of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. In December 1975 the number of persons registered for unemployment in New South Wales in the construction industry was 6690. In January 1976 it had risen to 7496. The figure now is 5762. There has been a reduction in the number of people unemployed. The honourable member conveniently did not bother to quote what the situation was in December when this Government took over.
I might also add that in New South Wales institutional loans for home building are increasing as a proportion of total lending for home ownership. In the past week or two permanent building societies have approved loans worth an additional $16m specifically for new housing. I want to continue by looking again at what is happening in New South Wales. Is there the dire disaster situation that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would once again have us believe? Well, the facts just do not add up. Here are the facts: Private non-residential building commencements rose in the June quarter by 28 per cent. This followed a 24 per cent increase in the March
Quarter. The June figure, valued at $302m, was le highest in current prices for 2 years. The largest increase in private commencements was 65 per cent in New South Wales and the figure for Queensland was 56 per cent. These are the 2 States mentioned today by Opposition members. I think there is a modest increase occurring in New South Wales and it will be fostered by the economic strategy that this Government is pursuing.
There are a couple of other miscellaneous points I want to make in order to correct some of the other misrepresentations in this debate. The accusation was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that Western Australia had been favoured in the allocation of sewerage funds. That is wrong. The preponderance of the funds made available this year for sewerage works went to New South Wales, Victoria and Western
Australia. That decision was taken for one reason- that these were the 3 States that most needed the money for sewerage. It was directed particularly at trying to alleviate any unemployment that could occur in the engineering areas that would be doing the sewerage works. Let there be no mistake about it; it was for that reason and that reason alone that the allocations were made to those 3 States.
Much has been made, again by the honourable member for Hughes and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, of rental accommodation. The honourable member for Darling Downs adequately dealt with the need to get private investment back into the rental accommodation area so I will not deal any further with that matter. But I would like to mention a convenient omission that the 2 honourable members did not talk about during the debate. Nobody mentioned that this Government has introduced a new housing voucher experiment. We are working on it and we hope it will be operating towards the end of this financial year. This is a major attempt to produce a new scheme which will help low income earners, will give them a chance to go out to the market and obtain reasonable shelter while at the same time their incomes will not be reduced by doing so. Enough has been said about it so I will not dwell on it here. We see this scheme as being a major attempt to bring in a new policy, a program directed at those low income earners who are in such dire straits at present.
In conclusion, I believe there is no substance in the attempted criticism of the Government implicit in the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Any defects in the present situation cannot be attributed to this Government. The Government has a great concern to improve the housing conditions of the Australian people which, incidentally, already are pretty high by world standards. To do this it is attacking the core of the situation- inflation and high interest rates. That situation was brought about by the maladministration of the last Government. This Government is determined to improve the situation without the wild and erratic fluctuations and disturbances which have characterised the home building industry and the activities of State housing authorities in recent years. We will have to maintain steady progress while keeping the industry on an even keel. We are not losing opportunities to provide whatever special assistance we can to people who are in difficulty. I remind all honourable members that a new and improved home savings grant scheme will be introduced next year. Funds have been identified to finance the design of an experiment in making housing allowance vouchers available to ease the burden of the cost of housing on low income earners. In the public welfare area, I have already agreed to proceed in consultation with the States towards developing a new arrangement for financing this activity in the States. My hope and expectation is that the new arrangements to apply after the termination of the present Housing Agreement will be satisfactory to all parties and instrumental in substantially improving the housing conditions of people who have to rely on governments to help them towards satisfactory accommodation.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 September, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1976 is to provide $20m to assist the States to meet cost increases on projects already approved under the terms of the Urban Public Transport Agreement. Under the Agreement acceptable cost increases can occur either through variations to an approved project agreed to by the Minister and relevant State Ministers or through increases in the cost of labour and materials. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in his second reading speech sought to give a false impression of the magnitude and source of the funds being made available for urban public transport this year by his Government. He stated that $44.6m would be made available from existing appropriations, that is the State Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974 and the Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974, plus the $20m this Bill provides, totalling in all $64.6m.
I draw the attention of the House to Budget Paper No. 4, where on page 38 it lists the special appropriations and estimated expenditure for 1976-77 as follows: State Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974, $25.3m; Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974, $33.8mthese two appropriations total $59.1m- and Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Act 1976, $5.5m. The latter is the Act which will follow the passage of this Bill. All told this makes a total of $64.6m. This means that only $5.5m is to be made available from the funds appropriated by this Bill. It may be that the Department of Transport will argue that it can determine from which Act the moneys will be paid to the States. But I am sure the Department of the Treasury will be vigilant to see that moneys are paid out in strict accordance with the Budget documents. Again we see a paltry exercise in figure juggling by the Government in an attempt to conceal the true situation. I am quite confident that when the Department of Transport, as the year progresses, goes to the Treasury to get a warrant for the expenditure of payments to the States, it will have to comply with the Budget documents because they detail and authorise the expenditure.
The total result of $64.6m does not make any difference. The difference is that the Department, the Minister or the Minister’s staff, through sloppiness in the actual approach to money matters or by deliberate intent have not presented an accurate record to the Parliament of how the expenditure is to be financed. The correct method is as is set out on page 38 of Budget Paper No. 4 so that the 2 existing Acts will be totally consumed and only $S.Sm of this appropriation will be used, leaving a carry-forward into the year 1977-78 of $ 14.5m. In his speech the Minister claimed that the $64.6m made available this year was an increase of 90 per cent over the $33.8m actually paid to the States in 1975-76. What he did not state was that last year’s Hayden Budget provided $40.3m for urban public transport plus an escalation grant of $2.5m, making a total of $42.8m. In February of this year the Minister cancelled the $2.5m escalation grant and reduced the urban public transport appropriation by $2m. This was a total reduction of $4.5m. In addition, there was an underspending of $4.4m from the year 1975-76, so of the original allocation of $42. 8m, only $33.9m was expended. This is a difference of $8.9m. As I pointed out earlier, the Budget documents show the correct source of the $64.6m for urban public transport as $59. lm being the residue of the Acts legislated by the Whitlam Labor Government and $5. 5m from this
Government and this Bill. Against that $5.5m must be set off the $8.9m originally provided by the Whitlam Government but not utilised by this Government in the year 1975-76. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an extract from Budget Paper No. 4,
table 54, setting out grants under urban public transport.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. 7717 *document read as follows-
-I thank the house. Despite the Minister’s claims that the conservative parties were the first to recognise the needs of urban public transport, the fact is that they were forced by the Whitlam Government’s successful urban policies to accept their share of the financial responsibility for the provision of adequate public transport systems. The Minister claimed responsibility for initiating Federal Government interest in urban transport as far back as 1971. Both the 1969 and 1972 Liberal Party election speeches recognised the need to improve our urban transport systems but nowhere was there any mention of what the Gorton and McMahon Governments intended to do about the problem. In 1971 when the Minister was then Minister for Shipping and Transport he revealed why urban transport had been included in the LiberalCountry Parties ‘ policy statements. He stated:
I have no wish to comment on Labor’s policy other than to say that many of the things put forward are presently being implemented by the Government.
The truth of the matter is that the coalition government of the time realised that the Australian Labor Party had developed a needed policy and it decided to try to adopt that policy. The Minister referred to a report on urban transport which he commissioned from the Bureau of Transport Economics in 1972 to demonstrate his interest in urban affairs. But what he does not explain is that it was only after he had been subjected to a great deal of pressure from Premiers that he agreed to the study. However, it was only after the Australian Labor Government came to office that action was taken on the report. In the 1972 Australian Labor Party policy speech Mr Whitlam stated that an Austraiian Labor Party government, in recognition of the long overdue assistance to urban transport services, would: -
This policy was part of a wider task of improving the quality of life of Australian cities and urban areas. On taking office the Australian Labor Government initiated extensive discussions at both ministerial and official levels between the Australian and State Governments. On 1 1 July 1974 the then Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), introduced the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill to ratify an agreement reached between the Australian and State Governments. That Bill represented a milestone in public transport in Australia. For the first time a Federal government actively pursued policies to improve the efficiency and quality of urban transport services. One of the important features of the agreement was that it took account of the interests and rights of all the parties involved, contrary to what the Minister now would have us believe. Another significant aspect of the legislation is that it provides the Australian Government with the opportunity to participate in State government planning bodies for urban transport. This was in recognition of the need to coordinate policies, exchange ideas and avoid duplication of policies and programs. The Australian Labor Government’s approach was indeed one of co-operative federalism. The Australian Labor Government’s allocation of funds to urban transport was the first large-scale investment of funds in urban transport since electrification of the urban rail services in Sydney in the 1920s.
In 1960-61 an amount representing 26.3 per cent of all consolidated revenue funds for all the States was spent on public transport. In 1970-71 the figure was down to 17.9 per cent. In 1970-71 capital expenditure on urban public transport was to the order of $30m, of which one-third was for the Sydney eastern suburbs railway and the Melbourne underground. This decline in expenditure resulted in a deterioration of the transport systems and an inability to provide acceptable standards. Following the lack of finance available to urban transport services the passenger journeys declined from 1122 million to 948 million between 1961 and 1971. That is a fall of 16 per cent- while for the same period Australia’s urban population increased from 5.7 million to 7.5 million.
In March 1973 the State governments submitted a program of expenditure for a 5-year period to 1977-78. The Minister saw fit to criticise the purchase of rolling stock in the first year of the program’s operation. However, half of the rail carriages of Melbourne and Sydney were purchased in 1929 while about half of Melbourne’s trams were purchased in 1934. In recognition of the needs of the States- or as the Minister would say, their greatest priority- the Australian Government allocated $ 17.26m in 1973-74 for rolling stock to meet what was then an urgent problem. In 1973-74 the agreement enabled Victoria to purchase 30 passenger rail carriages and buses and New South Wales to purchase 92 passenger rail carriages. But the purchase of rolling stock was not confined to one year. In 1974-75 Queensland was able to buy 30 buses; Victoria was able to buy 37 trams and 50 new buses; South Australia was able to buy rolling stock for the Christie Downs railway, and 31 buses; Western Australia was able to buy 65 buses, and Tasmania was able to buy 66 buses, while New South Wales was able to purchase 14 electric rail cars.
Other major projects initiated under Labor’s great transport reforms were the electrification of railway lines in Queensland and New South Wales, the purchase of hydrofoils and ferries in Sydney and the erection of bus shelters in Adelaide, Sydney and Perth. On 30 July 1974 the present Minister for Transport, then in Opposition, told us:
The common use of the motor car has permitted the luxury of living in one suburb and working in another that is not connected by public transport.
On 9 September this year he said: . . one significant current deficiency is the lack of adequate inter-suburban transport links. The great majority of the Australian urban work force has no direct public transport link with their work location.
He went on to say that his Government is:
What has happened is that the Minister and his Government have realised that the Australian people no longer want the bland rhetoric of the McMahon and Gorton governments; they want action to relieve their chronic transport problems. Those chronic transport problems are problems that were developed and superintended by successive Liberal-National Country Party governments over a period of 23 years in which the present Minister was the responsible Minister for a number of years. While the Minister claims an increase in assistance under this Bill for urban transport demonstrates his Government’s concern for the urban environment, the truth of the matter is- I want to make this quite clear to the Parliament- that he is obliged under the public transport Acts of 1974, the 2 Acts I mentioned earlier, to respond to increases in costs of projects approved under the Acts with an increased appropriation. As the responsible Federal Minister he has a continuing obligation to the State governments under these 2 Acts- it may not be spelled out in the Act but there is an obligation there on the part of the Federal Government- to pick up the tab and to assist the States with cost increases.
In reality the urban transport initiatives of the Whitlam Government appear to have become another victim of the Fraser razor, as it has been put to me. But they have not done as badly as have other items. The Fraser Government has cut back in real terms the amount of money allocated to local councils for expenditure and consequently on the amount of finance available for councils to spend on local road improvements. In addition, urban and regional development, which assists in channelling money through to the States for some transport programs, in the Lynch Mini-Budget of this year suffered the biggest cut of some $400m. The August Budget provided for a cut in Government expenditure on urban and regional affairs of some $198m and the abolition of funds for area improvement programs for 13 local government regions. The Government’s decision not to provide funds for any new projects under the Act will prolong the crisis of Australian cities.
The Australian community is mindful of the importance of urban public transport programs. In a recently published opinion poll 52 per cent of those interviewed said that more should be spent on improving public transport. The poll was conducted on a national basis and revealed that 29 per cent of Australians are dissatisfied with train services, while 50 per cent of regular train travellers were dissatisfied with the services. The poll showed that 31 per cent said that they were dissatisfied with bus services and 42 per cent of regular bus travellers said they were dissatisfied with the services provided. The poll is especially condemnatory of the Australian public transport system when it reveals that 67 per cent of those interviewed said that they usually travelled by private car and only 1 5 per cent said that they normally travelled by bus, 8 per cent by train and 5 per cent by tram and ferry.
The squalor of public transport reflects years of neglect of transport investment, decisions made by the Liberal-Country Party Government of the period 1949 to 1972 based simply on the pressure of car manufacturers and the road lobby; that is, more money on roads and less money on urban public transport. The Australian Labor Party recognises the growing number of social and environmental considerations which simply are not quantifiable in money terms. Congestion in Austraiian cities has reached intolerable proportions. We must improve our public transport systems so that there is an attractive alternative to private car use as we will never be able to construct enough highways to avoid congestion and accommodate the continuing growth in the numbers of cars. The congestion of our metropolitan roads has led to a large increase in urban road accidents and a massive redistribution of land use facilities toward the transport industry.
The Liberal-National Country Party Government cannot simply sit back and say that it is interested in urban public transport because it has provided a marginal increase in funds on 1975-76 figures. In fact this Bill would not be before the House if there had not been a Whitlam Labor Government to initiate these programs in 1974. New initiatives need to be taken to meet this urgent situation. We cannot meet our future needs simply by allocating our resources to just one transport mode. We must move in the direction of a balanced system of transport. Only when the private car is complemented by adequate public transport services can we expect to meet these needs. Let me illustrate this point: To relieve the congestion and the crowding of our central business districts we must not only provide incentives for people to leave their cars outside these areas, but we must also seek to accommodate their travelling needs in these areas.
Integration of different modes of transport would appear to be the significant development in these areas. Integration of road and rail services would allow commuters to move within the central business district and to their homes. However, individuals who are normally content with buses within the central business district may also at times require a faster service on specific occasions. Provision should therefore be made for better co-ordination of taxi services within Australian cities. In addition, investigations should be undertaken into co-ordinating the urban public transport system with car hire services. I think it is quite clear that if a greater utilisation could be made of taxi services within the central business district of our major cities and a lesser use of private vehicles there would be a more efficient result in terms of movement of people and in the reduction of pollution. At the same time there seems to be in Australia a growing move towards the utilisation of hire cars. If this is to follow and to develop, as I believe it is developing- I believe this is the major area of the new market in the activities of these companiesin its turn it will also provide a reduction in the number of privately owned motor vehicles within the urban area and inner urban areas of our major cities.
I do not think that people realise sufficiently the costs of running a motor vehicle. I have had the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library prepare for me some comparative figures on the cost of operating a motor vehicle. These figures take into account that 75 per cent of the cost of a car is financed on a personal loan at 9 per cent flat interest and a depreciation rate of 22.5 per cent per annum. The costs per 100 kilometres on that basis of a Toyota Corolla are $13.85; a Mazda Capella 1600, $15.25; a Holden Kingswood automatic, $18.60; and a Ford Fairlane, $26.24. We can make a comparison, using those figures, with the cost of making a trip by rail and I have taken one of our popular or well known commuter services. The return trip from Gosford to Central Station by road is 170 kilometres. The cost of operating a Toyota Corolla along that 170 kilometres, based on the table that I have mentioned, would be $23.55. The return cost of a train ticket is $3.40. The cost based on a weekly ticket is $1.42. 1 seek leave of the House to have the table incorporated in Hansard for the benefit of honourable members.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
-I thank the House. Additionally, the impending crisis in energy resources means that Australia may not be able to consume energy at the same rate as previously. The high level of energy consumption by the transport sector of the economy cannot continue unabated and consequently new methods of transport planning have to be developed and new methods of providing energy for the Austraiian transport industry have to be found. Railway electrification programs may need to be accelerated because of energy priorities. Increasing emphasis has to be placed on new modes of public transport and on improving the present public transport structure.
The inadequacy of public transport penalises the weaker members of the communityhousewives with young children, young children alone, teenagers, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. Transport policy should not cater for the privileged at the expense of the many categories of people who are now poorly served. The transport system is not only a basis of Australian prosperity; it is also a key element in urban and regional development policies and transport policy must be conscious of that important link. Not only will it provide speedy and efficient links with other major centres and capital cities but also an effective and sound public transport system should be incorporated in plans for the development of growth centres and satellite cities.
The Minister tabled an attachment with his second reading speech setting out the revisions to the previously approved programs. Significantly the paper does not contain any revisions for the State of Queensland. Some honourable members this morning would have heard the Treasurer of Queensland deprecating the Fraser Government for its failure to provide additional funds for urban public transport in Queensland. Mr Knox correctly pointed out that increased expenditure on roads and public transport would give a stimulus to the private sector. It would provide more jobs and increase consumer expenditure.
