30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
The Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work; the Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health insurance scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community; the Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians; the Budget will compel state governments to reduce their services and increase charges; the Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guide-lines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1 975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon, Mr Morris and Mr Stewart.
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 Fry and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of 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 Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Government, 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 the 500 000 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 and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the decision to withdraw the Australian Trader from the Tasmanian service
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will move to restore the Australian Trader to the Tasmanian Service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Speaker and the members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff of the State Colleges of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That the immigration of teachers recruited from outside Australia be prevented while students with similar University qualifications are refused entry into Diploma of Education courses, and school leavers are refused entry into the State Colleges of Victoria.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Minister for Immigration, Mr MacKellar will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff at the colleges respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government Tertiary Educational Allowance Scheme be raised from $30 per week to $48 per week.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, and the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the members of the House of Representativesin Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia do humbly submit:
Full day care
Occasional day care
Parent education programs
Mobile pre-school units, and any other areas concerned with the total development of the child.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable Mr Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are a varied group of Australian citizens who feel a deep concern for the moral welfare of all people and particularly the young people of our nation.
That the immoral and distasteful material shown on the television and published in magazines on sale in the shops of our city, has we believe, a detrimental effect on the lives of people in the community.
That many of us are parents and fear the effect such material has on our children and on the nation.
That violence and broken family life, the incidence of which has accelerated in recent years, may well be attributed to a large degree to some of the shows on television.
That could not this very potent medium (the eye gate) be used to promote good wholesome living which we believe many Australians still enjoy, rather than pornographic and other types of material which stimulate and condone a way of life which can only lead to unstable relationships and a breaking down of all that is sacred and meaningful to many families and individuals.
That we ask you to use your influence where possible to upgrade the standard of material propagated through the media and strengthen the hands of those who have the responsibility of the oversight of these standards.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to take immediate steps to support us in our deep concern for the moral welfare of all people of our nation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burr.
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:
Your Petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, will show respect for the laws of Aboriginal people and enact Land Rights Legislation which will allow our traditional land laws to operate unhindered.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrCalder.
To the Honourable 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 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 Africa.
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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly pray that the Australian Government:
Extend the freeze on alienation of vacant Crown land in the Northern Territory (Land Rights) Bill 1976 to give effect to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Crean.
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:
Believes that the Australian Council should be restructured with the following emphasis and objectives:
Wish it known that the Australian Council recently imported ‘Barangay Dance Troup’ of the Philippine Normal College at a considerable cost, but through lack of enterpreneurial work and promotion they:
Wish it further known that the Polish Folk Theatre Mazowsze (Inc.) W.A. have:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will move to restore funding to the Australia Council and will move to redirect that Council or the Industries Assistance Council along lines similar to the above, intended to promote the growth and development of ethnic or migrant youth artistic performance troupes, groups and associations of ethnic arts before sponsoring imported art.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McLean.
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 objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Millar.
Dockyards at Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that 50 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State
Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government take all necessary and urgent action to ensure the continuation of service from each of the Community Health Centres and make such finance available to allow the establishment of such Centres in permanent accommodation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. In his speech to the London Financial Times seminar he said that the current Government program of borrowing overseas was partly designed to bridge the gap until private capital inflow revives. In view of the reported reluctance of foreign investors to respond to the Budget enticements, how long can the Government go on bridging the gap in this way?
– The Government will go on bridging the gap according to its own judgment of the circumstances before it. The honourable gentleman should bear in mind very much the considerable interest that has now been shown by overseas investors in coming to Australia. I have indicated to the honourable gentleman previously the number of projects that have been authorised for commencement since the Government came to power. The Government has no doubt about the medium to longer haul prospects for a flow of overseas capital into Australia.
-Will the Prime Minister now take the opportunity to expand on his comment, made following the Constitutional Convention, that he will take steps to see that all future Senate and House of Representatives elections are held simultaneously? Can he inform the House when we can expect to see these steps taken by the Government?
– I did not say that steps would be taken to achieve that. What I said was that there seemed to be one or two resolutions which had widespread support throughout the Convention. The question of simultaneous elections was one; the question of interchange of powers was another; and, I think, retiring ages for judges was a third. The Attorney-General will be preparing a paper on these matters for the Government and the Government then will examine each of the issues put before the Convention and at the same time make an assessment of what support or lack of support particular resolutions attracted.
-We would support all three.
– I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for his assurance of support. Quite obviously, if those who hope to improve and update the Constitution are to have their hopes endorsed and come into practice it is necessary to put to the Australian people measures that have the support of the Opposition, the Government and, probably of necessity, at least a majority of the States, as otherwise the measures are likely to fall to the ground. We will be looking at the measures in the proper spirit, as did those who attended the Convention, to see what ought to be done. The Government will be making its decisions in the light of that. I cannot give any more information at this time, but I am glad to have the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition in relation to at least those 3 matters.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. I note with appreciation that the Minister in the past few months has visited the north-west of Australia to inspect quarantine enforcement in that area. Can the Minister inform the House of the deficiencies in quarantine procedures that he detected in that area and, more importantly, of the steps that have been taken to correct those deficiencies?
– I give credit to the honourable member for Canning for the interest that he has taken in quarantine matters and to other honourable members who have shown a great interest in this area. Because of reports which the honourable member for Canning made to me I decided to undertake a tour of north-western ports with the Director-General of my Department. The honourable member will be pleased to know that as a consequence of that visit we decided to appoint a full time quarantine inspector. The inspector took up duty on 11 October at Karratha. He is on temporary transfer from Perth. Permanent staffing arrangements for that location are under discussion with the Public Service Inspector in Western Australia. Two additional part-time quarantine assistants have been appointed to the Port Hedland area. This has effectively doubled the amount of surveillance of incoming vessels in the area. One of the things that really surprised us all was the tremendous turnaround of shipping that has developed in the area over a period of years. Perhaps past governments had not increased the staffing in that area to meet the actual needs.
A tougher approach to breaches of quarantine requirements by ships’ masters has been implemented and all Commonwealth directors have been instructed to proceed with prosecutions if a breach follows an initial warning on a current or subsequent visit to Australia. The Government is also looking at the penalties for breaches of quarantine laws. The Government feels that the current penalty of $500 is insufficient and is undertaking a review of all available quarantine manpower resources. I have had discussions with the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, expressing some concern about the quarantine surveillance during peak periods at major airports. Discussions are being held at the present time between the Minister for Defence, his Department and myself in relation to coastal surveillance in respect of quarantine matters.
We are also looking at an improved rat guard which has been the subject of some concern to the honourable member for Canning. A new design is currently being tested and, hopefully, it will prove to be far more effective than the old one. We are also constructing incinerators at the airport in Perth and are considering the construction of an incinerator at Port Hedland to ensure adequate disposal of garbage from ships at that port. I can assure the honourable member that the Government is concerned to ensure that the no-risk policy in respect of quarantine is implemented in a proper manner at the northwest ports and elsewhere.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister Ibr Education concerning an important matter in which you, Mr Speaker, have taken a keen and continuing interest, to your credit. In view of the fact that some little time has elapsed since the tabling of the report and in view of the anxiety of parents and organisations such as SPELD, I ask: When can the House expect a statement by the Minister in relation to the position and commitment of the Australian Government to the recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties? The Minister will be aware that the report stresses clearly the paramount importance of early identification and remedy of difficulties. Since many pre-school children who have learning difficulties, such as the linguistically and economically disadvantaged, do not attend any educationally oriented institutions where such difficulties may be remedied, how and when does the Government intend to provide services in order that such children with difficulties will not be disadvantaged for the rest of their lives?
-The report referred to by the honourable gentleman is undoubtedly a very important one. I think the House must thank the honourable member for Mitchell and the Committee for the work that they have done in bringing this report forward. I have no doubt that my colleague the Minister for Education and the Government will give serious consideration to the report as a matter of urgency. I will refer the honourable member’s question to the Minister and provide him with any further information presently available.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister advise what stage has been reached in planning the establishment of a rural bank?
– There has been increasing concern among the rural community as a result of escalating costs and the declining returns that are generally available to it. The undertaking by the Government to implement a rural bank was made in the context of the resultant difficulties that rural producers generally found in trying to finance their operations on a combination of a bank overdraft, term funds advanced by one or other of those funds that are available through private banks and, perhaps, money available from other institutional lenders and hire purchase funds to which they are inevitably forced to resort in order to acquire farm machinery, farm vehicles and other equipment in the mechanisation of their farms.
The rural bank proposals are endeavouring to embrace a supplement to the availability of existing finance through existing lending institutions. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has been charged with the responsibility of developing a current assessment of the rural finance situation, updating the original assessment made by it at my request in 1972. In addition, within the Government the Treasurer and I have had discussions with the trading banks. There have been interdepartmental discussions. We hope that we will be able to develop a proposition for consideration by those who are interested some time during the early part of 1 977.
The Government recognises and respects the concern of rural producers generally about the problems that they have in operating profitably under present cost escalation factors and their declining incomes. They see and we see a rural bank as being a very worthwhile supplement to existing lending institutions for that purpose. Accordingly the Government stands by its policy commitment and will proceed to the introduction of the appropriate mechanism for improved rural lending facilities as soon as possible, taking into account the various diverse avenues through which money is now obtained and the advantages of the longer term lending envisaged under the rural bank concept.
-Will the Minister for Primary Industry give the wheat growers of Australia, including the ones in the Australian Capital Territory, the satisfaction of knowing what price per bushel is going to be paid for the new season’s wheat crop which is about to be harvested? Has the Cabinet considered this matter? When will a decision on it be announced?
– Firstly, let me enlighten the honourable member. It is not a matter for the Government to say how much the wheat growers of Australia will be paid. There is a payment which is known as a first advance, which involves an advance from the rural credit section of the Reserve Bank, and there is a total payment, which involves the first advance plus a distribution from the pool established by the Australian Wheat Board as a result of sales of the year’s crop. At this stage there is uncertainty as to what the overall volume of the crop will be. The Government has examined the present prospective recommendations for a first advance. I hope to make an announcement on that, subject to the result of the current discussions with the Reserve Bank, within the next few days.
– I wish to inform the House that members of the Public Accounts Committee of the Victorian Parliament are in the Gallery. I am sure that the House will welcome them.
Honourable members Hear, hear!
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister would be aware of the widespread criticism within the meat export industry of the so-called Mackey scheme and of suggestions made by reliable people that some States will suffer substantial reductions in export market opportunities as a direct result of the scheme. Does the Minister agree that the Government, not the Australian Meat Board, has the ultimate responsibility for seeing that any scheme adopted is as fair as possible to all States and all sectors of the industry? Will he now indicate what action he proposes to take to ensure that no State is disadvantaged by the Mackey scheme?
– Firstly, let me say that there is a scheme that has been recommended by the Meat Board. There is one scheme, which was originally known as the Jones scheme and which has been termed scheme A. There is another one, which is another proposal from the Australian Meat Board, that currently is accepted as being the most desirable way of encouraging diverse exports to the advantage of Australian meat producers during the 1 977 calendar year. There are, as the honourable gentleman has indicated, some difficulties in some States. I might add that they apply, whatever scheme is introduced.
Australia’s peculiar problems in agriculture relate to difficulties of access in relation to agricultural commodities. This Government, since coming to office, has persistently pressed countries that are our major trading partners to accept to the maximum Australian agricultural produce. As most honourable members will be aware, the meat industry at the moment is suffering because the United States of America has applied quotas. As a result Canada, similarly, has set down restraints as to the maximum permitted amount of imports of beef into that country. We are likely to have a very large quantity of meat- some 1 1 000 000 lb- which will not be received into Canada although it is currently packaged, processed and in many instances even on board ship destined for the Canadian market. We are seeking to ensure that the benefits of markets, from the opportunities available in a range of markets that are generally classified as the opportunity markets to the preferred markets of Sweden, Canada and Japan, and the free trade zones through to the United States, are spread through the whole of Australia.
I understand and respect the concern of the honourable member for Tasmanian meat exporters. I can assure him that the Government will consider any disadvantage that might flow from whatever scheme of entitlement into the United States market is adopted. Equally, I would say to him that I believe it is not for the Government or for this Parliament but rather for a body set up to represent the industry to lay down procedures for entitlement. The industry has the expertise and should be in the position where it can adjudicate between the very many differing points of view in the industry. Among the exporting sector in particular, despite the fact that it has had a far better time than anybody else in the meat industry during 1975-76, there are as many views as there are exporters. I have been at a loss to understand just which point of view is correct. There are many points of view among the exporters. I think if we were seeking to satisfy them all we would have as many schemes as there are exporters. That, of course, is impractical. The Government certainly will try to ensure that no meat exporter and certainly no Australian meat producer is disadvantaged by whatever scheme of entitlement might be developed for entry into the United States during 1977.
– I will look at the question in detail and give the honourable member a considered reply.
-Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that there is justified and growing public concern about the effects of television advertising upon children? Does the Minister recall how this Government followed the procedures put in train by the previous Government to eliminate the advertising of tobacco products on radio and television? Does the Minister agree with my contention that television advertisements directed towards children or television advertisements in which children are used as promoters are psychologically damaging to children? Will the Minister approach the commercial television group with a request that it commences immediately the withdrawal of what might be described as kiddie ads and if it refuses will he follow the same procedures as those implemented to phase out tobacco advertisements?
-I am well aware of the impact that advertising has upon the community and there is no doubt that the impact of television advertising is greater than that of other forms. This Government did follow the decision reached by the previous Administration about the advertising of tobacco and tobacco products. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board sets standards for advertising for the commercial broadcasting system. Those standards are acknowledged and I am not aware that there has been any infringement of them. Of course, we look to the industry to act responsibly. I would accept that if it acted irresponsibly the result could and would be damaging. I would be glad if the honourable member for Griffith brought to my notice any particular advertising material which he believes could be damaging in any way.
– I ask the Foreign Minister a question. What progress has been made in establishing an Australian embassy in Damascus in order to reinstate facilities for processing immigration applications from persons fleeing hostilities in the Lebanon?
-As I have indicated previously, both here and in public, the matter is under consideration. We are well aware of the growing concern.
– They will all have passed away.
– You have proposed the most simplistic answers, none of which would work out in practice, as you well know from when you have been able to discuss them with a man of some discernment, namely -
-Order! The Minister will address the Chair.
– The whole matter is still under review. It ought not to be a matter for political contention such as that raised by the honourable member for Melbourne. It is a matter of grave humanitarian concern. We are doing what we can. I shall advise the Leader of the Opposition when the review is concluded.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen reports in the Press today that Qantas Airways Ltd is under investigation by the British police for illegal fare cutting activities in London? Can the Minister inform the House whether this fare cutting is now the usual practice for Qantas overseas or, indeed, here in Australia?
-I did see Press reports to the effect that Qantas Airways Ltd and British Airways were under investigation by the British Airlines Representatives Board. My information is that Qantas has been cleared of any charges in this respect. I understand further that some agents whom Qantas has been using have been guilty of some malpractice and that the British Airlines Representatives Board is dealing summarily with them. In relation to the other part of the honourable member’s question, Qantas is not engaging in any malpractice in fare cutting in Australia. Qantas, along with other airlines, had been involved in some malpractice in other countries where the practice of cutting fares had been very common. As I have said before in this House, many nations are now taking extreme steps to clean up the malpractice of air fare cutting. These have been fairly successful not only in Australia but also in the United States of America and other countries. There is no doubt that the sooner we get back to a stable situation in this regard the better.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the submissions to the Government on the Australian shipbuilding industry by the Premiers of New South Wales and South Australia and also by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, is the Prime Minister now in a position to inform the House of the measures the Government is prepared to take to ensure the continuation of this vital industry?
– As I outlined to the House some time ago, there were reports from wide-ranging authorities in addition to the Industries Assistance Commission. The Government currently is examining these reports.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. On 3 June I asked him whether he would agree to divert to the Illawarra region export road grants made to the Botany Bay area. That request was followed by his recent announcement of a $2m export road grant to the Illawarra area. I now ask the Minister whether $5m still remains available in Federal funds for New South Wales because of the decisions of the New South Wales Government to delay the development of Botany Bay. Will the Minister divert more export road grants to roads linking Wollongong with the inland coal mining areas and, via the Macquarie Pass, with the Southern Highlands if the New South Wales Government makes this request?
-Order! I draw attention to the end of the question. It raises a hypothetical situation. The earlier parts of the question permit of answer, but I do not call upon the Minister to answer the hypothetical part of the question.
– The keen interest of the honourable member for Macarthur in seeing the road problems of his area solved is well known in the House. I was delighted to be able to assist him the other day by the announcement of the grant for an export road for the carriage of coal. Taking the hypothetical situation, certainly if the Minister for Transport in New South Wales were to put to me a request for transfer of funds from one section of the Roads Grants Act to another section of that Act or from one Act to another Act I would be only too happy to comply with that request in order to meet the requirements of the New South Wales Government. We have specifically amended the Act so that such transfers can take place. Let me assure the honourable member for Macarthur that if he can make successful representations to the Minister for Transport in New South Wales to have further funds spent in his region, I will be only too happy to assist him.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does the honourable gentleman agree with the report of the Taxation Review Committee- the Asprey report- that in Australia indirect taxation consists mainly of excise duties and wholesale taxes which, in the words of the report, weigh heavily upon only a restricted range of goods and services? Does he accept that such taxes discriminate against Australian manufacturing industries? Will he agree that in the present circumstances a temporary cut in such taxes would lead to an increase in demand for the output of such industries, which would be particularly valuable when retail sales are declining? Will he also agree that such a demand increase would have no inflationary consequences?
– The House should be aware that the Asprey report is the subject of detailed examination by the Government at the present time. Therefore I will not seek to pre-empt that examination by making any deliberative judgment as Treasurer in this House until such time as the examination has been completed. So far as suggestions of reducing any form of indirect taxation are concerned, the honourable gentleman should be very much aware that that would add considerably to the size of the overall Budget deficit. In itself, it would be inflationary because of the Government’s problems of financing that deficit in a non-inflationary form, which necessarily would drive the Government into the market place to sell government paper to the nonbank public, thereby creating pressure on interest rates, which is not helpful to the business community in general or any section of it.
I might say to the honourable gentleman, to give some indication of the quantum of finance to which he is referring, that if one sought to move the consumer price index by 1 per cent, as I recall the figure without having had notice of the question, one would be thinking of a figure of around $400m. If the honourable gentleman can tell me how the Government can provide that amount out of its financial resources at the present time without adding to the problem of inflation and thereby the problems of the business community I would be very interested to speak with him.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I draw his attention to the earlier announcement by the Treasurer regarding income equalisation deposits. I ask: Is the Minister in a position to indicate to the House why the proposed legislation has not been introduced? Are there any specific reasons for the delay and will the scheme still apply to the year 1975-76? If so, will the Minister indicate the possible programming of the legislation so that those who are desirous of using income equalisation deposits will be able to plan accordingly?
-As with a number of Bills that flow from the Budget, it has not yet been possible to introduce this legislation or to pass it through the 2 Houses of the Parliament. I expect that the legislation for the income equalisation deposits will be introduced within the next 3 sitting weeks, if that is at all possible, but certainly before the House rises. In accordance with the Treasurer’s Budget undertaking, the scheme will apply to 1975-76 income. The details and parameters of entitlement in accordance with the legislation will be made known on its introduction.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is it correct that, arising out of a recommendation of the Bland Administrative Review Committee, the Public Service Board has been asked to investigate what is known as the main user concept in relation to the deployment of social workers throughout the Australian Public Service? Is the Government aware of the grave disquiet that many social workers in the Public Service feel about the implications of such a proposal being implemented? If so, has the Board also been requested to explore and report on alternatives to the main user concept?
– I shall see whether there is any information I can get for the honourable member.
-Has the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs heard that in Western
Australia oil companies such as Ampol and Shell are providing 60 days credit to ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd and that the price per gallon paid by ACTU-Solo is less than that paid by old established independent lessees of company stations.
– A good question.
– I have not finished yet. Is the Minister aware also that service stations leased to the independent proprietors are now virtually on payment with order for petrol where previously they had 7 days credit and that some proprietors have said publicly that in effect they, and not the oil companies, are financing the ACTU-Solo operation? Will the Minister have a look at this matter to see what can be done, either through the Prices Justification Tribunal or perhaps through restrictive trade practices legislation?
– I am aware that a lot of concern has been expressed, not only in Western Australia but also in such places as Tasmania and Newcastle about marketing practices in the petroleum industry. The House will be aware that the Government has under consideration at the moment the recommendations contained in the fourth report of the Royal Commission into Petroleum and Petroleum Products. We also have under consideration recommendations of the Trade Practices Review Committee which in some areas have relevance to this subject.
For many years there existed in the Austraiian petroleum industry arrangements between oil companies and independent dealers whereby those dealers were tied to particular companies and in return for that guaranteed supply the companies tended to provide relatively long term leasing arrangements and also other financial incentives and help. As a result of a determination of the Trade Practices Commission which applied the existing trade practices legislation, those arrangements are no longer regarded in their entirety as being acceptable. One of the consequences of that determination has been to encourage the oil companies, for commercial reasons, to change some of their marketing practices. I think that, before one jumps to too many conclusions as to who is right and who is wrong in this area, it ought to be borne in mind that it is very difficult in an industry such as the petroleum industry to accommodate completely in the one stroke the interests of consumers, the interests of the small dealers and also the natural desire of large companies with heavy capital investment to secure their points of distribution.
The activities of ACTU-Solo are, of course, relevant to the Government’s consideration. I ° should make it clear that the Government would not want a situation where price flexibility in the petroleum industry was eliminated. It is not in the interests of the consumer to eliminate price flexibility; it is in his interests that there be price flexibility. The Government is concerned also that independent dealers as a class should not be forced out of business.
– I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs a supplementary question. I notice that on 2 June last the Minister gave an answer in which he referred to the problems faced by independent dealers in motor spirit. He said in his reply that the Government had set up an interdepartmental committee to look into the reports which had already been received from the Royal Commission into Petroleum. Has the interdepartmental committee made any reports itself on any of the Royal Commission ‘s reports?
-That question was asked of me about 2 weeks ago by the honourable member for Franklin. On that occasion I advised the House that I had in fact received the report of the interdepartmental committee and consequentially upon that I would be making certain recommendations to the Government.
– Does the Minister for Defence have any information which would indicate that the Taiwanese Government has the capacity to stage an Israeli-type Entebbe raid into Australian territory in order to reclaim the 4 clam fishing trawlers and crews presently held in custody in Mackay, Queensland?
– I have an immense respect for the sense of enterprise and resolution of the people of Taiwan, but I am bound to tell the honourable member that his question has what I describe as an arresting charm of novelty about it. I hope he will be encouraged if I say to him, in the language of the Church, sursum corda- lift up your hearts. I do not think it will happen. It may be that the honourable gentleman is reflecting on the charming Sunday afternoon at Botany Bay. It may not be inappropriate if I were to put that enervating afternoon in some measure of perspective. The scenario shortly is that I was at the Leichhardt Hotel in Rockhampton on a hot February evening in 1974 and the telephone rang. The man on the telephone said that he was from the BBC. Well, pay-back is not unknown in this country. Indeed I am succumbing to it myself. Honourable gentlemen may recall that on one occasion a former colleague in this House was beckoned at 2 or 3 o ‘clock in the morning to write 600 words for the Times summing up the Australian political scene. I said: ‘Hello, somebody is trying to pay back’. This is no impeachment to the sense of geography of the BBC, but for myself I would have had some doubt whether it knew where Rockhampton was, let alone the Leichhardt Hotel.
So, when I was asked the question: What is the state of preparedness of the Australian armed forces? I said: ‘We could not stop them landing at Botany Bay on a hot Sunday afternoon’. To my infinite disquiet the following day I saw in the newspapers, with a London dateline: ‘Shadow Minister says Botany Bay cannot be defended’. Most of life’s experiences have a moral. That experience has this moral for me and I pass it on to all honourable gentlemen: If the telephone rings and a person says he is from the BBC and his name is Picksworth, lapse into silence, behave like a Trappist monk and hang up.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In the first report of the Ranger inquiry the commissioners stated that a few of the Government officials who appeared before the Commission showed reluctance in communicating matters of importance to it. The Commission has expressed a view that the objectives and working of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act may not be clearly understood in some Government departments. Can the Prime Minister assure the House that further inquiries under this Act regardless of their subject matter will not be hampered in this way? If some of the information sought is of a confidential nature, is it not a fact that facilities are provided under the procedures laid down in the Act to ensure that this confidence is respected but that does not mean that the information should be withheld from the hearing commissioners?
-The Government takes the provisions of that Act very seriously. I have noted the part of the first report of the Ranger inquiry mentioned by the honourable member. I have been somewhat disturbed to see it because I know the Government for its part had gone out of its way to make quite certain that His Honor Mr Justice Fox had all the information he wanted from Government sources and Government personnel. If there is any doubt in any government department or amongst any government services about the Government’s attitude to the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, perhaps this answer to the honourable gentleman’s question can be taken as dispelling that doubt. We believe that the provisions of that Act should be carried out and that information that properly should be made available, whether publicly or otherwise, ought to be made available to appropriate inquiries so that proper judgments can be reached. I believe that if there were any difficulty in relation to this past inquiry- I use the word past’ only in relation to the first report- it was a temporary one. I also believe that the inquiry was quite able to get over whatever temporary difficulties it might have felt were in its way. I do not think that that would have inhibited anything the Commission wanted to say in its report. I quite agree with the substance or the thrust of the honourable gentleman’s question. These matters ought to be taken seriously and dealt with seriously in the spirit in which they are meant.
-Did the Minister for Primary Industry have a worthwhile meeting on Monday with various people interested in the restructuring of the Australian Meat Board? Could he perceive any encouraging signs by way of a consensus emerging? If not, will he give maximum thought to the Government Parties Rural Committee report on this subject which, of course, in my view is so much better than other views that have been expressed?
– Both in the reconstitution of the Australian Meat Board and in every other area associated with primary industry I have found the members of the Government Parties Rural Committee extraordinarily helpful. I think that through the medium of the Committee’s chairman and members the Government and the people of Australia are being particularly well served. Let me explain to the House the position in regard to the restructuring of the Australian Meat Board: At this stage there is no Government plan or program. There is a suggested format which was discussed exhaustively at the meeting in Sydney on Monday. As in the case of suggesting how meat entitlements should be earned in the United States of America, there were almost as many views as there were participants in the conference. However, there seems to be some consensus that there could well be advantage for the meat industry in a restructuring of the Australian Meat Board. There seems to be a general consensus that in a change towards a meat and livestock corporation and some extension of the powers of the Meat Board there could be some advantages which perhaps do not exist under the present format. I undertook to that meeting to consider all the views, including of course those of the Government Parties Rural Committee, and as a result to produce another suggested design from which we might be able to achieve a consensus. I commend the honourable member, as chairman of that Committee, and his colleagues for the very real work they are doing to assist the disadvantaged rural members of the Australian community.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the guidelines in respect of Aboriginal legal aid which clearly had an emphasis that before any Aboriginal applicant could be entitled to aid he should first explore State legal aid agencies. Were these guidelines issued after consultation with the States? If so, have the States agreed to pick up the cost of providing legal aid for Aborigines?