But later this morning we heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) reject out of hand the proposals that had been put by Mr Knox, the Queensland Treasurer. As Queensland is not listed in the table of revised programs, I want to make particular note of the position in Brisbane because I think that the situation of that city in terms of urban public transport is unique. Indeed, it is one of unique disadvantage for Brisbane taxpayers and ratepayers. During the 3 years ending with the current financial year $753,000 was provided by the Whitlam Labor Government to the Brisbane City Council and on-forwarded by the State Government for the purchase of 30 buses. Some of these buses have been delivered and some are in the process of delivery. At the same time, the Brisbane City Council, through its transport authority, ordered 75 buses.
– Clem Jones burnt the trams.
-It is a pity that he did not burn you- it would have been a service to mankind. The Brisbane City Council ordered 75 buses. As I understand the situation, at that time there was an expectation that there would be an approval in later years for the funding of those buses. The situation now is that, on the basis that those buses will cost $65,000 each- there will be an escalation factor in that- the total cost to be met by the Council will be $4.875m. Obviously the Council will not be able to meet that cost. The delivery of the buses will commence in May and June of” next year. It has been put to me quite strongly that the Council will probably be put in the position of having to sell the buses because it will not be able to pay for them.
The unique disadvantage that Brisbane faces is that Brisbane ratepayers are also national taxpayers, the Brisbane bus service is financed and operated by the people- by the ratepayers of Brisbane- and the losses that it incurs are financed by the ratepayers of Brisbane. However the taxes that are paid by Brisbane ratepayers go to the national Consolidated Revenue and the Brisbane City Council is getting nothing whatsoever towards the costs of providing a transport service. I do not know whether this position is the result of acrimony between the Fraser Government and the Queensland Government, and quite clearly there is a great deal of that developing. I cannot determine whether that is the reason. I cannot determine either whether the Queensland Government did in fact submit to the Department of Transport a request for a revised program of the projects that have already been approved. I understand it did. Again my information may not be correct and I cannot vouch for it. But whatever the cause, Queensland does not appear in that revised program. No help has been provided at all in the current Budget or in this Bill to the Brisbane City Council to enable it to proceed with the purchase of the 75 buses I have mentioned. If the Brisbane ratepayer as a taxpayer is to contribute to the urban public transport programs of other cities outside Queensland surely there is a case to be answered by the Queensland Government and the present Federal Government. Someone needs to get together to come to the assistance of the Brisbane City Council in this area of responsibility and to give recognition to the entitlements of Brisbane ratepayers.
Earlier this year I attended for one day only a seminar on the marketing of urban public transport, which was conducted in Melbourne and to which the present Minister for Transport kindly extended me an invitation. I would like to remind the House -
– I arranged that conference. It might be of interest to know that it was Jones who arranged that conference.
– I was just going to make that point. It is worth noting that that seminar arose out of discussions initiated at a meeting of the Austraiian Transport Advisory Council by the previous Minister for Transport, which culminated in the seminar earlier this year.
– Charles Jones, not Clem Jones.
-I am referring to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). I am pleased to see so much support for the efforts of the previous Minister coming from the Government side of the House. I am sure he must be encouraged by that support. It was pleasing to see at the seminar so many people from the urban public transport authorities throughout Australia as well as some from the private sectorprivate bus operators and people from the Australian Taxi Council, which I mentioned earlier. The results of that seminar are now becoming evident in some of the cities of Australia, where a much more aggressive role has been taken by public transport authorities in marketing and services. I do not believe that everybody will jump out of their private motor cars and hop into buses and trains and so solve the transport situation, but I do believe that if public transport provides a reliably, clean, reasonably priced service a lot of people can be attracted out of their private cars, at a great saving to themselves in many cases, and back into public transport. For that reason, the seminar initiated by the honourable member for Newcastle was very worthwhile, and I should like to commend the State public transport authorities which are now implementing some of the points put forward at that seminar. They are going out into the marketplace and selling public transport. But I would remind them that they have got to have a good product to sell: It does not matter how hard they try to sell it, it has to be a good product or a good service. The moneys provided in this legislation, which follow the moneys initially provided by the Whitlam Labor Government, will enable the product and the service to be improved. It will be of great benefit to the Australian urban community if the State public transport services, the Brisbane City Council and the private sector of transport services, take up the recommendations of the seminar and win people back to public transport.
– It is always a great pleasure to follow the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) because his arguments contain many flaws. His argument today was no exception. Surprisingly, he concealed the great neglect of the Labor Government in the area of public transport between 1972 and 1975, a neglect which to a very large degree led to the defeat of that Government in December of last year. The Bill now before the House appropriates some $20m to meet the cost increases of projects approved under the terms of the joint Commonwealth-State Urban Public Transport Agreement. This year’s Budget allocation for urban public transport was $44.6m, and with the further $20m now being provided by this legislation the total allocation is $64.6m. It must be noted that this is a 90 per cent increase over the $33.8m advanced by the Labor Government last year- a 90 per cent increase, which is very significant indeed.
The honourable member for Shortland was not accurate in one matter he mentioned which is specifically relevant to this legislation. He said that the assistance provided by the Commonwealth in the area of urban transport programs was initiated in 1974 by the Whitlam Government. That is quite untrue. In fact, the origins of the urban public transport improvement program go back to 1971. 1 remind the honourable member of that fact, and I remind him also of a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council held in July 1971. Following that meeting, a report was prepared by those attending which was presented to the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon). A firm commitment was then made for the Commonwealth to assist in improving urban public transport. So the origins go right back to 1971 and not to 1974, as the honourable member suggested.
– You did not provide any money.
-The honourable member should consider the facts and stop concealing them, as he seems to do every time he speaks in this House. Throughout the program between 1972 and 1975 the Labor Government attempted to force its views upon the States, and I think we must consider that point in some detail. The Labor Government failed to recognise the degree of competence exhibited by State instrumentalities and departments. The Labor Government imposed inflexible administrative requirements upon the States and the departments. For example, it had a policy where finance for rolling stock was limited on a year to year basis, and I believe that placed the States in an untenable position and disrupted the whole program. We should not be surprised that those things occurred because, of course, the Labor Government was a socialist government. It wanted to create a powerful central government here in Canberra. The taking over and control of public transport is a pre-requisite to the establishment of a socialist state, and one must concede that the Labor Government had some success in that area. As evidence of that we have to look only at the state of the South Australian and Tasmanian railways, which were taken over during this period by the Labor Government. As part of the socialist scheme, the Labor Government expanded its control in the field of transport.
– You still believe in Father Christmas.
-The honourable member for Melbourne should admit the facts. He should come clean and admit his Party’s intentions. That was why his Party was defeated in the last election.
What is the Commonwealth Government’s real role in the area of urban transport? I believe that all levels of government- local government, State government and the Commonwealth government- have a role to play. They must all work together in a co-operative way. However, there needs to be an overall plan, and I think that is lacking at the present time. Nothing was done in those 3 years about an overall plan, and something must and will be done in the current 3 years to meet the nation’s needs. I think that is where the Commonwealth Government can be of greatest assistance. We need to have a clearly defined national transport policy. So many of the reports, the plans, the strategy that have been written and developed over the years have been confined to one limited area of transport, whether it be urban, rural, interstate or international, whether it be road, rail, sea or air. We need an integrated and co-ordinated national transport plan. We have enormous transport problems in Australia. We must travel long distances between our cities, and when we reach our cities we find that they are too heavily congested. Of course, our cities contain over two-thirds of the total population. Similarly, we have a relatively small population within Australia of some 14 million people and therefore our commercial domestic markets are small. We need to engage heavily in overseas trade, and again we are removed from our great trading partners by many thousands of miles- all part of our transport problems.
I return to my point that the future of this country, including its economic future, will depend very heavily upon developing an efficient and effective national transport system, including as an integral part an urban transport system. Let me say that the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and this Government have an appreciation of the urgent need for improvements to the urban transport system, an appreciation which unfortunately was lacking during the Labor reign. As evidence of this appreciation we now have a 90 per cent increase in the Commonwealth Government’s allocation to the program for 1 976-77.
– You are trying to welsh on it.
– A 90 per cent increase- note that. The honourable member cannot dispute the facts. They are there, and the Opposition is supporting the Bill. The honourable member has said that we are concealing the facts. There is some duplicity on his part. He has said that there is some deception in this Bill, and yet he supports it wholeheartedly, does he not? Of course he does. I refer to the second reading speech of the Minister in which he said:
We are all aware of the benefits and costs which are attributable to urban travel by private motor vehicles. There is a growing belief that these costs tend to outweigh the benefits to the community at large. We are therefore anxious to assist the States to provide improved public transport services to relieve congestion and pollution on suburban streets.
I think that one of the key factors of urban transport is the tendency to rely so very heavily on the private motor vehicle. I must give the honourable member for Shortland some credit here because I think that he showed some appreciation of this problem in his speech.
– That is a change. That is very nice of you.
– I am giving the honourable member some credit for this. However, I thought that there was some misconception in what he actually said because he quoted some bare financial facts on the costs of operating motor vehicles. One aspect of car usage which is often neglected is the real cost of the car to the community at large. Dr Matalon, in his paper entitled The Psychological Factors of Choice presented at an International Symposium on Theory and Practice in Transport Economics, stated:
A true appreciation of the role of costs in the choice of mode of transport is complicated by the ignorance of most motorists - and some honourable members perhaps- of the cost of a trip and the ambiguity surrounding its definition. The car is compared with public transport by setting a definite and generally well known value against a vague, ill defined and little known value (for the car).
The direct cost to the user who owns a car appears to be simply petrol, wear and tear and the depreciation of the vehicle itself as the honourable member for Shortland thought the position to be. I submit that the real cost includes many other factors. I mention some of them because I think it is important to know these things. There is the question of pollution. The motor car generates sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydro-carbons from unburnt fuel, photochemical pollutants which damage the ozone layer, and noise pollution most of which we would all concede present dangers to the health of the city dweller in particular. In the United States of America, internal combustionpropelled vehicles, including diesel vehicles, produce 39 per cent by weight of the total emissions while in Australia- these facts are very interesting 63 per cent of emitted carbon monoxide is caused by the motor car and has been measured at approximately 3.7 million tons a year. So we are looking at a variation of figures between America and Australia of 39 per cent compared with 63 per cent.
Secondly, of course, we have the question of the road safety factor and the number of road accidents. I simply remind the House that for 12 months to 30 April 1976- these are the latest figures available to me- 3618 Australians were killed in road accidents. Of course, very sadly many more were seriously injured. In each year the number of victims appears to increase in almost direct proportion to the increase in the number of motor cars on the road. Again, here is an enormous cost in life and * manhours* which could be looked at in purely financial terms if we like. But if we do that, we are looking at a very small proportion of the story of the enormous cost involved. Furthermore, we have a class of people who could be called I think quite properly the public transport captives. In any city there are many people who are unable to use a private car. These include young people, elderly people, the poor, housewires and the sick. As I say, many of these people are captives of public transport. Due to the worsening state of public transport and the greater reliance on the private motor car, these people it can be said are living in some degree of transport poverty. They have their range of choice greatly reduced. This choice covers the place of work, education, entertainment and recreation and their ability to sustain contact with people from over a wide geographical area. The city, by placing its reliance so heavily on the private car, continues to disregard the needs of members of this socially disadvantaged group so isolating them more and more into a narrow neighbourhood group.
Furthermore, there is also the cost in time. The motorist, by using his car, is increasing road congestion and so delaying himself and others. The driver tends to value his wasted time and tends not to consider equally the time of other people. In the market place time is considered a scarce resource and, as such, commands a positive prize. A person values his time during working hours in terms of remuneration, while the firm values his time in terms of productivity. I believe that non-working time should be considered in the same way, to be determined in terms of its scarcity. Under this concept, the economic advantage of driving a private car is greatly reduced.
There is the question of road costs which is another area of costs often ignored when we are thinking of the cost of the private vehicle. One of the major costs of car usage is the cost to the community of the construction and maintenance of roads, especially freeways. The cost of freeways in this day and age is tremendous. I have some figures on the cost of freeways in 1973.
They could probably be doubled to bring them up to date, taking into account the rate of inflation at present. I look at 3 categories of figures on the cost of freeways in 1973. From 0 to 3 miles from the city centre the estimated cost is $4.5m a mile, from 3 to 5 miles from the city centre the cost is $2.Sm a mile, and from S to 10 miles from the city centre the cost is $2m a mile. Freeways tend to separate communities physically, turning a peaceful neighbourhood into a continual drone of traffic. Another cost to the community in building freeways is the social consequence of rehousing people to make way for the freeways.
I refer now to the energy considerations. My colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) has a special interest in this subject. The oil cuts imposed by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries have forced Japanese and Europeans back to public transport. The report of the Committee on Solar Energy Research in Australia by the Australian Academy of Science predicts that Australia has only 10 years of oil reserves left. Approximately three-tenths of Australia’s total energy budget goes to power various forms of transport. Petroleum provides at least 95 per cent of this fraction. The concept of transportation efficiency can be directly related to the amount of fuel used per unit of transportation. I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard a document which sets out the energy consumption for various forms of city transport, from which it can be seen that buses and urban trains have transportation efficiencies two or three times higher than that of the motor car.
-Is leave granted?
– The honourable member for Braddon did not extend to me the courtesy of showing me the document, but there is no objection.
-There being no objection, leave is granted. I suggest to the honourable member for Braddon that the usual custom is to show the document to a member on the opposite side.
– I apologise. I have usually done so. I was sure the honourable member would not object because the document contains some valuable information. I will certainly show it to him.
– Transport energy efficiency can be improved by using existing equipment more fully. Achieving load factor improvements requires only lifestyle changes such as consolidation of car trips. This is a very interesting and important aspect of the overall problem of urban transport. Too few people use the one motor car. Increasing the number of persons per car to five would have the effect of reducing the level of energy consumption to that of public transport services and would mean a greater use of public transport systems. Perhaps it is worth noting that an efficiently loaded car has the same specific energy consumption rate as a public transport system with efficient loading. We have too much inefficient loading. We even see this in the use of Commonwealth cars, with perhaps one member or senator using the car. This adds to the pro’blem.
– Basically it is the senators who are at fault.
-That is right. We tend to get in there together and to co-operate more than the senators do. Over the last 20 years or so the motor car has brought maximum benefits to millions of people. It has increased mobility. It has expanded social life. It has produced a convenient means of moving people and goods. At the same time it has brought severe discomforts such as congestion in the street, noise, fumes and an increasing number of casualties on our roads. The aim of a rational transport policy must be to solve this paradox. I certainly support the increased expenditure provided for in this Bill for the area of urban public transport. I trust that it will be effectively used- perhaps more effectively used than the money provided in recent years has been used. I hope it will be effectively used to improve transport facilities in our urban areas. I reiterate: We have to look very carefully at the question of an overall total plan for transport in Australia. One would hope that this could be created in the foreseeable future. We must also look very carefully at a more efficient use of the motorcar.
– In many ways I join with the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) in what he has just had to say. I hope that he continues to pursue some of the policies that he outlined here this afternoon. But I take the opportunity of drawing his attention to a couple of little factors. First and foremost, both the honourable member for Braddon and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who I regret to say is not in the chamber -
- Mr Nixon is in cabinet. He will be in the chamber soon.
-I cannot help that. It is his Bill which is in the Parliment at the present time. He did not pay the shadow Minister for Transport the usual courtesy of being present. The fact is that he is not in the chamber. If he comes in later that will indeed be an improvement; at least he will know what is being said in the Parliament.
The Minister for Transport and the honourable member for Braddon said that it was a criminal offence that I restricted orders on rolling stock to a year to year basis. If the honourable member for Braddon and the Minister had done their homework and researched the position- I know the Department of Transport would have advised the minister that the words in his speech were incorrect- they would have realised that the real reason for the year to year approval of rolling stock was clearly and simply that we were developing a standard urban passenger train. Eighteen million dollars had been approved by the former Labor Government to get on with the research and development of the prototype. When the prototype was approved we would then have been prepared to approve long term rolling stock programs. That was the concept behind the whole idea. Therefore we worked on the basis of year to year approvals until such time as we got the standard carriage under way.
– They would not know.
-As my colleague says, honourable members opposite would not know. But the Minister knew it because he would have been advised by the Department- I know the Department well enough for that But he was not prepared to spoil a good story by using facts. In other words, what is wrong with a little white lie or, rather an untruth?
The vehicle emission controls that are attached to motor cars today and to which the honourable member for Braddon rightly drew attention, were the result of a decision of the Whitlam Labor Government. I hope that the honourable member for Braddon will continue to display interest in road safety. The way we kill people unnecessarily on Australian roads does necessitate Australian Government involvement. It was the honourable member’s Government that disbanded the Road Safety and Standards Authority which we set up and which was recommended to this Parliament by an expert group. When the honourable member’s Government was in office it saw fit to ignore the report. We put it together. The Labor Government established the Authority and the honourable member’s Government disbanded it. I just hope that the honourable member for Braddon will be sincere, and fair dinkum and help put the Road Safety and Standards Authority back where it should be- in operation and doing a job in an endeavour to protect the lives of the people.
A lot has been said about the 1972 Bureau of Transport Economics report, Economic Evaluation of Capital Investment in Urban Public Transport. Let us get the picture clear. That study was forced down the neck of the Minister for Transport by the State Ministers for Transport. He was jammed into the position of having to agree to it at the Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting. They tried and tried on a number of occasions, and finally in 1971 he was embarrassed into a position of having to agree to it. I asked honourable members to read the summary of the report. It will show how reluctantly the bridegroom was dragged to the wedding. It was really a shotgun marriage. This report was prepared as a basis for the report of the Standing Committee of Advisers to the Australian Transport Advisory Council on urban public transport needs in this decade. It states:
The role of the Bureau of Transport Economics was constrained by the circumstances of the study to a survey on capital expenditure considered necessary by State authorities for the period 1973-74 to 1977-78, a social benefit cost evaluation of selected range of investment proposals and a supporting review of statistical and financial data.
What happened to the Victorian Government? It would not co-operate. It would not make any information available. In fact, the then Victorian Minister for Transport canvassed the other Liberal State Ministers of Transport in an endeavour to get them to drop the whole idea. He went to them and said: ‘We do not want to be part and parcel of this’. But they did not agree with him, and I am pleased to say that the study went on. Now the Federal Minister for Transport has claimed in his second reading speech that the urban public legislation that the Labor Government put through was his legislation. Let us get a few more facts on the legislation. As honourable members know, the report is dated June 1972. A Liberal-National Country Party Budget was introduced in August 1972. Not one cent was included in it to provide assistance for urban public transport. Honourable members opposite could have done something but did not do anything about it when they had an opportunity. Do not let them tell me that they did not have time. I was elected a Minister on 18 December 1972. Cabinet authorised me to go to the February 1973 meeting of ATAC in Hobart and make an offer to the State Ministers of Transport on what we were prepared to do to improve urban public transport. The difference between the Labor Government and the Liberal-National Country Party Government that preceded it was that the Liberal Government could have and did not, and the Labor Government could have and did.
Look at how Fraser has broken the promises he made in the election campaign last year and at what has happened in the short period since the election of 13 December last year. When the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon) was Prime Minister he made a promise on urban public transport in his election speech. Incidentally, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, put a more generous proposition on urban public transport and the present Minister for Transport wanted to put him in prison because he divulged at that time the contents of the document to which I have referred. I am pleased to say that certain responsible people involved in transport made sure that Gough Whitlam and I had a copy of it so that we knew what was going on in the field of transport. Honourable members opposite wanted to gaol Whitlam because he divulged the contents of the report, which was one of public interest. I ask honourable members to bear these few facts in mind.
The honourable member for Braddon is a Tasmanian member. As far as the report is concerned, Tasmania does not even exist. There is nothing in it for Tasmania. Is the honourable member proud of that as a Liberal member for Tasmania? This marvellous report did not even give the guys from Tasmania a mention. They were not even included in it. That was the Liberal Party’s attitude towards them. Were
Geelong, Newcastle or Wollongong, or the corridors between these 3 cities and the major capital cities, considered in this report? Of course they were not. The Labor Government made provision whereby Newcastle, Wollongong and Geelong were all eligible for and entitled to assistance. The same thing applied to Hobart. Assistance was given to Tasmania by the Labor Government. Those are the facts. Government supporters should not come forward with all this bunkum about the legislation being Nixon’s legislation. People in the Department of Transport call him Charlie Nixon. He has done nothing new since he was re-appointed Minister for Transport. There has been no new initiative for which a study had not already been commenced in some way before he was reelected as Minister for Transport. The Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme is an example of this. The Labor Government was the first government that ever gave Tasmania any assistance in the form of shipping subsidies. It set up the committee which produced a final report on this matter.
Let us get the facts clear on the legislation we have before us today. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) said that the appropriation this year represented an increase of 90 per cent over that provided last year. Why does he not tell the truth? Why play with figures? That is all he did. They were not even attractive figures. Last year the Labor Government allocated $40.3m plus $2.5m for cost escalation, making a total of $42.8m. What did the present Government do when it took office? It immediately set out to cancel the sum of $2.5m which had been provided for cost escalation. It reduced the allocation by $2m. The States then underspent the total allocation by $4.4m. That brought the figure back to $33. 9m. What has the Government done with the amount of $8.9m? Why do you not tell us the truth instead of fiddling around with figures? That is all you have done. Let us look at the Budget Papers. They will tell us the real story. The second last paragraph of page 78 of Budget Paper No. 7 reads:
No new projects have been approved for commencement either in 1975-76 or 1976-77.
None of this money was allocated by the present Government. It all came from previous allocations made by the Whitlam Labor Government in the 2 Bills that it had passed in 1974. In July 1974 there was an allocation of $71,910,000. In October 1974 there was an allocation of $66,110,000. That made a total of $138,020,000. That is the money we provided, and that is the money being allocated under this legislation. If Government supporters want any further proof of what I am saying they should turn to page 38 of Budget Paper No. 4 and look at the figures. They wm* see there an appropriation of $25,305,000 under the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974, an appropriation of $33,788,500 under the Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Act 1974, and an appropriation of $5,506,500 under the Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Act 1976. In reality, that is what this Government is allocating. The rest is money which the Whitlam Labor Government allocated in the 2 pieces of legislation which were passed in 1974. I say to Government supporters: ‘Please tell the truth. Do not hedge around. Do not fiddle around with figures’. That is all they are doing.
Let us consider the achievements of the Labor Government in its handling of the question of transport. It put through legislation concerning transport which the former Liberal-National Country Party Government could have passed in 1972, but did not do so. Co-operation was obtained from the States in relation to projects such as the development of the urban passenger train. Every State Minister, Labor and Liberal, with the exception of Ray Meagher in Victoria, supported the project. What has been the result? The carriage that was developed in all those studies is almost identical with the carriage in use in Victoria today.
A standard bus was developed also. The manufacturers of rolling stock and the manufacturers of buses told us conclusively that if we could develop a standard carriage and a standard bus it would save the governments of this country millions of dollars. Honourable members opposite were in government for 23 years and did nothing about it. To show what type of people they are when it comes to urban passenger transport, let me inform the House that they have abandoned the idea of developing a standard passenger carriage.
In Sydney the study on the ParramattaHoxton Park-Castle Hill Railway has been abandoned. All the honourable members opposite want to do is to let things run down. The honourable member for Braddon who spoke a few moments ago said not one word about what is to be done to provide additional buses for cities with populations of under 100 000. The Labor Government realised that it had to get on with the job. A study which was commissioned recommended that assistance be provided by the Australian Government for the purchase of buses to serve those small cities with fewer than 100 000 people.
Before 1 turn to the matters that are to be excluded I want to deal once again with the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport. I smiled to myself when I read the latter paragraphs of it where he said:.
I have always been conscious of the importance to Australia of overseas developments in urban transport In June this year I attended the European Conference of Ministers of Transport in Toulouse. This conference consists of 1 8 European ministers.
Time does not permit me to read all of it. The credit for Australia’s becoming a member of the ECMT does not go to the Liberal-National Country Party Government. It was the Labor Government which was responsible for that. Once again the present Government and the Minister have picked up another Labor Party initiative from where I left off.
Let me deal very quickly with the table incorporated in the second reading speech, which shows the items which are to be deleted. There has been a lot of talk from the Minister and from the honourable member for Braddon that the Labor Government stood over the States. Let me say to the Minister, to the honourable member for Braddon and to the other honourable member who may speak on this Bill later on, that the Labor Government required the States to submit programs. We asked them to submit programs for which they wanted financial assistance. We provided two-thirds of the cost of those programs. That was our involvement in them.
Any program that was submitted had to be evaluated by the Bureau of Transport Economics whose findings, as everyone knows, are accepted and respected by everyone concerned with transport whether they be in State government, Federal government, or private industry. What concerns me is the decision, for example, to delete the East Hills-Glenfield railway section in New South Wales and the Sutherland-Waterfall railway. In Victoria it is proposed to delete all the signal improvements at Clifton Hill and the Glen Waverley model line. I am concerned about the deletion of these major projects from those programs because of what is involved.
I draw to the attention of honourable members from Queensland the fact that the cross river bridge that is under construction in Brisbane today is being constructed because the Whitlam Labor Government supported it and provided two-thirds of the cost. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the Queensland Minister for Transport did not submit any amendment to the program approved by the so-called dictatorial Whitlam Labor Government. He is quite satisfied with the money that Queensland received from the Labor Government and has not suggested any amendments to the programs which Queensland submitted and which we approved. I hope that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who is sitting at the back of the chamber will take note of that fact. The Queensland Government does not want to put the trams back on in Brisbane, as the honourable member has advocated, and he can thank the Whitlam Labor Government for the new buses that are operating in Brisbane today. The Whitlam Labor Government provided the money for those buses. The Queensland Government was not prepared to do anything about them or to give one cent in assistance.
I do not have time to deal with the projects to which I have just referred. I am disappointed that they have been deleted. They are all of major importance. If honourable members opposite were to study the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics they would see that the Bureau has given each of them a very favourable recommendation. Each of them has been reported upon in detail. The benefits that would flow from them would be of immense value and assistance to the people who live in those localities.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Bill provides for the payment of $20m from Consolidated Revenue for the purpose of meeting cost increases incurred in relation to projects already approved under the urban public transport agreement. Under that agreement, which is between the Commonwealth and State governments, the Commonwealth has agreed to meet two-thirds of the cost of approved urban public transport improvement projects in Australia’s major cities. There is an additional provision for the Commonwealth to meet its share of cost increases incurred in relation to approved projects either because of an agreed variation to an approved project or because of the escalation of labour or material costs. The $20m provided in the Bill before the House is expected to meet the Commonwealth’s share of cost increases incurred in the period from 1 July 1973 to 30 June 1977. The cost increases relate to an appropriation in 1 974 of $ 1 38m for the purposes of the urban public transport agreement over a 5-year period terminating in 1977-78. The Government’s action in providing $20m for increased cost recovery is, of course, additional to the $44.6m provided in the Budget for the continuation of approved projects in 1976-77. Those 2 amounts combined constitute a 90 per cent increase over the year 1975-76.
With increasing impetus over recent years Australian governments have involved themselves in urban transport to assist in improving the quality of life in Australian cities. The present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) had the distinction of initiating the urban public transport improvement program. In July 1971 the Commonwealth and the States agreed, as a matter of urgency, during an Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting that the Bureau of Transport Economics should prepare a report on the need for a capital investment program in urban public transport. The Bureau of Transport Economics subsequently reported to the ATAC that there were many vitally needed improvements. That was in July 1972. Subsequently the Prime Minister of the LiberalCountry Party government of the day gave a firm commitment that the Commonwealth would assist in improving urban public transport.
It is not at all surprising that, with this groundwork laid, the Administration that followed the previous Liberal-Country Party Administration took up the interests of urban public transport and with great enthusiasm, almost bordering on irresponsibility, made lavish preparations for a major expansion in this area. It has tended circumstantially to claim credit for initiating this program for the improvement of urban public transport. I would not decry the efforts that that Administration made, but it is rather significant that it was assisted in its initial measures by the good management that had preceded it. It is all very well to talk about there being neglect of urban transport over a long period of time but it must be borne in mind that following World War II it became the prime responsibility of the governments of the day to establish economic viability in this country. There were many priorities at the time. Eighty per cent of Australia’s overseas earnings came from primary industries. I am sure that members of the Opposition at the time would agree with me when I say that it would have been ridiculous if we had concentrated totally on urban improvement to the detriment of maintaining essential communication services to the area upon which we were so heavily dependent for our national economic security.
– You must have your priorities right.
– Of course, as the honourable member for Darling Downs says, it is not a matter of what one would like to do in government; it is a matter of what one is bound to do within the parameters of responsible economic management. So the early administrations did establish economic stability, and that created the capacity for subsequent administrations to spend rather extravagently. Nevertheless, it is a matter of record that the machinery was set in motion back in 1971 to enable some major improvements to be made in an area in which improvements certainly were needed. In the 10 years to 1970-71 the per capita passenger travel on urban transport systems declined by 35 per cent. During the same period private motor vehicles operating within the city environs had created severe congestion and its attendant pollution problems. It is accepted that the factors influencing the use of private motor vehicle travel devolve on the points of convenience, comfort and cost. All of these ingredients must be properly attended to in improving any public transport system.
It must be borne in mind also that we cannot be indifferent to the question of our finite fuel reserves. It is all very well to make plans based on the proposition that we will always have unrestricted availability of these finite fuel reserves, which will permit the continued use of private motor vehicles. It is also an act of gross extravagance if we imagine that this country can continue to meet from its resources the increasing demands made by private motor vehicle travel, usually involving one passenger per vehicle and requiring extensive works in providing for freeways and the relocation of people. That is a cost that must be measured against our total capability.
As far as pollution is concerned, it has been established that the private motor vehicle is virtually the sole source of carbon monoxide, certainly the main source of hydrocarbons, and a large source of oxides. These considerations must be related to the urge to facilitate the travel of private motor vehicles. It may be argued that in the end superior forms of urban public transport may reduce the need for the private motor vehicle. But I am not confident that the attitudes of people in contemporary society will accommodate such a proposition. There seems to be a great reluctance by people to abandon their vehicles on the score of convenience, comfort and cost. Therefore we take the risk in outlaying massive expenditures that eventually our ambitions will not be realised. Certainly much can be done to improve the quality of urban public transport, but in the end the question remains whether the public will respond.
It is rather significant in that respect that in other parts of the world more positive measures have been adopted to ensure that the burden is relieved within the city areas. I have in mind the situation in Singapore, for example, which has restricted zones between certain hours of the day. It is not possible to enter beyond a nominated point in the inner city unless a fee- I think, from memory, it is $2- is paid. That has the effect of reducing congestion in the city and also of removing the need to undertake costly road works and remedial measures. Consideration is also given to amending registration fees on vehicles so that we may have some circumstantial control over the size of vehicles that people buy. That certainly would effect a saving in cost to the nation and also have some beneficial effect on pollution levels.
As regards freeways, of course we are very mindful that the previous Administration was most intent on being centralist in its authority. Although the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) insisted that the States were invited to submit their works programs, there was never any doubt that if the centralist Government of the day was not in favour of those projects they would not be approved. I have in mind in that regard freeways in particular. The Minister of the day had a personal aversion to freeways and he arbitrarily truncated assistance given by the Commonwealth Government in that area and he left ghost freeways partially constructed. That constitutes a massive unproductive cost on the community and a complete thwarting of State government ambitions. This Government, on the other hand, has indicated that it respects the specialised expertise of the States in these areas, and it has indicated its willingness to work in co-operation with them.
– We noticed that in Queensland.
– The honourable member for Shortland draws my attention to the fact that he made certain points in his speech to which I would like to refer. Initially he suggested that this legislation was a piece of hocus pocus, a pea and thimble trick, which, according to Budget Paper No. 4, completely misrepresented the position. It seems he does not recognise that this legislation appropriates funds for the purposes of the Agreement. The acts to which he referred were in the spirit of that Agreement. The decision, as detailed in table No. 7, was that the funds from earlier legislation would be used first. This decision was made by the Commonwealth
Treasury in order to simplify administration. The requirement for $20m is to allow the Minister to approve cost increases while at the same time maintaining assurance of funds for those projects which continue into 1977-78. It seems that the obsession of the honourable member for Shortland with figures would proclude his permitting the projects to go ahead. It is the ambition of this Government that the jobs be completed.
The honourable member spoke of the basic initiative. He claimed there was nothing concrete in the 1972 policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties and that this Bill would not be before the House but for the Labor Government. It is rather significant that the Prime Minister of the time said that his Government would make grants of $330m over 6 years. That was in the 1 972 policy speech. That could not be more positive. The amount was $300m over a period of 6 years and that was far more than the Labor Government made available. Therefore the honourable member for Shortland was quite right in saying that this Bill would not be before the House now were it not for the Labor Government. It is because of the Labor Government’s dereliction and betrayal of that undertaking that this Bill is here to make more money available to overcome deficiencies.
The honourable member for Shortland also alleged that there were cuts in the program. He ignored the fact that the then Labor Government did not approve new programs in 1975-76. Now, in this following year, we have an increase of 90 per cent. It must be borne in mind that this Government has had to face an extreme economic situation. Many difficulties have to be overcome before it can accommodate all the urgent needs of this nation. However, it still is making available 50 per cent more than the Labor Government made available in 1975-76-$64.6m compared with $42.8m-and yet the honourable member for Shortland calls it marginal. Here is another typical example of misrepresentation. A question was raised about road works in Queensland. The Opposition asked why there was no such road work in Queensland. The fact is that Queensland has not yet made an application. In the area of rolling stock, the honourable member for Shortland also complained that the Government has not approved all of Brisbane’s order for 98 buses. He ignored the fact that the Labor Government decided to restrict assistance for rolling stock to one year at a time for all States. These things illustrate the major problems in the entire program and the essential difference between this Government and its predecessor. This Government has a genuine and practical concern for urban public transport.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Social Services Amendment Bill (No. 3 ) 1 976.
National Health Amendment Bill (No. 3 ) 1 976.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1976.
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 976.
Australia Council Amendment Bill 1976.
Australian Film Commission Amendment Bill 1976.