– I welcome the question from the honourable gentleman because there has been a great deal of misunderstanding and misconception about these guidelines. They were issued to the Aboriginal legal aid services about 2 months ago- not as a condition of funding by the Commonwealth but, as their name implies, as a guide to the services so that they might identify and respond to areas of priority in the provision of legal aid to Aborigines. I might also tell the honourable member that those guidelines were discussed quite freely at a conference which I convened of all State legal aid services only a couple of weeks ago. It was a very fruitful conference, with ready participation by my officers and delegates from each State Aboriginal legal aid service. The result of it is that I have asked the services to write their own charter for their future conduct of legal aid. After that has been circulated through all the services throughout Australia and to my department another conference will be held either towards the end of this year or early next year. The object of it will be to lay down for the first time a clear charter for the Aboriginal legal aid services so that they will know where they are going in the future, what areas of priority they should aim to service and, for the Government’s part, to which areas it should aim to provide funding. I am quite sure that after this exercise of extensive consultation we will get out of it very much better Aboriginal legal aid services than we have had before.
– For the information of honourable members I present an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland concerning variations to the Sugar Agreement 1975 effecting a 12 per cent increase in the domestic price of sugar.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the Dairy Adjustment Act 1974 I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Queensland relating to that Act.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Grants Commission Act 1973 I present the Forty-third Report, 1976, on special assistance for States.
– Pursuant to section 21 of the River Murray Waters Act 1915 1 present the report of the River Murray Commission for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Council for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Temporary Assistance Authority for the year 1 975-76.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1967 I present the annual report of the Council of the Canberra College of Advanced Education for the year ended 3 1 December 1975.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Australia Council Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Australia Council for 1974-75. The report contains a list of grants made by the Australia Council and its predecessor, the Australian Council for the Arts, during 1974-75 and financial statements relating to the Australia
Council’s operations during the period from when it became a statutory authority on 13 March 1975 to 30 June 1975.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. Today’s Canberra Times carries a report- on contacting the Canberra Times I was told that it got the report from the Australian Associated Press so the article may appear in other newspapers in Australiathat I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) yesterday whether he usually sent messages of congratulations to newly appointed communist Heads of State as he had to the Prime Minister of China, Mr Hua. This is not so. Yesterday I drew the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that he had addressed a congratulatory message to Mr Hua on his recent appointment ‘as Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’ and asked him on what other occasions he had sent messages of congratulations to persons becoming leaders of, firstly, foreign communist parties and, secondly, foreign democratic parties.
-I have received letters from both the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 107 I have selected one matter, that is that proposed by the honourable member for Fremantle, namely:
The need for a public commitment by the Government to eliminate from the Aboriginal community the diseases and disabilities of yaws, leprosy, hookworm, trachoma, pulmonary infections, deafness and malnutrition and the need to establish a Select Committee of this House to recommend and accelerate action to achieve these ends.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-Two key issues are raised in this matter of public importance. One is the idea of a definite commitment by the Government and the other is the appointment of a select committee of the House of Representatives. I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, will recall that over many years successive governments of Australia followed a definite commitment, which was originally entered into by the Chifley Government in 1946, to eliminate tuberculosis. Having nailed its flag to the mast, that tuberculosis had to be eliminated, the Commonwealth Government as an entity found differing strategies from time to time as to what course to take in this regard. What was then revolutionary in Australia’s treatment of disease was the idea that if a man was suffering from tuberculosis he could leave work, his family would be supported, he would get a full income and, therefore, he would not be under economic pressure not to obtain treatment.
It is an unhappy fact that this idea was not extended originally to the Aboriginal community. One of the reasons why it was not extended to the Aboriginal community was that if the European basic wage was given to Aborigines over many of the years since 1946, they would be receiving, as sufferers from tuberculosis, an amount far in advance of what they had been receiving over a great part of that time. The amount they had been receiving would not have been a quarter of the European basic wage of that era. It is probable that because these strategies were not applied with the same resolution to the Aboriginal community in relation to tuberculosis, almost the only sufferers from tuberculosis in the Australian community are Aborigines. That is one aspect of the subject now before us. If the Government makes the decision, without as yet knowing how to implement it, that it is going to eliminate these scourges from the Aboriginal community and nails that flag to the Commonwealth mast, from time to time it will develop the strategies which will achieve that result.
The second aspect of this resolution is the idea that a select committee of the House of Representatives should be established. I remind the House that a select committee of the House of Representatives revolutionised the constitutional status of Aborigines. I refer to the Select Committee on Voting Rights of Aborigines. A select committee of the House of Representatives made recommendations which are in the process of revolutionising our concepts of Aboriginal land ownership. This was a select committee to inquire into Aboriginal land rights. There was also a select committee to investigate grievances of the Yirrkala Aboriginal people and it began the process of the rectification of some of their grievances. So, if there is a Government commitment and an all-Party committee of this House to monitor what is being done and what should be done, I believe we will have real traction in the assault on the debilitation of the Aboriginal community by these diseases.
The appropriations for Aboriginal affairs have been greatly increased. It is true that in the current Budget it was envisaged that there would be a cut of $33m in the appropriation for Aboriginal affairs. It now stands at a cut of $8m. I realise that with an inflation rate of 13 per cent the cut is bigger than $8m. Generally speaking, in the years of the Labor Government and before that the Commonwealth has appropriated much greater sums for expenditure on Aboriginal affairs. But the fact remains that as soon as there is some sort of scientific survey of the health of the Aboriginal people what is always revealed is disaster. The resident medical officer for the Kimberleys, a servant of the State Government of Western Australia, revealed late in 1974 in a seminar that half of the Aboriginal children of the area were born with brain damage. Action was taken by the Whitlam Government, in conjunction with the Government of Western Australia, to set about the rectification of that situation. We now have the results of a survey conducted in the Northern Territory.
When Dr Spargo in Western Australia was given some financial aid that enabled him to recruit a force of young doctors who did not have to commit themselves to becoming Commonwealth or State civil servants but who could go to the Kimberleys as a task force- they might have been on the job for only a year, 2 years or 3 years -and tackle at the work place the problems of Aboriginal diseases there began for the first time to be a task force on the spot. This could not be done in the Commonwealth sphere- not in the time before the Whitlam Government fell, anyway- because there were problems with the Commonwealth Public Service. But those can be rectified.
I draw the attention of the House to an article in the Canberra Times on this subject. It reads:
If the health services around here -
Referring to the Northern Territory- were delivering the same sort of health care to animals instead of to Aborigines, the RSPCA would prosecute them ‘, Professor Fred Hollows, the director of an eye-health survey and treatment team at present in Central Australia, says.
The article continues:
Tracoma- a curable eye disease also known as ‘sandy blight ‘-which can lead to blindness, was raging, more than half the Aborigines under 21 having active trachoma follicles. Of the 139 children under 1 checked, the figure was 62 percent
Virtually all the black adults seen -
These people were in the Yuendumu area- had scarring of their eyelids and across the eyes.
One in five of the children had perforated eardrums, easily the lowest rate of all the black communities visited. The perforation rate was usually at least one in three, 70 per cent of children under 1 1 being affected in one area.
The article goes on to say:
The figures show central Australian Aborigines to be crippled by ill-health, with diseases and conditions of a sort almost eliminated in white Australia.
Referring to the blindness figures, the article states:
The blindness figures were understated in many communities, with hopelessly blind elderly people not attending for examination. At least the same number of people in each community were blind in one eye.
With adult Aborigines in these settlements, virtually all had trachoma scarring and the development of a pannus (a white band, actually a scar, spreading down the eye). Other eye diseases and conditions, often operable, were also marked.
With the figures on perforated eardrums, it was noted that younger people were more affected than older people.
Dr David Moran, who was working with Professor Hollow’s team, is reported as having said that poor education, virtually a total absence of housing, toilets or clean water, high unemployment, racial tension, gross poverty and the inability of existing medical services to cope were the problems. He made this significant statement:
Medical care systems in the area run against the thinking of such bodies as the World Health Organisation in that they are developed ‘from the top’- with expensive institutions and centralised clinics- rather than ‘ from the bottom ‘.
Most of the Aboriginal people live outside of these central areas and prefer health care near to their homes. Patients should be treated as close to their homes as possible in the smallest, cheapest, most humbly staffed and most simply equipped unit that is capable of looking after them adequately.
The report in the Canberra Times of 19 October goes on to say that it was one thing to put magnificent hospitals in places like Alice Springs and Katherine but Aborigines could not use those institutions. I remember opening a library conference in Australia at which one of the matters discussed was how the wage earning, workingclass, underprivileged Europeans in Australian cities were afraid to approach libraries, which they regarded as part of the institutions of authority, and inquire of a librarian about a book. If that is true of people of inadequate background, inadequate education and so on who are European, how much more is it true that Aborigines do not sense that they need to go in to report at clinics that they have such things as leprosy, serious as that is, let alone some of the lesser things, such as trachoma, which by slow development can cause blindness. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that Emeritus Professor Ida Mann of the University of Western Australia discovered a cure for trachoma which is used all over the world and which, wherever it has been applied in Aboriginal communities, has effected a cure. It is singular that she has not been honoured for what was a discovery of world significance.
I was interested to note that a Senate committee inquiring into the subject of Aboriginal health had this to say:
That governments should publicly announce goals for Aboriginal health improvement, and dates by which these goals should be achieved, and that all government activity in the health field should clearly relate to the achievement of one or more of these goals.
That is, in other words, a request to nail the flag to the mast. There were suggestions in the report in the Canberra Times that Aboriginal people, including some whom we would regard as witch doctors, require training and have asked for training in simple health procedures, that their own people have confidence in them, that they could carry out these simple health procedures and that very often they would prevent the development of more serious conditions. Trachoma is really an unnecessary scourge. It causes blindness. It is a disease that can be cured. We know the cure for it. It has been effected here. I realise that there are reasons for the existence of this condition- not living in houses, flies shifting the disease around and so on. Nevertheless the fact remains that if treatment were available on the spot there would be a vast reduction in the incidence of these sorts of illnesses.
We cannot possibly say that we cannot adjust our health services to meet the needs of a people who may still be isolated and remote. Many of the problems of Aborigines have developed because they do not have any tradition of stationary living. Nomadic people do not have the hygenic problems of people who stay stationary in a settlement. When people whose hygienic ideas were developed in moving on from place to place and never living with the consequences of a community being at one place for any length of time the hygienic problems were not acute. But the moment, with such traditions, they became a relative stationary population disaster ensued. Leprosy, for instance, could not spread, except when they were brought together in settlements, without other measures being taken.
What we have is a monument to a number of things. We accept that Australian medical practitioners do not go to European rural communities in the numbers that are needed, but that does not necessarily mean disaster in country areas. We have solved this problem over a number of years by permitting foreign doctors who were not allowed to practise in the cities to practise in the country. By some strange device known only to the Australian Medical Association their scientific qualifications disappeared when they came near the General Post Office of a great city and reappeared when they moved away from it. But when this inadequacy of medical force is applied to the Aboriginal community it becomes entirely disastrous. Yet I think that experience has shown that if one does not ask doctors to commit themselves over long periods of time one will find that there are many bright young ones with new ideas and new methods who are keen to go and get experience under the conditions that exist in Aboriginal communities. On a temporary basis with a constantly changing personnel in a task forces one can get a force that can tackle the problems of Aboriginal health. That is the purpose of this appeal. I believe that a select committee of this House would find many health strategies of value for the Aboriginal people.
-On behalf of the Government I commend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the Opposition for bringing this matter before the House for consideration and debate. The health of the Australian Aboriginal people undoubtedly is the biggest single public health problem confronting us in Australia. Diseases and disabilities such as yaws, leprosy, hookworm, trachoma, pulmonary infections, deafness and malnutrition are all serious problems afflicting the Aboriginal people in varying degrees depending on the standard of their living conditions. In the Northern Territory, to which the honourable member referred, the problem is very serious indeed because some of the living conditions of the people in the remote areas there are very poor. The high infant mortality rate and alcoholism also are very serious matters and are causing serious problems amongst these people. Undoubtedly we will have to continue to grapple with these problems.
I would like to say early in my response to the honourable member that the Government will give very serious consideration to his request. We have the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs- a committee upon which I served for some 2 years- which works in a bipartisan fashion when inquiring into problems confronting Aboriginal people. I think it is in that bipartisan spirit that the Parliament and the people generally need to turn their attention to the problem. The suitability of that Committee to undertake this task would depend on the duration of its present inquiry into alcoholism amongst the Aboriginal people. Alcoholism, of course, as I said earlier, is one of the very serious problems. I do not know how long the present reference to that Committee will continue. I do not know whether we would be able to broaden that reference to the present Committee, which has a representation of considerable merit, so as to enable it to inquire into the matters that the honourable member for Fremantle has brought to the attention of the House.
Both the former Government and this Government have shown real concern for the problem to which the honourable member referred. This is evidenced by the amount of money and the amount of effort being put into coming to grips with the problem. I have made some quick investigations, through the advisers from the Department of Health, into some of the matters that the honourable member raised. I understand that yaws is now quite rare. Leprosy remains a problem, but we must realise that patients remain on the register for years in order to ensure continuing supervision and care. Therefore very often the statistics that come to hand and become public knowledge tend to overestimate the problem of leprosy. I have a note which indicates that this year, I think, the number of registered leprosy patients in the Northern Territory was 820-1 stress that these are registered patients- but in the leprosarium, as of today, there are only 28 patients. However, we do not underestimate this problem. I have been to the leprosarium in Darwin and to the various settlements around the Northern Territory and have seen the evidence of the disease. Very few cases now are infectious and need isolation. I understand that there are 26 in Derby in Western Australia and some in the Darwin leprosarium.
I speak as a layman and I notice that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) is sitting opposite. He could speak with some knowledge because he is a medico. I understand that hookworm depends on the environmental conditions in which people live. Therefore it is very important to try to improve the environmental conditions of these people. I am told that there have been encouraging results from improving the environmental conditions of Aboriginal people in Queensland. Treatment campaigns and eradication campaigns have been conducted there to try to overcome this problem. In trying to eradicate hookworm we have to improve the environmental conditions of the people in those areas.
The honourable member for Fremantle also referred to trachoma- a subject upon which he has extensive knowledge. The former Government initiated a task force to inquire into the problem of trachoma and the present Government has continued to fund that research activity. This year $570,000 is being made available to the Australian College of Ophthalmologists which is conducting a national campaign to try to find an effective method of treatment to overcome this disease. As the honourable member for Fremantle said, this disease is possible of eradication by means of proper medication and care. I wrote to the honourable member only today to give him further information following a question he put to me in the House on 19 October. That letter should be in his office at present. In it I said:
As to your suggestion about recruitment of a task force I would like to remind you, as I announced earlier this year, that the Government is funding the Australian College of Ophthalmologists to undertake a national project for the treatment of trachoma and other eye conditions among Aboriginals. Currently the field team recruited by the College, in association with Departmental medical services in the Northern Territory, is providing treatment for trachoma among the Aboriginals. This would seem to meet the point you mentioned in the House.
We also are interested in the work of Professor Ida Mann who undertook research for many years and came forward with a method of treatment. I think that treatment involves a pharmaceutical known as sulphonamide.
– No, it is sulphonamide. Since then other treatments have been put into effect and updated by the use of drops and tablets, which apparently have greater efficacy in the treatment of this disease. I do not think any of us should believe in any way that it will be an easy task to overcome all the specific diseases of the Aboriginal people if we do not really improve their living conditions.
This takes me back to the real problem of alcoholism which is causing so much concern to health people throughout this country, and particularly those people who have a direct responsibility for trying to overcome the problems of the Aboriginal people. I refer to a report tabled in the Parliament on 7 October by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). He said that only immediate action by the Government would stop Northern Territory Aborigines from destroying themselves. An article in the Sydney Sun, dated 7 October 1976, stated:
Alcoholism could destroy the Aboriginal race in the Northern Territory, a parliamentary committee told the
Federal Government yesterday. The seriousness of the problem forced the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to present an unscheduled interim report to the Government
The Government is currently examining the recommendations of that report. I pay a tribute to the members of that committee for the work they have already done in trying to come to grips with this serious problem which has an overriding effect upon the standard of health of the Aboriginal people. We cannot blame alcoholism for some of the diseases which are affecting them. Undoubtedly malnutrition and the state of health of the children can in some ways and in some instances be directly related to the living conditions of the Aboriginal people and to the degree of alcoholism which occurs.
– What is causing them to go to alcoholism? Is the committee looking at that?
-The committee is looking at this problem. There is always an underlying reason for a behavioural pattern. Undoubtedly the Aboriginal people, because of their sense of insecurity and deprivation, have been influenced in some way to become the victims of alcoholism. This does not apply, of course, to every Aboriginal or to every family, but there is sufficient evidence for it to be of real concern to us. The honourable member for Fremantle mentioned the importance of recruitment in trying to get the right people into the field. I agree with him en- tirely. One of the real difficulties which the Government has and which the former Government would have had is in recruiting adequate manpower to try to deal with the problem. This is one of the real problems. We have to be very careful that we do not discourage people who have actually gone into the field, into the remote areas of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and who have made great personal sacrifice in order to try to make a contribution to overcoming the serious problem. Undoubtedly that problem will remain with us for some time.
I make an urgent appeal to any Australian, whether he be an Aboriginal or a white Australian, who feels that he has a background of experience or any knowledge which he can offer. I call on him to come forward and to offer that experience or knowledge to my department or to me so that we will have manpower resources available to us to help overcome the problem. Clearly there is a need in some areas of the Northern Territory for task forces to go out into the field and to work among Aboriginals. In the course of the care and treatment of the Aboriginals a lot of value can come from research activities. I do not think many of us know enough about the problem. I think that too many people try to approach the problem of Aboriginal health in the same way that they approach health problems in white communities. I believe that we need a lot of young, willing and enthusiastic people to make their services available to us as a government and to the State governments in trying to overcome this great problem which is besetting Australia’s indigenous race. In conclusion I thank the honourable member for Fremantle for the contribution which he has always madeindeed, has made again today-in bringing to the Parliament an opportunity for us to debate and discuss this very real problem and for helping to focus public attention on what is Australia’s biggest single community health problem.
– I think the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) was gracious in accepting the fact that the Parliament ought to discuss this matter of Aboriginal heath and that we ought to participate in it in a reasonably nonpartisan way as did the Minister and my friend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). A continuing feature of Australia’s history has been that Aboriginal people have received less than a fair go. This country is extraordinarily resourceful in other ways. It has enormous wealth at its disposal. Probably the Aboriginals when we first came here were the hardiest survivors of the roughest and toughest terrain on this planet. Now they are reduced to the state of ill-health which has been nominated today.
I remind honourable members, as I have been reminding them for 20 years or so since I was first alerted to the matter, that a continuing feature of Australian governments in dealing with Aboriginal people is under-performance. It is not necessarily a question of lack of will, but somehow we do not seem to be able to deliver the goods to the Aboriginal communities in the way in which we do to the rest of the community. Some of this has to do with geography but a lot of it has to do with our failure to understand thencultural background. A good deal of the situation has to do with the continuing changes in funding of programs and so on which have happened down through history. So despite the flying doctor service and good communications we still find it impossible to resolve some of the problems. I mentioned that there were a number of features in this whole subject. The first is persistence. Almost ever since the beginning of settlement in this country there has been an acknowledged failure of the community at any stage to be able to handle satisfactorily the Aboriginal population. A report issued by a public servant on 30 August 1 839 states:
I am distressed for the blacks- I cannot feed them as I would- I have no clothing for them- I find I shall be obliged to relinquish giving them flour as my stock is growing short What a disgrace it is that the government makes no provision for them!
I was reminded, when this debate was brought on today, of one of my first operations in an urgency debate in the Parliament in May 1957. The motion was:
The failure of the Government to care for the well-being of persons of Aboriginal and part-Aboriginal blood by not providing State governments with sufficient funds . . .
That matter related to the issue of the Warburton Ranges. This has been a continuing feature of Australian political life. It is time we decided that no considerations of Budget or of anything else, no phony views of the effect of deficits upon inflation or any other operation, should stand between us in doing our duty in this matter. I do not know how we produce non-partisanship in the Austraiian political scene. It is almost impossible, I suppose, for us to avoid the necessity on occasions of scoring off our opponents. Somehow we must find a formula under which we will have a continuing program so that all these areas which need to be attacked will be continually attacked and they will be absolutely free of any reductions because of changes in government or changes in budgetary philosophy.
This matter is continental in scope. I am a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which at the moment is concerning itself with alcoholism. One of the most difficult parts of the task is the amount of travel involved in visiting, looking at areas and talking to people from one end of the continent to the other. We find this problem everywhere. It is in the heart of the cities and out in the remotest parts of the Northern Territory. It is basically social in origin because the Aboriginal communities stood unprepared to face up to the invasion which happened 200 years ago. Ever since, year after year and Budget after Budget Australian governments have been unprepared or unable to find solutions. Looking at the history of the matter we might say, as people so often say, that the situation is totally intractable. I do not think it is. What we are talking about goes to the very heart of the situation of the Aboriginal people. In all sorts of areas we find that they are suffering from great deficiencies.
Infant mortality is perhaps not continuing to be the highest in the world but it is amongst the highest. It is much higher than in any other group in Australia. I have a news item from September. A study found that the death rate among newlyborn children on Cape York Peninsula was about twice as high as that in the Brisbane area. The death rate among the older infant group was almost 8 times as high on the peninsula as it was in Brisbane. The study found that in one small area on Cape York Peninsula with a high Aboriginal population there were 100 infant deaths for every thousand births. When we became the Government in 1972 we launched an all-out attack upon the problems facing Aboriginal people. I would be the last to say that we knew what the answers were before we started or that we knew what the answers ought to be by the time we were removed from office. But we launched an attack across the board. We established the Aboriginal Medical Service and gave it adequate funds. We established nutritional programs which can be found around the country. Some of them have been successful, some unsuccessful. We do not know very much about how to fund or arrange housing programs for the different communities, but until we have resolved those problems we are not going to resolve the health problem. The Labor Government made grants to the State governments for medical teams and for clinic and hospital facilities. We attacked all the general problems. Special teams were operating in the field working on the diseases which have been mentioned today- trachoma, hookworm, leprosy and tuberculosis.
I do not know exactly what was the total amount allocated in the 1975 Budget, but we allocated $1 1.7m for the States in 1975. Some of that had a result. We will claim, I hope rightly, that some of the results in the reduction of infant mortality flowed from our attack upon the problem. In 1974 infant mortality in the Northern Territory was the lowest since records have been kept, and they have been kept for quite a while there. From 1965 to 1969 infant mortality was 1 1 1.5 a thousand, between 1970 and 1974 it was down to 97.4 and in 1974 it was down to 55.6. Perhaps that relates to the point raised by the honourable member for Fremantle- that by a forthright attack, with devoted services and an unrestricted flow of funds, the impact of ill health upon the Australian community can be reduced.
If I could introduce what I hope is not too sour a note, I think that the attack on Aboriginal programs which was a continuing feature of the last 3 years has been very disadvantageous to the Aboriginal people. We on this side of the House were the recipients of that attack as a political exercise, but there is no doubt in my mind that it was part of the pattern of thinking created in the community which made it even harder for this
Government to budget adequately for Aborigines. So the reduction in funds across the board is going to make it more difficult than ever for the present Ministers and their teams to overcome the problems. Inadequate staffing problems are not going to be overcome unless the supply of funds is kept up. On this occasion I appeal to the Government to take another look at funding, to remove the ridiculous restrictions that have been imposed on staffing throughout Australia, to have a closer look with a more sympathetic eye at all the programs that have been prejudiced because of the reduction of money available. We need an attack upon the staffing problem throughout the country; we need new programs on nutrition; we want public hygiene measures; we must take another look at the funding of housing. Even though there have been some failures, we must not let them overcome our good judgment in this matter.
I am a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which is looking at the question of alcoholism. I want to warn the House and the community that we should not be sidetracked into believing that that is the only issue involved. It is not. Alcohol has had a serious effect, but many of the problems pre-date the impact of alcoholism on many communities. However, some communities are not as badly affected as others, such as in the Warburton Ranges. I should like to say a word or two about the Committee. It may well be that the best approach this Parliament can make is to create another Standing Committee. The Committee has great tasks before it, geographically and in other ways. It may well be that expanding the size of the Committee would be helpful. Giving it more resources might be an answer. The establishment of another committee might be desirable. On behalf of the people who work on that Committee, some of whom have young families, some of whom have unsafe seats- of course, we will attempt to make some of them less safe- I would say that it is a challenge. It is difficult to service committees because of the present membership of the House. I suggest that we look very carefully at these matters and approach the question of health with a view to resolving the problems rather than continuing to talk about them for the next century.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-There is a great willingness by members on both sides of the House to come to grips with this important problem that the Aboriginal people have. I think there is a recognition that the sins of the past are now being visited upon us as a generation. There is a general view that a party which has been in government for a short period of time cannot be blamed for the problems that have beset a people for generations. There is a general recognition in the House that some of the things done by the former Government have had a considerable beneficial effect in coping with Aboriginal health problems. Some of us, perhaps only on this side of the House, might be prepared to say also that because some of the programs were not sufficiently well thought out and because some of the spending was so generous there could have been a detrimental effect upon the Aboriginal people and their health simply because of the way in which the moneys were made available.
The points at issue and mentioned by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) are twofold They are these: Firstly, is there a commitment on the part of this Government to deal with the elimination of these diseases and health problems from the Aboriginal community? I would say, as the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has said, that there is a commitment absolutely and in every respect to deal with Aboriginal health problems. The second point relates to the manner in which the Parliament ought to involve itself in these matters. We have already heard that there is a committee of the Parliament charged especially to look into matters relating to Aboriginal people. The question arises whether we need an additional com- .mittee of the Parliament to examine one aspect of the problems that face our Aboriginal community. It is my view that it would be most undesirable to have a further committee to look selectively at one aspect.
While the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which I chair at this time has a responsibility and a reference from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to examine alcohol problems faced by the Aboriginal race, it does not look at those problems in isolation. The Committee recognises the wide range of matters that affect Aboriginal health and exacerbate the drinking problem. It recognises the importance of housing, the importance of living conditions, the importance of education, the importance of good health. It recognises also that in many cases where good housing, employment and so on have been provided the problems brought about by alcohol have not been overcome. The Committee, which is a nonparty committee, has considered this situation at length and only a matter of weeks ago brought into the House an urgent report entitled Alcohol
Aspects. In the opening paragraph the Committee said- I will read it again because I and the members of the Committee consider this matter to be of the utmost importance:
Alcohol is the greatest present threat to the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory and unless strong immediate action is taken they could destroy themselves.
The Committee did not consider these matters in isolation. It went to Alice Springs, to Darwin, to outlying remote Aboriginal communities. It saw all of the matters about which the honourable member for Fremantle has spoken. It saw many of the people to whom he referred. The Committee has highlighted the effect of alcohol in tribal communities and the way in which it breaks down their way of life and their ability to cope with the problems which come simply from the pressures that we put on them. It has recommended certain action, and the Minister has said that consideration of it will be undertaken with the utmost expedition. But this is not the first inquiry of the Parliament and health has not been mentioned only by our Committee at this time. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs in the last Parliament examined Aboriginal health in the south-west of Western Australia and dealt with many of these matters. Each of the diseases to which the honourable member for Fremantle has referred were mentioned, in addition to some others, including tuberculosis, gastro-enteritis and respiratory problems from which these people suffer. It referred also to the need to improve infant and child nutrition. It noted that government programs were designed to achieve this.
There is a further committee report. The Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders presented a report entitled The Environmental Conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of their Sacred Sites. The health and physical environment problems of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were considered in depth- at page 79 of the report. Each of the problems mentioned were covered in some detail. The honourable member for Fremantle referred in passing to this report also.
A great deal of consideration has been given to this matter by the Parliament. As a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I know what has been done in this area. I refer the honourable member for Fremantle to the Hansard report of the Committee’s meeting in Derby on Friday, 1
October, 1976. That report is now a public document and I understand is available in the Parliamentary Library. Evidence was given by Dr Spargo, who is a regional health officer for the West Australian Government. He spoke of the problems of alcohol and its relationship to health. I direct the honourable member’s attention to the questioning by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) about the other health problems, such as venereal disease, that are important. I can assure the honourable member that health and health problems are receiving the utmost attention in the inquiry that we are conducting at the moment. We believe that our report on alcohol problems has to be considered in conjunction with the health of the people themselves and the effect that alcohol perhaps has in bringing about such conditions. This is a very vexed problem and is not one that is capable of easy solutions.
May I mention some of the problems. If we encourage Aboriginal people to move away from European centres of population and into outstations, how are we to provide the sophisticated health care that will enable us to control the situation generally? How are we to provide that sophisticated health care in fringe camps when people are moving around? How are we to prevent people from moving around from one place to another when they believe that if someone has died in a particular location they must move their home? How are we to overcome the neglect of children- the problem of children not being fed because their parents are drinking extensively, so much so that they cannot provide the care that is needed? These problems are real and the solutions are not easily provided. There is no doubt that this Government and the former Government had these problems very much in mind. The efforts of our Committee are centred upon coping with them. I believe that our Committee could sufficiently widen the scope of its current inquiry to ensure that these aspects are covered in greater detail. I think it is best that we consider these problems in conjunction with our present inquiry which, as the Hansard record of the Committee shows, is taking us around Australia. I submit also that such a course would save a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money as it would avoid unnecessary duplication.
-Order! The discussion is concluded.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment to Queensland of $2 7m in 1976-77 in the form of special grants. The payment of this amount is in accordance with the recommendations of the Grants Commission contained in its forty-third report on special assistance for the States which was tabled, initially in the Senate, by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). The Bill also seeks authority for payment of advances to Queensland in the early months of 1977-78, pending receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and enactment of any necessary legislation to provide for special grants that may be paid to the State in that year.
The Commonwealth Government makes special grants to certain of the States to compensate them for such factors as lower capacity to raise revenue from their own resources and higher costs in providing government services of a standard similar to those in the financially stronger States. When special grants were first paid they constituted the only regular form of general revenue assistance paid to the fiancially weaker States for this purpose. However, for many years now, the mam way in which special compensatory assistance has been provided has been through the higher per capita shares of other general revenue funds paid to the 4 less populous States. This meant principally that, prior to the current financial year, the financial assistance grants, or formula grants, paid to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania were higher, in per capita terms, than the financial assistance grants paid to New South Wales and Victoria. From the beginning of 1976-77, those formula grants are, of course, being replaced with the personal income tax sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States.
I emphasise, however, that under the personal income tax sharing arrangements the less populous States will continue to be free to apply for special financial assistance on the recommendation of the Grants Commission. As honourable members will be aware, this is one of the explicit understandings between governments in relation to the tax sharing arrangements. Any such special grants would be regarded as supplementing a State’s entitlement under the tax sharing arrangements in the same way as they formerly supplemented the financial assistance grants.
The Grants Commission, in arriving at its recommendations in relation to claims for special assistance, makes an assessment of the financial needs of a claimant State. To quantify these needs, the Commission compares in detail the finances of the claimant State with those of New South Wales and Victoria, taking into account differences in revenue-raising capacity and differences in the cost of providing comparable services.
The payments of special grants recommended by the Grants Commission consist of 2 parts. One part is based on a preliminary estimate of the claimant State’s financial need in the current financial year, and is treated as an advance payment subject to adjustment 2 years later when the Commission has compared in detail the finances of the claimant and standard States for that year. The other part represents the final adjustment to the advance payment made 2 years earlier and is known as the completion payment. This adjustment may be positive or negative and therefore may result in the final grant in respect of a year being higher or lower than the advance payment for that year.
Currently Queensland is the only State applying for special revenue assistance under the Grants Commission arrangements. The payment to Queensland in 1976-77 of $27m provided for by this Bill comprises an advance payment of $l8m in respect of 1976-77 and a completion payment of $9m in respect of 1 974-75. The completion payment in respect of 1974-75, when added to the $15m advance grant paid to Queensland in that year, brings the final grant in respect of 1 974-75 to $24m, which is $2.7m more than the corresponding figure for 1973-74. The advance grant for 1976-77 will, in accordance with normal practice, be subject to adjustment in 2 years time.
The Commission’s recommendations in relation to the special grants arrangements have been adopted by the Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should be accepted on this occasion. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill-by leave-presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
To date there have been 2 Acts authorising softwood planting agreements between the Commonwealth and each State, both of which covered a 5-year period. These were the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act of 1967, which marked the commencement on 1 July 1966 of an expanded softwood planting program in the States, and the 1972 Act which terminated on 30 June 1976. The purpose of the softwood planting agreements is to increase the level of softwood planting from that being funded by the State governments prior to the Acts coming into force to a level related to Australia’s future needs for softwood forest products. With the assistance of loan funds provided under the first 2 Acts, the area of State government owned softwood plantations in Australia increased by about 220 000 hectares in the decade covered by the Acts. Total loan payments were of the order of $48m, about 10 per cent of which was for purchase of land.
The effect of this proposed legislation will be to enable the Commonwealth to enter into an agreement with each State covering the financing of a program of softwood planting for the year ending 30 June 1977 under the same general terms and conditions which applied under the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act 1972, but at a reduced level. The Government regards a one year extension of financial assistance as a necessary holding measure while the question of further agreements covering a longer term is reviewed.
The Australian Forestry Council has had the question of a third series of softwood forestry agreements under review for some time. Recommendations on the future level of plantings were deferred pending the completion of the study of the operation of the softwood planting agreements undertaken by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation of the Twenty-ninth Parliament. That Committee considered that there was a need for a softwood planting program, possibly at lower levels of planting than covered by the 1972 Act. It also expressed some doubts about the economics of pine planting in Australia and recommended that an immediate study be carried out by a body such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to determine the economic viability of the softwood planting program on both strict financial grounds and the broadest possible cost-benefit grounds. As a consequence of this recommendation 2 studies have been carried out. The BAE has reported on the demand for forest products and the economic viability of the industries through which they are processed. The
Bureau also has provided estimates of the supply and demand for these products to 2020 AD. The Forestry and Timber Bureau has made an assessment of the costs and benefits of growing pines in Australia.
The BAE report has been made available for the consideration of the Standing Committee of the Australian Forestry Council and it is scheduled to be published as soon as possible. This series of events has precluded the possibility of a Government decision on the longer term position being raised before the conclusion of the 1972 Act. The 2 studies carried out by the 2 bureaus in my Department indicate that from an economic viewpoint it will be in Australia ‘s interests to continue with a pine planting program. They provide a basis for assessing what level of future planting is desirable and whether further federal financial assistance is justified. In accordance with the findings of the parliamentary committee report, the level of planting proposed to be financed this year is less than previously. Unlike the previous Acts, expenditure is limited to a specific sum in order to conform with Government policy of financial restrictions. The $6m loan allocation is expected to allow a level of Commonwealth financed planting half of that which applied under the 1972 Act.
Normally, expenditure of Commonwealth funds would require the preparation by the States of environmental impact statements on the proposed plantings. Because of the time required to prepare and consider these statements, insistence on this requirement would negate the purpose of the extension. As a compromise, and in recognition of other recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee, the States have agreed in respect of the extension year plantings that to the greatest extent possible new plantings should be established on land which has already been cleared for agricultural purposes and that the guidelines for forest management procedures outlined in paragraph 159 of the Standing Committee’s report be followed. The States have been advised that, should the Commonwealth and the States enter into agreements for a further period, it would be necessary to comply with the administrative procedures under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in placing this Bill before the House, the Government has given consideration to the benefit to rural communities of the softwood program and to the greater benefits to these areas and to the nation which will accrue when industries using the raw material of the forests are established or expanded. It has given consideration also to the employment opportunities provided in rural areas by the softwood planting program and the social disruption that a sudden termination of Commonwealth financial assistance would bring. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned. ‘
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– -I move
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972-1976 to remove any legal doubts regarding the imposition of the Commonwealth levy on whole milk and butter fat which is produced in Australia and subsequently vested in State milk authorities. The need for amendment to the abovementioned Act relates to points raised by the New South Wales Dairy Industry Authority which has questioned whether it is acting within the law in making deductions on account of the Commonwealth levy from the payments that it makes to producers on whole milk which it acquires from them for the purposes of the Authority.
Under the New South Wales Dairy Industry Authority Act 1970, whole milk supplied by the producer to the Authority is vested in the Authority and the Authority is required to pay the producer for that whole milk. In order to ensure that collections by State milk authorities are properly made, the Bill amends the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act so as clearly to impose levy on whole milk or butter fat which is vested in State milk authorities. It also regularises deductions that have been made by authorities since the introduction of the original Dairying Research Levy Act on 1 July 1972. The levy which is imposed under the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act is used to finance the research activities of the Dairying Research Committee and to finance the administration and promotional activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise nonrepayable grants to the States over the 3-year period 1976-77 to 1978-79 for the assessment of the quantity and quality of their surface and underground water resources. Commonwealth involvement with the States in water resources assessment goes back to 1964. Following a recommendation by the Australian Water Resources Council, the States, with financial support from the Commonwealth, embarked on an accelerated program to establish a comprehensive network of stream gauging stations and to substantially improve knowledge of underground water resources. As well as implementing programs in its own Territories, the Commonwealth has assisted the States by making available grants of $2.8m, $4.Sm, $8.2m and $15.9m over successive 3-year periods- a total of $3 1 .4m over 12 years. The Bureau of Meteorology has also contributed significantly to the progress of the assessment program over this period with a concurrent expansion of its network of meteorological stations. In 1974, the program was expanded to include assessment of the quality of surface and underground water.
The success of the Commonwealth support for these activities is reflected in expenditure by the States at levels in excess of those required to attract the maximum Commonwealth grant. Under the impetus of the program, the number of stream gauging stations has increased from some 1450 in 1964 to about 2750 in 1975, while the area over which surface water resources are now measured has increased by some 40 per cent during this period. Similarly, the area over which an evaluation of underground water resources can now be made from available data has increased by approximately one-third over the same period. Nevertheless, there remain areas of the continent in respect of which our knowledge of water resources is inadequate, either where data is insufficient, or where the available records are of too short a duration to allow reliable assessments to be made. Data concerning the quality of our water resources is also very limited, and increasing emphasis will be given to this aspect during the coming triennium.
The Commonwealth now proposes to make available a total of $6.658m by way of nonrepayable grants to the States to assist in achieving the proposed programs for 1976-77. This will enable Commonwealth assistance to be maintained in real terms at the level of assistance provided in 1975-76. The Commonwealth has also undertaken to support the program for 1977-78 and 1978-79 at levels to be determined before the commencement of each of these years.
I turn now to the Bill itself, the provisions of which are broadly similar to the 1973-74 legislation and with appropriate provisions for continuing assistance to the States in 1977-78 and 1 978-79. Provision for grants in respect of expenditure by the States on approved programs is made in sections 5 and 6. In respect of each State, Commonwealth grants for both surface and underground water assessment will be determined by the excess of expenditure over and above base amounts specified in the schedule to the Bill until total expenditure is double the base amount. Further expenditure will be funded on a dollar for dollar basis until the maximum grant as specified in the schedule is payable. The maximum grant to each State for 1977-78 and 1978-79 will be determined on an annual basis. In aggregate, Commonwealth assistance for 1976-77 has been allocated between the States in accordance with an agreement reached at the eighteenth meeting of the Australian Water Resources Council.
The Bill also contains a number of machinery provisions which are generally similar to those of the previous Acts relating to this program. These include provision in section 4 for Ministerial approval of annual programs of assessment, and section 9 provides for the submission of annual reports by the States on the progress of the program.
Australia has experienced severe and, in places, record droughts and floods during the past decade. Members with a close interest in Australia’s water resources will be acutely aware of the variability of our rainfall and stream flows, the dangers of over-utilising our underground water storages and problems of water quality in years of low surface and underground water supplies. The assessment program for which Commonwealth funds are to be made available for a further 3 years will provide vital information on the availability and quality of surface and underground water across the whole range of climatic conditions experienced in Australia from year to year. This information is indispensable if the planning, development and management of our valuable water resources for domestic, industrial and rural purposes are to proceed on a sound and scientific basis.
I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Ellicott) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent-
a ) a Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill ( No. 3), a Bankruptcy Amendment Bill, an Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill, a Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill, a Federal Court of Australia (Consequential Provisions) Bill, an Income Tax Assessment Amendment (Jurisdiction of Courts) Bill, a Patents Amendment Bill and a Trade Marks Amendment Bill being presented at this sitting and read a first time together and one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings, the committee’s report stage, and the third readings, of the eight Bills together,
b ) the consideration of the Bills in one Committee of the Whole and
messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations for the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill and the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill being announced together.
Bills presented by Mr Ellicott, and together read a first time.
That the Bills be now read a second time.
These Bills relate to the Federal Court of Australia Bill already before the House and deal with the exercise of federal judicial power and the structure of the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. These Bills will amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Bankruptcy Act, the Patents Act, the Trade Marks Act, the Income Tax Assessment Act, the Acts establishing the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory and a number of Acts that confer specific jurisdiction on the Australian Industrial Court. The amendments will give further legislative expression to the Government’s plans to establish the new Federal Court of Australia, to confer additional federal jurisdiction on State Courts, to relieve the pressure on both the original and appellate jurisdiction of the High Court and to provide added status to the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory Supreme Courts.
In my second reading speech on the introduction of the Federal Court of Australia Bill, I explained that the intention is that that Court should take over the jurisdiction now being exercised by the Australian Industrial Court and the Federal Court of Bankruptcy. Accordingly, provision is being made by three of the Bills now being introduced for the transfer to the Federal Court of Australia of the jurisdiction at present exercised by those other two Courts and for their eventual abolition. The three Bills in question are the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3), the Bankruptcy Amendment Bill and the Federal Court of Australia (Consequential Provisions) Bill. From a date to be proclaimed, not being earlier than the date on which the Federal Court of Australia would commence to exercise its jurisdiction, all proceedings that may now be instituted in the Australian Industrial Court or in the Federal Court of Bankruptcy will be instituted in the new Court. Where there are pending proceedings in either of the two existing courts and the hearing of those proceedings has not commenced on the proclaimed date, those pending proceedings will be transferred into the Federal Court of Australia. Proceedings pending before the Australian Industrial Court or the Federal Court of Bankruptcy that are part heard on the proclaimed date will continue in those courts. Each of those two courts will continue in existence until a time when there are no judges left on the Court. The Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) and the Bankruptcy Amendment Bill provide that, on the making of proclamations to that effect, the two courts will be abolished and any proceedings then pending in those courts will be transferred to the Federal Court of Australia.
All proceedings under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Stevedoring Industry Act will be dealt with in the Industrial Division of the Federal Court of Australia. The Federal Court of Australia Bill provides forjudges to be assigned to the Industrial Division of the Court and that judges assigned to the General Division of that Court shall not take part in the exercise of jurisdiction in the Industrial Division, except in special circumstances by arrangement made by the Chief Judge of that Court. When exercising its jurisdiction under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division will, for the time being, be constituted in precisely the same way as the Australian Industrial Court is now required to be constituted. In those cases where the Australian Industrial Court is now required to be constituted by a single judge, the Federal Court of Australia will be constituted in its Industrial Division by a single judge. Where the Australian Industrial Court is now required to be constituted by three or more judges, the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division will sit as a Full Court. Likewise, the provision as to appeals will remain unaltered for the present. In those cases where there is now no appeal from a decision of the
Australian Industrial Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, there will be no appeal from a decision of the Federal Court of Australia. In other cases, where an appeal now lies from the Australian Industrial Court to the High Court by leave of the High Court, an appeal will lie from the Federal Court of Australia to the High Court. The special provisions as to appeals under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will override the provisions in the Federal Court of Australia Bill relating to appeals.
It is intended that these provisions as to the number of judges that are required to sit and as to the limitation on appeals in industrial matters will be reconsidered after discussions with employee and employer organisations. Successive amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have produced a number of anomalies. Further, the present provisions are wasteful of judicial resources in some respects. For example, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act requires 3 judges to sit on a prosecution for a breach of an award under section 1 19 of the Act. If the prosecution were brought in a state court, it would be dealt with by a magistrate. On the other hand, there are some matters of considerable importance to registered organisations or to individual members of organisations where there is no provision for appeal, even from a single judge. The only way of reviewing those decisions at present is by way of prerogative writ in the High Court.
With regard to the exercise of jurisdiction under the Bankruptcy Act, the practice has been that the Federal Court of Bankruptcy has not sat regularly elsewhere than in New South Wales and Victoria. It is intended that the Federal Court of Australia will ordinarily exercise bankruptcy jurisdiction only in these 2 States and in the Austraiian Capital Territory. In the other States, bankruptcy jurisdiction will continue, for the time being, to be exercised by State courts and in the Northern Territory by the Northern Territory Supreme Court.
As well as its industrial jurisdiction under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Stevedoring Industry Act, the Australian Industrial Court has jurisdiction under 10 other Acts. The most important area of general jurisdiction is its jurisdiction under the Trade Practices Act. The Federal Court of Australia (Consequential Provisions) Bill provides for the transfer of all of this jurisdiction to the Federal Court of Australia, other than cases part heard on the proclaimed day for the transfer of the jurisdiction. The transfer of the jurisdiction under the Trade Practices Act to the Federal Court of
Australia does not, of course, pre-empt any decision that the Government might take on the recommendation of the Trade Practices Review Committee that State courts should be given concurrent jurisdiction in consumer protection matters.
The High Court now has an extensive original jurisdiction in industrial property matters. Appeals from decisions of the Commissioner of Patents and the Registrar of Trade Marks lie directly to the High Court constituted by a single justice. Although State courts have jurisdiction to try actions for infringement of a patent or a registered trade mark, the revocation of a patent or the cancellation of registration of a trade mark on the ground of invalidity is a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court. Thus, if, in an action for infringement of a patent in a State supreme court, a counter-claim is made for revocation of the patent the proceedings are automatically removed into the High Court. In addition, the High Court has exclusive jurisdiction under the Patents Act to extend the term of a patent or to grant a compulsory licence for the working of a patent.
The Patents Amendment Bill and the Trade Marks Amendment Bill being introduced will vest this original jurisdiction in State supreme courts and in the supreme courts of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. The High Court will no longer have original jurisdiction in patents and trade mark matters, except to the extent that an action may be brought in the original jurisdiction of the High Court under section 75 of the Constitution. Jurisdiction thus conferred on the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory supreme courts under the Patents and Trade Marks Acts will be limited to those cases where the plaintiff is resident in the Territory concerned on the date on which the proceedings are instituted, or, being a corporation, has its principal place of business in that Territory on that date.
The amendments to the Patents and Trade Marks Acts will also confer additional jurisdiction on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Appeals now lie from the Commissioner of Patents and the Registrar of Trade Marks to the High Court in a number of matters that are primarily administrative in character and which do not involve questions of patent or trade mark law. There is, for example, an appeal from the Commissioner of Patents to the High Court against a refusal of the Commissioner to grant an extension of time under the Patents Act. Jurisdiction in matters of this kind will not be transferred to State supreme courts, it being more appropriate for them to be dealt with by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
I would also mention that the Patents Amendment Bill and the Trade Marks Amendment Bill provide for proceedings to be transferred from one supreme court to another on the application of a party. This provision will enable a matter to be moved from one court to another if it turns out that the convenience of the parties would be better served by such a transfer.
In introducing the Federal Court of Australia Bill, I said that it was the intention that the full court of that court should have appellate jurisdiction from State courts, other than the full courts of State supreme courts, in special areas of Federal jurisdiction. In fulfilment of that intention, provision is made in the Bills now being introduced for appeals to lie to the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia from State courts exercising bankruptcy jurisdiction, from State courts exercising jurisdiction under the Patents and Trade Marks Acts and from decisions of single judges of State supreme courts on appeals from a Taxation Board of Review and the Commissioner of Taxation under the Income Tax Assessment Act. These appeals will be exclusive of any right of appeal that might otherwise exist to the full court of the State supreme courts. Provision is, however, made for appeals by special leave of the High Court to lie direct to the High Court under the Income Tax Assessment Act and the Patents and Trade Marks Acts. Appeals from Territory supreme courts to the Federal Court of Australia are provided for in the Federal Court of Australia Bill.
The High Court has original and appellate jurisdiction under a number of other Commonwealth Acts. Bills will be introduced in due course to amend these Acts to transfer the original jurisdiction of the High Court to State and Territory supreme courts and to provide, in appropriate cases, for -appeals to the Federal Court of Australia. In particular, the High Court still has original jurisdiction, concurrent with State and Territory supreme courts, to hear taxation appeals under the Estate Duty Assessment Act and the Gift Duty Assessment Act and exclusive jurisdiction in sales tax appeals. Where an appeal is taken under these Acts from the Commissioner or a Board of Review to a supreme court, there is a right of appeal to the High Court. These Acts will eventually be amended to bring them into conformity, as regards the jurisdiction of courts, with the Income Tax Assessment Act as it will be amended by the Bill now being introduced.
Three other changes to be made by the Income Tax Assessment Amendment (Jurisdiction of Courts) Bill should be noted. Provision is to be made for a taxation appeal to be transferred from one supreme court to another on the application of a party. The High Court is to be divested of the original jurisdiction it now has to hear taxation prosecutions under the Income Tax Assessment Act. Original jurisdiction in these prosecutions will be confined to State and Territory courts. The amount of the penalty in issue that entitles a defendant in a taxation prosecution to elect for trial in a supreme court is to be increased from $200 to $500.
I turn now to the changes to be made in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory supreme courts. The Government has decided that an office of chief judge should be established in each of these courts. Each of these courts now comprises 3 resident judges, together with additional judges appointed from the ranks of the judges of the Australian Industrial Court. In each case, the senior of the 3 resident judges has specific responsibility for arranging the business of the Court and, in fact, exercises many of the functions that the chief justice of a State supreme court would exercise.
In addition, these courts will, as I have already said, have jurisdiction under the Patents and Trade Marks Acts, in matters in which original jurisdiction is now vested in the High Court, in respect of proceedings instituted by Territory residents or by companies having their principal place of business in a Territory. Further, the 2 Territory supreme courts will be given, ibr the first time, jurisdiction in taxation appeals under the Income Tax Assessment Act. This jurisdiction will likewise be limited to cases where the taxpayer concerned is a Territory resident or, if a company, has its principal place of business in a Territory. This change will be of great convenience to Territory residents, who have hitherto had to resort to a State supreme court to appeal from a board of review or the Commissioner in income tax matters.
The Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill will also enable the appointment of a fourth resident judge of that Court. The investigation of Aboriginal land claims will, for some time, occupy much of the time of a judge of that Court. This makes it desirable to increase by one the number of judges who can be appointed in the Northern Territory for the work of the Court. I commend the Bills to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to effect a number of changes to the Acts Interpretation Act. This Act sets down general rules that are to apply, unless a contrary intention appears, to the interpretation of all Acts of Parliament and regulations and other instruments made under those Acts. It also confers certain powers of a general nature to facilitate the operation of other Acts. The main changes to be made by the Bill are to clarify certain matters as a result of the decision of the High Court in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case and to facilitate future changes in the Administrative Arrangements Order.
Clause 3 of the Bill replaces section 4 of the principal Act that empowers action to be taken in the period between the passing of an Act and its commencement so that the Act can have effective operations on the date it comes into force. There are doubts as to the effectiveness of the present section in relation to its operation in case of an amending Act, and it is desired to remove those doubts. Moreover, section 4 as it stands contains a proviso that instruments made under the power thus conferred do not become effective until the Act comes into operation, but there is no similar provision as to the effective date of other things that may be done under the power. It should be clear that all such action does not take effect before the date on which the Act comes into operation and the clause so provides. If it is necessary in a particular case for appointments, for instance, to be in force before the commencement of the relevant Act, that Act, not the Acts Interpretation Act, should provide specifically for that to be done.
Clause 4 seeks to make it clear that Commonwealth Acts, existing and future, have effect in and in relation to the offshore area and to the outer edge of the territorial sea. This effect is to be subject to any contrary intention appearing in a particular Act. The need for the clause arises out of the decision of the High Court, in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case, that the States end, generally speaking, at low water mark and do not include the territorial sea. The clause also makes it clear that Acts extending to an external territory have effect in and in relation to territorial sea of that territory. Nothing in the clause is to limit the operation of any Act before the amendment comes into force.
Clause 5 rephrases the existing definitions of certain words. The extended definition of the word ‘Minister’ arises out of amendments made by clause 8 of the Bill. The new definition of Gazette reflects the decision of the Government to revert to the title of Commonwealth of Australia Gazette that was in use over many years up to 1 July 1973. Clause 6 reflects a similar decision to change the title of the office of Government Printer. Clause 7 of the Bill inserts a new clause to provide that other parts of speech and grammatical forms of a word or phrase defined in an Act are to have corresponding meanings.