Australian Film and Television School Amendment Bill 1976.
-I present the seventh report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted. ( Quorum formed)
Debate resumed from 19 August, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to speak to this- I think it is fair to say- complicated, technical amendment to the Income Tax Assessment Act. The amendment is before the House because section 6(1) of the Income Tax Assessment Act defines royalty by a strange system of cross references to the United Kingdom double tax agreement. In a case in the Victorian Supreme Court, Sherritt Gordon Mines Ltd v. Federal Commissioner of Taxation, Mr Justice McInerney held that the definition applies only to payments falling within the operation of that agreement. The purpose of this Bill is to put beyond doubt the fact that the definition applies to royalties passing to all countries, apparently in the way intended by the legislators of the amendment in 1968. It is sensible to amend the definition to include royalties passing to countries with whom Australia has double tax agreements along the lines of the United Kingdom agreement, since these agreements contain rules dealing with such royalties. In the case of Canada and the United States agreements, however, there are no special provisions for royalties, except a very limited class of royalties in the Canadian agreement under Article IX. Royalties are left to be dealt with under general rules which include the Canadian Agreement Article XIII (1), a rule which Canada will allow, as a credit against Canadian tax, Australian tax paid on income from sources within Australia.
The effect of the amendment to the definition is to bring within the operation of the source rules, prescribed by section 6c of the Act, payments which are not royalties as previously understood and which do not have a source within Australia according to ordinary principles. At first blush on reading this Bill the result might appear to be to remove these Canadian and United States royalties from all protection under the Canadian and United States Double Tax Agreements. But I understand that this is not, in fact, so. I understand, from a communication with the Acting Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson), that the question of royalties has been raised in negotiations on double tax agreements with those countries. Negotiators for each of those other countries have not only accepted Australia’s right to make the 1968 royalty amendments but also have stated without qualification that they were satisfied that the amendments were effective for their intended purpose in relation to the imposition of tax by Australia
Government supporters- Hear, hear!
-I am glad to have the attention of the House in this very important tax matter. It was interesting that a quorum was called before I rose to speak. I think the reason must have been that no Australian Labor Party member was here to speak in this debate. Perhaps the Opposition does not understand the legislation. Representatives of Canada and the United States, I understand, have made no criticism of our adoption of those statutory source rules. I believe- I would be glad of the Minister’s confirmationthat they have indicated that it could be expected that credit would be allowed for the Australian tax against Canadian and United States tax payable on the royalties. The last technical matter I raise with the Minister- I do not know whether he is able to give me an answer- is in relation to my understanding that this legislation is, in fact, retrospective. As a general principle, one does not like retrospective legislation but there are occasions when there is need for it. I am hopeful that when the Government increases nursing home benefits, as the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) indicated in his answer to the House the other day, perhaps those amendments might be made retrospective.
– Hear, hear!
– I hear some ‘hear, hears’ from the honourable member for Perth on that issue. This amending legislation to the Income Tax Laws Amendment (Royalty) Act in fact exempts from retrospectivity, as I understand it, taxpayers whose assessments have been issued before the date of the announcement of the clarifying legislation and who have thereby acquired rights of objection and appeal. I wonder whether there are any. I do not know whether there are any people who have not had assessments issued and who might stand to suffer as a result. I am pleased to support the legislation.
– in reply- Let me just briefly reply to my colleague, the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton), who has taken a very real interest in this important legislation. I do not want to make any comment upon retrospectivity but I shall, however, check to ascertain whether it does apply and shall let the honourable member for Higgins know.
Generally, in discussions the question of royalties has been raised with negotiators in the other countries. What the honourable member for Higgins has said is perfectly correct. Other countries not only have accepted Australia’s right to make the 1968 royalty amendments but also have stated without qualification that they were satisfied that the amendments were effective of their intended purpose in relation to the imposition of tax by Australia. The representatives of the other countries have made no criticism of our adoption of the statutory source rules. Moreover, they have indicated that it could be expected that credit would be allowed for the Australian tax against Canadian and United States tax payable on the royalties. I just wanted to take the opportunity to reassure the honourable member for Higgins on that matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition opposes this legislation. It does so primarily because the Government has not announced its intention to introduce a tax measure as a substitute for the present coal export duty. In my Press statement following the Budget I said that whilst the present levy was indiscriminate and unfair in operating across the board on all coal company profits, the industry was healthy enough to sustain a selective tax to increase the return to the Australian people. The Government, by announcing the phasing out of the levy with the reduction of $1.50 per tonne this financial year, has not only met its stated objective of providing an impetus for new coal projects but also has gone beyond that to return a huge amount of revenue to the most profitable section of the Australian extractive industry.
It would have been possible for the Government to amend the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Act to lift the imposition of the levy on new projects but it has rejected this course by phasing out the levy- on all projects, existing or otherwise. The Bill will reduce the export duty on high quality coking coal from $6 a tonne to $4.50 a tonne and reduce the export duty on other coal from $2 to $1.50 per tonne. The legislation is effective from 17 August 1976.
The Budget documents reveal that under the provisions of the existing Act the actual revenue in 1975-76 was $1 1 1.6m and it estimates that the 1976-77 collection will be $ 1 12m. Had the existing rates of duty applied, revenue from the levy on all coal exports for 1976-77 was estimated at about $145m, or $33m more than will now be collected. Of course company profits will be inflated by the amount of revenue forgone and normal company tax will apply to these profits. But with the generous new write-off provisions announced in the Budget, some companies with expansion programs will pay little extra in tax as much of the tax will be deferred for a considerable period.
The original legislation was introduced by the former Treasurer in 1975. At that time the then Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, pointed out that since the Labor Government had taken office, the price of Queensland coal had increased from $A1 1.26 to $A37 per tonne. He went on to point out that export prices were renegotiated under the Labor Government on an annual basis and payments were provided in Australian dollars. He pointed out that contracts were renegotiated by the good graces of the Japanese steel mills following representations by the then Australian Labor Government. As an aside I might say I was interested to read this week where the Department of National Resources has communicated to the coal companies in Australia the Government’s desire to retain annual renegotiation of coal contracts with Japan. The Japanese steel mills are seeking a three year contract period. It is interesting to observe how much the present Government’s policy has changed from its stated policy when in opposition.
In 1975 the coking coal industry netted profits of approximately $500m and sections of the industry, particularly some Queensland producers, were well able to withstand the impost of this tax. It is true that the tax did not discriminate as to the profit of companies and to that extent I believe a profits related tax is now applicable. Need I say the original tax, an exclusive Treasury invention, was ill conceived and hastily forced upon the former Government as a revenue raising measure.
The other undesirable feature of the present tax is that it can be manipulated by the blending of higher grade coals with coals of a lower carbon content so that the blend would be in the vicinity of 84.5 per cent of carbon content, which being below the 85 per cent stipulated by the legislation meant that some producers were paying only the $2 levy when others in excess of the 85 per cent were paying the $6 levy. Clearly the Government should be turning its attention to a profits related tax to deal with companies which are presently highly profitable.
The other compelling reason for giving attention to a new tax mechanism of this type is the recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on crude oil pricing dealing with a royalty tax or a resources renttype tax which could be superimposed upon the existing company tax system. The Government should be considering a tax mechanism which deals not only with any windfalls which may accrue to the Bass Stait and other oil producers but also to some of the North Queensland coal producers, particularly Utah Development Corporation, which is now the most profitable company in Australia and which recently has been given gratis a 50 per cent increase in its orebody by the
Queensland Government with export approval by the present Federal Government on that additional export potential.
The main companies affected by the $6 a tonne levy are from the Bowen Basin:
At first glance it could be assumed that the $6 a tonne levy would be just an increase in production costs which the companies should have been able to absorb as the price they receive for their coal is now around $US53 per tonne instead of the mid- 1974 price of around $US30 per tonne. However, this is not the case for all the companies involved.
Production from Utah Development Corporation and Central Queensland Associates represented 46.5 per cent of the $32m total exports for the last financial year. These two companies’ exports of 15.1 million tonnes is 81.8 per cent of all Queensland coal export. It is therefore obvious that Utah Development Corporation and Central Queensland Coal Associates were meant to pay a large proportion of the revenue from the levy. Last year Utah Development Corporation’s prospects for profit were $ 1 60m. From this point of view the levy has been operating successfully as Utah Development Corporation’s profit after tax and levy for the year ended October 1975 was just over $10Om However, the levy only operated for Vh months before the end of the Corporation’s financial year. Assuming the 1975 production rate, UDC will have an equivalent profit in 1976 of about $140m, which is slightly above $A10 per tonne profit for coal production even if the Norwich Park mine is excluded. With the change in the levy rates now applying under the phase out, this figure of course will be different. However, had the levy been completely lifted, UDC’s after- tax profit for 1976 would be in excess of $A185m, which is well in excess of any other corporate enterprise in Australia. The levy thus will have a substantial effect on the rate of return on funds employed by UDC. Nonetheless, despite the impact of the levy the rate of return for the company would still have prospects of being high, expected to be approximately 32 per cent return after tax.
Although not as efficient as the UDC- Central Queensland Coal Associates operations, the other two Queensland collieries affected, Thiess and Collinsvale, should have after-tax and levy profits above $A5 per tonne. The major companies which appear to be feeling the effects of the levy are the southern New South Wales collieries such as Bellambi Coal Company Limited and other New South Wales mines. In the half yearly report of this company, released on 24 February, consolidated operating profit was given as $A426,000, down 14.2 per cent on the equivalent period 12 months previously. This after-tax and levy profit corresponds to a profit of slightly in excess of SA1.80 per tonne. Two factors are given for the downturn in profit; industrial disturbances reduced output by 40 per cent; and $l.lm was paid to the Government under the levy. From inquiries made to the South Coast collieries, these figures are somewhat standard for the area. This lack of profit is given as the major reason for a lack of capital investment in development by these collieries. The differences between Bowen Basin and South Coast collieries is not efficiency of operation. The coal exported from Queensland is mostly extracted by open-cut methods and hence is capital intensive. Almost all coal, and in particular South Coast coal, from New South Wales is mined by traditional underground techniques which are labour intensive. The operating costs of the underground mines are considerably higher than open cut operations, hence while the prices received are uniform the profits are considerably lower.
I will now turn to the $2 per tonne levy which is applicable to coal with a carbon content below 85 per cent. This affects mostly steaming coal. Thiess Peabody Mitsui, which is a North Queensland Bowen Basin colliery, is one exporting colliery which is paying the $2 per tonne levy. This colliery produces coking coal in underground and open-cut operations at both Kianga and Moura. I was pleased last week to hear that the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd has taken up the Peabody holding in this consortium which was formerly held by Kennecott of the United States. Kennecott was forced to divest itself of its holding under the United States anti-trust legislation. It is worth recalling that the former Minister for Minerals and Energy, the Hon. R. F. X. Connor, made it clear that the former Australian Government would require Peabody Kennecott to sell its Queensland interests to a suitable Australian company or consortium and that the Government would not tolerate the interest being sold as part of a world package deal. It is again another compliment to the former Minister that this situation has come to pass.
Thiess Peabody Mitsui have blended Kianga coals with the higher grade Moura coals to give a carbon content in the blend of 84.7 per cent which, being below the 85 per cent, attracts only the $2 levy. The profit margin per tonne exported by Thiess Peabody Mitsui is similar to that obtained by Utah Development Corporation, that is, in excess of $A10 per tonne. This will give Thiess Peabody Mitsui in excess of $A40m after tax and levy profit in a full year. However, I believe it is true that if Thiess Peabody Mitsui was placed in the position of paying $6 a tonne- in other words, if it was unable to reduce its carbon content below 85 per cent- over 70 per cent of the surplus remaining after all operating costs were deducted would disappear in taxes; of this I am quite certain. This is perhaps one of the costs which highlights the indiscriminate nature of the present levy. I think we generally accept that fact.
The 3 new major Queensland coal projects which will probably proceed are Norwick Park owned by Utah, Nebo which has always been owned by Thiess Peabody Mitsui which is the consortium into which BHP has now bought and
Hail Creek which will be undertaken by Hail Creek Associates, a consortium of large companies. In this respect in the last couple of yean we have seen much ‘to-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ by large companies moving into and out of this consortium. All of these projects would under present legislation attract the $6 a tonne levy. Nebo and Hail Creek would be open cut operations initially but ultimately would be underground. Norwick Park would be an open-cut strip mine, the same as Blackwater, Saraji and all the other Utah mines in the Bowen Basin. The full impost in the early days of these projects would be a very heavy burden for them to carry. With capital expenditures of between $2 50m and $450m a project and financing costs with high rates of interest, the imposition of the present levy could be too much for the projects to stand or to carry. However, it would be reasonable to assume that the companies should pay more than just company tax when the projects have been operating long enough to write off their capital expenditure costs and when they start producing large profits. After all, the deposits were given to these companies by the State to be mined and exported and it is therefore reasonable that they not be treated for tax purposes in the same way as, say, a manufacturing business which is not being given anything by the State at all.
The Government must now begin to think, I believe, of an additional profits related tax. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch), during a debate on an urgency motion in this House last week, poured scorn on the concept I have mentioned of a profits related tax to deal with windfall situations. The Government will be quite negligent if it does not fully investigate this proposal. The other reason why such a tax is desirable is the very high proportion of foreign ownership in the coal industry. In Queensland, before the AMP acquisition of a share of Utah, 85 per cent of black coal production was controlled by overseas companies. This picture will have changed only by a few percentage points due to the AMP and BHP acquisitions. By contrast, in New South Wales 85 per cent of the black coal production is in Australian hands. Perhaps more of it might have been if the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife) had not disposed of State coal mines to international companies.
Coal can be mined underground up to depths of 2000 feet. The cheapest and most highly profitable coal mining is by open-cut or strip mining methods. Only 21 per cent of Queensland’s massive coal reserves can be won by open-cut methods and the remaining 79 per cent by underground mining. The disturbing feature of the Queensland coal picture is that foreign companies have been allowed to dominate Queensland’s coal mining and are extracting over 80 per cent of the coal produced by opencut methods. Whilst it is reasonable to allow a company to develop a new coal area to recoup its initial outlay by open-cut methods, the time has long since arrived in Queensland when underground mining must be seriously considered. Strip rnining poses huge problems to future underground mining, particularly in Queensland. Because of the soft roof of underground mines in the Bowen Basin district, compared with, say, New South Wales mines, the blasting of the exposed coal seam to break up the material for transport by front end loaders has the effect of shattering what would be the roof of an underground operation below the strip. This can mean that very valuable reserves of high quality coking coal would be left languishing for ever because their extraction would be uneconomic.
As well as this the open cut mines, particularly the mines of Utah Mining Aust. Ltd, have miles of overburden mounded up along the seams. I am told only a modest deposit has been left with the Queensland Government by Utah to guarantee the reclamation and restoration of these areas. It is because reclamation costs far outstrip any financial obligations imposed on Utah by the Queensland Government that it is not inconceivable that these mountains of overburden will be left in perpetuity. The Queensland Government should be much more vigilant about requiring companies that have been given generous orebodies to develop, to be decent enough to restore the areas from which they have extracted this vast wealth.
By and large the Australian coal industry has a bright future. Australia’s exports of coking coal, particularly to Japan, will increase considerably over the next decade. With recovery now fairly evident in the Japanese economy, she is already demanding greater import tonnages of coking coal. Australia is in a convenient position of being in close proximity to Japan and having the benefit of freight costs which are more than competitive with other, parts of the world. At the moment Australia is exporting about 37 per cent of Japan’s total coking coal requirements. This represents about 81 per cent of Australian production. In 1975 the former Labor Minister for Minerals and Energy negotiated an arrangement with Nippon Steel Corporation for the continuation of the growth of coking coal exports to Japan of the order of 44 to 49 million tonnes per annum commencing in 1980.
At the moment Australia’s coal exports total 32 million tonnes. Most of the increased tonnage will be contributed from major new coal projects in Queensland and a growing percentage from New South Wales. Norwich Park has a planned capacity of 4 300 000 tonnes and will meet most of the new export tonnages from Queensland. Ultimately, Nebo will share with Norwich Park the growth in Queensland production. However, the New South Wales coal mines will also improve their share of the export picture. It is quite likely that a very large proportion of the 12 to 13 million additional tonnes per annum that will go to Japan will some from New South Wales coal mines. Overall the position of the coal mining industry looks healthy and it is on this basis that I assert what I said at the beginning of this speech. That is, that the industry can afford to contribute more than it pays in simple company tax to the Australian people. It is after all the people’s resources which these companies have been given, generously to mine and export and there must be an increment to the national wealth from this activity.
In conclusion I urge the Government to consider the establishment of a profits related tax which will fairly treat this industry in the raising of revenue, will discriminate as to the capacity of companies to pay, but most of all will be the kind of tax that would be applicable to other elements of the extractive industries. Consideration of such a tax is long overdue in Australia. It falls to this Government to do something about it.