Clause 8 is intended to provide a procedure to overcome difficulties in applying legislation as a consequence of changes in ministerial offices, in the names of departments and in the Administrative Arrangements Order. These difficulties exist where legislation contains references to specified Ministers, departments or permanent heads and these references do not accord with the changed administrative arrangements. The existing sections 19a and 19b have been found not to be adequate for this purpose in all cases that arise. Proposed new sections 19b and 19ba will empower the Governor-General to make orders to adapt those statutory references to the altered administrative arrangements. 1 refer particularly to the provisions in proposed new section 19ba, applicable when a function is transferred from one Minister to another without the designation of the former Minister being altered. In that case the Bill will require the tabling in the Parliament of any order that requires that the relevant references in Acts to the former Minister be applied to the latter. Either House may disallow the order, in the same way that regulations may now be disallowed. This procedure recognises that the effect of an order by the Governor-General would be to change the operation of an Act conferring functions on a specified Minister by transferring those functions to another Minister. The opportunity is given to the Parliament to insist on the continued application of its enactment in the form in which the Parliament passed the legislation.
Proposed new section 19bb empowers the revocation of an order under sections 19b or 19ba. All orders made under proposed new sections 19b, 19ba and 19bb inserted by the clause are required to be published in the Gazette. Finally, clause 9 sets out a number of formal changes to be made to the principal Act in accordance with current drafting practices.
I have referred to the function of the principal Act as providing a valuable aid in the construction and application of Acts generally and in shortening their length. The amendments proposed in this Bill will enhance that function. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill- by leave- presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill when enacted will be the continuing legislative authority by which funds will be made available to the States for the purpose of implementing programs of assistance to Aboriginal people. On the basis of advice from the then Attorney-General it has been the practice since 1968 to introduce each year during the Budget session the States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bills for this purpose. Such Bills have been presented in accordance with section 96 of the Constitution and have contained conditions under which the Minister may release funds to the States and recover moneys not expended for the purposes for which they were provided.
Following upon comments made by the Auditor-General in his special report of March 1974 on the administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the method of appropriation of funds for State programs was changed in the financial year 1974-75. Instead of the funds being provided from the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account, as in previous years, States grants were appropriated under division 806 in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1974-75. This Bill, if passed into law, will replace the practice by which a States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill has been introduced each year, and will provide for the payment to the States in any year of such amounts as are appropriated by Parliament for that purpose in that year. Such standing legislation will also overcome a deficiency in the present situation in that there is at present no specific legislative authority in terms of section 96 of the Constitution for payment to the States during the Supply period, as the annual States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill has not been enacted in past years until after the introduction of the Budget.
In previous years my predecessors used the opportunity of the introduction of annual States grants Bills to give Parliament detailed information of Aboriginal affairs programs undertaken through grants-in-aid to Aboriginal organisations as well as through State instrumentalities. Such information on the Government’s policies will be available to the Parliament in the usual way through the Appropriation Bill and will be debated in the normal manner in the Budget session. There will, in addition, be my Department’s annual report, which is soon to be tabled in the House. I do, however, refer honourable members to Budget Paper No. 7, tables 39 and 117, which show estimates of payments to the States, during 1976-77, for Aboriginal advancement and also provide some details of such payments in past years. Honourable members will be aware that the Government has recently announced a further allocation of $25m to Aboriginal advancement. A portion of this amount will be made available to the States and when the additional estimates are introduced into the House later during this financial year, details of such further allocations to the States and to Aboriginal organisations will be announced. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill- by leave-presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is with some satisfaction that I present this measure to the Parliament. The purpose of the Bill is to facilitate the transfer of Australian Public Service staff to the Northern Territory Public Service as a further step in the constitutional development of the Northern Territory.
I have no doubt that there is general agreement among all members of this House that the people of the Northern Territory should be given greater control over their own affairs. It is the policy of the Government to progressively act to confer executive responsibility on the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory with the objective of advancing the Territory to Statehood. As I will indicate later, this policy commitment is significantly under way. It is clearly the consensus of this Parliament that the arrangements for the governance of the Northern Territory should more adequately reflect the views and aspirations of the local community. This sentiment is supported in the policy statements of all political parties represented in the Parliament. It was confirmed by the report of the joint parliamentary committee appointed to inquire into the constitutional development of the Northern Territory.
More recently, the Parliament approved during its last sittings, and without dissent, amendments to the Northern Territory (Administration) Act to facilitate the conferral of executive responsibility on the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. At that time I expressed satisfaction at the non-partisan approach which was adopted to that measure. Following the enactment of the amendments to the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, the Government announced its approval for the transfer to the control of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly of a wide range of functions of a local character. Our target date for the implementation of that transfer is 3 1 December 1976.I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a list of the functions which will be included in the initial transfer.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
National Parks and Wildlife Service (incorporating the Reserves Board and the Wildlife Section of Department of the Northern Territory)
Plumbers’ and Drainers’ licensing Board
Legislation Branch (part)
– I thank the House. This Bill is an essential component of the new and expanded constitutional status that we are seeking to confer on the Northern Territory. It is, I suggest, a critical element in the compact between the Federal Government, the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory and the officers of the Public Service who will devote their career to the advancement and well being of the Territory.
As I stated earlier, the purpose of the Bill is to facilitate the transfer of staff from the Australian Public Service to the Northern Territory Public Service. It will be complemented by an appropriate Northern Territory Public Service Ordinance which is being prepared at present in consultation with the Public Service Board and the relevant staff associations. The transfers will be made by the Minister for the time being administering the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, acting on the advice of both the Public Service Board and the Northern Territory Public Service Commissioner. The Bill will safeguard the rights of existing officers and employees who are transferred. Before any transfer can take place the Minister must be satisfied that the Northern Territory Public Service will meet certain minimum standards such as automatic appointment of transferred officers, preservation of furlough, and other leave accruals which exist at the date of transfer, and retention of existing salary. These provisions are designed to protect the rights without inhibiting by legislation the ability of the Northern Territory Public Service Commissioner in his actions in relation to the newly formed Service.
It is proposed that promotion and appeal rights of existing officers will be continued in substantively the same manner as was provided for staff transferred to the Postal and Telecommunications Commissions and a regulation making power for this purpose is included in the Bill. Transitional provisions are included to cover promotion action which is in train at the time of any transfer. I would emphasise that it is the Government’s intention to ensure that the Northern Territory is provided with a viable and efficient career Public Service. We will ensure, through legislation such as this Bill and the new Northern Territory Public Service Ordinance, that the rights of officers who enter that Service are fully protected. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21 October, on motion by Mr Street:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill now before the House seeks to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in respect of the method of election of officers of registered organisations; that is, trade unions and employer organisations. The Act as it now stands provides that the election of officers of an organisation shall be by direct ballot of members eligible to vote, except for part-time officers of organisations whose rules provided for their election by a one-tier collegiate system at the time that the direct voting requirement was introduced. That was in November 1973 when the Act was amended in a number of respects by the then Labor Government. It was also provided at that time, however, that organisations would have 3 years in which to bring their rules into conformity with the Act. That 3-year period ends on 13 November. Thus the Government has had to move now if it is to enable organisations to avoid having to change their rules to conform with the Act.
The change proposed by the Government is, in broad terms, to restore the collegiate system for the election of officers of organisations as an alternative to the direct vote of the total membership. In the case of full-time officers the collegiate system is limited to one tier, but for other positions a multi-tier system is permissible. The Opposition opposes these amendments. It does so because it believes that they run counter to the effective and democratic operation and control of organisations. We consider that union members should have the right to vote directly for their full-time officials, since these are the people who represent the union and guide its day to day operations. Unquestionably they are the most important people in the union hierarchy, and surely it is only fair and reasonable that every union member eligible to vote should be able to have his or her say as to who will occupy these important positions. That is the way Labor sees it, and accordingly we amended the Act in 1973 to provide for that procedure.
We were not alone in that belief in 1973. The then Opposition raised not one word of protest against our amendments. In neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate was any criticism made by the then Opposition of the change in the method of election of union officials. Indeed, the only comment made by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party came from the then spokesman on industrial relations, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who said in his speech in the second reading debate:
The Minister is going to a very considerable length to see that union officials are properly elected- democratically elected- by their unions.
This implied acceptance by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party of the direct voting method of election of union officials was confirmed by the fact that in both Houses of the Parliament the relevant clause of the Bill was agreed to in Committee without debate. So it is beyond doubt that the parties now in government have had a very considerable change of mind since 1973.
But the mental gymnastics of the Government parties go further than that. Everyone in this House will recall that in last year’s election campaign one of the issues played up most strongly by the coalition parties was-I quote from the Prime Minister’s policy speech- the supposed need ‘to give the Australian worker the opportunity to control his own union’. Apparently the present Prime Minister had forgotten his comment of 2 years previously as to the considerable length to which the Labor Government was going to ensure that union officials were properly and democratically elected. He was saying that militant union officials had to be stopped from dictating to their members and accordingly they must be elected by secret postal vote. He and his fellow caretaker Ministers continually deplored the fact that the president of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union was elected in a ballot of less than 2 per cent of the union membership. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), for instance, was reported in the Melbourne Sun of 24 November last year as saying that the coalition would do what left wing and communist officials feared most; that is, they would introduce secret postal ballots for union elections. Of course, he then made the ritual mention of the election of the president of the AMWU and gave that as an example of the sort of injustice that a coalition government would stamp out.
On obtaining government the Liberal Party and the National Country Party eventually did move to provide that union elections must be by secret postal ballot. But they almost made a mess of that by introducing a Bill earlier this year which failed to define a postal ballot and this would have required little alteration of election procedures by such unions as the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union despite the fact that the election of the AMWU president was once again trotted out as justification for the action being taken. However, the Government realised its omission before it was too late and so, in a stumbling fashion, it fulfilled its election promise. Now, the Dick Scotts of this world would be put on their mettle. Every union member eligible to vote would be armed with a ballot paper. If we are to believe the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and various other Government spokesmen, this action would set left wing officials of unions trembling in their boots.
Frankly, I doubt that many left wing union officials were all that concerned. Some of the unions most left wing had for years employed a system of compulsory voting by all members at union elections. However, those who were feeling a little anxious need not have worried too much. The trap which had been set to catch a sprat had caught a mackerel. Some large right wing unions were aghast at the prospect of having an election by the whole rank and file for their full time officials. So too were the employer organisations who presumably did not mind the Dick Scotts of this world having to face an election by the whole membership but were not too anxious for his employer counterparts to suffer the same experience. Accordingly, as is now common knowledge, and as the Minister admitted in his second reading speech, the Government was lobbied strongly by these powerful forces to amend the 1973 legislation to allow the retention of the collegiate system.
The lobbyists were apparently assured that something would be done to retain the collegiate system. This is demonstrated by the fact that when the industrial registrar called to his office members of those unions which had not amended their rules to meet the 1973 requirements- about the middle of this year- the Federal president of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, Mr Maynes, asserted that he did not believe that it would be necessary to amend his rules because the Government would amend the Act to allow the retention of the collegiate system. That union still has not changed its rules and it has a great deal at stake in ensuring the continuance of the collegiate system. From what I have said up to this point I do not mean to imply that all unions affected by the 1973 legislation were overjoyed.. Quite a few expressed hostility but most of them eventually came around to acceptance and changed their rules. They include such notable left wing unions as the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia, the Australian Building and Construction Workers’ Federation- it has now reregisteredand the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees’ Union of Australia.
Of course, other unions which are not notably left wing have also changed their rules. But some of them have not and they are not all right wing unions. For instance, the Transport Workers Union of Australia which would be regarded as a moderate union still has not changed its rules. Nonetheless, it is difficult to conclude other than that the Government has been greatly influenced in bringing down this legislation by the National Civic Council controlled unions such as the Federated Clerks Union and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in which unions the collegiate system enables a minority group to establish control. As evidence for this contention I refer to a letter which has come into my possession. This letter is written by a Mr Noel Wilson who is an assistant research officer for the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, central and southern Queensland branch. It is addressed to Mr J. Atwell, the Federal President of the Liberal Party of Australia, and dated 25 October. Mr Wilson, a member of the Liberal Party, as I understand it, wrote:
Dear Mr Atwell
It is with some regret that I write to you personally to strongly protest what I can only describe as a ‘ sell-out ‘ by the Fraser Government to the Santamaria/National Civic Council group relative to the secret ballot legislation now before the Federal House.
On Thursday afternoon of last week the Minister, the Hon. A Street, introduced an amendment which for all time, in my opinion, negated the right of rank and file union members to elect on a national basis their Federal Officials and ensured the perpetuation in office of those officials under this system who have never faced a rank and file ballot and under the swindle concocted by the Government will never have to.
This may sound a strong statement, but as proof of my allegations I provide the following information.
As a Federal Councillor of the Federal Clerks’ Union of Australia, I received in the mail today a purported amendment to our Federal Rules which is completely in line with the amendment introduced into the House by the Minister. I state it would be physically impossible to have this suggested rule amendment properly drafted, typed and despatched in the time available without prior knowledge by those responsible for such amendment of the intended action by the Minister.
To me it is crystal clear that this Government has ‘done a deal’ with the Santamaria/National Civic Council group and has ‘sold-out’ thousands of Australian unionists who saw, in the pre-election industrial promises of this Government, an opportunity to place their own acceptance or rejection on whom would be the Federal Officials of a number of Australian trade unions.
To illustrate the manner in which the National Civic Council control the Clerks’ Union throughout Australia, I give you the following facts.
The Central and Southern Queensland Branch with a membership of over 23 000 elects six Federal Councillors; New South Wales with 32 000 elects six Councillors; Victoria with 23 000 elects six.
Now comes the fiddle, particularly when one relates the fact that the Branches I name hereunder are all controlled by the National Civic Council.
North Queensland (5000 members) elects three NCC Councillors; Tasmania (3000 members) elects two NCC Councillors; West Australia (11 000 members) elects four NCC Councillors; (this was recently upgraded from three to four to enable greater NCC strength at Federal Council ).
The Taxation Officers’ Branch which is ‘politically free’ has a membership of 4500 and elects only two Councillors and South Australia with a membership of 7500 elects three non-NCC Councillors and there are four Federal Officials who never have faced a rank and file ballot for Federal Office but are self-perpetuating and vote for their own election by the utilisation of a collegiate system which many responsible unionists (and LiberalParty members) hoped had been banished for all time from the industrial scene.
To give you some examples of how this National Civic Council-dominated college denigrates democracy, I would set out the following facts:
This may appear a harsh letter, but it is difficult for me as a Liberal to accept that this Government would secretly liaise with the National Civic Council when the Minister whilst in Queensland was too busy to talk to rae for any length of time. The few minutes I received from him would appear as crumbs from the rich man ‘s table. I wonder how many hours have been spent in discussions with Mr John Maynes and Mr Santamaria who, whilst being National Civic Council, are also, and this fact should never to forgotten, members of a labor party. I believe, Mr Atwell, that we were opposed to Labor in any of its forms, be it Democratic Labor, Socialist Labor or communist cum Labor and if I am wrong in my acceptance of this belief would you please inform me.
I trust that even at this late stage some sanity can prevail and this amendment, which I see as a complete negation of a promise we made to the people of this Nation, will be withdrawn.
With kindest regards, I remain Yours sincerely
There is a postscript to the letter in which Mr Wilson promises not to circulate the letter to members of the Austraiian Labor Party.
-I did not get it from Mr Wilson. Let us consider what comes out of that letter which is rather lengthy but very informative. Firstly, the Government has contrived with National Civil Council supporters in the union movement to introduce the amendment which is now before the House and which proposes the retention of the collegiate system. Secondly, in so doing it has reneged on its stated pre-election intention of ensuring that union officials were elected by their members. Thirdly, the collegiate system is capable of enabling and is used to enable minority groups to control important unions such as the Federated Clerks Union. I remind honourable members that the letter mentions that 67 per cent of the members are in the minority on the Council. Fourthly, where the collegiate system enables a minority group to control the union they can then use their power to weaken the majority and so further cement their control.
Those are powerful arguments against this House or indeed this Parliament supporting the legislation now before it. Government supporters should be ashamed to be associated with it. Perhaps if they are not all abashed by what their Government is doing, they can contemplate the prospect of explaining to Liberal and National Country Party members and supporters outside this House why it is that they are passing legislation which will allow the National President of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union to be elected in a ballot not of 1.8 per cent of the membership, as occurred last time, but in a ballot of 0.02 pier cent of the membership, if the AMWU decided to opt for the collegiate system which this legislation will now provide. The possibility that the AMWU would do so was raised by the Federal Assistant Secretary of the union, Mr Carmichael, in an interview in the Tribune on S May of this year.
– What newspaper?
-The Tribune. What incredible lengths this Government will go to to protect its ultra right wing friends. Although it is difficult to see why the Government wants to go to such lengths, it is not difficult to see why those it seeks to protect are so concerned. The numbers on the federal council of the Federated Clerks Union are very close, with the break-up being twenty for the Maynes National Civic Council faction and sixteen against. But included in the 20 votes for the Maynes’ faction are 4 votes from the federal officers of the union, three of whom are full time and one of whom is part time, who would nevertheless be compelled under the 1973 legislation to face a full rank and file ballot. If all these officers were defeated by the opposing faction, the effect would be a transfer of power not only in relation to the union officials as such but also in relation to the federal council of the union. Thus from the point of view of the controlling National Civic Council faction in the Clerks Union, it is absolutely imperative that the collegiate system be retained as its chances of winning any of the key officers’ positions in the union in a rank and file ballot are decidedly low due to the fact that the opposing factions cover two-thirds of the union’s members. A similar situation exists in the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association.
A further unsavoury aspect of this legislation which should also be mentioned is the change in the definition of ‘office ‘ which will enable unions to appoint persons to positions in the union which are similar to elected positions. Thus an administrative officer may be appointed to undertake duties that are virtually identical with those that an assistant secretary, for instance, would be expected to undertake. Clearly, this would enable the controlling faction in the union to strengthen its position without recourse to the membership. In our opinion, it does not accord in any way with the principle of democratic control of unions. Indeed, the 1973 legislation was designed to prevent such appointments by providing that henceforth they must face election by the rank and file. What this Government is doing now is reversing that legislation and allowing the undemocratic appointment procedure to be continued. What a contrast this creates with the Government’s assertions during last year’s election campaign that it would provide for the democratic control of unions. Not only is the Government denying unionists the right directly to elect their officials and providing for manipulation of officials by minority groups through continuation of the collegiate system, but it is also allowing for some persons to undertake union duties of an official nature without having to face an election.
Finally, I want to take up the matter of consultation between the Government and the official trade union movement in regard to this legislation. Earlier this year the Government promised the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations that it would consult them in relation to any legislation it intended to introduce to change the 1973 legislation. What in fact occurred was accurately stated by the Minister in his second reading speech, in which he said that the peak councils had been ‘informed’ of the Government’s proposals. What occurred was that the Secretary of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations invited the officers of the peak councils to his office for a working lunch last Monday fortnight and informed them of what was proposed. They all protested that this made a mockery of consultation and asked for time to consider the legislation. They were not given any time, however, and 3 days later the Minister introduced the BUI into the House. The result is that none of the peak councils were able to express an opinion on the legislation before it was placed before the House. The contrast between this off-hand treatment of the peak councils and the apparent conniving with some ultra right wing union officials in relation to this legislation is indeed startling.
In summary, then, the Opposition rejects this legislation because it considers that the collegiate system which the legislation will allow deprives union members of the right to have a direct say in the election of union officials and is capable of being used, and is in fact used, to enable minority groups in unions to control those unions. This Government’s action in moving to retain that system makes a mockery of its high sounding rhetoric about its determination to ensure democratic control of unions. The Government has been revealed as being much more concerned about protecting ultra right wing groups in key unions and saving employer organisations the embarrassment of direct voting for their officials than it has been about ensuring that democracy prevails in the election of officers of organisations. In so doing, the Government has revealed that one of its major planks at the last election was nothing more than a device to obtain electoral support.
– I have sat quietly and listened with great interest to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). It was a matter of some amazement to me that at no time during the honourable member’s speech did he appear to place any importance on the needs and wishes of the rank and file in the trade union movement. All he talked about was how power could be manipulated by a few top officials within trade unions, how the balance of power could be swung from Left or Right. The honourable gentleman apparently does not attach any importance to what the ordinary working person in Australia wants and how his interests should best be represented by the trade union movement. I think that that point should be fundamental in this debate. We have had a period in Australia for some years where interest groups from one side or other of the political spectrum have used the trade union movement as nothing more than a power base from which they could peddle their political interests. It is high time that the trade union movement, honourable members opposite, and the Party they represent forgot about political ambition and started to think about the people of Australia and what the ordinary working people of Australia really want and the life style they want.
– Good speech.
– Is he finished?
– Your turn will come, do not be impatient. In considering this Bill, we need to refer back, as the honourable member for Gellibrand said, to the amendments brought in under the Labor Administration. Those amendments allowed for the direct election of union officials by all of the rank and file members of a trade union. In theory, it sounds fine that the rank and file elect their federal secretary and their federal president and so on. But we need to give consideration to the rank and file members from the smaller, less populous States.
If we think about the implications of the amendment brought in under the previous Administration, we will realise that we could well have a situation where a union membership was dominated by the larger States of New South Wales and Victoria and, because of the sheer weight of numbers, they could dominate the federal office bearers of a union without any consideration being given to the smaller States, to the members in those smaller States, or to the peculiar circumstances under which they might work in those States. Those smaller States would have no recourse whatever in either removing the federal office bearers or having any influence over the federal executive of a union. Obviously such a system is totally unworkable. In determining a climate in which trade unions should operate, in my opinion it is of paramount importance that we consider the needs of the trade unionist, the rank and file chap who works on the shop floor. We have to consider how his interests can best be represented and how the interests of workers in the various States can be properly represented. I do not believe that in this consideration any thought should be given at all to the power base of those people who have no better ambition in mind than to use trade unions for political purposes or simply to manipulate for power.
The proposition that the Minister has put forward in this Bill is to allow a structure that will give adequate representation to the wishes of the rank and file unionist and that will also give adequate representation to the various States, in particular the smaller States. By having a onetier collegiate system of the type referred to by the honourable member for Gellibrand, State representatives would be elected by the rank and file people in those States and the representatives from those States would have the right and authority to elect their senior federal office bearers. In my opinion that would ensure that the smaller States, and in particular my State of Tasmania, would be given right and proper consideration.
I find myself in some agreement with some of the comments made by the honourable member for Gellibrand. The honourable member referred to the actions of extremist groups within the political structure of Australia. In my opinion one of the most unfortunate things that has happened within the trade union movement and within the political structures of Australia is that extremist groups of both the Left and the Right have used whatever facilities have been available to them for nothing better than exerting power. I think it is high time, in looking at the political structures and the trade union structures of Australia, that we gave thought not to the extremists and activists but to the ordinary people. The ordinary trade unionist is not the least bit concerned with the political manoeuvrings of his trade union leader. Nor is he concerned with the extremist views that his trade union leader might hold either of the Left or of the Right. He is concerned only with going to work, earning a living and having a decent standard of living for his wife and family. He is concerned to hold his job. He is concerned that his family and children will have the same job opportunities that he has been able to enjoy.
We have seen a period in which the extreme Left of the trade union movement and the political structure has been able to win positions of influence within certain trade unions. Through their various structures these people have taken control of the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, albeit their numbers are extremely small. They now wield an influence that bears no relationship at all to their numerical strength. As I see it, the unfortunate result of extremist actions of one side of the political spectrum is that inevitably these actions will influence the extremists of the other side to take reciprocal action. This is exactly what is happening now. The extremists of the Left- those associated with the Communist Party- have used the electoral system of the various trade unions to win positions of influence within those leaderships. This has now caused extremists of the right wing and in particular those who are associated with the National Civic Council, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Gellibrand, to try to use the electoral system of the trade union movement to win control of certain trade unions for the extreme right wing.
I believe- and I believe this view is also held by the average worker- that unionists do not want a part of either the extreme Left or the extreme Right. They want moderate trade union leaders who have at heart the genuine interests of the worker and not the wielding of political power. In framing legislation of this type the Minister and the Government need to give consideration not to the political power mongering of trade union leaders but to the needs of the rank and file worker. I believe this can best be served where the workers, both individually and collectively are able to influence and in fact dictate to the union leadership rather than having the union leadership dictate to them. They need to be able to do this in a structure of democracy without fear of intimidation. I believe that this Bill, as framed by the Minister, does provide that framework within which the rank and file worker can exercise his democratic vote, where he can control his union and where the small States and workers from the small States are given an adequate representation without being dominated by the bulk of membership from the larger States.
The Bill needs to be coupled with a greater awareness on the part of the rank and file unionist of the need to exercise not just theoretical control but physical control of his trade union. We need to do much more to influence a greater number of people to be actively involved in the activities of their unions. As the honourable member for Gellibrand pointed out in his speech, only 2000 union members out of a total membership of roughly 185 000 of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union voted at the last federal election for office bearers of that union. We cannot expect that democracy will reign in the trade union movement until we can encourage a greater number of people to participate in the activities of their trade union. I support this Bill. I believe that the proposals that the Minister has encompassed in it will play a great part in restoring democracy in the trade union movement of Australia.
-I listened with great interest to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr). If my memory serves me correctly this is not the first time that the honourable member has stood up in this House and done a little bit of union bashing. He had better make the most of it because he has a rather limited time in this place to do that sort of thing. It seemed to me that his whole speech was a contradiction of what the Bill is all about. The Bill has been introduced to take away from the rank and file member his right to have a direct say in the election of his officials. It does nothing to dispel the hoary argument, the red herring, that the collegiate system looks after the interests of smaller States. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the honourable member cared to sit down and think about what he was saying instead of just mouthing rhetoric he would understand that what he was saying was a lot of clap-trap. Whichever system is used to elect federal officials of a union, whether it be by the direct system or by the collegiate system, each State in effect stands on its own feet. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) mentioned the Federated Clerks’ Union. That union -certainly in Victoria and I believe also federally- is not the most democratic organisation in Australia. But I believe that even in the case of that union the larger States have more delegates to the federal electoral college than do the smaller States. The larger States have a greater voice. Even so the representation of the larger States is restricted and pegged back on the federal college and the small States have an advantage.
The whole point at issue is that a vote for a national officer is a vote across the nation and not a vote in one State. It is a vote across the nation of all the union members in the nation, whether it be a vote for representatives who make up the college or whether it be a direct vote. Of course the larger States will have an advantage in this respect. There is no way in which we can stop such a situation, and nobody would want to stop it. But there is nothing to stop a person from Tasmania from putting himself up as a candidate for the federal secretaryship of a union. If he is competent and receives the support of people across the nation he will get the job. He will be elected not because he comes from Tasmania but because he is competent. The honourable member for Wilmot has not thought this matter through. I think that he has simply tried to equate the collegiate system with the system under which senators are elected. Of course, the Bill before us does not do that. To my knowledge, there are no rules of unions that do that either.
The honourable member spoke at length about rank and file participation or membership participation; but what he did not say was that even in this Bill it is left to those in office to decide which sort of system will be used in the future. There is no question of the matter going back to the members and of the officials saying to them: What son of a system do you want? Do you want a rank and file ballot or do you want the collegiate system?’ The Bill states that there is a choice; but the choice is there only for those who are entrenched in office. The whole Bill is designed to keep those who are in office in office. It is a little curious for the honourable member to talk about unions not doing things for people. He seems to forget that a union is simply a collection of people. Anything that a union does must be in the interests of people. Certainly, any action that a union takes on any question is in the interests of its members. The members live 24 hours a day, not just the 8 hours they are at work.
As my knowledgeable friend the honourable member for Gellibrand said, it is true that the National Civic Council had a great influence on the Government in the taking of this decision. The Federated Clerks Union- under the Federal presidency of Mr John Maynes, a noted member of the NCC- certainly has been instrumental in influencing this decision. The honourable member for Wilmot spoke about extremist groups within the community using the trade union movement. He probably was sniping at the communists. If I read from a cutting I took from a local newspaper that is circulated in the general area, of my electorate-it is dated 4 September 1975-1 think that honourable members may obtain a fair indication of how even the Liberal Party is involved with extremist groups, this one being the National Civic Council which is of the extreme right. The heading states in bold type: National Civic Council Meeting at Gisborne’. The article states:
Mr Gerald Mercer, national secretary of the National Civic Council, is to address a suppOrt function at Gisborne Golf Club on Tuesday, 9 September.
The National Civic Council, an organisation which for the past 30 years has been involved in events and developments in the industrial and political areas, is currently consolidating and widening its base of support in Gisborne, Sunbury, Woodend and surrounding areas.
Mr Dudley Erwin, MHR as he then was-
Mr John Bourchier, MHR as he now is-
Mr Fred Grimwade, MLC, and Mr Athol Guy, MLA, have lent their names as patrons for the function.
It seems to me that that is an example of an organisation with a charter to destroy the trade union movement in Australia being supported by members of the Liberal Party. Each of the gentlemen I have mentioned is a member of the Liberal Party. Some of them are still members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. So this danger exists. The Bill before the House will perpetuate the present position. This is because it denies a right which was given to people in the 1 973 legislation and which they are to take up before 13 November 1976. The measure introduced in 1973 ensures that the rank and file members of the union have a say in who shall manage the affairs of their union. I believe that the second reading speech of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) must take the cake as an exercise in prolixity and hypocrisy. For example, he says in the very first sentence:
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.
Having said that, he then goes on to introduce into the House a Bill that denies trade union members the right directly to select their officials. The Bill allows them to elect colleges. I do not know whether the Government suddenly has been imbued with the American presidential system because it is that time of the year; but we in the Australian Labor Party- we spell this out very loudly in our policy- firmly believe that there should be full rank and file participation in the affairs of unions. We have never walked away from it. We believe in it. The Minister goes on to say:
The fact is, however, that direct election is not, in all situations, a guarantee of proper democratic control.
I would be most grateful if somebody would explain to me what those words mean. The Minister tried to explain them by saying:
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.
What does the Minister expect? Does he think that people are elected as officials of unions simply because they stand for election? He should know that people are elected as officials of trade unions because of their known capacity, a capacity that is known by the members of the union. Does he think that members of the union are so stupid that they cannot recognise a job being done by somebody? Does he think that a contender for office is so stupid as to think that all he has to do is put in a nomination for the job? If the Minister lived in the real world he would know that at all times people are very vigorous in this area. They do campaign. They do become known. Their abilities or otherwise become known also. For these reasons, it is sheer hogwash to say for example, because a general secretary of a union is elected from New South Wales that he is elected from that State simply because there are more people in that State. I have pointed out to the House already that the colleges of all unions, without exception, are not equally representative of the States. There is a greater number of members of the colleges from the larger States. I repeat that that is as it should be.
The Minister also stated in his second reading speech:
The amendments proposed will now give organisations a choice in the manner by which they elect their officers, whether full time or part time.
He states that the Bill will give organisations a choice. Why did not the Minister say that it will give members of organisations a choice? He did not come to deal with that point. He spoke about organisations. Clearly, he must be speaking about those who have themselves firmly entrenched in office and who will go to any lengths to ensure that they are not removed from their positions. The Minister, if he has as much concern for the affairs of trade unions as the honourable member for Wilmot would have us believe he has, ought to be talking about members and not about organisations or officers of unions. It is well known to the Minister, for example, that Mr Ted Bull, the secretary of the
Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria is a communist. That union has a 99 per cent turnout on election day. The members stop work to vote. Voting is compulsory. The members are fined if they do not vote. So, if the Minister and his Government are aiming their shafts at those people who prefer to belong to a political party different from the Government Parties- frankly, I do not blame people for doing that- they certainly are aiming in the wrong direction. History shows that he is wrong and future examples will show him to be wrong also.
The contents of this Bill revolve purely and simply around the whole question of whether there is to be democratic election of people in trade unions. As the Act stands at the moment, there certainly is. The interferences proposed to the Act by this Bill will take away from the members their right to that. They must elect people. Those people in turn have the right to cast votes. There is no guarantee that they will cast the votes they now have in the way that those who voted for them want them cast. Therefore, a situation could arise in which the brutal force of numbers was used. We have heard about that. The brutal force of numbers or all sorts of persuasive means could be used to influence members of a college to change their vote so that it would not reflect the vote of those who elected them- their constituents. For those reasons, I oppose the Bill. My Party opposes the Bill. We see absolutely no reason to allow it to go through the House unhindered. It should have every impediment placed in its way.
In fact, I notice that, even though the Bill has just come out of the gestation period and has just seen the light of day, the Government already proposes to make 2 amendments to it. It is hastily prepared legislation. It was prepared without consultation with anybody. My colleague, the honourable member for Gellibrand, pointed out that the peak councils were not consulted. He also read a letter that was written by a Federal councillor of the Federated Clerks Union who is a member of the Liberal Party. The other day I was reading a copy of Hansard in which an honourable member was recorded as saying by way of interjection that there were no Liberal Party members acting as officials of trade unions. There is a fellow who is a Federal councillor of a union and a member of the Liberal Party. He has written to the Federal President of the Liberal Party complaining about the lack of consultation with even the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. I presume he was speaking of it as a body rather than speaking about its Federal President, the infamous and notorious John
Maynes, who has strutted the roost of the industrial movement in Australia in an avowed attempt to destroy it. This Government piously says that it does not mind having unions. It should add that it would rather have unions such as there are in Malaysia and Singapore, unions which have had their teeth drawn. The only unions in the Government’s view with which it would agree are those which in turn agree with the attitude of the Government and of employers.
The organised work force in Australia is entitled to something better than that. It is entitled to have representatives to put its point of view and those representatives are entitled to speak freely. They should not be muzzled by this Government in connivance with the National Civil Council so that all that is heard is the voice of those who are elected, those that they have elected. Those who then come to power in the unions are second hand and come not through the honest straightforward ballot as we know union ballots are now but through a system which can be manipulated. It is because it can be manipulated that people like John Maynes support it. If it was honest and straightforward he would not support it. He is a person who has manipulated all his life and that is the reason he would support this situation. Frankly, when he is speaking to this Government he is speaking to a bunch of top manipulators anyhow.
-The Bill before the House seeks to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in a way which would allow the option of the collegiate system to be used in union elections. The 2 Opposition members who have spoken in the debate, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), have made a number of disparaging comments about the motives of the Government in introducing this amendment. For example, the honourable member for Gellibrand said that Government members should be ashamed to be associated with this legislation while the honourable member for Burke accused the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) of hypocrisy in his second reading speech. I am interested in those remarks because I would have thought in view of the system under which honourable members opposite operate that they would be ashamed to be associated with the remarks that have been made in this House because of the hypocrisy contained in them.
I have with me an interesting document entitled the Victorian Branch Constitution of the Australian Labor Party. It makes fascinating reading because in it I find that the 2 honourable members who have recently spoken in this debate from the other side of the House owe their pre-selection to a collegiate system, not merely a one-tier collegiate system as would be permitted under this Bill but a 3-tier collegiate system. Let us look at the way in which that collegiate system is constructed, remembering that those honourable members said that collegiate systems can be open to manipulation. Federal members of the Australian Labor Party are pre-selected under a system involving a body of 70 people at a preselection convention. That 70-member body is made up of 40 members from a Public Office Selection Committee and 30 members from the Federal Electorate Assembly. The 40 members of the Public Office Selection Committee are chosen from 100 members of the Public Office Selection Committee who in turn are elected by a State Conference of the Labor Party. It in turn is made up of delegates from the branches and affiliated unions of the Labor Party. So between the membership of the Labor Party and the members who are pre-selected we have 3 tiers.
However, in the case of the 30 members of the Federal Electorate Assembly the situation is not so bad because those 30 people are at least selected by the branch members within a federal electorate area. If we have a major portion of that body elected under a 3-tier collegiate system it ill becomes honourable members opposite to complain about this Government introducing the option of a one-tier collegiate system into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I have a second very interesting document in front of me called the Rules, Platform and Standing Orders of the Australian Labor Party in South Australia. It is another most interesting document although what it contains is perhaps a little more reasonable from the point of view of honourable members opposite because it provides for only a onetier collegiate system in the State body. People who are pre-selected for public office are selected from the State convention which is made up of delegates from the branches and affiliated unions. So the system involved in the document setting out the State constitution of the South Austraiian branch of the Austraiian Labor Party conforms with the principles of the amendment that the Minister has introduced into the House but not with the principles of the Act as amended by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), a South Australian member, in 1973. So let us not have talk about hypocrisy from honourable members opposite. I also was pre-selected under a pre-selection system involving a one-tier collegiate structure and I have no complaints about that.
– It was an excellent result.
– It was an excellent result in Casey. It was a good choice and it shows how democracy can work and produce excellent results. I make the point that no one system of union elections, whether it be by direct ballot of all members or by a collegiate system, in itself guarantees democratic control of that union. Both systems are open to manipulation in the hands of people with the wrong motives. Already we have had quoted the example of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union of which only 1.8 per cent of the membership voted in the ballot ibr the federal chairmanship. It is definitely the case that in many large unions where we are trying to implement a direct voting system it is enormously difficult for members of the union to have sufficient knowledge of the likely candidates to be able to cast a meaningful vote. So we get in the case of the AMWU a 1.8 per cent turnout. The disadvantage of the collegiate system is that where we have several tiers, such as the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party has in its pre-selection system which the honourable member for Burke has just recently survived by 2 votes, there can be manipulation by various interest groups. We know how members of the socialist left take over the 40 members of the Public Office Selection Committee who go on to pre-selection bodies in the Victorian Australian Labor Party. We know how that does occur.
Manipulation by a few people can mean that there will be a self-perpetuating clique in a collegiate system. So there is no absolute right or wrong about either system, that is, direct voting or the collegiate system. What we have to ensure as far as possible is that the most appropriate system is used, depending on the circumstances of a union.
– We are giving them the choice.
– We are giving them the choice of having either a direct system or a collegiate system, the collegiate system having built into it several safeguards. One safeguard is that the collegiate system which is proposed in the Bill would be only a one-tier system. In other words, the electoral college which will elect the senior officials of a union must itself be the subject of a direct vote of members of the union. So we cannot get a situation as we can in a multi-tier system whereby the senior officials of a union can be divorced by several steps from the rank and file membership of the union. However, having at least a one-tier collegiate system means that the difficulty of members not being able to campaign for office because of the expenses involved can be overcome. Imagine the problem faced by a moderate member of a union who wants simply to offer himself for election to office in a union with about 100 000 members. If he wants to make himself known to all the members of the union he will be faced with an enormous mailing campaign to get a piece of literature to every member of the union. He will be involved in expenditure to organise people, transport and all the sorts of things that go with an election campaign. At least in an electorate such as those represented by honourable members in this chamber one has some sort of geographical compactness within which to work. It is relatively easy, in metropolitan electorates at least, to letterbox’ people and make sure that they receive some information telling them about oneself and one ‘s policies.
In a national union with a membership spread throughout the length and breadth of 6 States and the Territories of Australia it is enormously difficult for any union member to become known in order to offer himself for election. A collegiate system with adequate safeguards contained in it would allow such unions to have a more democratic system of election of union officials than would a direct system. Also, it must be remembered that there is always the safeguard in section 140 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which allows members to challenge union rules which they believe are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust. A great deal of case law has already been built up in the Australian Industrial Court involving consideration of union rules that are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust. If a union seeks to implement union rules, governing the election of union officials, which do not accord with the general principles laid down in the Act, whether it be a direct system of election or a collegiate system union members can always challenge those rules in the Industrial Court.
-It is rather pathetic to think that the Government has to put up -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended-
Direct voting system’, in relation to an election for an office in an organisation, means a method of election at which all financial members, or all financial members included in such branch, section or other division, or in such class, as is appropriate, having regard to the nature of the office, are, subject to reasonable provisions with respect to enrolment, eligible to vote; “;
– I have 2 amendments to clause 3. The first is actually consequential upon the second. I seek leave to move them together.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the Committee. I move:
At end of clause add the following words and paragraph: “; and (d) by adding at the end thereof the following subsection:
In explanation of the second amendment, which is the substantive one, I point out to the Committee that in relation to the one-tier collegiate system of voting an unqualified requirement that persons elected by a college must also be elected from the members of that college can be disadvantageous to organisations. It can be disadvantageous because the higher office will in effect become a one-term office with possible loss of continuity of experienced management.
It is no argument to say that the situation could be overcome by altering the organisation’s rules; that is, by providing that such a person retain his position as delegate to the college. That would result, quite probably, in a conflict of interest. For example, the concern of a person who is Federal secretary should be for the national interests of his organisation and as a branch delegate his prime concern quite naturally would be to protect the interests of his home State branch. The fact is that an officer who holds office by virtue of his being a branch delegate on the electoral college which elects persons to that office could find himself under considerable pressure to prefer his home branch. For example, where a Federal secretary has to rely on election as a branch delegate as a prerequisite to retaining his position as Federal secretary, his energies might for understandable reasons be directed to seeing to the requirements of that branch, to the detriment of the organisation as a whole.
Proposed new sub-section (5) of section 4 of the Act is designed to overcome these problems by allowing current office bearers- that is, the organisation’s committee of management- to be members of the college which elects persons to those offices for the following term provided those office bearers do not constitute more than 15 per cent of the members of the college. Those office bearers must have been originally elected to those positions under a collegiate electoral system or a direct voting system as defined. Moreover, they must have held office- not necessarily the same office- continuously since being first elected to office. In the case of full-time officers the office bearers would be elected by and from a college, the members of which, excepting office bearers in the 15 per cent category must be elected directly by the appropriate sections of the rank and file. Subject to the same qualifications, part-time officers must be elected under a collegiate system based on elections to a college by direct vote of the appropriate sections of the rank and file. In brief, the object of this amendment is to ensure that, while preserving the right of continuity of experienced leadership in an organisation, the system does not of itself result in a college which can be self-perpetuating, by restricting the members who can be appointed by the college to 1 5 per cent of the membership.
-Let me first take up one point which was raised earlier and which relates to this clause. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Bun) made the point that the collegiate system in some way protects the rights of members in small States. It does not necessarily do any such thing. I say to the honourable member that the point I was making in my speech at the second reading stage was- it still is- that the collegiate system can be used to give proportional representation to the States on the Federal council of a union or to give more than proportional representation or less than proportional representation, depending on how it is organised. The system can be used for manipulation of the union in the way in which I suggest it is now being used in the Federated Clerks Union and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, as I mentioned previously. So, this does not guarantee anything in relation to the protection of small States. They may do more than proportionately well out of the system or less than proportionately well.
I now refer to the much more important matter of the amendment which has been moved by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and which is designed to insert a new sub-section. Firstly, we have had little time to look at the amendment. I do not know whether the Minister is to blame for that. He apologised to me and I accept the apology; but the fact remains that it is terribly difficult to look at a complex amendment over a meal break, and that is virtually what we have been forced to do. I understand that this amendment makes a substantial difference to the definition of ‘collegiate electoral system’ and will allow the operation of a system which will mean not only that some union officials will not be elected indirectly by the members but also that some union officials will not be elected by members even directly or indirectly.
Let me illustrate this point. The definition of collegiate electoral system’ in clause 3 of the Bill states that the officers of a union must be elected by and from the college and to get on to the college the officers have to have been voted for in a rank and file ballot in the first place. The phrase by and from’ creates the difficulty. It means that if officials of a union want to continue to be elected in order to become Federal secretary, or whatever, they have to be elected to the college and face a rank and file ballot. The Government by this amendment is now allowing officers of unions to avoid having to be elected to the college. They can just be added to the elected members of the college, as they are now in the Federated Clerks Union, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association and other unions which have a collegiate system. These officers, by being added to the elected members, form a college which then elects the officers, and so the officers become virtually selfperpetuating, particularly where they represent the difference between 2 factions. Usually there are at least 2 factions in any union. That is virtually the case with the Federated Clerks Union, as I said in my speech at the second reading stage. These officers represent the- difference between the 2 factions- the National Civic Council supported faction and the opposing faction.
As a result of allowing this amendment through, the 4 officers of a union will be allowed to be added to the elected members of the college and by that means to form a college for their re-election. This can go on and on, with the officers never ever having to face an election. This will not apply just to the Federated Clerks Union or the. Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. The amendment will enable all unions to adopt this approach if they so wish. How far the Government is from the days when it was saying: ‘Look at this terrible Dick Scott, the National President of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, who is elected by only 1.8 per cent of the members’. Now the Government intends to allow the AMWU, if it so wishes, to provide for a collegiate system in which Dick Scott and Laurie Carmichael, the Assistant Secretary and another bete noire of this Government, can just add themselves to the elected members of the Federal Council of the union for the purpose of determining a college and thereby having themselves re-elected. They need never face the rank and file again. That is what the Government will allow by this process. I think it is the most astonishing thing of all time to come from this Government which went to the people and had as one of its biggest planks that it was going to democratise trade unions and ensure that union officials were elected in a way which meant that they had to face their members, which said that it would arm every union member with a ballot paper. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) said that the Government would set the left wing officials and the communist officials trembling in their boots.
What is the Government doing now? It is making a farce of the whole situation by saying to every federal union official in the country that he can, if he can persuade the rest of the federal council to agree, have the rules changed to provide for a collegiate system so that he can be added to the federal council, the former college, and thus re-elect himself time after time after time. I think it is an extraordinary situation. It is more than just extraordinary; it is also very pointed because this has special relevance right now to a case which is before the Industrial Court. I refer to the case of Clarke v. John Peter Maynes. This is an application made under section 140 ( 1 ) (c) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, a section referred to by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) at the second reading stage of the debate. Section 140 (l)(c) states:
The rules of an organisation- shall not impose upon applicants for membership, or members, of the organisation, conditions, obligations or restrictions which, having regard to the objects of this Act and the purposes of the registration of organisations under this Act, are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust;
This application says that the rules of the Federated Clerks Union which currently allow for officers to be added to the elected members of the Federal Council for the purposes of forming an electoral college for the election of the officers, in fact are oppressive, unreasonable and unjust. They are the grounds of the application. If this amendment is carried it will have direct relevance to that case which is now before the Industrial Court. It will mean that the grounds of that application are removed.
I suggest it is not without some point, to put it at the very least, that the Government is now moving in a way which will assist a leading member of the National Civic Council to win a court case before the Industrial Court at present. I think the whole nation ought to be made aware of this and ask why. Further, I make the point that Mr Maynes has not been elected to the Federal Council for 22 years. He is a perfect example of a person who, once having been elected to the Federal Council and having become the Federal President, is being perpetuated in that position, without having to face the rank and file since.
Further than that, in the current proceedings before the Industrial Court, Mr Keely Q.C., appearing for Mr Maynes, applied for the hearing on 19 October to be adjourned. In making that application he said that the respondent for whom he acted, Mr Maynes, expected legislation to be enacted soon which would affect his legal position. This is a most extraordinary situation. The Queen’s Counsel appearing for Mr Maynes in court on 19 October, before this legislation was introduced in this House, said that his client expected that legislation would be enacted soon which would affect his legal position. I suggest that that is an extraordinary situation.
– That is right. We foreshadowed it in May.
-The Minister did not do anything of the sort. He did not suggest publicly at any stage that he would be coming in with an amendment like this, the amendment which he has just introduced in this House. He threw this amendment across to me at about 5.30 this afternoon. I had never seen it before and I do not think anybody else on this side had seen it before. We had not seen it before, yet on 19 October Mr Maynes knew all about it. This amendment was not in the original Bill which came into this place either. It is an extraordinary situation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), as is well known, has spent the last nine or ten months in the closest consultation with union representatives and the community at large on matters affecting his portfolio. That is in contrast with the actions of the former Minister in the last Government who in many cases rammed through legislation against the wishes of the trade unionists. Legislation formerly went through without any choice being given to the trade union movement or the various groups in the trade union movement and there were no consultations.
Within our society and within the world at large there are many different ways in which persons can be elected to office in organisations or even nations. The Minister has spent the major part of this year trying to assist in producing a solution to a very complicated problem. I regret the complexities of the trade union system in Australia. I think that clause 3 of this Bill and the amendment to it with which we are now dealing are a tribute to the Minister’s ability to produce what in the circumstances is probably a compromise. In this country we have an extraordinarily complicated system of trade union activities. I do not know how the average migrant who comes to this country and joins a union can understand how many trade union affairs are conducted or work. I simply cannot see how he can understand what is occurring.
– What would you know about a union? You have never been in one.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne and other honourable members that they make their speeches after they receive the call from the Chair and not before then.
– It must be remembered that this amending Bill comes before us in the context of the Government’s proposals for compulsory postal ballots, given the various conditions that apply to them, and it will go some way to enabling the average citizen to sit at home, think about the issues, seek the advice of people and then make a considered decision on who he wants to elect, directly or to the college, depending on the system used in the particular union. In years gone by unions developed from very small groupings and it was quite often desirable, and it did occur, that the members went down to the local hall and cast their votes. But in the modern day and age, when unions have grown very large, when there are great difficulties of communication between members and when a very low membership turns up to vote, it is quite proper that this Government should institute provisions to ensure that there are compulsory postal votes. Clause 3 of the Bill and its other provisions flow from that base.
It is important to note that in Australia we have at present, according to some figures I have, 280 trade unions with a huge membership. That is too many. Fortunately it is a reduction on the figure for 1956 when we had 375 trade unions with lower membership numbers than we have today. What eventually is required in this country is a rationalisation to ensure that we get to a system of industry based unions and a much more streamlined method of selecting the various personnel. The present system of craft unions is not serving the union movement or the country as well as it should. In my recent visit to the Newcastle State Dockyards I was told, and all parties seemed to agree that it was not a very good idea, that 5 unions had to agree before a handrail could be built around a ship. In Germany the system has been set up with the advice of the Trade Union Congress of England. In Germany they have an effective, integrated union structure, but the United Kingdom still has more than 300 separate unions. I suppose the Australian Labor Party will say that the answer is amalgamation. Of course, amalgamation could produce very serious problems if the amalgamations were not compatible with a structural change to move to an industry-based situation.
I return to the specifics of this matter. Surely the answer to the complaints of the Labor Party is this: There is the option for unions to decide on the system they want. A union may have direct voting or it may have the collegiate system. If it has the collegiate system then there are certain provisions for full-time officers and for part-time officers. The provisions are less open than they were before the amendment of 1973. Nonetheless, they are more open than they are for full-time officers. So it is quite open to a union to decide on a number of different types of elections that it will have. There has been a claim that there is self-perpetuation. The only reservation about the legislation that I have is that there may be circumstances in which persons who have been elected by what I consider a sensible and reasonable compromise system all round, may not have their removal equated to the same criteria as their election. I trunk that as a principle it is important that if a person comes to the end of his term and wants another run in office he should submit himself to whatever system was used previously for his election. I put that caveat upon my comments in relation to the amendment. However, there is no doubt that this system ought to work. The Labor Party seems to forget that before a person can become ah officer he must firstly be elected by the rank and file to the college. There are only relatively few people in the college. There is a 15 per cent additional group as is set out in clause 3. But, in the main, a person has to be elected to the college by the rank and file.
– Where do the 15 per cent come from?
-That is in clause 3. It states that. They are the exception. So the group of people who may become office bearers is restricted considerably to those people who have initially been elected to the college. If anybody tells me that that is not democratic within the broad terms of reference of democratic elections to organisations in the Western world, then I do not know what is. Every single person in the 85 per cent content rule has been elected by the rank and file. As far as the other 15 per cent are concerned, this is a far greater increase in democracy than we find in many of the unions where, according to the figures of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), groups of people are elected by 1.8 percent.
In this case, although I have a reservation, it is perfectly clear that the Minister has spent a great deal of time on the subject. He has given a choice. For my part, I totally repudiate any of these gross suggestions that these amendments have been moved to influence individual situations in unions or, worse still, to influence a court case. I tell the honourable member for Gellibrand right now that I will not support any government which introduces any measure for the purpose of influencing a court. The honourable member raised matters which are obviously presently before a court. To try to make political capital out of matters which are presently before the judiciary is, of course, in keeping with the total lack of knowledge of the constitutional independence of the judiciary of this country which honourable members opposite display. This demeans the standards of the House and of the Australian Labor Party. Although I would like much greater simplicity in our industrial affairs the Minister is to be congratulated for making the most reasonable compromise that can be obtained in a very complicated field.
– I doubt that the Committee has ever been treated to a more ill-informed dissertation on what trade unions and this amendment are all about than we have just heard from the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). I take issue with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), who proclaimed across the table to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) that this matter was known to the community before today. To my knowledge- I keep a very close ear to the ground- I heard a whisper of this yesterday from an honourable senator. Today it was only when the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2) was being debated that this amendment was distributed to me. If honourable members care to read my speech in Hansard tomorrow they will see that I made mention of an amendment which was laid on the table while I was speaking. I said that I did not have time to consider it or understand it. That is the sort of notice that was given.
The honourable member for St George made great play about the collegiate system being very democratic. The honourable gentleman has been quite active in the Parliament since he has been here. Whether he has been successful is another matter. I read from page 1657 of Hansard of Wednesday, 28 April 1976 where a petition was presented to the Parliament by the honourable member for St George. It states:
Trade Union Movement: Compulsory Voting
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That whereas the Democratic control of organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is essential to a sound system of industrial relations; and whereas Democratic control can only be guaranteed by the opportunity for all rank and file members of organisations to vote in elections for all officials and all Committees of Management and whereas some forces within the Trade Union movement are attempting to deny rank and file members the right to vote in all Union elections;-
I hope the honourable member is listening. The petition continues:
Your petitioners humbly pray -
The words are repeated- that the members in Parliament assembled -
The honourable member is one of those members- will take steps to:
He is speaking of the National Civic Council, I guess. The petition further states:
This is a petition which the honourable member supported in the Parliament. It concludes:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr Chairman, have you ever seen such an exhibition of hypocrisy, such a turnaround by any honourable member in the Parliament who has presented a petition like that and then addresses the Parliament for 10 minutes in a complete denial of the petition? The honourable member said that the Australian Labor Party created the difficulty because it brought about rank and file elections. He said that a member must first be elected to the college. The honourable member overlooks the amendment. The Bill states that people elected to office shall be elected by and from the college. That is stated in clause 3. The amendment does not state that at all. It moves away from that position. It talks about people being elected by the college, 1 5 per cent of whom are eligible to stand but they are not elected by the rank and file who are eligible to vote. If that means that 100 per cent of the college is elected by the rank and file then I am surprised that the honourable member, who I understand is a practitioner in law, does not understand the words and the language. Clearly he does not understand.