– I rise to support strongly the Government’s decision embodied in this measure, the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill, to phase out this iniquitous- perhaps a less emotive term would be ‘inefficient’- and discriminatory tax. I do not intend to answer the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) in detail. But I noticed that the honourable member could not resist engaging in a bit of Treasury bashing. Of course, that has been the form all through. The problems of the Labor Government were said to be due to the former Liberal-National Country Party Government, due to conditions overseas, due to successive Treasurers or, as a last resort, due to the Treasury. They were never due to the Government itself. I hope that, after reflecting at greater length on their mistakes, honourable members opposite will come to recognise the true situation and to accept their responsibility.
This Bill deals with a tax on exports. To my knowledge, it is the only specific tax on exports. It could be asked: Why is not a tax imposed on the export of wool, iron ore, beef or any other of our major exports? Why this discrimination? The answer comes through clearly enough. The honourable member for Blaxland said, as Opposition members when in government said last year, that the coal export trade is a very profitable one, and it can stand the duty. I can remember the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), as Minister for Minerals and Energy, with his obsession with some of the big open-cut coal mines in Queensland, enlarging on the size of profits from export coal and arguing that this duty would net only a small fraction of the total coal mining profits and therefore was perfectly justified. The answer to that is precisely the basic objection to the duty that I have mentioned, namely that it is ‘inefficient’. I use that word in the technical economic sense. It works against the economic maxim that we should encourage those activities that we can do best. That the industry is profitable is the best indication that our resource endowment, and other circumstances favour development of the industry. To foster it is the path to greater prosperity and higher living standards for all Australians.
The industry is not uniformly profitable. That is a major objection to the duty, as it falls haphazardly on the profitable, the barely profitable and the unprofitable mines alike. Its incidence is most uneven and unjust. Undoubtedly it has had an adverse effect on employment in particular areas. So the Government has moved to phase out this iniquitous and discriminatory duty. This Bill is the first move in that direction.
I want to make some general points in this connection which further underline the case against the tax. The first is that an export duty of any shape or form is particularly inappropriate in the Austraiian situation. This is because paradoxically the very success, historically, taking the long sweep of Australian development, of our rural and mining export industries, coupled with our tariff policy to foster the development of manufacturing, has meant that our international payments and receipts have balanced at a higher value of the Australian dollar than would otherwise have been the case. Thus the very pattern of our development has imposed its own long-term counterweight, penalty if you like, on the profitable export industries. One of the effects is to make the lot of import competing manufacturing that much harder because the relatively high value of the Australian dollar makes imports cheap. That gives us, in my view, an almost unique position among small manufacturing countries. It is one of the reasons why, on the face of it, our nominal tariff rates, on which we normally rely pretty exclusively rather than on quotas or other non-tariff barriers, often appear high. However, that is by way of digression. My point at this juncture is precisely that in all the circumstances of Australian development export subsidies, not export duties, are what the situation really demands.
There is another point in that connection. The capital account of the Australian balance of payments has played a major role in these trends. The typical large annual import of capital into Australia has added to the receipts side of our balance of payments, strengthening it and the value of the dollar. What is important in this respect, in my opinion, is that in addition to continuing as a large importer of capital- the sheer size and lumpiness of investments such as those on the north west shelf, and the need for the technology and the know-how that goes with the import of capital, will require that we remain a large importer of capital- increasingly as well Australia, Australians and Australian companies should, will become capital exporters. The process is already under way. The takeover bid by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd for Peabody Coal Pty Ltd, the Australian subsidiary of the Peabody Company of the United States, which in turn is owned by the Kennecott Copper Co. in the United States, is one manifestation of this. The takeover of that large coalmining interest by BHP amounts in effect to a capital export by this country. This is also true of the acquisition by BHP of the 40-odd per cent shareholding of the Burmah Oil Co. in Woodside Burmah NL. Also in this category are the activities of Australian companies in establishing factories off-shore in neighbouring developing countries of the region. So we build up control of our assets in Australia and acquire assets abroad, as did Britain more than a century ago and as did the United States during and after World War I.
My point is that as a capital exporter as well as a capital importer- I stress that I am not talking about the present currency situation- eventually there would not be the same net inflow holding up the Australian dollar, so the long term tendency for an otherwise high Australian dollar would, in the nature of things, be contained. I believe that is a very important factor to bear in mind. We should increasingly fashion our policies to encourage this.
In that I am looking at the broad sweep of development over the years. But coming to more recent years, the drag on our export industriesthe rural industries most noticeably, but also the mining industry with which we are concerned tonight- and correspondingly the considerable pressure on our import competing industries, principally the manufacturing industries, has been very greatly exacerbated by the inept economic policies of the previous Labor Government. The pernicious tax that we are now moving to phase out was one element in that. But the main components, of course, were the great boost given to inflation, the very rapid build-up of inflation in this country, the specific upvaluations of the Australia dollar and, in the context of import competing manufacturing to which I referred a moment ago, the reduction in tariffs, notably the 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cut. And one can add to these things the significant reduction in export incentives- not just this tax, a positive disincentive to export, but a reduction in those positive incentives to export, much below the levels that prevailed under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. The effects of all these measures are well summed up in a report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald only last Tuesday which is headed: ‘Wages, taxes hit collier’. The report deplores the $2 a tonne export duty that we are beginning to phase out by this Bill and goes on to quote the directors as saying:
The cost burdens borne by the industry . . . are such that at the present time our coals have been priced out of many overseas markets.
More generally, looking at the whole range of export and import competing industries, we see that the deterioration in our international competitiveness over the past few years, largely due to inflation, and the adverse effect that this is having on activity, investment plans and new employment opportunities in Australian industry, is an adverse factor of quite major and fundamental significance in the current economic situation. In the latest report of the Industries Assistance Commission there is a calculation which shows that the general deterioration in the international competitiveness, in particular of import competing industries, over the last four or five years has been of the order of 17 per cent. It is of the order of 30 per cent vis-a-vis the United States of America.
In particular areas there are more graphic illustrations such as the situation relating to steel plate. In 1972 Australian steel plate was priced fractionally less than the Japanese product and was significantly cheaper than in West Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, whereas in March of this year Australian steel plate was some 40 per cent more expensive than the Japanese product and also ahead of those countries which I mentioned. What all this underlines is that to restore real and sustained economic health and full employment in this country we have to beat inflation. We have to get our inflation rate down and hold it down relative to our trading partners. We have to give encouragement, not disincentive, to those industries for which we are best suited.
The facile conclusion that some draw in the current situation from these sorts of facts is that we should devalue the Australian dollar. I stress that that is not and cannot be on while the current economic instability in the Australian economy persists. There is still a momentum to inflation, and in the quarterly wage indexation hearings there is an all too efficient mechanism for the transmission of cost and price rises throughout the economy. In these circumstances, if we devalued today the short term benefits would be dissipated in additional inflation before very long. So the first and dominating requirement is to get hold of the price-wage process. Indeed, there are no soft options for getting the Australian economy back on the rails. But what is certain is that we can do without this iniquitous and discriminatory export duty. I support this Bill, which begins the process of phasing out the duty.
-One of the most delightful characteristics of the present Government- it has been true for very many years- is that when it comes to office it generally manages to thieve our policy clothes and, perhaps after redyeing them or just bringing them a little more up to date as it sees the situation, it carries on where the Australian Labor Party Government left off. Today, particularly in the coal mining industry, Labor’s policy holds despite the fulminations and the vilification of the present Government. In point of fact when we took office in 1972 we took over chaos, when the various States of Australia- the 2 black coal producing States- were cutting each other’s throats, when within those States the various coal interests were trying to outmanoeuvre and outsmart each other. The net result was that Australia was not getting one-third of the price it should be getting on the current world market for black hard coking coal.
We corrected that situation, as my colleague the honourable member for Blaxland, (Mr Keating) has so eloquently stated. In fact coal today, thanks to a Labor government and thanks exclusively to a Labor government, is Australia’s major export earner and it will continue in that role despite what may happen in the way of a world economic crisis. There are times when we need to speak as Australians and I am speaking as an Australian as well as a Labor man. I think it is an absolute disgrace for a government upon coming to office to ignore the achievements of its predecessor and, more than that, to try to blackguard it for them. I throw it right back in the Government’s teeth for the impertinence, the insults and the impudence that it possesses.
Could there be a more outstanding example of collective economic stupidity than there is in the export industry in relation to black coking coal, where a total of almost two-thirds of the high grade coal that is exported- a matter of about 13!/2 million tons for the last complete financial year- is still being exported by an American owned company, Utah company? Two-thirds of the total exports of the high premium hard coking coal are coming from Utah. It so happens that that company is not fully protected by escalation clauses and that it has benefited from the increases in price that we won by the grace and favour of the Japanese.
I make the forecast also in relation to the price manoeuvring that is going on and the competition in the iron ore industry, where 4 major producers are trying to sell 80 million tons in a market that needs only 20 million tons, that there the Japanese will finally select the area C of the Goldsworthy people because of the Utah interests and they will then have a beautiful double- a beautiful pincers movementwhereby they can link iron ore prices to coal prices and the squeeze will be really on. When we deal with Japan we deal with a monopsony. I have said that repeatedly in this House. I give the Japanese due credit for it. If I were in their position I would be doing the same. I do not blame the Japanese for trying to extract the maximum commercial advantage from buying in that capacity.
Let us look at what we have done. Firstly, the Government is continuing to vet the contracts. The Government has put up the proposition that it will leave it to private enterprise, but the Government well knows that there is no alternative and that if it lets the dogs off the leash, if I may be pardoned the metaphor, they will start to fight with one another- and Australia cannot risk it. The proof of that is that only recently- a matter of a week or so ago- telex messages went out to the various coal exporters telling them that they were not to go beyond yearly contracts in renewals under present negotiations with the Japanese. That was our policy.
On the subject of reducing the overseas ownership, I was delighted to hear the Deputy Prime Minister,- Mr Anthony, say that alone he did it. It was done 2 years ago when Mr Milliken, a representative of the Kennecott interests, came to Canberra and interviewed the then Treasurer, Mr Crean, and myself and told us of Kennecott ‘s problem, namely, the divestiture order of the United States Supreme Court under the terms of the monopoly laws in the United States of America and said that Kennecott wanted to sell and had to sell its coal interests as distinct from its copper interests. Out of the air or off the top of his head he asked whether we would be prepared to buy the United States interests, its then new South American venture and its Australian interests. We told him no. We also told him that we were not prepared to allow Australian holdings to be offered as part of a world package deal. We said: ‘This is a government of commercial integrity. It will honour an existing arrangement, but if you seek to hawk Australian coal interests or Australian coal deposits around the world to sell with your own, you will not be able to export it’.
I then took the further trouble to contact the Thiess people. I have always had good relations with them and I have always respected them because they are battlers who started from scratch. I suggested to them that as we were not interested they might well contact 3 major Australian companies- CSR Pty Ltd, which was coming into this field- we put it first into Buchanan Borehole Colleries Pty Ltd- the Australian Mutual Provident Society or Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I suggested also to Mr Milliken and the Kennecott interests that they might well negotiate with these firms. They have done so. That is where the initiative started. We helped the Thiess people right through the period when appeals were being fought in the United States Supreme Court to try to alter the terms of the divestiture order. So much for the present Government’s initiatives.
As regards stimulating Austraiian companies, we will help them in every possible way. We had to be tough, but once they saw what we were driving at they co-operated. With the exception of Utah, which always adopted a policy, shall we say, of obmutescence, the coal companies broadly co-operated. That is my main criticism of Utah to this day: It is creaming off the easily won coal, the coal that can be won by open cut methods. Coal won by open cut methods represents only 15 per cent of the total coal deposits in Queensland. When Utah has financed creaming it off and has departed, the hard work, the costly underground extraction, is left to the initiative of the Australian Government. That is the situation, and it is a disgraceful one.
As to the incidence of the tax, I think it is an open secret that my recommendation was not the basis of the final decision. Throughout my period of holding the office of Minister for Minerals and Energy I advocated the imposition of a profits related tax. That is the only way in which anyone could possibly take such a proposal- to give the same return, to give the same yield, but for the incidence to fall on those best able to pay. Taxation, across the board, does not achieve that end. I can understand the dilemma of the Treasurer of the day. He wanted to do something and to do it in the Budget. Nevertheless, the only alteration that ought to be made is in that direction of profit related tax.
Let us consider what will happen when this Government uses its numbers to force this tax through the House. Who will grab it? The Japanese will immediately want a $1.50 a ton reduction. If they do not get in first, the Queensland Government will do so by jacking up the freight rates, because it is getting quite a nice slice in the way of profits also from the fact that it owns and operates the railway system. I sought a graduated coal tax for much more than a revenue earner because I realised the importance and the significance of black coal to the Australian economy and to Australia’s commercial future. In point of fact, one of the crying needs today in relation to export coal is for a stable and adequate system of export ports. Hay Point is an open roadstead. It is owned by Utah. Anyone else who uses it does so by the grace and favour of Utah. Port Curtis, or Gladstone as it is more commonly known, will accommodate ships up to 55 000 tons capacity. Similarly Newcastle still has the rock bar. Again I was right when I sought Australian governmental ownership and control of the proposed coal loader at Newcastle. I well knew the financial position of Gollin and the utter stupidity of the attempts of the then State Liberal Party and Country Party Government in New South Wales to put it in the hands of private enterprise. Coal loading and port operation is a public service and it ought to be under community control. In the case of Balmain, vessels of 40 000 tons or 45 000 tons are the limit. Even in the case of Port Kembla, whilst we have the capacity to handle ships up to 1 10 000 tons, we cannot load better than a 60 000 tonner with export coking coal. These ports need to be upgraded. In the case of Hay Point, apart from the problem of it being the puppet of private enterprise, it also has an open roadstead and has all the interruptions associated with the cyclonic weather traditional in north Queensland.
As for other reasons for the coal levy, and they were many, there was in particular the need to develop further coal search. We have yet to quantify our very substantial reserves of black coal of various types. I have dealt before with coal hydrogenation but, again, some of that money would have been used for that purpose. In my own city of Wollongong, again because of the inadequacies of the State Liberal-Country Party Government and the public railway transport system, coal is transported in huge trucks of about 40 and 50 tons capacity which thunder through the main residential areas. Further rail links are needed in that area. These are facts.
In addition, the future of the steel industry does not he exclusively with hard coking coal. As a matter of fact the Japanese, astutely, are capable of blending as many as 7 different types of coal to form a suitable coke for a blast furnace charge. We need to do the same thing because there is a tremendous amount * of coal* in Australia which is not hard coking coal but which can be blended. This work needs to be done and it will need to be done by a national Government using the national revenues obtained through a coal tax of this order.
Just as an example of the fecklessness of State governments, let us take the case of the sale of the Oakdale mine in about 1968 or 1969 by the then Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales. It said the mine was useless and that it could not work it economically. It was sold by Act of the State Parliament for a little less than $9m. That same coal forms a major part of the deal recently negotiated between Clutha Pty Ltd and the British Petroleum company interests for one half of Clutha ‘s total interests. Threefifths of the production of black hard coking coal comes from those Oakdale leases. The consideration was $160m. One can impute, reasonably, a value of $90m to $100m to that Oakdale area. That again is typical of the fecklessness, the stupidity and the purblind doctrinaire approach of Liberal governments to what is Australia’s major national asset.
Today one finds throughout the world that petroleum companies no longer refer to themselves as oil companies. They are now fuel and energy companies. For that reason they quite deliberately acquire coal mining interests and uranium interests where they can. They are very busy in Australia. as I have pointed out previously in this House. In the case of the Walloon coal deposits of the Darling Downs area we have the best prospects for coal hydrogenation in Australia. I am not unmindful either of the
Warkworth and the Cessnock area which run very close in hydrogen content, which is the key to coal hydrogenation. Again, that was one of the other purposes that we had in mind with a coal tax of this type. To sum up, I ask: Is it unreasonable, is it unfair that a 90 per cent overseasowned company- which after paying tax for the current year is extracting $150m by way of net profit- should not be asked to make its proper contribution not merely to Commonwealth revenue but also to the future of the research and the general development of the coal industry in Australia? I say it is a standing disgrace. We oppose the legislation.
-We on this side of the House support the Bill to amend the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Act 1975. It will reduce the export levy on high quality coking coal from $6 per tonne to $4.50 per tonne and will reduce the export duty on other coal from $2 per tonne to $1.50 per tonne. This reduction in coal export levies has the full support of members on this side of the House. It represents a confirmation of part of the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). It will be remembered by honourable members that this tax, in the first instance, was brought in by the former Labor Government in the Hayden Budget and was debated in this House in September 1975. It shook the coal mining industry. The levy brought in revenue from the period of the last Budget until 30 June 1976 the amount of $11 1.6m. Under the new legislation it is expected that with the lower coal export levy and with increased exports of coal an amount of $1 12m will flow into the Treasury.