He said that there are too many trade -unions. I could not agree more. That was probably the only sensible thing he said in 10 minutes. There are too many trade unions in Australia, and there are any number of trade unionists who will agree with that. But when the Labor Party, during its term of office, endeavoured to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, who was it who frustrated that attempt to make it easier for unions to amalgamate? I will tell the Committee who it was. It was the then Opposition- the Liberal Party and National Country Party senators, who threw it out. They said that they did not want unions to amalgamate. Now we have a new breed of Liberal member in the House who tells us that unions should amalgamate. I wish he had been here before. The honourable member also used the hoary old argument about 1.8 per cent of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union membership electing Mr Scott as the Federal president of the union. Does the honourable member realise that with the introduction of the collegiate system it will be not 1.8 per cent of the membership which will elect the officers of the union but something like .0008 per cent of the membership?
I opposed the initial wording of this clause of the Bill and the amendment does nothing to improve it. In fact, it makes it worse. The Bill reinforces an already undemocratic position, because it moves away from rank and file elections and moves to a collegiate system. An argument has been put that the collegiate system gives a fair go to the smaller States. It was said that if somebody from a smaller State wanted to run for office he would face an enormous postal bill because he would have to contact every union member. Does anybody in this chamber seriously believe that to become the Federal secretary of a union in Australia a man simply picks himself up off the floor and nominates ibr the position? Of course nobody believes that. Government members say it because it sounds good. They know in their hearts that it is not true. They know in their hearts that if somebody is going to stand for a senior position in any organisation in Australia, quite apart from the trade unions, he does not pick himself up off the floor and nominate. He is already known within the organisation; he has already done the background work which brings him to a position where he will be recognised. Unless he has done that, he can spend as much money as he likes on postal bills but he will have little hope of success, because the human mind just does not work in that way.
So away with all of this nonsense. The collegiate system does not preserve the rights of the smaller States. All that it does is take away from the rank and file members their right to cast thenvotes directly. They have to do that second hand. They have to vote to elect somebody whom they may or may not be able to trust when he casts his vote. It seems to me that that will not work. It is wrong, and it has been wrong in the past. It did not work very well then. As the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) said in the petition that he presented to the House, it is open to manipulation. Of course it is, and in this area when one is dealing with the members of the National Civic Council one is dealing with the greatest manipulators in the world. We always come back to John Peter Maynes. We always come back to the NCC. Without the influence of this small, unrepresentative, undemocratic, and I might say un-Australian group, there would be no need for this amendment to come forward. It was thrust upon the Government.
I know that the Minister is embarrassed. One can see, by looking at him, that he is embarrassed. His face was scarlet when he was challenged with this by the honourable member for Gellibrand, and now he is trying to laugh it off to cover up his embarrassment. He knows that this position was thrust upon him by people for whom he does not have very much time; but he also knows that without their support he might not remain the member for Corangamite. He wants to remain the member for Corangamite because he likes being a Minister; but that will pertain only until the next election. It is a great pity that the Government has decided to use its brutal weight of numbers in this place and in another place to thrust this provision upon trade unions without any consultation at all between the Minister and the trade unions. Consultation went on for months with John Peter Maynes, but with nobody else. Not even the Federal Council of the Federated Clerks Union was consulted, and neither was the ACTU nor any of the other peak union councils. This provision is being thrust upon the rank and file members of unions. If they decline to accept it, then this Government has only itself to blame.
-Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I claim to have been misrepresented and I seek to make an explanation. I was misrepresented on 2 matters by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). Firstly, he said that I had supported the amalgamation of unions. I said that I supported a change from craft based unions to industry based unions, not amalgamation. Secondly, the honourable member said that I supported a petition which I presented. I want to say that I presented that petition in accordance with the well known duty of a member to present a petition without judgment upon its contents or upon the petitioner.
-As I said during my speech in the second reading debate, I support the Bill that the Government has introduced. I believe that the one-tier college system of electing office bearers to unions is the correct system to use; but I have grave reservations about the amendment moved by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). In this amendment he is introducing a provision that 15 per cent of office bearers- I underline the fact that they would be office bearers- within a particular college of unionists would be perpetuated in office even though they may have lost the support of their rank and file. I believe that that is a theory we need to question very seriously.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) was wrong in his assumption that anyone could be appointed to a college without first being elected by the rank and file members of the union. That is not the case. Everybody has to be appointed in the first place by the rank and file members of the union to represent a particular State at the college level. But, if this amendment passes through the Committee, it would be possible for a senior office bearer of a union to retain office within that union, although he had lost the support of the rank and file. I believe that that is not the sort of democracy which should be introduced into trade unions. I believe that the office bearers of a trade union should be elected and that the rank and file members of the union should have an influence on the office bearers of the union. Just as they have the right to appoint them, they should have the right to remove them. There should be no exclusions from that general rule. On that basis, I believe that we need to question seriously some of the provisions in this amendment.
– I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the amendments (Mr Street’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (Mr Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause 4.
Section 1 33 of the Principal Act is amended-
by omitting sub-section (3), (4), (4a) and (4b) and substituting the following sub-sections:
– On behalf of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), I move:
Omit proposed sub-section (3) and substitute the following proposed sub-section: “(3) An organization that became registered before the date of commencement of this Act is allowed a period of 2 years after that date, or such longer period as the Industrial Registrar determines, within which to bring its rules into conformity with the requirements of paragraph (a) of subsection (1).’.
The purpose of this amendment is to substitute another proposed new sub-section 133(3) for the existing proposed new sub-section 133(3 ) set out in the Bill. As it is set out in clause 4 of the Bill, proposed new sub-section 133(3) allows an organisation whose rules provide for election to a full-time office by a collegiate system other than a one-tier collegiate system, as defined, 2 years to alter its rules to provide for a one-tier system for that office. It does not cover the case of an organisation which has a collegiate system for part-time officers that does not apply with the definition of a collegiate electoral system and wishes to move to a collegiate system that complies with the definition or to a direct voting system. The effect of the proposed new subsection which is sought to be substituted is that organisations will have 2 years from the time of the Bill becoming law in which to alter its rules to comply with the new requirements.
The purpose of this amendment is to improve the drafting of the Bill to provide for a tighter and more understandable clause which will make it quite clear that organisations will have 2 years from the time of the Bill becoming law in which to alter their rules to comply with the new requirements. Therefore, this is in the nature of a machinery measure and is an amendment that the Government hopes the Opposition will support.
-Firstly let me say what a delight it is eventually to break through the gag and be able to speak. This is the most abortive debate we have had this year. We are debating amendments which were introduced into this House at half past five this afternoon and which even members of the Government parties have not seen, as was expressed by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) who in his honesty was prepared to tell the Parliament that he had not seen the previous amendment which was moved by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). In addition we find that the Government is very anxious to gag this debate. Why is it so anxious to gag the debate? Why was the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations dragged away by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) halfway through the debate? Why do we need to provide for the period of 2 years? What has happened between the promises being made at the election in 1975 and again in early 1976 and now when we have reached the debate of this matter in the House? What has occurred to change the Government’s mind from wanting no collegiate system but a straight rank and file ballot, a one-tier system, to this latest amendment introduced in the House at half past five which provides for more tiers in the system than were in the Godfather’s wedding cake?
The unbelievable system the Government is introducing means that 1 5 per cent of the collegiate need no longer be elected by the rank and file after they have been elected once. Any political party in this country operating under that system could have ruled Australia for ever if it had 15 per cent at the start. Why is it? Why has the Government changed its mind on no fewer than 2 occasions on this important Bill? The unions have been preparing to change their registered rules to provide for a direct rank and file ballot where that was not in force prior to the Bill which was introduced by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) 3 years ago. Now the Government has changed its mind and we have the audacity of the Minister coming in here and telling us that the reason he is doing this, the reason he has found it so important to introduce an amendment at half past five which no one else in the world had seen, was that the provision as it stands in the Bill might affect the efficiency of the unions. Which unions? Who asked for it? No names are given. No unions were told of what was to occur. Members of the largest organisation in Australia, the trade union movement, unless they are listening to the radio, do not know what is going on in this Parliament in relation to the laws that are to affect their wellbeing.
It is no fluke that these laws are being changed because the reason for it goes beyond the unfortunate Minister who has been caught with the responsibility of presenting this legislation to Parliament. It goes back to a very old relationship in Australia of which honourable members opposite ought to be made aware. It goes back to a long-standing friendly relationship between the present Prime Minister and the Chairman of the National Civic Council, Mr B. A. Santamaria. There can be no doubt of the visits which Mr Fraser has made to Mr Santamaria ‘s home. On all the occasions they have met these matters have been discussed, and the trade union movement is now asked to change its rules over the next 2 years to fit in with the wishes of that ilk. It is no fluke. Just look at the honourable members opposite who have spoken. They are not the senior politicians on the Government side; all the junior canaries have been put up. The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) put forward his views on this Bill. He is a solicitor, a member of the second strongest union in Australia after the doctors. The patron saint of conscription told us about justice and the trade unions. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) has been anxious to speak in this debate. He left the Democratic Labor Party 6 months before the last election.
It is no fluke that these people are associating themselves with this move to try to strangle rank and file control of the trade union movement. It is not those of us who have had experience in trade unions who are asking for a collegiate system. It is not those of us who have spent our lives working in trade unions who are saying: ‘Let a small group at the top run the unions’. It is the Government. I would not be surprised if the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) became associated with this amendment because it is such a ratbag scheme. Look at some of the arguments put forward for changing the system.
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs told us that the experienced management of a union might be affected if the general secretary of that union had to spend time mixing with the rank and file instead of going about his union business. Was not the promise made by this Government that it would give the rank and file greater control? Are we not seeking legislation which will give the rank and file control of the unions? What is the Government doing by this amendment? In his one minute speech, the Minister said: ‘Let us not interfere with the bureaucratic handling of a union by making its general secretary answerable to the rank and file’. The Government is seeking to manipulate the trade union movement. This amendment, as I said, was introduced at 5.30 this afternoon without any consideration at all. The Government is acting according to the whims of one or two trade union secretaries who have told it that their positions could be in danger. The political position of those 2 trade union secretaries is closer to the Liberal and National Country Parties and the Australian Democratic Labor Party than it is to the Australian Labor Party.
I issue this warning to the Liberal Party: For 20 years, we defied the cancerous effect of the DLP in the Australian Labor Party. For 20 years, we defied the DLP attempt to take over the Australian Labor Party. We have now seen the demise of the DLP as a political force. I am telling the Liberal Party now that what the DLP and the National Civic Council have decided to do is to take over the Liberal Party. That is in effect what will occur. We can see that in some of those who have been elected to this Parliament. We can see it in the legislation introduced by this Government. We can see it expressed in the speeches delivered by Ministers of this Government. We can see that, having seen that they cannot take over the Australian Labor Party, the DLP and the National Civic Council have now set their sights on increasing their influence in the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party will suffer as a result of this action. It will find that it will receive less support because it is bending backwards to assist the DLP and the NCC.
Let me reiterate what I said about the 15 per cent provision in this amendment. The Minister has passed over this aspect as not being terribly important. Under this system, a union will be able to determine what size college it will have. Any union can decide that it will have 2 delegates to its college from New South Wales, with a union membership of 20 000, and 4 delegates from its Tasmanian branch, with only 2000 members. This is the result of the decision of the Government to introduce this legislation. In the example I have given, the members from the smaller States will determine who is to be the general secretary of the union. What the Government is doing by this legislation- it is a wonder that the National Country Party did not think of it- is jerrymandering trade union ballots by allowing unions themselves to determine how a college is made up. What will be the position if a union decides that it will have a college of 100 members throughout Australia? Of that number, 15 members will not need to be elected. I ask honourable members to imagine the faction that might have control of those 15 votes. It would rule the union.
In spite of all the rhetoric from the Government and all the nonsense that we have heard, the Government will find that what it proposes to do now will turn the clock back so that a trade union, no matter who is in charge of it, will be able to devise a system by which those in control will never be out of power. The Government should not point the finger of accusation at the Labor Party, at the trade unions or at anybody outside this Parliament when that situation occurs. The finger should be pointed at the 91 Government members in this chamber, and especially the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Prime Minister. Those two thought up the idea. The other 89 Government members in this chamber do not know anything about what is proposed, and I feel sorry for them.
What the Government is doing through this proposal is saying to the trade unions: ‘Do whatever you like. Manipulate the system. Go as far as you want to go’. The Government now has provided to those controlling trade unions a system under which they cannot be put out of power. They are not answerable to the rank and file member. The system under which I, as a member of my union, voted to elect a general secretary of that union, irrespective of the part of the country in which I worked, is now gone. The Australian Workers Union can set up its collegiate system at its annual convention; it can elect Frank Mitchell, its general secretary, under its collegiate system and all the shearers, rural workers and other members of that union throughout this country no longer will have a vote as to who will be the general secretary of that union. Government members do not even know what they are doing. How stupid can they be? They should look again at the amendment. The controlled vote of one faction of a trade union will now be 15 per cent of the total college. I ask the Government to withdraw this amendment, to refer it to the Government members employment and industrial relations committee for consideration and to come back to this chamber with something sensible so that the unions may know what will happen as a result of this Government’s actions.
-Mr Chairman, if I had any doubts about the relevance of this proposal, those doubts have been dispelled now because I can see from the manner, matter and method of honourable members opposite that every single amendment that we propose must be good. In total, the opposition of honourable members opposite has resolved into a cheap, nasty and quite cowardly attack on the officials of certain trade unions, including the Federated Clerks Union and John Patrick Maynes. To base an attack on good amendments on personal abuse of someone who has served his union and this country well for so long is to fail to provide sound opposition to what is proposed.
– It is typical of Mick Young’s performance.
– It is what we expect from the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Not only the honourable member for Port Adelaide but also every other member on the other side of the Committee- there are not many of them here at the moment- every member on this side and every member in the National Country Party corner has come to this chamber through a series of elections, the first stage of which operated on the collegiate system. Not one honourable member can deny that fact. If that is the case, why do honourable members opposite come in here and attack the collegiate system with such bitterness? There must be a reason. Perhaps the reason can be found in the words of Sir John Egerton who warns the trade union movement about the activities of minorities within its own ranks.
– What would he know about it?
– I think Sir John Egerton knew so much that he could not tolerate these people any longer. He knows what the truth of the situation is. He knows very well that for years people on the other side of this chamber have been supporting, without any hesitation, Communist Party organisations. Those bodies have been supported all the way, just as honourable members opposite are supporting them tonight. The only people who can gain if these amendments are not carried are those who have been running minority subversive movements in trade unions for more years than I have been alive. They are still there in the trade union movement. Why is it that honourable members opposite must always go in to bat for people such as these, who are dedicated to the destruction of every decent aspect of trade unionism in this country? Time after time, they will come into this chamber and defend these people.
– They have done a deal with them.
– It is quite clear, as an honourable member on my side says, that a deal has been done. I prefer to listen to the voice of experience, the voice of Sir John Egerton when he says that these people demand that the majority accept the minority rule. It is quite clear that, under the collegiate system, rank and file members have the prime say, just as they have the prime say in the selection of those who are elected to either side of this Parliament. The rank and file, in that respect, elect people to a college; then the college elects the Federal officials. There cannot be a more sensible and more democratic system for those trade unions which prefer that method of operation. We on this side of the Committee have tried to provide an opportunity for those trade unions which prefer this system, which have used it for a number of years and which have used it successfully. No objection at all has come from anybody within that section of the trade union movement to the adoption of a system of collegiate voting. It is Opposition members who are trying to destroy this system that we seek to give those trade unions by enshrining it in the industrial law of this country.
It seems to me that we on this side of the chamber have a difficult job in trying to convince members of the Opposition that it is about time they severed their connection with those people who have kept them out of office for so long. When will Opposition members wake up to the fact that they only time when the Australian Labor Party was ever electorally successful in the long term- it was not terribly long- was when it had the very much despised grouper system.
– You would know something about that.
– The honourable member for Melbourne has been interjecting in my direction this evening and talking about groupers. I am proud to have been a grouper. I think I see one, not a million miles from here but in the Senate, who was also a grouper and who did a good job for this country when he was. He did such a good job that people on the other side were so anxious to get rid of him that eventually they destroyed him. I suppose that that about sums up what honourable members opposite have been trying to do by their opposition to the Government’s proposals. In this debate throughout this evening, all that they have been able to say is that our proposals are somehow a creation of John Patrick Maynes and of the National Civic Council. What a wonderful tribute they pay to the NCC. To think that it could have such tremendous influence as to make a debate such as this possible. Honourable members opposite are just kidding themselves. It is quite plain to us on this side of the House what is necessary to guarantee a proper, democratic system in the trade union movement, and that is what we have done. I am more than ever convinced that what we have done is right.
-I say at the outset that I oppose the amendment. I would like to talk in general terms about the unprincipled way in which supporters of the Government have entered into this debate and the duplicity with which they stand up here, each and every one of them, and put up a proposition that varies so dramatically from that of their friend, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), whose only comment as the then Leader of the Opposition during the time that a proposal on this subject by the Labor Government went through the Parliament was that we were going to considerable lengths to democratise the control of industrial organisations. There was literally no opposition. So there is some reason for questioning the change. I believe this amendment to be as shameless a piece of immoral, political cynicism as it has ever been my misfortune to witness, either here or anywhere else, from the group of unprincipled twisters who form the Government.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne that he withdraw that phrase.
-I withdraw it, Mr Chairman. The Government is becoming justly notorious for carrying chicanery and double-dealing to lengths which no tory government ever managed to reach in the past. The amendment sets out to legalise the collegiate system of voting for union elections and to force unions to tidy up within a 2-year period their rules for voting in union elections. Such a step is deemed necessary because this Government is hastening to stamp out those evil grandma rapists and baby eaters whose warped, devious minds are responsible for all the problems which beset this country and who probably also caused it to rain on Melbourne Cup day. The Government has a mad, intense desire to wipe out its political opponents. Like the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), it sees communists under its bed. But at the same time it has inadvertently wiped out the little electoral racket that its National Civic Council friends had going for them in the
Federated Clerks Union and other organisations. That was perpetrated by members of the Democratic Labor Party, a former member of which now sits on the Government benches. The fact that he assisted in the organisation has been evidenced by words from his own mouth. What a flap that caused. The so-called secret ballot amendments passed by this Parliament were not intended by the Government benches actually to provide union democracy. That is what the Government told us was its purpose. But, of course, that was not the case. The purpose of those amendments was simply to weed out all those devils who were masquerading as humans in the left wing unions. It was not intended to violate the neat little nests which the NCC had feathered over the years.
Let us look at the situation regarding the regulation of union elections, which is a subject about which the preponderance of the honourable members opposite who have spoken know nothing. Let us put to rest once and for all the silly myths and deliberate deceptions that are so glibly mouthed by the rabid political simpletons on the other side of the chamber. The Government has shown a total misunderstanding of the nature of industrial relations and the workings of the trade union movement in this country. Perhaps it has done so deliberately. Its whole approach to union elections reflects its simplemindedness. The secret ballot has existed in almost all major unions since the 1940s. Even before the earlier amendment all unions that registered with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission were subject to secret ballots which were overseen by the Commonwealth Electoral Office. On top of this, union members who objected to the way in which any election was conducted could appeal to the Electoral Office and, if they had a case, be granted a court-controlled ballot. That was a democratic process.
Having acknowledged a system that may improve the situation the Government has done an about face and introduced a system of collegiate elections that is far worse than the position at the start. The Government is going to introduce a system whereby, as the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) has indicated, the office holders who will sit under the collegiate system and who were only elected in the first place will be able to perpetrate their position time and again with a 1 5 per cent start under the collegiate system. The protection in Australia against the rigging of union elections was amongst the tightest in the world. Anybody who knows anything at all about the subject would know that that is precisely so. It has been so for something like 30 years. So what was the purpose of tampering with union elections?
The new legislation has no relevance in the area of secrecy. The only aspect of union elections that it has affected is that of direct democracy. Under the former Minister for Labor, Mr Clyde Cameron, new regulations were introduced for the direct election of union officials, such as the president, vice-president and secretary, by the rank and file membership of the union. Those regulations came into effect in November 1 97S. I was associated with one of the largest trade unions in this country. It had a collegiate system of voting. It went through the processes and altered its rules for the purpose of conforming to the new rules. It found no difficulty in doing so. I challenge honourable members opposite to point the finger at the Electrical Trades Union of Australia and say where it has ever contravened what it was required to do. If it is good enough for the Electrical Trades Union it is good enough for any other organisation. That is as democratic a process as one will see.
– This is terribly boring.
-It would be boring to you because you are that thick in the head that you could not give yourself a headache. Some unions objected to the Cameron regulations. They were the unions that elected their top office bearers by the collegiate system. Under this system the union rank and file did not get a direct vote for the office of president of secretary, but that was tidied up by the previous decisions. History shows that the collegiate system often allows one faction to gain complete control of a union. If one faction gains a majority on the union executive it usually elects all the office bearers. In a system of direct democracy, the various groups within the union will usually have more representation amongst the office bearers. The dominant faction will still win the presidency, but a minority faction may well win the vice-presidency. The positions of secretary and assistant secretary may be distributed similarly.
It is significant that at the time the Cameron direct ballot proposals were brought in no one on the conservative benches raised one whimper of objection to the threat which that legislation posed to the collegiate voting system. Not one of the self-appointed arbiters of internal union matters spoke out about them. Honourable members opposite are so inclined to talk about unions, but not one of them has ever been a member of a union. Honourable members opposite tell the trade union movement what to do, but what do they say about the employer organisations? These organisations can do exactly what they like.
– They cannot.
-What a load of rubbish! The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs says that they cannot. If the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) were dead honest he would stand up and say that that is a load of rubbish. It is prevarication of the worst type even to suggest that they cannot. What happened in May when the Government suddenly realised that the carefully drawn Bill of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) was likely to upset its shadowy, secretive but invaluable ally the National Civic Council? One of those who objected the loudest was the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman)- the babyfaced member from Tasmania. On 1 June, in his speech on the earlier Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, that member, who has a foolish smile and a prattling tongue, threw up a number of defences of the collegiate system.
-Order! I think that the honourable member for Melbourne should restrain himself.
-I withdraw that, Mr Chairman. But I am not here to teach the baby-faced member from Denison how to graduate from his political napkin.
– Order! The honourable member for Melbourne knows that when he addresses another member of this chamber he should refer to him as the honourable member for such-and-such.
-I withdraw that, too, Mr Chairman. It was no surprise to me to see the honourable member for Denison so much to the fore last May in demanding legislation for the system of collegiate voting. We all know that the Liberal Party in Tasmania is currently the target of an NCC takeover. The whole of Australia has failed to pervert the Australian Labor Party to this insidious, insane sectarianism as perpetrated by B. A. Santamaria. This man recently claimed in a student newspaper to be a true liberal and not a conservative like his colleagues. This individual who has infiltrated other parties is now right in the middle of the Government parties. Be warned, he is a very dangerous enemy. If this is an indication of his acceptance it is also indicative of the amendment which has been moved.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I will take only a couple of minutes.
– That is all they deserve.
-I agree. If anybody thought for one moment that what we are trying to introduce is bad I am quite sure that by watching the real left-wingers jump to their feet tonight he would be convinced that what we are doing is right by the rank and file of the trade union movement. I would like to correct a couple of things that have been said. It was said that the amendments were not in the hands of backbenchers before S.30 this afternoon. I assure the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) that I certainly had these amendments long before 5.30 this afternoon.
– But you cannot read.
-I am trying to learn from you. I am not doing too well, I must admit. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) was terribly critical of the collegiate system and yet he was elected by the collegiate system as an official of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union. How about that! What about the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes)? He was also elected by the collegiate system as Federal President of the Electrical Trades Union. The ETU had to change that system because of the Cameron legislation. All we have heard tonight is members of the Opposition condemning the NCC. I thought for one moment that they were talking about the National Cattlemen’s Council or something like that. I suddenly woke up, when I heard the honourable member for Melbourne starting to slam poor old Bob Santamaria, that they were talking about the National Civic Council.
-Is Ted frightened of Bob?
– Yes, very frightened of Bob. When Mr Clyde Cameron was speaking on 30 August 1973 to amendments he had introduced to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act he said:
The unions support what is now proposed, although it is true that at one stage the unions were asking for almost the very reverse. But we looked at the matter from all angles, and we know that we cannot please all the unions. We never set out to be yes men to the trade union movement. There will be sections of the trade union movement which will not like this. But we are a strong Government. We do not worry about pressure groups.
-Who said that?
– Clyde Cameron. He continued:
We do what we think is best for the country and, in this case, what we think is best for the trade union movement . . .
On Wednesday 22 May 1974 the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions criticised the Cameron amendments on the grounds that the trade union movement was never consulted about their introduction. They are a couple of the truisms that I thought ought to be put forward here tonight. The left wing has been saying many things very loud and long here tonight. Left wingers have said that the only way Australians would know what was being said in this chamber would be by listening to the radio. I have no idea in the world what may be going on over in the Senate, but if the people of Australia are listening to their radios tonight undoubtedly they are listening to the Senate.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new clauses 5 and 6.
– I seek leave to move the insertion of new clauses 5 and 6 together. They have been circulated in the name of my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street).
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the House. I move:
After clause 4, add the following new clauses: - “5. Section 158F of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section ( 1a). “6. Section 171d of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (7)Where-
a scheme to be approved under this section will involve provision for an election for an office in the organisation concerned; and
b ) the rules of the organisation in force, or purporting to be in force, provide, in respect of that office, for-
a collegiate electoral system, or an electoral system which, although it is not a “collegiate electoral system” as defined in section 4, is of a similar nature; or
a direct voting system, or a voting system which, although it is not a “direct voting system” as deined in section 4, is of a similar nature, the Court shall not, in proceedings under this section, where sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (b) applies, approve a scheme that provides for an election for that office otherwise than under a collegiate electoral system or, where sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (b) applies, approve a scheme that provides for an election for that office otherwise than under a direct voting system, or in either case a scheme that departs from the provisions of those rules to a greater extent than the Court is satisfied is necessary having regard to the requirements of this Act. ‘. ‘ ‘.