The Government’s policy is to phase out the levy over 3 years. This Bill provides for the first instalments. When the previous Labor Government introduced the levy it had an immediate effect on production and on developments in the industry. There were many instances in which the export tax on lower grade coal severely cut into mine profits and in some cases caused a loss on operations. This was very evident in New South Wales and in my own electorate of Paterson. Many of the mines there had a very low profit from the export of this low grade coal and the export levy of $2 per tonne had a very serious effect on the profitability of operations. Indeed, it helped to create unemployment. Coal has topped the Australian export figures for the first time with a total of $973,910,000. Japan, our biggest customer, has received 22 624 105 tonnes valued at $798,720,000. This indicates that we are dependent on sales of our coal to Japan for volume business. It indicates also that we must make every effort to find markets in other parts of the world because to have all one’s eggs in one basket is a serious situation. It is interesting also to note that the United Kingdom was the second biggest purchaser of Australia’s coal. It purchased 2 637 758 tonnes valued at $51,267,000. Other courtries such as Italy, Korea and the Netherlands purchased minor quantities of coal. We must surely seek other markets. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table of the export figures for Australian coal to the various markets as at 30 June.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– The coal mining industry never knew from one day to the other just what the former government’s policy would be. This did not allow for further exploration and development in the industry. We now find that coal mining is on the up and up and is at a developing stage. In my electorate tremendous development is taking place. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) mentioned Warkworth. I have an electorate with possibly the greatest amount of coal operations in New South Wales. Tremendous development is taking place there. The honourable member for Cunningham also talked about 40-ton coal trucks traversing Crown Street, Wollongong. This was the situation in Singleton in my electorate. I am pleased to say that through good management and representation in that area a coal road has been built by-passing the town of Singleton. There are no more traffic problems in that town from the cartage of coal. Also, a railway line comes in from Warkworth. It will come out at Whittingham on the main line. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) knows the district well. He confirms what I have said. Huge coal seams have been located and a railway Une, as I have said, has been put in.
We are short of liquid fuels in Australia but we have great supplies of black coal. Crude oil is diminishing throughout the world. No country can expect more than 30 years supply of petroleum. In Australia the life of our present petroleum is about 10 years. This is unless, of course, new petroleum finds are made. In Australia we have suitable heavy volatile coals from which crude oil can be distilled. This is a proposition which must be fully investigated and the sooner the better. The Americans are the leaders in this field. Their effort is still, for the most part, in the pilot plant, stage. Pilot plants typically process between five and 100 tonnes of coal a day. Next come the demonstration plants. As a rule these have a throughput of about 1000 tons a day and need to operate for about 3 years to ensure that the practicalities of the process are understood. Some idea of the cost and time involved in the evolution of conversion technology can be gleaned from the fact that in January 1975 the United States Department of Interior granted $US237m loan to a consortium of com. panies to build and operate a 2600 tonnes per day demonstration plant. The time span for this project is 8 years, including an operating period of 3 Vi years.
It can be seen that while it is desirable for this liquefication to take place from coal, it is something for the future. It will not happen tomorrow. In Australia the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is investigating the flash pyrolysis process which is one of the least difficult routes to liquefication. The market which CSIRO has in mind is ships’ bunker fuel. Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd, a maligned company in this House, is examining the direct hydrogenation route to liquefication. During the course of this debate the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) created doubts about the restoration of sites by Utah Development Co. in the Bowen Basin. It is quite obvious that he has never been in sight of the open cuts in the Bowen Basin, because restoration by the Utah Development Co. is impeccable. The company is spending 5 times more than it is obliged to spend. The honourable member’s opening remarks were to the effect that the coal levy was foisted on the company by the Treasury. He said it was discriminatory. This is an indication of one of two things: The Treasury does not know how to finance the economy of Australia or, alternatively, underestimates the determination of the previous Minister financially to torpedo the multinationals.
The Right Honourable Douglas Anthony, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Resources, while overseas in Great Britain and Hong Kong discussed the supply of coals to those markets. We have millions of tons of coal available for export. This Minister has done a splendid job in furthering the export of coal to Great Britain and in investigating the market in Hong Kong. Britain will have a shortage of hard coking coal in the early 1980s and needs to look now for contracts to meet that shortage. The Minister and his Department are maintaining a close watch upon developments which offer potential alternative sources of liquid fuels for Australian use. In July of this year a West German delegation, led by Professor KarlHeinz Imhausen of the Imhausen international company- one of the world’s leading companies in the field of conversion- visited Australia. It was intended to undertake a joint AustralianWest German study of the economic feasibility of establishing a plant to produce about 2 million tonnes of motor spirit a year and also basic material. Australia with its limited known resources of petroleum must carefully investigate proposals of this type. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) has also mentioned that oil companies are interested in the coal deposits throughout the world. This is only natural because with the diminishing supply of petroleum they have to look for other sources of supply and one of them is the procurement of coal for liquefaction and also for energy. I support the Bill.
– I rise to oppose the measure. Is it any wonder? The coal levy collection since 21 August 1975 equalled $11 1.8m. The estimate for 1976-77 is $145m. The revised figure published in Budget Paper No. 4 is $1 12m. This is, in effect, a loss of $33m. This measure proposes to hand back, as a kickback if you like, to the Utah Development Company and Central Queensland Coal Associates $13m for the remainder of this year. For a full year the amount will be $15m. Is it any wonder that the Utah company can give a quarter of a million dollars to the opera company? Action taken by the former Minister for Minerals and Energy through sheer persistence, and against opposition, forced our export coal to world parity prices. This led obviously to windfall profits to the major companies.
The case for this levy and the need for taxation measures, which are increasing the public return on company assets, is still sound. The arguments levelled against the levy all ignore this basic principle. It is claimed that the coal levy is a threat on 2 fronts- firstly, that it threatens the viability of existing producers and, secondly, that it threatens to deter the development of new projects. The argument is obviously false in all but marginal cases. However, let us assume that it is true. An adjustment in the value of the levy or a modification of the means of determining the levy could satisfy these claims, while still providing a return to the people in those areas where windfall gains are made. This Government does not contemplate such modification but wants to abolish it.
Abolition of the coal duty can mean only one thing, that is, that this Government believes that Australia’s natural resources exist for the benefit of a few wealthy magnates in New York, London or Bermuda and there is no better illustration of the need for a coal levy and the weakness of the argument of those who oppose it than Utah. As at 1 January 1974 the coal exported to Japan from Utah and Central Queensland Coal Associates mines received an average export price slightly in excess of $18 a tonne. Eighteen months later the price had risen to between $47 and $50 a tonne, an increase of over 260 per cent. They are no higher than the price paid by Japan for coal from either South Africa, Canada, the Soviet Union or the United States of America after taking into account the quality of coal and freight differentials. Utah’s profits rose dramatically. From a record net profit of nearly $49m in 1974, it rose in 1975 to $ 101m. It is estimated that in the first 9 months of this current financial year it will have a net profit of $ 150m. It will exceed that of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd this year.
– What about all the taxes it pays?
-They are the figures after tax. The honourable member should do his homework. Despite the level of equity of the Australian Mutual Provident Society in Utah, something like 20 per cent, the great increase in the value of coal has raised Utah’s share price to the point where the price of additional Australian equity is prohibitive. If we wanted to purchase a 50 per cent equity it would cost us $200m.
Now what about the future developments? There are 4 major coal developments under study in Queensland and these include Norwich Park. The companies claim that two of their projects are unlikely to develop because of the levy, that it is difficult to meet capital debt repayments with the $6 per tonne levy. A moratorium on the levy during the early years of these projects would be one way of curing the problem. Thiess-Peabody-Mitsui has not sought a moratorium. It wants the levy completely wiped out. In June of this year the Queensland Government allowed Utah to raise the limits of coal exports on their leases from 300 million to 450 million tonnes. There is no doubt that the levy is not critical to the development of Norwich Park. It has a capital cost of $240m, lower because a proportion of the infrastructure is already established. Furthermore, Utah will have no difficulty obtaining sales contracts for Norwich Park as the coal is the highest quality of all Utah’s mines. The case for taxation measures to protect the national interest is unanswerable in the case of Utah. Other coal developments involve higher costs. There is a valid case for some variation in the levy in the early years of a project. What can be said is that in times of recession the call for the opening of new mines is naturally lower. As soon as there is an upturn in the demand for steel and, in turn, coal, interest in new coal projects will be increased. In any case, the Government has the power under section 96 to relieve any excessive hardship being imposed on or felt by any company.
The final discreditation of the case put by apologists of the large mining companies is their champion, Bjelke-Petersen of Queensland. Immediately the coal levy was imposed Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia announced that they were preparing a court challenge to what they considered a punitive tax. Queensland dropped its plans for court action and last January Bjelke-Petersen demanded the transfer of coal export levy rights to the States. The levy would contribute almost 3 times the amount that the State now collects from royalties and freight charges. The protest evaporated with the change of government last December and the Premier of Western Australia and the then Premier of New South Wales were equally quick to support Queensland’s aboutface. The Fraser Government’s so-called federalism will make mining levies look even more attractive to the States in the future as a new source of income. The levy is one way in which a federal government can extract excessive profits. Increased royalties are a possible solution to the States ‘ financial problems.
Recent variations in royalties in Canada warrant study. I was there when they were imposed. In July a new system of royalty payments for coal was introduced in Alberta, Canada’s biggest coal-exporting province, and the payments are on a sliding scale. The aim is to take one-third of the total revenue where the total revenue sufficiently exceeds costs to provide a rate of return to the developer adequate to stimulate further development. On marginal projects the royalty falls to a minimum of 5 per cent but where revenues are high the Government could go as high as 50 per cent. At the high end of the scale, Government royalties go as high as $A5 to $A7 a ton. Past royalty was a flat 10c a ton. How does that sound? Typically Queensland. New policy also calls for equity participation by Albertans in new projects. Applicants for development permits will be forced to do detailed cost benefit analyses to show that their project is clearly beneficial to Canada. The Alberta royalty scheme is a backlash from the increased awareness of the value of nonrenewable natural resources and the duty of governments to understand that the mining of these resources is in the best interests of the community. The level of royalties is similar to the level of this particular levy. The Albertan environmental and equity conditions are far more vigorous than those imposed in Australia. The most interesting feature of the scheme is the structure of the formula for royalty payments. Royalties are roughly proportional to the square of the profitability of the company in question. This method of taxing producers is a suitable way of ensuring that development will occur while windfall gains are suitably and appropriately taxed. In Saskatchewan while I was there a provincial government devised a similar system to apply to uranium.
These policy initiatives clearly show the current attitude of governments in comparable situations and are a further vindication of the action taken by the Labor Government. The notion of super-royalties that vary with profit levels is not unique in this country. Miners at Broken Hill have operated under the concept of a sliding scale of royalty payments for many years.
– A misconceived conception.
– Let us have a little debate about that. What was there about it that was misconceived in relation to iron ore and Broken Hill? The difficulties for development companies in assessing the risks involved in new projects in times of changing prices and production costs need not be incompatible with fair taxation methods. There is a trend in other parts of the world towards a taxation in harmony with the national interest of adequate returns from and rationalised expansion of the mining industry. If any case is to be made for a change in the Australian coal export levy, it is only to broaden its operations to better take into account the situation of individual companies. The income which governments receive from taxation and levies on mineral exploration should not be viewed only in the context of recouping a fair price for our resources. Of necessity, governments are obliged to do 3 things: firstly, to ensure adequate supervision; secondly, to ensure adequate environmental protection; and thirdly, to ensure that the country’s future is protected.
While endless debate rages around such questions as levels of foreign equity, taxation concessions and allowances, royalties, etc., might I suggest to the House that the most important facet which regrettably is being overlooked, particularly by national governments here and overseas, is the crucial need for governments to promote research and development into new techniques of mineral exploration and processing. With the rapid escalation in the depletion of the level of our natural resources, the reality which must be faced is that we will progressively be forced to derive many minerals from nonconventional sources or from very low grade deposits or, in the case of oil, from either secondary or tertiary recovery levels. This position with respect to some materials, if our consumption remains constant, will be faced within 10 years. I suppose no better example of this can be found in this country at the moment than the domestic oil situation. New technology required to exploit unorthodox sources will not be cheap. The need for research is urgent because the lead time in developing new techniques is between 10 and 20 years. The necessary research and development could and should be funded by a levy such as this.
In all sincerity, I say to the Parliament: Unless funds are now allocated for this aspect, we, along with most of the West, face a severe shortage of materials and those that are available will be at steeply escalated prices. Areas where such research funds are vital are the exploration and exploitation of the seabed, deep buried mineral deposits, methods to process low grade and conventional ores, and reducing the energy requirement of current processes and the use of alternate materials.
The abolition of this levy- the loss of millions of dollars in income- has come at a time when this Government should be investing the windfall gains of a few wealthy corporations into securing Australia’s future mineral needs. To put the future of our natural resources further in the hands of corporations motivated only to maximise profits wherever they are found throughout the world and to minimise their payouts in terms of royalty payments is a total abrogation of government responsibility. I conclude by pointing out that mineral policies applicable to the 1950s and the 1960s are no longer suitable to the changed circumstances of today. I have much pleasure in opposing this measure.
-If I may say so, I regard this legislation as one of the most shameful measures ever introduced into this Parliament. My friend from the National Country Party, the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O ‘Keefe), if I may say so, tediously read out a speech. I do not know what interest he was serving by reading it. It might be said that the measure that was introduced by the previous Government was somewhat crude in its application. Nevertheless, surely every member in this House should have at least some consciousness about the retention of our abundant resources of coal.
In some respects, what was done- and I was a member of the Cabinet at the time- was an attempt to apply an excess profit tax to a particular company. I have been rather astonished by the sorts of interjections that have been made about this matter, particularly by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) who seemed to be applauding what was being done but was not explaining why it is being done. Australia is one of the countries that has as abundance of coal. The tax is about coal. We happen to have an abundance of coal in certain areas which are easy of access. Because of the actions of certain State governments, entry or access to those resources was made available on what I regarded as most favourable terms to those companies.
Let me explain what the Labor Government attempted to do through this legislation. Candidly, I applaud what we did, although it might have been crude in its application. I would like to quote a paragraph from one of the briefest speeches ever made in this House by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) in which he said:
As indicated in the Budget Speech, this action is the first step towards phasing out this levy which the Government regards as an entirely inappropriate form of tax in that its effects fall in a quite haphazard manner as marginal fields pay the same rate of duty as economically more profitable fields or in some cases more.
I can accept the fact that marginal fields should not pay the same rate of duty as economically more profitable fields. But why do not we do something about taxing the economically more profitable fields? As I understand it, this is what the issue was all about. While it is not always nice to mention names, one company at the moment -Utah Mining Australia Ltd- is making profits of hundreds of millions of dollars. The company is making such profits only because it obtained easy access to a particular area. What is the objection to making the companies that are obviously making excessive profits pay more than those companies which are making marginal profits?
– You do not define ‘excessive’.
-You do not define ‘marginal’. All I am suggesting is that the Government ought to look a little more sensitively and sensibly at the position. A company is taking something like $200m -
– What about the risk capital?
– Let us get down to proportions. The amount of $200m represents one-third of 1 per cent of the total gross domestic product of the nation. Why should a foreign company- that is what Utah is- take this out of the nation without the imposition of an excess profit tax? Honourable members opposite are the great ones when it suits them who talk about excess wage payments or excess profits. But they are not prepared to let what I may call a foreigner -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– Of course you move that the question be put.
– You are out of order. We did everything right by your side. You got the jump.
-Order! The question before the Chair is: ‘That the question be now put’.
– The Government is doing everything wrong in relation to this measure.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat. The question before the Chair is: That the question be now put’.
Question resolved in the affimative.
– The question now is:
That the Bill be read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G.O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I cannot speak with more vehemence on a subject before the Parliament than on this matter. This is a total deception, a betrayal of the Australian people. In my view, it is the most wicked piece of legislation that has ever come before the Parliament. It is a payoff to those who contributed to the finances of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party at the last election. There is a significant aspect about this legislation: A man who came to this Parliament with a very clean background and who is respected by all members on this side of the chamber, the honourable member for Farrer(MrFife) -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put
– Look, there they go -
– It is too dirty -
– I refuse to be silenced.
– Order! The honourable member for Hunter will resume his seat.
– I will not be silenced.
-I warn the honourable member for Hunter.
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr Chairman.
– The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat.
- Mr Chairman, I refuse -
– I have already warned the honourable member for Hunter. The next time he makes any remark I will name him.
– And I will name the honourable member for Hughes with him.
– May I speak to clause 3?
-Order! The question is:
That the question be now put.
The motion was moved by the honourable member for Ballaarat.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr Viner)- by leave- proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– If I may say so, the debate was somewhat circumscribed. I want to draw attention o something -
Motion (by Mr Bouchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr G. O’H. Giles)
-I seek leave, by agreement with the Government, to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the Government. Earlier this evening, at about 8 p.m., the Income Tax Laws Amendment (Royalties) Bill passed through this House of Representatives without the expression of an opinion from the Opposition. This was because I was not here to convey the Opposition’s attitude. I was attending to other business on the understanding that there was an arrangement for the Bill not to come on before 8.30 p.m. In fact, as we understood the arrangement, it was to come on immediately before the Bill which is now to be debated. I understand that at least one Government supporter drew attention to the fact that the attitude of the Opposition was not being expressed on this Bill, presumably not knowing of this understanding. It was the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) who indulged in that irrelevancy and said such things. Anyway, for the record, the Bill was technical in nature and the Opposition supported it. I seek leave, also by arrangement, to incorporate in Hansard a short statement of the Opposition’s attitude on that Bill.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
This Bill is essentially technical in nature. Its aim is to clarify the situation regarding the payment of Australian tax by the foreign recipients of royalties paid by Australian companies. The Bill does nothing more than place on an unchallengeable footing what has been to July of this year accepted practice.
It is reasonable to expect that, as royalties paid by Australian companies are a charge against profits for Australian tax purposes, these royalties should bear Australian tax in the hands of foreign recipients. Until a Canadian mining company challenged the existing Australian legislation, the royalties paid to foreign companies had been widely accepted as being subject to Australian tax.
The Canadian Company had received substantial payments for the use in Australia of its know-how. It claimed that the provisions enacted in 1968 supposedly to cover the taxing of such payments did not apply. They appealed to the Victorian Supreme Court against a ruling of the Commissioner of Taxation. The appeal was upheld. The court found that definitions of ‘royalties’ within the 1968 Act did not cover the case of payments to the Canadian Company.
In preparing this amendment there is no admission by the Commissioner that the law previously did not operate as intended. I understand that the Commissioner disagrees with the court and an appeal is being considered. In the meantime this amendment is intended to remove all source of confusion. Clarification of the issue is obtained by insertion of a definition of ‘royalties’ directly into the Income Tax Assessment Act instead of using a reference to a definition in another Act. The Income Tax International Agreements Act is also amended. These moves will ensure that all royalty payments to firms from overseas countries will bear Australian taxation. The Opposition supports the Bill.
– I thank the House.
Debate resumed from 9 September, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is supporting this Bill which is straightforward in nature. As the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) pointed out, it increases the exemption from estate duty where the whole or part of the estate of a deceased person passes to a surviving spouse. The exemption will exclude from liability for duty the value up to a maximum of $50,000 of the spouse’s interest in the estate. This will exempt estates up to $90,000 if all goes to the spouse and $98,000 if all of it consists of farm assets. The new exemption level replaces the levels introduced in 1 974 based on a value of the matrimonial home of $35,000 but diminishing if the home was worth more. The new levels will apply to the estates of persons who died after 17 August- the date on which this measure was announced in the Budget Speech by the Treasurer. To facilitate the handling of these returns, the requirement for a statutory declaration is removed. In future, these returns will be made on a form approved by the Commissioner of Taxation
The moves taken in this Bill are in Une with the recommendations of the Taxation Review Committee- the Asprey Committee- on this subject. In its report on estate and death duties, the Asprey Committee drew together a large number of criticisms of death taxes. These criticisms included the ineffectiveness that these taxes have in their present form and the avoidance possibilities open to those with the resources to indulge in tax planning techniques. Hardship caused to widows and dependent children and the innate complexity of the dual StateCommonwealth system of taxation giving rise to considerable administrative problems and costs in administration were also mentioned in the Asprey Committee report. Many claim that revenue from estate duty is such a small fraction of total Commonwealth revenue that Commonwealth estate duties should be abolished. The Committee agreed that many of these criticisms had considerable strength but it disagreed with the conclusion that estate duties should be abolished. In its own words, the Committee believed . . that the avoidance and hardship difficulties can be largely overcome and that, in concert with the States, a system of Australian death taxes can be devised which will minimise costs of administration.
The main purposes of a death tax are, firstly, to aid the progressive income tax system by the indirect means of placing a progressive levy on wealth accumulated during a generation; and, secondly, to limit the growth of large inherited fortunes and hence avoid the undesirable social consequences a large number of people see stemming from the accumulation of such large fortunes. Looked at in this light, estate duty becomes an instrument for taxing wealth once a generation. This is one of the grounds upon which the arguments for special treatment for spouses, especially widows, is based. The other grounds concern ‘moral and legal obligations’, to use the Committee’s words. A husband has to provide for his widow. It seems perfectly reasonable that the support and assistance one spouse has given to the other in the accumulation of wealth should be acknowledged in some special manner.
The Asprey Committee agreed that there should be special treatment but it stopped short of recommending complete exemption- its basic argument against complete exemption being the possibility of tax avoidance through estate splitting. At the present time estate duty acts as a form of wealth tax. It performs a catching up function. Tax which would have been paid during life if a much more efficient income tax system operated, is paid at the time of death. I draw attention to one of the recommendations of the Asprey committee and that is the need for combined Commonwealth-State action to simplify estate duty tax. The difficulties of administering a dual system of taxation with each State having the power to make its own rules has been highlighted by the committee and by many others. This would seem to be a warning to the Government as it moves towards the implementation of its so-called new federalism policy. There are many problems with the changing of the uniform taxation system. These problems should not be underestimated.
Especially at the State government level there has been considerable debate recently on estate duty. The Labor Government’s of New South Wales and South Australia have both foreshadowed moves to legislate to abolish succession duties and estate duties where estates are left to spouses. The cost of this proposal to the South Australian Government is believed to be of the order of $4m and to the New South Wales Government about $10m. The present Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, last May pointed to the urgent heed for an Australia-wide reform of estate duty in an effort to move towards greater simplicity and uniformity when he suggested that people legally avoiding death duties were costing his Government up to $50m a year. The Victorian Liberal Government is following the lead of the State Labor governments in the 2 States I have mentioned. It is taking similar action. The Queensland Government has approved a recommendation for the abolition of all State death duties. Without debating the efficacy of that decision, I remind honourable members in the House that that is not in line with the feeling of the members of the Asprey committee nor of the Prime Minister of this country as he signified in his answer to a question in the House today.
I refer to one of the reasons the Queensland Government has given for the change. It has been openly suggested that many southern businessmen will take their accumulated wealth to Queensland and invest it there to obtain relief from death duties. Queensland, by offering a fiscal advantage to investors, hopes to divert resources from the other States. Although the fiscal change is small, it does tend to point out what can happen if our traditional Federal-State relations are broken down without the full implications of the change being considered. A call for the abolition of Commonwealth estate duty reportedly came from the president of the Queensland branch of the National Party at that Party’s conference last weekend. It is not the call itself which deserves special mention but rather the method in which the gentleman suggested the fall in revenue resulting from such a measure could be offset. The proposer of the abolition of death duties suggested it be paid for by cutting overseas aid. This proposition is ridiculous in the extreme. It is heartless and counterproductive and certainly not in our country’s humanitarian or, in the long term, material interests.
Apart from the blatant selfishness of someone in a country like Australia suggesting tax cuts be offset by lowering our aid commitments, the suggestion contains the height of economic ignorance. The impact on the domestic economy of the abolition of death duties would be virtually the same whether or not foreign aid was cut by an equivalent amount. Given the state of our foreign reserves, small changes in the overseas sector will leave the domestic sector affected. The present Government should take steps to inform its supporters, especially in Queensland, that its failure to abolish death duties or, more importantly, to take steps to overcome some of the hardships suffered by people in the outback, is a function of its own ideological fixations about government spending rather than a function of our level of overseas aid. Misinformed economic debate was one of those things which this Government promoted when it was in opposition. Do honourable members remember the deficit rubbish about everyone owing the Government $500? That was the sort of thing we heard at this time last year. I call on members of the Government to take steps to remove any thoughts among their supporters that we can cut taxes or increase spending by cutting foreign aid. The dangers of a misinformed public voicing opposition on ill-founded grounds against foreign aid are not to be underestimated.
This ignorant call by the National Party President in Queensland reminds me of the deception of this Government in seeking to persuade the Australian people that it is reducing taxes when, as we all know, it is inflicting additional taxes by imposing a health tax from the beginning of this month in the form of the Medibank levy or large subscriptions to medical and hospital benefit funds. This Bill is a reasonable reform measure alleviating surviving spouses from increasing Federal estate duty burdens caused by inflation. The Opposition supports this reasonable reform.
-I rise to support the Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill which fulfils yet another of the election promises of the Liberal and National Country parties. This Bill, which significantly increases the exemption from estate duty where the whole or part of the estate of a deceased person passes to a surviving spouse, imposes a cost to the revenue of $ 1 4m in a full year. That this measure can be introduced at a time when the Government has to exercise a considerable degree of restraint in order to bring the economy back on to an even keel, a keel from which this nation can surge forward once again, is, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in his second reading speech, a measure of the Government’s determination to press on with reform to the taxation system. Many of these reforms are not only necessary on grounds of efficiency and equity but also are long overdue.
The Bill also amends the Estate Duty Assessment Act in several ways which will have the major effect of reducing the burden of work on the administrators of deceased estates. I will not dwell on this subject tonight but I point out to the House the real benefits which this Bill provides in these respects. The substantive aspects of the Bill exclude from liability for estate duty the value, up to $50,000, of the spouse’s interest in the estate where the estate passes to the spouse in whole rather than in part and entirely exempts estates from duty up to a value of $90,000 or $98,000 in the case of a primary producer estate where the estate passes wholly from spouse to spouse. These concessions should go a long way to alleviate many of the personal hardships which have been inflicted on thousands of surviving spouses under the operation of the existing Act. About 20 per cent of presently dutiable estates will cease to be dutiable altogether, and the impact of duties on larger estates will be considerably reduced.
This legislation is compassionate legislation. It meets a real need and it shows a real concern for people at a critical time in their lives when they are suffering the grievous personal loss of a husband or a wife. For this reason the Bill deserves the full support of both sides of the House and I am very pleased to see that it has this support. I do think, however, that as a Parliament we need to give much consideration to the future of Federal estate duty. The duty was first introduced in 1914 as a revenue measure to help finance the
First World War. There have been changes to the estate duty law over the years, but in essence it remains much the same as it was 60 years ago. The rates of duty, for example, have, I understand, been unchanged since 1940 although the exemption limits have been raised during that period.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, which looked at both Federal and State death duties, reported on death duties late in 1 973. The Asprey Committee also had much to say on estate duties in its report last year. The Treasury submitted a very useful document on estate duties to the Asprey Committee. These various reports and documents took varying views on the desirability of continuing death duties. The Treasury document made it pretty clear that that Department considered on grounds of both fiscal efficiency and equity that estate duties should continue to be levied. So did the Asprey Committee. The report of the Senate Standing Committee was a split report. One group of senators felt that estate duty should continue. Another group, which included the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), considered that the Commonwealth should completely vacate the field and that the States should examine the possibilities of gradually reducing their death taxes with the view to eventual abolition. Although views are divided as to the desirability or otherwise of retaining death duties, every committee and every expert agrees that the whole system of death duties has many major problems associated with it. There are many problems commonly raised. The tax is a highly complex one and has produced an enormous volume of case law.
The cost of collecting death taxes is high relative to virtually all other forms of taxation. The revenue collected is very small as a proportion of total revenue. In the Commonwealth’s case it is only some 0.5 per cent of total tax collections. It is, or was, a more significant proportion of State revenue collections and on average represented about 10 per cent. However, Queensland has now abolished death duties and all other States have significantly liberalised the death duty provisions. In particular, most of them have either abolished or are in the process of abolishing duty on spouse to spouse transfers. Most of these States have foreshadowed further liberalisation, including in some instances total abolition. It is little wonder that revenue collections from Federal estate duty is so small. More than 80 per cent of all estates for which estate duty assessments are issued have a total value of less than $100,000 and that includes the matrimonial home. In more than 50 per cent of cases the total value of the estate is less than $50,000. This more than 50 per cent contributes less than 5 per cent of total estate duty revenue collection.
It is also argued by many students of the subject that estate duty poses severe hardship to rural producers the great bulk of whose assets consist of their farms. These are illiquid assets. In many instances rural properties have to be sold simply to enable the survivors to meet their estate duty obligations. This imposes real financial and personal hardship particularly when, as is not infrequently the case, the property has been in the hands of the one family for generations. A similar situation can and easily does arise for small businessmen. It is also generally accepted that estate duty is constantly being avoided and/or evaded by a whole variety of complex arrangements and it is the large estate owner who is in the best position to so arrange his affairs.
It can also be argued that the present estate duty law pays no regard to the capacity of the beneficiary to meet his duty obligations. There are other difficulties, not least of which is the problem of appropriate valuation of the assets of a deceased estate. On the other side of the coin it must be recognised that, apart from income tax, estate duty is the only direct tax with a general coverage levied on persons in Australia. If Australia had no death duties and did not impose any other form of capital or wealth tax we would be the only advanced Western country levying no other direct tax apart from income tax. It is also a forceful argument that wealth and not just income does confer benefits on persons and that as a matter of equity wealth should be taxed at some time during its life. Most people would accept the view that it is not desirable in our society that there be uncontrolled accumulations of wealth in the hands of individuals, though I have some doubts whether the present system of death duties really does much in this direction. At this stage I would not necessarily advocate the complete abolition of estate duty. The matter obviously requires much further study. For example, there is a very close relationship between gift and estate duties. There is also a fundamental relationship between death duties and the whole area of income tax. The Asprey Committee pointed very tellingly to the urgent need for a major reform of the whole structure of taxation in this country. The Government has said that it will tackle taxation reform, and I applaud that. It has already done much, notably the introduction of full personal tax indexation, the most progressive taxation reform in Australia for at least a generation. However, it is a long, slow, difficult process and one where radical change cannot and should not be introduced overnight. Estate duty should loom large in any such reform of the taxation system.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Next Saturday throughout Australia there will be a commemoration of the events which occurred in Hungary some 20 years ago. It is a commemoration of an infamy, for on that day 20 years ago the Hungarian people reached out for their freedom and found themselves crushed by brutal and ruthless Soviet power. The tanks that came through Budapest were successful, unhappily, in crushing the desire for freedom from the Hungarian people. It is an infamy unredeemed to this day because still today the Hungarian people are in the grip of the Soviet. They have not their freedom. They are made to conform to a social system which they hate and despise. Freedom remains in their hearts although with their bodies they have no freedom.
We can pretend to the contrary. We can pretend that all is well. We can even find a President of the United States saying that he will not tolerate this kind of slavery. Let us forget this pretence. The slavery is still there. It is a shame on the Soviet, but it is not a shame on the Soviet alone. We, twenty years ago, abandoned Hungary to her fate. We did not intervene. The West stood back and allowed these things to happen while the world looked on appalled. But action was paralysed and freedom was snuffed out. What happened then, of course, had its effect on the communist parties throughout the world. There were many people who up to that time had believed that there was some essential benevolence in the Russian system. They were misguided of course, but some of them believed sincerely and were able to shrug off what had happened to the Baltic States, to Poland, to Czechoslovakia and to all the other countries behind the Iron Curtain. But when in 1 956 the issue was made brutally clear in Hungary because a people had the courage physically to oppose and found themselves abandoned, many people who up until that time had been members of the Communist Party in good faith found it impossible to continue. I suppose that is good, but do not let us think that this good thing- the abandonment of the Communist Party by some of its members- weighs more than a fraction in the scale of the loss because it is now seen clearly that there was going to be no real resistance to the Communist enslavement machine. Because we failed them, world history was deflected on to a worse course from then on. The Hungarian people, of course, have the major part in this commemoration. We commemorate their valour. We look with some shame at our abandonment of them. But let us remember that what has happened in Hungary is of consequence to the whole world, even today. I suggest that there is some kind -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to observe that in 3 weeks time it will be 1 1 November. That day commemorates one of the most shameful days- 11 November 1975- in Australia’s constitutional history. The honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) is a great fighter for somebody else’s battles. Today I noticed that he wants to be the mover of a Bill that will put Australia back even further. He wants to make the Senate exercise some responsibility for financial affairs in Australia. Candidly I regard that proposition as a retrograde step. I hope that, in what he said, he was talking about constitutional government in other countries. I want to talk about constitutional government in Australia.
I believe that what happened almost a year ago put Australia back into the colonial age when its position is compared with that of Western democracies. If the motion that the honourable member for MacKellar moved in the House today is any guide, he seemed to be prepared to accept that. The honourable member proposes that if there is a refusal of Supply in this place or in the other place there will be grounds for a double dissolution. I might say, with all respect, that not only is he becoming metaphysical but also he is, I think, a bit atavistic about what Australia in the twentieth century is supposed to be about. One can have all sorts of views about what happened in Hungary, how it happened and why it happened. But if the honourable member thinks that, in Australia, he is to be a freedom fighter for some other parts of the world, I suggest that he should look at what some of the circumstances in Australia are.
I believe that between now and the end of this century, Australia faces most critical situations internally. With all respect to those who are now in government, I say that they do not seem even to acknowledge what those factors are. Those opposite won the last election; I am not arguing that fact. I think they won it on the falsest of pretences. They won it without tanks and without force, but I think they won it by what might be called a conspiracy. I am not arguing who took part in that conspiracy. All I hope is that it will be acknowledged in Australia in 1976 that, when one looks at the realities of the situation, the upper House, which ostensibly is supposed to be a States house, but which has become a Party House, should not be able to refuse Supply. I say to anybody who seeks to justify in 1976 the argument that a Governor-General in Australia can exercise powers which the Queen in the United Kingdom cannot that his synthetic sympathy about what is happening in Hungary or anywhere else in the world is very misplaced when he is taking part in the death of democracy in Australia.