The deletion of sub-section ( 1A) of section 158F is consequential upon the provisions to allow restricted collegiate electoral systems. Sub-section ( 1 A) was inserted in the Act by amendments in 1973 to require direct elections. The sub-section recognised that amalgamations could be discouraged if the members of the minor union felt that their special interests would be submerged in the interests of the major union. To help overcome this problem it permitted the union resulting from the amalgamation to have a collegiate system for 3 years during which time the union was expected to move towards a system of direct voting by the appropriate section of the rank and file. In the interim the members of each of the former unions would be represented on the governing councils of the union through the collegiate system. The sub-section would serve no purpose under the arrangement for collegiate voting proposed by this Bill. Therefore the Government’s proposal to delete sub-section (lA) of section 158F is consequential upon the principal provisions contained in this amending Bill.
I turn to proposed new clause 6. This clause relates to section 17 ID of the principal Act. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that a scheme approved by the Australian Industrial Court for the reconstitution of an invalidly constituted organisation will not unnecessarily alter the rules of the association and in particular the rules concerning elections. In effect the proposed sub-section requires the Court to maintain a collegiate election system where the organisation’s rules so provide and a direct voting system where the rules provide for that. The scheme is not to depart from the provisions of the organisation’s rules to a greater extent than the Court is satisfied is necessary having regard to the requirements of the Act. This amendment will apply to proceedings for the approval of schemes whether or not the proceedings commence before or after the Bill becomes law.
– I wish to address myself particularly to proposed new clause 6 which seeks to amend section 171D of the principal Act. This is complicated legislation. I must again register my very strong protest about this kind of amendment being thrown into the House with the Opposition having practically no time to look at it, to investigate it and to understand its full ramifications. It is a disgraceful way we manage business in this House. But we have found out enough about the legislation to know why it is being introduced in this fashion. The Government is probably very ashamed to let the full story come out. Section 1 7 Id which the proposed new clause 6 amends is part of the so-called Sweeney legislation which was introduced by the Labor Government in 1974 to implement the findings of the inquiry into co-ordinating industrial organisations. In effect it was to try to redress problems arising from the case of Moore v. Doyle.
Section 171D provides for a scheme of reconstitution of a union in the event of the Court’s finding that an invalidity exists. The Court can order new elections to be held and it can decide what form those elections for officials can take. It can provide, as the law currently stands, that in reconstituting a branch which is found to be invalid, elections for officials may be conducted via a collegiate system or a rank and file ballot. That is how the legislation stands now, it is as it was implemented by the Labor Government following the recommendations of the royal commission in 1974. This amendment will change that situation. It will limit the choice available to the Industrial Court. In reconstituting a union the court no longer will be able to change the form of election of union officials from what it was in the rules of the organisation before the invalidities were found to exist. In other words, if the rules of the organisation previously provided for a collegiate system of voting the court cannot order that the new system be by rank and file ballot in reconstituting the branch or the organisation as a whole.
This matter has very substantial significance particularly as the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) said at the end of his speech to introduce this amendment that it will apply to proceedings even though they may have begun before this amendment was passed through this Parliament. There is a case now before the Industrial Court which this legislation will directly affect. It is the case of Egan v. Harradine and involves the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. Various members of Parliament probably are aware of this case. There has been a lot of publicity about it in the newspapers. I think all of us have been circulated with information about it from both sides in the dispute. The matter has been going on for some time. In December 1975 the Industrial Court called upon the parties in that case to bring forward schemes for the reconstitution of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in accordance with section 17 ID of the Act but the national president, Mr Maher, challenged the constitutional validity of that section in the High Court. Because of the High Court action the schemes for reconstitution were not brought forward.
It is important to note that the High Court upheld the validity of section 171D so what the Government is now doing is to alter something which was the product of a royal commission and which was upheld by the High Court. The High Court having upheld the constitutional validity of that section the Industrial Court could now order elections of whatever type it thought appropriate if it so decided.
In regard to the scheme for reconstitution, it was envisaged that both sides in the faction fight would bring forward a scheme for consideration by the Industrial Court. In the light of statements by one of the people involved, Mr Egan, it was thought probable that he would include a proposal for a rank and file ballot for national officers. Under this amendment he could not do this because the rules of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in force, or purporting to be in force, currently provide for collegiate elections. Therefore in this long portracted case of Egan v. Harradine this legislation is specifically relevant. It certainly will disadvantage Mr Egan and his opponent, Mr Maher, who has opposed the rank and file ballot system will be considerably advantaged.
I suggest that this is no accident. I suggest that this amendment is like one of the previous amendments; it has been introduced with at least a large eye on what is happening in an important union in this country. The ultra right wing control of that union is under strong challenge and this Government is acting deliberately to change the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in such a way as to protect the ultra right wing controlling faction in that union- in either the Federated Clerks Union in the first case I mentioned earlier or the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in this case. I suggest that this is a pretty shameful episode. I suggest it shows that the National Civic Council has considerable influence in the Liberal Party these days, something which I think would not be of great solace to many people in the Liberal Party. Indeed, honourable members sitting on the Government side now and others who are not present at the moment would be rather worried about what is happening. I am sure that they have not really been fully apprised of what is involved in this legislation. It was thrown into the House with practically no warning. So far as I am aware, a lot of Government supporters have no idea of what is involved. I am sure they do not know what is involved. We have been given the minimal amount of time to understand it. The Government has tried to sneak it through the
House as quickly as possible because it is embarrassed about it. If it is not embarrassed about it it ought to be because this represents a very shameful episode in the history of this Parliament.
- Mr Chairman-
– Not again.
– Well, Bert, we have to put up with you a lot and I suggest that on a subject that you know nothing about-
– Order! I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– Here we go again.
– Order! What the honourable member for Port Adelaide said prior to my calling him had no relevance to the subject under discussion. The question now is: ‘That the question be now put’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the new clauses proposed to be inserted (Mr Howard’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 October, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorneyGeneral) Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislaton. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill, as they are associated measures. Separate questons will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the House declines to give the Bill a second reading until it has been redrafted following proper consultation with the State Governments concerningits objectionable features’.
I give notice that I, or a colleague of mine if I am not here at the appropriate time, will be moving a similar amendment in relation to the Local Government (Personal Income Sharing) Bill 1976. In that case the consultation should be not only with the State governments but also with the Local Government Association of Australia. In no way has there been proper consultation at this stage. All I have heard- I have had to hear this on the grapevine- is that telex messages have gone to the Premiers tonight telling them of the small changes which are being made to clauses 4 and 6 of the local government Bill. Those telex messages will have reached the Premiers’ offices after they closed. In no way is this consultation about the details to which all Premiers have objections, and rightly have objections.
These Bills give legislative effect to the socalled Fraser new federalism. That concept is a sham. For that reason and for others, these Bills are full of objectionable features and should be withdrawn and redrafted. Not only do we in the Australian Labor Party Opposition consider that these Bills have objectionable features but so also do many other people including, I repeat, the Premiers and key and informed local government officers. That is why we believe that there should be consultation with representatives of the other tiers of government before the Bills are redrafted and submitted again to the House.
Before embarking on the details of my speech I shall summarise some of our objections and some of our constructive thoughts on these Bills. Firstly, there is uncertainty concerning the volume of funds to be received by States and local government bodies in future years because personal income tax at a time of tax indexation probably will not be a growth tax. Further, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) by a stroke of his pen can call a part of income tax a surcharge and exclude it from the calculations. That is not altered in any amendments that the States have been told about tonight in some cavalier fashion at the last minute.
Let me now move to a second constructive thought about these Bills. Secondly, we believe in uniform standards of service to be provided for people in every part of our nation through uniform taxes. Thirdly, States being allowed to raise their own income taxes is not only double taxation but also weakens national economic management. Fourthly, these Bills perpetuate a sham to the effect that there is a transfer of power from the Federal to the State sphere when no such transfer takes place, as we have seen from the alterations that have been hurriedly and unsatisfactorily made at the last moment by a Government which has been forced into these actions.
Fifthly, there is a wasteful establishment of State local government grants commissions when the Austraiian Grants Commission was doing a thoroughly good job in this area, supported by States other than those who for political reasons wanted to make something of it. Sixthly, if local government grants commissions are to be set up, why not use the Australian Grants Commission with all its expertise to monitor or audit them instead of bureaucratically interfering with them in a centralist fashion, as the Government is doing even after the amendments about which it has told the States at the last moment in what I repeat is a cavalier fashion? Seventhly, the local government Bill fails to allow for changes in the proportions payable to each State when those States with areas not covered by local government achieve the establishment of corporations in those areas. That is clause 5 of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill and it is not altered in any way by the latest amendment.
-That is nonsense.
– That is one of the amendments asked for by at least one of the States. Finally, the Bills perpetuate the untruths being perpetrated by this Liberal-National Country Party Government that funds in real terms allocated to the States and local government have increased when only general grants have increased and total funds in real terms have decreased. The Australian Labor Party does not suggest that there is an easy solution to the problems inherent in Federal-State relations. However, unlike the present Liberal-National Country Party Government, we are intent on producing a policy which can work in practice as well as sound attractive in theory. As we approach the next federal conference of our party, we are working in collaboration with our State colleagues to produce a workable policy which will minimise the tensions which inevitably arise in a federal system. It must be remembered that the Australian States moved into a federal system knowing full well that they were structuring a tiered system of government in which the political objectives of each tier would at some stage not coincide. It should be the object of a policy in this area to provide for each tier sufficient funds to do the job required of it.
The Australian Labor Party’s policy in this area would embrace 2 major principles: Firstly, that the States have sufficient funds effectively to pursue their essential duties; secondly, the provision of a mechanism for the carrying out of joint Federal-State programs directed at the general aim of improving the quality of life of all Australians. The Australian Labor Party in government set out on this task of achieving the second objective through its special purpose grants in fields such as education, health and hospitals, social security, recreation and sport, and urban and regional development. As evidence of that we have to direct our minds only to the Australian Assistance Plan, the area improvement plan and the medical centres, to name just a few. We pioneered a method of setting up genuine joint programs, jointly administered by Federal and State officials. The United States federal system, though not identical to ours, has very many programs that are jointly Federal-State concerns. We in the Australian Labor Party intend to learn from other federal systems and to develop still further true cooperative federalism in the form of joint programs.
-This is not centralism, this is a recognition of the need for national involvement with State administrations to satisfy people’s needs. The present Government differs markedly from Labor on the subject of joint programs. It appears to have adopted as an article of faith that the Federal Government should withdraw its involvement in any area that could conveniently be administered by a State alone, whether or not the State has the resources. From the inane interjections we have heard tonight we now know that some of these backbenchers who have reason to feel very insecure are against joint programs like the Australian Assistance Plan, like the help that Labor gave to recreation and sport, like the setting up of health centres.
These are the sorts of things that they are compaigning against. The Fraser Government plans for the Federal Government to abdicate its responsibility to act in concert with the States and local government to fulfil the essential duties of that tier of government in providing for people’s needs which are not otherwise being fulfilled. Surely if there is any justification for the States of
Australia joining in a federation it is the hope that the Federal Government will ensure that Australians are provided with uniform standards of service by their Government and have a uniform system of taxation to fund those services.
In reaching a viable policy on Federal-State financial relations, the Australian Labor Party wishes to ensure that the States have sufficient funds to carry out their essential duties. In doing this we recognise that policy and administration have developed differently over time from State to State. It is these differences that render the use of an arbitrary mathematical formula a difficult method of arriving at the amount the States should receive. The Labor Party is not permanently wedded to the present State boundaries as convenient administrative units for all purposes.
Regions within States vary widely in thenrequirements. In the future we will have to look much more closely at regional differences as well as State differences. The ideal situation would be if the disbursement of funds to the States could be removed from the arena of political squabbling. Honourable members will note that this is one of the things the present Government’s policy is supposed to do in theory. In practice the squabbling has never been more intense, as we have witnessed in the last week from the telexes and letters which have flowed from Liberal and Labor State leaders to the Federal Government.
I am attracted to the notion of an institution outside politics advising on the level of allocation of funds to the States and local government for those tiers of government adequately to fulfil their services. We have a High Court to arbitrate when legal disagreements arise between the Federal Government and the States. Why not a body of similar stature to give expert advice and to lay down priorities on funding arrangements? Perhaps an interstate economic commission could be established or the necessary powers given to the Australian Grants Commission. The latter already has considerable expertise in and an extensive knowledge of matters concerning the State’s financial requirements and so would be a first choice for me if we decided that such an institution should do this work.
I now turn to some of the specific measures contained in the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill, the first of the 2 Bills being debated in this cognate debate. This Bill replaces the present formula as a method of calculating State revenue with a provision for a guaranteed percentage of personal income tax. The percentage is to be 33.6 per cent, and it is of a base amount to be determined by the Commissioner of Taxation. Earlier I canvassed the problems associated with over-reliance on a mathematical formula of any description for determining State revenues and suggested an alternative. However, if there is to be a formula for the present, I assert that the States would be better off under a restructured version of the old betterment formula. It is interesting to note that as far as general revenue grants are concerned, the States are in total only 3 per cent better off under the percentage of income tax arrangements than they would have been under the old formula. Differences of this magnitude are compatible with extra grants given when the previous formula determined revenue. Anyway, the previous betterment formula was due for renewal and in the course of being updated when the Australian Labor Government lost office.
The States are well aware of the problems they will have in trying to estimate their revenue now that it is to be based on tax receipts. In February they expected 36 per cent of tax revenues, but because Treasury was so wide of the mark in estimating receipts, this figure became 33.3 per cent. Then after another of the confrontations that this policy supposedly avoids the figure reached 33.6 per cent. There is no guarantee that such miscalculations will not occur again. Tax receipts apparently vary quite substantially according to the amount of effort the departments expend in collecting them. The States’ capacity for useful forward budgeting can be severely impaired. Furthermore, we are living in the era of tax indexation which will probably mean that income tax is not the growth tax so desperately needed by the States and local government to provide their essential services.
Another aspect which is rightly causing considerable concern to the State Premiers and certainly to the Labor Opposition in this Parliament is the provision which allows the Treasurer to determine which receipts are surcharges that need to be included in the base amount. It was very generous of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to explain during question time yesterday that the provision was there to protect the States and the Treasurer would use it only after consultation with them. I presume that, as this promise was not made during an election, the Premiers are expected to believe it and to put greater faith in it. To believe it they would need great faith. If they believe it they will be more gullible than the Australian electors who believed in promises regarding full wage indexation, promises about the maintenance of Medibank, and promises about the saving of gold rnining in Kalgoorlie. So many promises have gone completely down the drain, the excuse being that they were promises made at election time, and we need not take any notice of Liberal promises made at election time.
Although the States have the guarantee that they will at least get as much in the way of general funds in the near future as they would have received under the old formula, the tying of the grants to personal income tax eventually will restrict the States’ access to a growth revenue. I repeat: With tax indexation, personal income tax is no longer the great growth tax it was. A percentage of total revenue as qualified by betterment ratios offers a fairer deal for the States and for local government. Perhaps the key to this decision is the commitment of the Prime Minister to the reduction of the role of the public sector. By restricting the growth of States’ revenue perhaps he hopes to force them in the long run to follow his own ideological bent. If the States do raise their own taxes the Federal Government has essentially passed the buck as far as the responsibility for taking this action is concerned. At this stage I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing that total funds going to the States are well down in real terms, the increase being only 8.6 per cent whereas the expected inflation rate is 12 per cent and the rise in public sector prices is approximately 1 5 per cent to 1 6 per cent.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– It is worth while noting that one of the objects of giving a fixed percentage of income tax to the States is apparently to reduce the wrangling which occurs at Premiers Conferences. The public debate we have had between the present Government and the States would suggest that, at the very least, any wrangling over the old formula will be replaced by wrangling over what the tax percentage should be. When all these changes to the method of arriving at State revenue are taken into account, the Centre for Research into Federal-State Relations notes in its 1975 report:
Except to the extent that they are protected by the guarantee provisions and by their ability to impose surcharges, the States will be subject to the risk of greater fluctuations in revenue yields than in the past.
That is a quote from an expert body in this area. This is hardly a basis for sound government. It certainly shows up what a sham it is for this Government to consider itself a good federalist government and its Opposition a centralist one.
This Bill opens the way for the imposition of State income taxes and possibly the destruction of the uniform taxation system. In other words, this Bill paves the way for the imposition of double taxation. With the States able to impose their own taxes, effective economic control by the Federal Government is reduced. Whilst the States have to consult with the Federal Government concerning the imposition of tax surcharges, once they have been imposed the Federal Government will not be able to have them removed if economic policy calls for their reduction. Although it appears that the extent of freedom offered to the States under the theory and the practice of Fraser federalism are vastly different, it is obvious that in the theory little thought has been put into the implications of State income taxes for economic management. Even less has been mentioned in respect of the resource allocations aspect of different States offering differing fiscal deals to attract investors.
It is conceivable that under these proposals any Federal-State conflicts will be replaced by interstate conflicts. The Centre for Research into Federal-State Relations pinpoints this problem when, in the conclusion to an evaluation of the Government’s federalism policy, it warns:
The particular arrangements which have been made for distributing the total share of income tax are likely increasingly to divert the attention of individual States to questions of horizontal distribution, in which the adversary position is taken by the other States rather than by the Commonwealth.
One of the big questions over the Government’s policy remains the method of incorporating specific purpose payments into general revenue grants. The intention of doing this has been announced and I have previously mentioned the large difference between the Government and the Opposition regarding a continuing role for such grants.
In a recent address Mr Justice Else-Mitchell, the Chairman of the Grants Commission, highlighted this problem. He warned that fiscal inequalities were likely to arise as specific purpose grants were incorporated into general purpose grants. In fact he doubted whether the essential form of federalism we have had for the last 20 years would alter under this Government because the problems, as we have seen even so far, of implementing the theory are so huge.
During this speech I have covered a number of areas including the ridiculousness of debating these Bills at this time at all and the differences between the Fraser federalism in theory and practice, and I have put forward the basis on which Labor hopes to develop a real and useful policy to cater for the future of Federal-State relations. I have not yet outlined in detail the effects of the implementation of Fraser federalism on economic management, apart from mentioning the disabilities caused by States having income tax powers. It is when we look at this area that we see just what a sham the whole thing is. Perhaps I have paid the Government too great a compliment in bothering to deal with criticisms of the theory of its policy. In practice we find that there has been no shift of power from Canberra to the States at all. We find that in the clauses of the Bills that have been so hastily altered. What extraordinary federalists supporters of the Government are. They are only federalists in theory. In practice they are the horrible centralists that they accuse us of being.
The Federal Government says that the public sector must be cut back, and the States have very little choice but to go along. I have many times pointed out the error in the Federal Government’s thinking in this area. I has caused a setback to the economic recovery which was under way when the present Government took over. It has caused the particular stagnation that we are now suffering. An effective drop of approximately 8 per cent in real terms in Federal outlays is retarding economic growth and recovery. Despite the Treasurer’s words, the rest of the world is not following this policy. This Government has in real terms cut back the rate of growth of government spending. They have not cut back the absolute level of spending.
Mr Justice Else Mitchell and others are right when they suggest that no real change in the system of the last 20 years will occur under Fraser . federalism other than a change for the worse for the States. No real change of power will occur and all the Government will succeed in doing will be to subject the electorate to a fascinating charade which I believe will take a lot of time and energy and will come to nothing. At the next opportunity the people will vote into office a Labor government which will put co-operative federalism, with all its tensions, into practice but will not waste time window-dressing in seeking to persuade people untruthfully that it is made up of people who in attitude are States’ righters.
Let me turn to the second Bill which concerns the funding of local government. It is necessary to commence my remarks on this Bill by correcting another of the great untruths which this Government is attempting to sell to the Australian people. Despite the way in which the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or Senator Carrick may attempt to mislead the people, total funds for local government, as with total funds to State government, have not been increased this financial year. In absolute terms, and in real terms of course, they have been reduced. In money terms they will fall from $272.5m in 1975-76 to an estimated $93.3m in 1976-77, a fall of 29.1 per cent. In real terms this is a drop of roughly 40 per cent. The Treasurer could probably spend the rest of his life telling local government authorities, as he has attempted to do in the past, that they have no justification for raising charges. But local governments, faced with a 40 per cent real drop in income, will have difficulty in believing him. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out Federal funding for local government which shows that there has been a decrease of 29.1 per cent at a time when there is an expected rise of 12 per cent in the inflation rate and of 15 per cent to 16 per cent in public sector prices.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– I thank the Minister and the House. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations certainly has not been taken in by the Treasurer. On 27 May, the Treasurer answered a question from the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) regarding local government funding. He answered by referring to a massive increase in general purpose funds. When challenged by me on the subject of specific purpose grants-I must admit by way of interjectionthe Treasurer, in a convoluted fashion, asserted:
This simply is not true. The secretariat of the Council of Local Government Associations checked the Budget papers very carefully and found that the Treasurer’s claim, to use their words, ‘has not been met’. Presumably, the Treasurer did not intend actually to mislead anyone, but it is a fact that local government will not be better off this year than last year, as shown by the table now incorporated in Hansard.
In framing this Bill, the present Government has abandoned all pretence that its federalism theory really meant anything. The Sydney Morning Herald editorial of Tuesday, 2 November 1976 found that the provisions of this Bill gave, “The Federal Government sweeping powers including that of veto’. Some hurried changes to which I have alluded already have now been made, but they do not alter the purport of the point I am making. Surely it is hypocrisy reaching almost dizzy heights for a coalition which has made a crusade of branding the Australian Labor Government centralist to produce legislation such as this. The surprised exclamations of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he could not really see what the States were complaining about must rank with the fiddling of Nero as an example of splendid self-absolution. Eventually, when black and white were pointed out to him he was able to come to the conclusion that there might be something in the Premiers’ protestations. His admission to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) at question time yesterday hardly covered all the criticisms made by the Premiers, as I have already said. I repeat again that the only reasonable course open to the Government on both of these Bills is to withdraw them and consult with the States before resubmitting them to this Parliament in a redrafted form.
The Austraiian Labor Party’s attitude on local government funding is straightforward. We believe that local government has a vital role to play in partnership with State and Federal governments in the provision of services to the Australian people. Obviously, as local government is closer to the recipients of services there are some functions for which local government people are the best administrators. Labor recognised this and instituted a system of direct grants to local government. Perhaps we did en in distributing all funds on a needs basis. The concept certainly was not essentially faulty but the furore created by those councils which received no funds managed to distract from the benefits received by the majority of local government organisations on a needs basis in Australia. Labor wanted local government to have direct access to the Grants Commission. This was vehemently opposed by the conservative LiberalNational Country Parties. The rationale that they put forward was that they believed the States knew better how to distribute funds to local government as the Federal body was too remote. Labor believed that if Federal money was used, the Federal government had a responsibility to ensure that the distribution of those funds was in the national interest.
It appeared until yesterday that the present Government’s policy did not agree with this. But now we find the Prime Minister tells the States that the Federal Government must have a firm say in the distribution of Federal funds to local government. There is little difference here between the attitudes of successive governments. But why had the present Government untruthfully gone through the sham of heaping the odium of centralism upon the Labor Government for doing something with which it now agrees? Why go to all the trouble and cost of setting up State Grants Commissions if the Federal Government will still be the final arbiter on Federal funds? Surely the Australian Grants Commission could do the job equally well. I know that the Labor States were thoroughly satisfied with the job done by the Australian Grants Commission. I believe that the same applies to the Liberal States. We have here the spectacle of a government which pays lip service to efficiency and yet sets up all these separate State bureaucracies in the form of local government grants commissions. We have been given insufficient cause for the establishment of the 6 separate State bureaucracies in the form of these grants commissions. We understood from the Government’s fine words that it was intent on cutting back the bureaucracy. Obviously, the other driving force behind the Government- the fixation with the destruction of all things Labor proposed- has won the day.
If the Government is to continue with this multi-commission farce, at least let us see the establishment of an overseeing and monitoring role for the Australian Grants Commission. Let us use that body’s expertise and let it report directly to the Australian Parliament on whether the funds are being dispersed in accordance with our wishes rather than perpetrate the big-brother intervention into State affairs as ordered by this Bill and still perpetrated by this Bill even after the amendments made hurriedly in the last 24 hours.
I now canvass in detail some of the objections that have been put forward to specific parts of the Bill. As a preface, I draw the attention of the House to the remarks of the Premier of Victoria regarding the Bill. I do not have time to go into those details. I wish to point out that in a way which can only be described as discourteous, as the member leading for the Opposition in the debate I have not been given copies of these amendments to the Bill. That is the sort of cavalier, discourteous and arrogant way in which the Opposition has been treated. I was told by the Treasurer’s office that I would be informed of the changes as soon as anyone else. I received late in the day, after others had received it, a Press release. I received it after the rest of the nation had received it. I have not yet at this moment been paid the courtesy of being told what the amendments are to the Bill.
– It is all very well for the honourable member for Wakefield and others to make those sorts of noises. There is much more that one would like to talk about in regard to the details of this local government Bill, but how can one do so when one is not given the courtesy of knowing what alterations have been made to it? Close examination of the original Bill by the Opposition and the States revealed that parts of sections 4 and 6 were capable of reducing any State’s local government Grants Commission to little more than arms of the Federal Government. Yet this Federal Government pretends that it is not a centralist government. I think it is amazing that the States were left so much in the dark. Mr Speaker, I notice that my time has expired. I thank you for not pulling me up earlier.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
Medical Tests- Television- Slaughter of Stock-President of the United States of America -Medical Services -Television Advertising- United Nations Resolution
Motion (by Mr Eric Robinson) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter which is of some concern to me and which I would like the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) to look into. It relates to a practice of conducting a series of medical tests in shopping centres. In Victoria, an organisation called Heartbeat has been doing this in a number of places. Recently, such tests were set up in the Corio shopping village in my electorate. I understand that the owners of the village were informed that it was a free service. Apparently, to all intents and purposes it was quite free. People were encouraged to participate m a series of tests in regard to their physical fitness, blood and other things to ascertain their condition. The basic situation would appear to be that the organisation was promoting a series of health care clinics which it operates from rest homes and health farms set up in the Warburton area. I have details with me but the point I wish to make is that people were recruited off the concourse of a shopping centre, asked to go through a series of tests and told that the results would be utilised in research at an American university. They were quite clearly given to understand that it was a free service. They were asked to fill in certain documents relating to the tests, and one of the things they were asked for was their Medibank number.
One of my constituents and members of that family refused to give their Medibank numbers and subsequently received bills from the diagnostic laboratories which had contracted to process blood tests on behalf of the organisation which was conducting the promotional exercise. These people were quite concerned that these bills had arrived. People were asked to go through a series of tests and complied because they thought that it would do no harm and would not cost them any money; but apparently it was to cost the Commonwealth Treasury money because the cost was being bulk billed against Medibank. The organisation that had contracted to do the blood tests was not informed that that was to be the case. The people who approached me and who went through the tests claimed that they had no prior knowledge that this cost was to be charged against health care and was a rip-off from Medibank. It would be a very lucrative operation to set up a clinic of any description in a shopping centre and to provide a free medical service to every person one could get to agree, including groups of school children and anyone else who was passing by, whether the service was needed or not.
– Are you criticising your Medibank?
-I point out to the honourable gentleman that this occurred on 11 October 1976. I am not criticising Medibank, but there were people in his electorate or that of one of his colleagues who were abusing a situation. If he says that he supports that kind of thing, that is his business.
– We do not, but you created the system which allows it.
-The honourable gentleman sometimes knows what he is talking about, but it is so rare that I cannot remember the last time it happened. What he is saying is that health care should not be provided to the Australian community because someone might cheat. He is saying that we should cut out all health care because someone might cheat. He should be quiet and behave like a member of the Australian Parliament.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-A tragedy is being enacted daily on Australian television. I refer to the standard of children’s television. The Austraiian Broadcasting Control Board states that the decline in the use by stations of kindergarten material is regrettable. The House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties stated that there is a need to improve the overall quality of recreational and educational programs on television for children and that ‘there is evidence that television if used constructively can be beneficial in helping and motivating more people to read and can also be used in community education programs’. I personally believe that television is a distraction for children and, as such, can inhibit children in becoming literate. The habit of reading children a bedtime story regrettably is declining. Television is taking its place and therefore must play a role equally important to that of the bedtime story. Morning and night, all television stations show unsuitable programs when children are viewing. I see little value in programs such as The Flintstones and / Dream of Jeannie
There is also a trend amongst young children to watch television early in the morning. At the invitation of my young son recently I watched a program called Thunderbird which was preceded by a horrible, ghoulish movie. I suggest that probably many parents do not know that their children are creeping out to watch television early in the morning. Some people say that the responsibility is on parents to control their children; but, whilst parents do have a role, the Government has a responsibility to ensure that proper standards are maintained. I was pleased that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) yesterday, in answer to a question from me, said that the Green report on broadcasting was concerned mainly with the structure of broadcasting and that the question of standards would follow. Many people are concerned that the Green report will mean a lowering of standards. I am sure that this will not be so. I can assure the House that I for one want to see an improvement in and a raising of standards, and I know of others who want the same. I spoke to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, who has just left the House, about this subject and he assured me that the Green report would not bring about a decline in the standard of children’s programs on television in Australia. I can assure those who are interested that the existing standards will be maintained and, hopefully, will be enforced and, even more importantly, that there will be a tightening of the standards.
I have also discussed with the Minister the question of children’s television generally. I understand that a number of submissions were made to the Green Committee on this subject. Whilst the Green report does not refer to them, apparently because this subject was not within the realm of that report, these submissions are valuable. I have taken up with the Minister the question whether these can be made available and so add to the general debate on children’s television in Australia. I am hopeful that he will make these available in some way. I have had a very favourable response from him. There are many people who are concerned about the standard of children’s television. The Standing Commission on Television of the Victorian Council for Children’s Films and Television has been active and is seeking on all channels a time between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. when only appropriate children’s programs will be shown. Mrs Guest, as president of that organisation has been prominent in putting forward these views. This idea must be considered seriously. However, I do not believe that advertisements should be banned at such times. I believe that advertisements can motivate and inform and that commercial stations and advertisers can respond to the challenge in this area and help to create a better society.
– I commend the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) for raising what is a very important subject, namely, the quality of children’s television; but if he analyses it a little further he may find that the monopoly of the media in Australia has a great deal to do with the quality of presentation on radio and television. I will be interested to hear his views tomorrow if he has the opportunity to take part in a debate on this subject. Our media are amongst the most monopolised in the world. There can be no argument about that. Many of us believe that the very poor quality of presentation, whether in newspapers or on radio or television programs, has a lot to do with the monopoly ownership of the various forms of media within Australia.
There can be no doubt that it is the more legitimate complaint to talk about what is being served up for children, but everybody in Australia knows that if surveys are being taken of television stations at any given time the programs improve out of sight. In any State of Australia and in any capital city, on a Sunday night when surveys are being taken each station will have a good program, although for the next three or four weeks when there are no surveys we will be served up programs which have been shown on the various television stations up to 6 times. So, it is not just the children who are suffering from the presentation of programs by the media. Many people are suffering, and there is every need in Australia for us to demand an improvement in the presentation of programs at all levels. It has been left to the wife of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) to draw attention to those programs which perhaps have so much impact upon the thinking of women in Australia, that is, talk-back programs. I do not think anybody in this House clings to programs of that type as his form of political guidance, but those programs do have a lot to say. They do have enormous audiences. No special training is required of those people who conduct the programs on which they give their opinions. While I am speaking of the forming of opinions among women let me say that I did not rise to speak tonight to be drawn into a debate about the media. I have had a great deal to do with it. I am very critical of it.
– You are an expert on it, are you?
– No, I am not an expert on it as the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs seeks to suggest; nor am I at its feet as are honourable members opposite because they become frightened at the mention of the names Murdoch, Fairfax and Jones. We are not intimidated by those names. We demand a greater performance from them. If we had the laws of the United Kingdom and the United States of America with respect to media owners in Australia, the people of Australia would not have as much to complain about as they do regarding the media.
I rose tonight to speak about the shipbuilding industry. There have been certain leaks to the Press about what the Government is to do on this question. The latest leak from Cabinet is that it is going to give direct money grants to the shipbuilding yards. I do not think that this is a matter for laughter for the people of Newcastle and Whyalla who have to read bit by bit what the Government may be doing with their lives. Let me reiterate to Government supporters who may be serving on the various Government committees that they are gambling with 26 per cent of the work force in Whyalla and 4 per cent of the work force in Newcastle. I do not think it is very good government for the Government to hand out bits and pieces to the newspapers in the way in which we have seen occurring; I think that a definite statement ought to be made.
The Government has had plenty of time in which to have reached a decision on the shipbuilding industry. That decision ought to have been made. Since we started the debate on the shipbuilding industry some months ago, and in the last fortnight, a poll of Australians has shown overwhelmingly that the Australian people would vote to keep the industry in Australia. The majority of those who gave that opinion were women; women more than men said that the shipbuilding industry ought to be retained in Australia. I believe that the way in which this matter is being handled in Australia at the moment is pretty sloppy government. We have had a couple of off the cuff statements in the Parliament by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), and we have had complete evasion ever since.
-Mr Speaker, I do not wish tonight to reintroduce debates which have already been held.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will be out of order if he does.
– Certainly, Mr Speaker, on a technical point. I do not wish to reintroduce debates that have been held outside this place- that is what I meant- concerning whether cattle should have been slaughtered in this country in the past 6 months as a result of the ravages of drought and for other reasons and should or should not have been sent to developing countries to augment their breeding stock in incipient dairy industries. I do not wish to do that, because, quite frankly, I for one thought that the argument was absurd. By and large, the stock that has been killed off was old and perhaps three quartered. We have slaughtered mastitis affected stock, bad type stock and those dear old things that could barely walk and which were really bags of hide walking along with bone inside and little else. I do not believe that 2 per cent of the stock that was slaughtered could have helped developing countries. So let us dismiss that argument.
Let us dismiss also the arguments that have been put up to those in my party by Mr Barnes who set up the reconstitution plants for the Australian Dairy Board. He suggested that we should supply skimmed milk powder and butter oil into that system to help needy people and children. Let us forget that proposal also because we now have no more skimmed milk powder left in this country.
What I want to do tonight, having dismissed the past, is to pick up the debate from that point. Quite patently we are facing a position in which everybody who has thought the proposition through realises that the size of the dairy herd of this country should be decreased. The situation posed to us is concerned with our next door neighbours who want dairy cattle to start their own national milking herd of the future. We now get down to the clear proposition which I wish to put to the House tonight. Those cattle which should be looked at as a means of helping developing nations and which should be provided in their thousands to those countries are yearling cattle or younger. The reasons for selecting these cattle include the facts that they can be moved more easily, their lives are in front of them, and they are not diseased. There are many ways in which it will be seen that what I have made is a valid suggestion.
If we take this step, what are the implications? First, as I said, the countries to our north want yearling heifers or younger, and not broken down cows. Secondly, we should provide this stock when our industry is in a state of surplus. That condition might not last much longer. We are now in a position to make a real donation to the developing countries which wish to help themselves. Surely the way to provide assistance is to give breeding stock to these countries for the future. I believe that it is morally quite wrong if we do not take this action. I believe that this form of government involvement should take place as the voluntary agencies are doing their best to augment existing stocks at this time. I believe further that this would be of great help to the dairy industry itself as it would provide some form of government assistance through the purchase of stock which in the future will become surplus and at the same time would help the developing nations to our north.
We have been told tonight by a former member of this Parliament that he has spoken to the Prime Minister of India who, after consulting with her livestock officials, seeks 10 000 young cattle. The same man has spoken to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and has an order which he says is for even more young cattle. He has spoken to the Deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan who says that his country could use SO 000 dairy cattle of the right type. The question may be asked whether such cattle would be cared for when they arrived in these countries. I think that the answer is yes.
The countries concerned have the infrastructure. Further proof is to be found in the fact that there are now approximately a million progeny of Australian cattle in those nations, bred from Australian stock sent to them. It is a fair proposition to claim that they will be cared for. What I wish the Government to do is in due course to answer these contentions and to determine whether the requests by the leaders of those governments are genuine. If they are genuine, I maintain that we have a moral and a direct responsibility to provide aid to those countries by exporting such stock as a form of Government aid.
– I wish to raise 2 points tonight. First, it gives me great pleasure, having spoken the week before last in support of the Democratic Party candidate for the American presidency, to say that it appears at this stage that -
– Your boy won.
– Yes, my boy has won. Let me reiterate the point that I made on this matter which, I think, is significant for the people of Australia as distinct from the people of the United States of America. The win by my boy is of benefit to Australia and to all countries associated with the United States of America. That country has a system of government where the Executive is made up of the President and the Congress. When that Executive has significantly similar views we can expect some continuity of policy and a much better chance of undertakings given by the President to overseas countries being carried out and being supported by the Congress. The Congress- the House of
Representatives and the Senate- has the power to prevent certain things happening in the United States, particularly regarding foreign policy and finance. That includes the financing of all kinds of projects. It is important that the President be a person who does not face almost automatic opposition from Congress, either both Houses or one House.
As I pointed out in my speech the week before last, although there was some doubt as to who would become the United States President, there was no doubt that the Democrats would keep control of both Houses of the Congress. It is therefore important from our point of view that the President be a member of the same Party. I notice that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is present. I do do not expect him to come out with messages of congratulations to Jimmy Carter. After all, his Leader is more concerned about sending messages of congratulations to the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
– I would not develop that too much if I were you. You might find yourself to be a bit wrong.
– The handout of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the Press stated quite clearly that a message was addressed to Mr Hua on the basis of his being the Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Peking.
– I bet you cannot do for Gough what you did for Jimmy Carter.
– The honourable member for Denison may be referring to the fact that perhaps Carter has not won the election. I am not sure about that. In the 2 minutes of speaking time remaining to me I would like to refer to another important matter about which this Government can do something. I have been informed by residents of 2 country towns, namely, Cowra and Young- I think they are in the electorate of Hume, but the electorate is not terribly important; I am not blaming the honourable member who represents those areas for what is happening in them in this respect- that doctors in those 2 towns have put up notices in their surgeries stating that they will not see patients who do not subscribe to private medical funds.
– Thank heavens for that.
– The whole proposition concerns the question of freedom. It is not the business of a doctor to know to which medical fund, if any, a patient belongs. The Austraiian Medical
Association has always argued that the account for a service should be rendered to the patient. It should not be of concern to the doctor to know from where the patient receives his or her refund. I hope that the honourable member for Griffith realises that. It is very important that no pressure be exerted on people to tell their doctor before a consultation to what fund, if any, they subscribe. It is none of the doctor’s business. The doctors should not be concerned as long as he gets paid. It is very important that pressure not be exerted on people in this respect, especially on people in country towns, where the choice could be very limited because there is only one practice. The Government should intervene in respect of this issue.
– Some months ago the Liberal-National Country Party Government took a bold step, against organised opposition, and carried out the previous Government’s proposal to ban tobacco and cigarette advertising on radio and television. Tonight we heard the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) speak about the quality of children’s television programs. I congratulate him on his worthwhile contribution to the debate this evening. I wish to speak on another point which relates very much to that subject. That I supported the ban on tobacco and cigarette advertising should not be construed as a lack of appreciation on my part of the revenue problems confronting the electronics media in some regions; nor should it be thought that I am an advocate of wholesale interference by government in dictating to the media that which should be advertised or the manner in which advertising should be presented. But I am an advocate of responsibility and standards in advertising.
Though I see little television, I am concerned about the growing practice in our country of television advertising being directed towards children. It is universally recognised that television is the top impact medium. It is the most expensive. No one spends huge amounts of money without the anticipation of a huge return. Therefore it must be conceded that the directing of advertising towards children to promote adult usage and child usage products pays handsome dividends to the advertiser. I am free enterprise to the boots, but it is essential to the survival of free enterprise that on occasions constraints be self imposed or government imposed to ensure an unchecked private enterprise system does not eventually lead to its own destruction. I believe in particular that the aiming of adult usage product advertising towards children is creating dislocation which causes immediate problems and which will germinate in the relentless pursuit of the unattainable in adulthood.
It is difficult enough for a parent of the last quarter of the twentieth century to raise children without having to fight commercially developed hang-ups relating to a false need to keep up with the Joneses. Not only do we see small children in these advertisements chastising a parent for not using such and such a product, with the suggestion that the mother or father just does not know what she or he is doing, but also we see children, pumped by clever advertisers, being psyched into believing that if they do not have a particular toy their life is incomplete. Such advertising is bad enough in comic books or newspapers, but I am firmly of the opinion that when a message like this is conveyed by way of television, which is the most successful brainwashing machine yet devised, we are damaging the young.
I am referring specifically to the advertising of soap powders, foodstuffs, dolls and toys. I wonder how many small children these days run home a moment after they fall over and scratch themselves and demand one of the famous products produced by the Johnson and Johnson organisation- the bandaid. I am not referring, of course, to motor car advertisements which depict a family travelling somewhere in a motor car and which say that it is a particularly suitable motor car for family usage and I am not referring to a family group that is depicted in a barbecue situation using a certain product, but I am referring to some of the other things that I mentioned but a moment ago. It might be appropriate to mention, although all the votes have not been counted, that President Ford had an advertisement on American television showing himself convincing a group of children of the virtues of voting for him.
I have been told that the United Kingdom bans child orientated advertisements. If that is so, let us follow the lesson that it has learned from its longer association with its media. Let that be our standard. If not, let us become the standard setter.
– I draw the attention of the House to a scurrilous advertisement that appeared in the Australian of 29 October last, which sets out the most infamous resolution ever passed by the United Nations, whereby Zionism was said to foster the growth of racism and racial discrimination. Mention was made also of the International Women’s Year conference that was held in Mexico City in 1975, which promulgated the foul principle that international peace requires, amongst other things, the elimination of Zionism. Honourable members will recall that when Australia was governed by the Australian Labor Party a delegation from this country to that conference supported a resolution which contained reference to the elimination of Zionism. Such resolutions are contrary to factual and historic truth. The initiators of the resolution aim at denying the right of existence of Israel.
This advertisement was in the nature of an offensive and had a definite political significance and purpose. It was designed to impeach the essence and foundation of Israel so as to prepare political conditions for the intensification of further attacks on its right of survival as an independent state in its own land and, in part, to prepare the ground for the establishment of an Arafatist’ state in place of and on the ruins of the state of Israel. The enemies of Israel never cease in their campaign to convince the world that there are similarities between Zionism and apartheid and that Israel is a nation of racists. Racism and racial discrimination, including apartheid, are abhorrent not only to the people of Israel but also to all other peoples of the world who similarly cherish democracy. Never let it be forgotten that the Jews themselves are the classic victims of racial discrimination and that their martyrs over the centuries run into tens of millions.
Those responsible for the advertisement are obviously oblivious to the Government’s policy on the subject, which is one of support unequivocally and without reservation for the right of Israel to exist, and by ‘exist ‘ I mean more than bare survival. I mean the right to those conditions which will enable its people to live normal lives and to go about their legitimate business without harassment and intimidation. The Government of which I am honoured to be a supporter quite properly regards the equation of Zionism with racism as totally infamous. The people who placed this advertisement should be prosecuted for false advertising.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted.
-I require the debate to be extended. I wish to compliment the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) on the matters he has just put before the House. The Government regards as totally abhorrent the fiction that Zionism can be equated with racism. I am cheered by the remarks that the honourable member made tonight. He is to be complimented for them. They are in fact an endorsement of the
Government’s own attitude. I also listened with interest to what the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said this evening regarding aspects of Australia’s development assistance programs and wish to inform him that some weeks ago I instructed the Australian Development Assistance Agency to re-examine some of the matters raised in the speech by the honourable member particularly in regard to the wishes of some developing countries. I would like him and the House to know that I am prepared to closely examine further the matters that he has raised this evening.
-Order! The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
How does the Government propose to overcome conflicts between the Bills of Exchange 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:
I assume that the Honourable Member has in mind the recommendation in the Molomby Report that a cheque given by a consumer to a credit provider as security should b e made non-transferable.
I am informed that this matter has been the subject of discussion in the Credit Laws Committee functioning under the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. I am also informed that several possibilities for achieving the protection desired by the Molomby Committee have been under consideration, but no decision has yet been made on them.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has supplied the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
1 ) and (2) If entitled to free medical treatment for all conditions, whether service related or otherwise, at Repatriation expense,
for private insurance cover be required to contribute for both medical and hospital benefits at normal ‘single’ rates
Beneficiaries who are not in the above categories and who are entitled to treatment for specific disabilities only will, unless they and their dependants, if any, are covered by appropriate private insurance, pay levy of 2½ per cent of their taxable income, subject to a ceiling of $300 (family) or $150 (no dependants). They will, however, continue to receive free treatment for those specific disabilities.
If a beneficiary entitled to free treatment for all conditions has no dependants other than a dependent spouse, the beneficiary could, if he or she desired standard Medibank cover for the spouse, pay levy at a rate equal of one-half of the rate it would otherwise be. For private insurance the beneficiary or his or her spouse could take out appropriate private medical and hospital insurance at single rates with a registered private fund.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
To how many applicants, and in what types of proceedings has assistance under section 117(4) of the Family Law Act 1975 (a) been given and (b) been refused by the Australian Legal Aid Office since that Act came into operation.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed by my Department that the Australian Legal Aid Office has given assistance to approximately 34 500 applicants under section 1 17 (4) of the Family Law Act 1975 since the Act came into operation on 5 January 1976.
Statistics of the types of family law proceedings and of applications refused are not available.
MrK.A.Aickin,Q.C. (Question No. 1193)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Mirage Aircraft (Question 1199)
Mr Carrick asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
-The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What authorities are classified as semi-government for national accounts purposes (Hansard, 30 October 1970, page 3 169).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Authorities are not classified specifically as semigovernment for national accounts purposes or for public finance statistics and no comprehensive list of public corporations is maintained for these purposes. The public corporations and other extra budgetary units whose accounts are analysed for national accounts purposes are now listed each year in Public Authority Finance: State and Local Authorities (ref no 5.43) and Public Authority Finance: Federal Authorities (ref no 5.12). The following is an updated list. In addition to the units listed there are other public corporations whose accounts are not analysed but are included in the national accounts and in public finance statistics by the approximate method of classifying government payments to them as government final expenditures. Universities and public hospitals are important examples of organisations for which this practice has been used in most cases.
Aboriginal Hostels Limited
Aboriginal Loans Commission
Australian Atomic Energy Commission
Australian Broadcasting Commission
Australian Film Development Corporation
Australian Housing Corporation
Australian Industry Development Corporation
Australian National Airlines Commission
Australian National Railways Commission
Australian National University
Australian Postal Commission
Australian Services Canteens Organisation
Australian Shipbuilding Board
Australian Shipping Commission
Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority
Australian Telecommunications Commission
Australian Tourist Commission
Australian War Memorial Fund
Australian Wool Corporation
Coalmines Insurance Pty Limited
Commonwealth Banking Corporation
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation
Institute of Aboriginal Studies
Joint Coal Board
National Library of Australia
Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia)
Petroleum and Minerals Authority
Prisoners of War Trust Fund
Qantas Wentworth Holdings
Reserve Bank of Australia
River Murray Commission
Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority
The Pipeline Authority
A.C.T. Electricity Authority
A.C.T. Poker Machine Control Board
A.C.T. Totalisator Agency Board
Canberra College of Advanced Education
Canberra Community Hospital
Canberra Theatre Trust
Darwin City Council
National Capital Development Corporation
Northern Territory Housing Commission
Northern Territory Port Authority
Woden Valley Hospital
New South Wales
Board of Fire Commissioners of New South Wales
Broken Hill Water Board
Builders’ Licencing Board
Cobar Water Board
Department of Public Works-
Building Construction and Maintenance Branch
Government Motor Garage
Education Department Furniture Workshop
Electricity Authority of New South Wales
Electricity Commission of New South Wales
Electricity Commission collieries-
Elcom Collieries Pty Ltd
Huntley Colliery Pry Ltd
Newcom Colliery Pty Ltd
Fish Marketing Authority
Fish River Water Supply
Forestry Commission Plant Hire Account
Government Engineering and Shipbuilding Undertaking
Government Insurance Office
Grain Elevators Board of New South Wales
Housing Commission of New South Wales
Hunter District Water Board
Junee Water Supply
Maritime Services Board
Metropolitan Meat Industry Board
Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board
Mines Rescue Board
Mines Subsidence Board
Mulwala Water Supply
Murrumbidgee Irrigation Areas
New South Wales Planning and Environment Commission
Public Transport Commission of New South Wales-
Rural Bank of New South Wales
South-west Tablelands Water Supply
Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority
Sydney Farm Produce Market Authority
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Transport Board
Sydney Opera House Trust
Totalisator Agency Board
Ballarat Sewerage Authority
Ballarat Water Commissioners
Country Fire Authority
Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria
Geelong Harbour Trust
Geelong Waterworks and Sewerage Trust
Grain Elevators Board
Home Finance Trust
Housing Commission of Victoria
Latrobe Valley Water and Sewerage Board
Lower Yarra Crossing Authority
Melbourne Harbour Trust
Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works
Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board
Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Authority
Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board
Motor Accidents Board
Portland Harbour Trust
Rural Finance and Settlement Commission
State Accident Insurance Office
State Electricity Commission of Victoria
State Motor Car Insurance Office
State Savings Bank of Victoria
State Superannuation Board
Totalisator Agency Board of Victoria
Victorian Development Corporation
Victorian Inland Meat Authority
Victorian Pipelines Commission
Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement
Northern Electric Authority of Queensland
Queensland Coal Board
Queensland Hospitals Board (Loan Funds)
Queensland Housing Commission
Regional Electricity Boards-
Southern Electric Authority of Queensland
State Government Insurance Office
Sugar Experiment Stations Board
The Fish Board (Queensland)
The North Queensland Fish Board
Totalisator Agency Board of Queensland
Aboriginal Lands Trust
Adelaide Festival Centre Trust
Artificial Breeding Board
Australian Mineral Development Laboratories
Board of Advanced Education
Builders ‘ Licensing Board of South Australia
Coast Protection Board
Colleges of Advanced Education
Electricity Trust of South Australia
Enfield General Cemetery Trust
Fire Brigades Board
Government Subsidised Hospitals
Hairdressers’ Registration Board of South Australia
Industries Assistance Corporation
Institutes Association of South Australia
Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science
Kingston College of Advanced Education
Leigh Creek Coal Fund
Lotteries Commission of South Australia
Metropolitan Milk Board
Metropolitan Taxi Cab Board
Monarto Development Commission
Pipelines Authority of South Australia
Public Examination Board of South Australia
Racecourse Development Board
Radium Hill Project
Roseworthy Agricultural College
South Australian Council for Educational Planning and Research
South Australian Craft Authority
South Australian Film Corporation
South Australian Housing Trust
South Australian Institute of Technology
South Australian Land Commission
South Australian Meat Corporation
South Australian Theatre Company
South Australian Totalisator Agency Board
State Savings Bank
State Government Insurance Commission
State Planning Authority
State Transport Authority, Bus and Tram Division
Teacher Housing Authority
West Beach Trust
Coastal Shipping Commission
Metropolitan (Perth) Passenger Transport Trust
Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Board
Midland Junction Abattoir Board
Motor Vehicle Insurance Trust
Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia
State Energy Commission of Western Australia
State Government Insurance Office
State Housing Commission
State Implement and Engineering Works
Totalisator Agency Board of Western Australia
Western Australian Coastal Shipping Commission
Western Australian Fire Brigades Board
Western Australian Meat Export Works
Burnie and District
Devonport and District
Artificial Breeding Board
Cressy Longford Irrigation Scheme
Fire Brigades Commission
Government Printing Office
Government Insurance Office
Housing Department (Homes Act 1935)
Inland Fisheries Commission
Launceston Flood Protection Board
Metropolitan Transport Trust
Metropolitan Water Board
Motor Accidents Insurance Board
National Fitness Council of Tasmania
Navigation and Survey Authority
North Esk Regional Water Supply
Parliamentary Superannuation Board
Prosser River Water Supply
Royal Tasmanian Society for the Blind and Deaf
Rural Fires Board
Southern Metropolitan Master Planning Authority
Stanley Cool Stores Board
State Sinking Fund Commissioners
Tamar Regional Master Planning Authority
Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Tasmanian Grain Elevators Board
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Tasmanian Racing Commission
Totalisator Agency Board
West Tamar Water Supply
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Are illegal migrants entitled to claim social security benefits pending their apprehension; if not, is there any reason to believe that the benefits are being paid to illegal migrants.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
There is no specific prohibition in the Social Services Act on the payment of benefits to a person who entered Australia illegally.
In association with the amnesty arrangements for prohibited migrants announced earlier this year it was decided that applicants for amnesty could receive unemployment or sickness benefits if otherwise qualified.
ABC Broadcasting Time: Government and Opposition (Question No. 1371)
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
Will he now provide an answer to my question No 1083 by 21 October 1976.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My reply to Question No. 1083 was published in the Hansard of 20 October 1976.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of nursing homes approved under the provisions of this Act in each State as at 30 June 1976 was as follows:
In regard to nursing homes approved under the National Health Act the average weekly bed charges are not readily available for each quarter as requested. However, from a survey carried out by my Department in June 1976 in respect of private nursing home fees (that is, excluding Government or State nursing homes and those nursing homes in the deficit financing arrangements) the median weekly fees for each State at that time were as follows:
These private nursing homes account for approximately 60 per cent of the total of the nursing home beds in Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761103_reps_30_hor101/>.