I said yesterday- I support this view- that I still believe that the Parliamentary system of government is yet the best devised by mankind. But it is not a system that can have different rules when different parties happen to have the majority in this House. I hope that nobody here will deny the reality that the Government of Australia is determined by who happens to have the majority of members in this House. If you contrive to make some sort of silly sentiment that because you do not like what is happening here and you happen to have the numbers in another place you can pervert the system you should rethink your thoughts.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have grown to respect the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) on most occasions. He has not saddened me since I came into this House except for what he has said this evening. It seems to me that he has become completely illogical. To suggest that there is any connection between the events of 11 November last and those events that took place in Hungary some 20 years ago is saddening.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable member drew a comparison by inference. He spoke about the occasion of 11 November as a day of infamy- the death of democracy- going back to colonial days. This indicates that he does not know what democracy is all about. Twenty years ago in Hungary the people of that country tried democratically to change a system. What happened was that 14 days later 3000 of them were dead. There were 250 000 of them driven from the country that they loved. But the honourable member would be so light in this House as to say that there was some connection by inference with the events of 1 1 November last year. What happened then enshrined democracy in this country. The people of Australia were given that democratic right to vote. It was their vote that solved the problem that arose on 1 1 November.
– Not the tracks of tanks.
-Not the tracks of tanks, as the Minister has said. Let us listen to what a left wing novelist had to say. He is a man recognised in left wing circles as being an authority. This is what he said about the Hungarian revolution -
– Who was he?
-It was Albert Camus. He wrote:
The affair of Imre Nagy in Hungary involved perjury, abuse of trust, contempt of international law, violation of diplomatic and parliamentary privilege, and kidnapping and murders.
That is what the Hungarian revolt was all about. The people in that sad country tried for 14 days to change a system. They failed. It was the greatest exercise in futility the world has ever seen. We stood back in those days and did nothing. The western world was concerned primarily with the affairs of Egypt and the United States of America was frightened to act unilaterally. She was frightened that the rest of the world would not come to her assistance. These people died in vain. That is why we should remember 23 October 1956. We should join with those 35 000 people who migrated to this country- they have been wonderful migrants- on this commemoration day as they think back to what happened. If the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in 20 years’ time can remember the events of 1 1 November and say that that was the day that democracy died in Australia, he really does not know history and for once has has actually given away completely recognition of the facts. I join with the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in everything that he said tonight. What he said has a lesson for everyone in this House. I am sad that members of the Opposition have not seen fit to be aware of those lessons. If we do not become aware of them and realise what was lost on 23 October in Hungary I am afraid the world will be a far worse place.
– It is obscene to hear again from the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) these protestations about their being the only persons in this chamber concerned about the condition of people in eastern Europe. There is nothing sadder or more mischievous than the pretence that in some way they are greater fighters for freedom than members of the Australian Labor Party. The suggestion that by making speeches in this chamber they will advance by one day the liberation of eastern Europe is a sad deception. They would do better to parade such stupidities before an audience of the Assembly of Captive European Nations or wherever else they might get an audience much more receptive to that sort of nonsense. They would do better to heed the words of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), a man who knows something about the workings of this Parliament and a man who has some regard for its traditions and for the traditions of democracy in this country. I do not want to go over this point again, except to say that every member of this House who stood at the last election in the interests of the Liberal Party of Australia or the National Country Party of Australia committed the most indecent exposure- quite as indecent as anybody in shiny jackboots at Nurenberg. They all stood for the suppression of democracy, and they will stand forever condemned.
– I take a point of order.
-No one more than the honourable member for Griffith who is taking a frivolous point of order yet again.
– There are procedures in this House to prevent members using offensive language against other members. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to invoke that procedure and make the honourable member withdraw his comment.
-The phrase used by the honourable member for Grayndler contained a general reference to members of parties standing at an election. A description was used. The only query I would have at the moment is that the honourable member for Grayndler implied that certain honourable members were worse than those people who were in j ackboots. I think that statement contains an implication that would be better withdrawn by the honourable member. I call the honourable member for Grayndler.
– I have no objection to any footwear they wear. I withdraw any inference of that sort. The honourable member for Griffith is exhibiting his anal interest once more. Let me talk about freedom of expression in this country which honourable members opposite and their supporters seek to suppress. I am delighted to see the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) at the table. He will be interested to know of the publication this week of a splendid magazine called New Doctor. It is a magazine produced by doctors who recognise that things are changing in this country. Members on both sides of this House quite often pillory doctors as being interested in nothing more than making a quick buck. There are a significant number who may be in that position, but there are many who are men of much greater principle. They have been associated with the Doctors’ Reform Society, and they have produced this splendid magazine.
I draw to the attention of the House what happened when this organisation tried to place an advertisement in the Australian Medical Association’s Journal. The New South Wales Branch of the Australian Medical Association refused to publish this paid advertisement. It returned the advertisement and a cheque, with no explanation. It gave no explanation at all. The Australian Medical Association would do anything, one would think, to promote constructive and informed discussion of medical education in Australia. Apparently the Medical Association does not want to accept money to pay for the promotion of a journal which discusses something of importance and interest to all doctors. It has by this action done a bit to stifle and to restrict discussion on a very important subject.
- (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– (Mackellar)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) said that I and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) seemed to think that we were the only people who were talking about this matter in the House. I made no such implication. Furthermore, before this debate started, I asked the Australian Labor Party to try to put it on a non-partisan plane.
– I too would like to associate myself with the comments made by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan). In response to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) I say firstly that we should not simply base our speeches on pragmatism. Surely we are entitled to discuss history and principles. If we cannot achieve anything- I am not suggesting that we will by this exercise this evening- surely we are entitled to our last recourse which is that of freedom of speech in the Parliament. The Hungarians do not have that.
In my electorate of Perth there are many ethnic groups and many people who come from the captive nations of the world. I have close relations with the people in my electorate from the Baltic States, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and other similarly placed countries. I was fortunate early in the year to be able to speak and express my concern at the recent constitutional amendments in Poland and to applaud the efforts of Cardinal Mindszenty and the people of Poland who showed great courage in standing up in public and expressing their concern at the continuing decline of their freedoms in Poland. As has already been mentioned, almost 20 years ago to the day hundreds of thousands of Hungarians protested about the lack of freedom in their country and demanded the release of the late Cardinal Mindszenty. We all know what happened.
It is well recorded as one of the blackest days in recent history, a day which unfortunately has been often repeated subsequently by communist regimes throughout the world. The events are well recorded. In the suppression which followed these protests more than 250 000 Hungarians fled to other countries. As the honourable member for Riverina said, some 35 000 came to Australia. I was very young at that time and the events did not make much impact on me, although I recall quite vividly the protest writings on the subways and other public places around Perth. Subsequently, the events have had a great impact on me. Many of these people are now in my electorate. Many of them now have adult offspring. I have become a personal friend of many of these people. I know of their personal tragedies.
Communist suppression has left a very deep scar on them, a scar which they have had to bear for many years. The bare facts of the period read badly enough. I refer to the futile attempts of successive leaders in the early 1950s who were controlled and often summarily dismissed from office by the regime in Moscow; the great student protest in Budapest on 23 October 1956 with the police firing into the crowds; the Army joining the revolutionaries; the exodus of Soviet troops from the capital to the frontiers and the triumphant return of Cardinal Mindszenty to the palace. Then followed the withdrawal of Hungary from the Warsaw pact and, finally, the dreaded return of Soviet tanks and troops into Budapest on the night of 3 November 1956.
Such was the chronological sequence of events. Freedom was lost forever. Communist suppression of Hungary became the order of the day. The tragedy which was felt on a personal level by hundreds of thousands of Hungarians is not well recorded in history. I have gained a proper sense of this tragedy only by talking with the Hungarians who now five in my electorate. I take this opportunity to express my concern in the records of the Parliament and to express my sorrow and to extend my condolences to the Hungarians of Perth who tragically lost their country in 1956 and who came to our country where freedom fortunately is still our most cherished possession.
– Firstly I want to associate myself with the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam). The matter that I want to raise tonight is the latest effort of the Government to do something about unemployment. At a quarter past eight tonight I found in my office the latest Press release from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) announcing yet another program. This one is called the Community Youth Support Scheme, otherwise known as CYSS. What a miserable little kiss it is, too. It is not a big fulsome kiss, but the sort of kiss one would expect from the most disaffected mother-in-law. What it does is provide for community groups to be established to undertake such things as job search orientation for youths, voluntary community activities and vocational, hobby and interest expanding activities.
These sorts of schemes may do some good but this one has a tremendous number of weaknesses. The first thing is that it specifically excludes job creation programs although the statement admits that the real problem facing the Government now is the shortage of vacancies. If the problem is a shortage of vacancies why does the Government not do something about it instead of fluttering around the real problem, putting up a stream of programs which do nothing to affect the central problem, which is the shortage of job vacancies? Secondly, it specifically does not provide support for voluntary job placement agencies. All round the country job placement agencies have been established by young people who are seeking to do their own thing and who are trying to provide for young people an alternative job search association which many of them feel is not provided by the very hard-pressed Commonwealth Employment Service. Yet this program, which is providing some support for community groups, specifically excludes those people. The Statement says that it excludes those organisations because the real problem is the shortage of vacancies. But the Government then does absolutely nothing to create more vacancies.
The statement says further that part of the idea of the program is to accustom young people to the discipline associated with having a job. Do honourable members know what these people will be paid for the discipline of having a job? They will be paid $6 a week. We are not told in this statement whether for that magnificent sum of $6 a week these people are expected to work normal working hours and face normal work discipline. If they are supposed to do that, are they to do it for a miserable $6 a week? Apparently that is what the Government expects. I regard that as thoroughly absurd. If the normal disciplines of work do apply, I cannot imagine that most young people will be attracted to the scheme by that miserable additional sum over and above the unemployment benefit. The Commonwealth Employment Service is being loaded with more programs almost daily. There have been three in the last few weeks loaded on it.
– That is what you wanted.
– I am not knocking the idea of additional programs. What I am saying is that the CES is receiving no more assistance. It is not getting any more staff. The Government reduced its staff by 78 officers this year. The numbers of unemployed are higher than ever. The CES has many more programs to operate. What do honourable members opposite do? Both the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) go around knocking the CES. They have now announced some sort of inquiry into it as though it were to blame for the problem. It is not to blame for the problem. It is fighting a continual battle to keep up with its immense work load. This new program will put more work onto it and yet the Government does nothing to give it more staff.
One other point I would like to make is that clearly the Government is ashamed to debate these matters in the House. Each of its last 3 initiatives in the unemployment area have been announced outside the House. I refer to the special youth employment program, the inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service and now this CYSS program. The Government is apparently ashamed to discuss these initiatives. It knows that they are only fringe items. It knows that they are not getting to the heart of the matter and it is ashamed to discuss them in the House.
-The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 2 November next at 3 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram -
– I draw your attention to the fact that the honourable member for Phillip was on his feet.
– I waited because the honourable member for Phillip had spoken to me. As he did not rise in his place I assumed that the time left before 1 1 o’clock was not sufficient and that the honourable member for Phillip did not intend to proceed with his speech on the adjournment. I think that I should go back and continue what I was saying and that is, unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House fix an earlier day of meeting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Abor- iginal Affairs, upon notice:
In respect of each pre-school substantially conducted for the benefit of Aboriginal children, (a) what was the level of funding in 1975-76 and (b) what funds are to be provided in 1976-77.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
N.S.W.-(State total $666,253 plus $1.20 per day per Aboriginal child). Bourke- approximately $32,000; Box Ridge $9,950; St Pius X Mission, Moree $14,880; Save the Children Fund pre-schools at Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Griffith, Kempsey, Taree, Brewarrina, Cowra, Goodooga, Gulargambone, Lake Cargelligo, Nambucca Heads, Walgett, Wellington- total $530,959, Murawina $78,464.
In addition $ 1 .20 per day per Aboriginal child is paid by the State Department of Youth and Community Service to all pre-schools from funds provided by D.A.A.
Queensland-(State total-$732,103). Burketown Kindergarten Association- $46,010; Inala Save the Children Fund Branch-$74,600; Kindergarten Headstart $11,250; Creche and Kindergarten Association$22,500; Yelangi pre-school-$207,106; Bloomfield-$4,676; Cowal Creek-$49,266; Mornington Island-$ 13 1,090; Bamaga-$21,217; Thursday Island-$25,343; Lockhart River-$29,336; general and equipment grants-$ 109,709.
South Australia-( State total-$84,858). Aboriginal Social Club of Port Augusta-$30,650; Elizabeth Gooder Centre-$2,900; Kindergarten Union of S.A.-$ 15,700; Pukatja Community Inc. -$20,420; Save the Children Fund, Port Lincoln Branch-$15,188.
Western Australia-($613,535). Capital assistance was provided to the following centres: Balgo-$65,000; Boulder-$8,000; Fitzroy Crossing-$65,100; Looma-$22,000; Port Hedland-$ 17,900; Wallance Park-$10,000; $19,000 was divided between Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Derby.
Additional recurrent funds totalling $406,535 were spread across 54 centres having significant Aboriginal enrolment, together with a number of smaller centres.
Depression in Building Industry in Canberra (Question No. 957)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
While there has been a significant falling off in housing construction over the last few months this must be viewed in the knowledge that the housing sector of the building industry experienced a period of peak activity up to the end of 1975. The number of dwellings completed in the A.C.T. in 1974-75 was 5231; in 1975-76, 5069; and in 1973-74, 3858. It appears likely that completions in the current financial year will be about 3700. The point is that this is sufficient to meet Canberra’s current and estimated needs.
Between July 1973 and early 1975 few business sites were released to private enterprise. This has caused a downturn in construction projects other than housing. Since December 1 975 the government has accelerated the disposal of land for business purposes and a considerable amount of construction work will follow as a consequence.
Action has been taken to facilitate opportunities for appropriate industries to come to Canberra thus providing additional construction work and employment opportunities. The business community with my support, has established the Canberra and Region Development Committee which is also pursuing investment possibilities.
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed that a great volume of valuable technical information has been collected and is being examined by the Pipeline Authority’s engineers. I hope it will be practicable to make a summary of the Study’s major findings available for public consideration and debate.
Australian Council on Hospital Standards (Question No. 1034)
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Will the Australian Council on Hospitals Standards receive a grant from the Hospitals and Health Services Commission for the year 1976-77 as in earlier years; if so, to what extent.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Council on Hospital Standards was established primarily to develop and publish standards for Australian hospitals and to introduce and maintain a program of hospital accreditation. The Council has been assisted in its work by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission by grants totalling $85,000 during the period 1 973-75.
From 1 October 1975, the Kellogg Foundation has provided funds in support of the Council ‘s hospital accreditation program. This assistance, supplemented by revenue received from accreditation surveys of individual hospitals, has enabled the Council to advise the Commission that ordinary operating costs for the basic program will be adequately met.
The Hospitals and Health Services Commission has examined a proposal from the Australian Council on Hospital Standards seeking funds for the expansion of the current accreditation program during the trennium 1976-79. The Commission considered that it was not appropriate to recommend support for such an expansion at this time.
asked the Minister for Business the Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
How does the Government propose to overcome conflicts between the Trade Practices Act and the proposed uniform consumer credit legislation based on the Molomby Report on Fair Consumer Credit Laws.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Although I do not see any conflict between the Trade Practices Act and the proposed uniform credit legislation any problems which may arise should be resolved through the Commonwealth/State Working Party which is currently examining uniform credit laws and on which Working Party officers of my Department serve.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The means test operating in the Australian Capital Territory is more generous than that applied in the States under the Housing Agreement 1973.
Average male weekly income (seasonally adjusted) in Canberra is approximately $40 higher than the Australian average.
Tenants of government houses in the Australian Capital Territory on low incomes receive rental rebates which are also more generous than rental assistance provided in the States.
Against this background it is reasonable to establish rents of government-owned houses in the Australian Capital Territory at the level required to amortise capital at 9 ‘A per cent interest over 53 years and to recoup the costs of administration.
The result is that in a Territory in which average male weekly earnings amount to $216 per week, tenants with ability to pay will be charged reasonable rentals averaging around $30 per week while those in need are benefited by the Rental Rebate Scheme.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (l)
At 30 June 1976, nineteen women’s refuges were receiving such assistance.
Expenditure figures for women’s refuges as at 31 December 1975 and 30 June 1976 have not yet been finalised. However, Commonwealth monies transferred to women’s refuges by State health authorities at those dates were $267,228 and $792,532, respectively.
As the State health authorities are regarded as having primary responsibility for the provision, or supervision, of health and health related services within the respective States, it is for them to decide what share of each annual block grant is to be provided to each project within the total State program. The purpose of these block grant arrangements has been to provide the States with increased administrative flexibility in the use of funds under the Community Health Program.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The new income test will apply to age, invalid and wives’ pensions, widow’s pension and supporting mother’s benefit from 25 November 1976. Unemployment and sickness benefits are already payable subject to an income test.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Public Service Board has advised that it does not have any information on costs of maternity leave or the number of Women employed in universities or colleges of advanced education. For the Australian Public Service alone (i.e. not including the statutory authorities and other areas of Commonwealth employment), the preliminary estimate of the cost of maternity leave in 1975-76 is in excess of $5 million. As regards an estimate of costs in 1976-77, if zero growth in the Australian Public Service and the same rate of utilisation of maternity leave as in 1975-76 are assumed, the cost this financial year would increase in the same proportion as Australian Public Service salaries increased over the twelve months.
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I wish to make it clear that the commitment for this expenditure, including expenditure on supply of office machines and standard libraries, was entered into prior to II November 1975.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761021_reps_30_hor101/>.