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 the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament, assembled should:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson, Dr Klugman and Mr Morris.
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 percent;
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 197S Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Keating, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Stewart.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all Aged Pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian Citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley and Mr Drummond.
Symphony Orchestra 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 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 provisions 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 the500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.
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 humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: that support and continuance of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is essential, for it is a vital component of the musical life of Tasmania.
Your petitioners pray that the Government will vigourously maintain its past support of the Australian symphony orchestra, and in particular the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrHodgman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peter Johnson.
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 Punter Valley Research Foundation showed that SO 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 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 in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully urge that:
There be continuing and expanding support for Child Care of all forms with particular emphasis on the needs of children whose parents either work or are furthering their education.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sainsbury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees of the shoe manufacturing industry in Ballarat, Victoria, respectfully showeth:
That the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission contained in its draft report will inevitably lead to the total destruction of the shoe manufacturing industry, cause widespread unemployment and seriously affect our way of life in this city.
That employment is not easy to find in centres such as Ballarat and relocation would cause extreme hardship on our families.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to retain a viable shoe manufacturing industry in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Short.
-I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That this House recognises that with the cessation of mining:
That the House is of the opinion that:
– I inform the House that a new Department of Productivity was created yesterday and that the Honourable Ian Macphee has been appointed Minister for Productivity. He is also the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Women’s Affairs and Minister assisting the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Durack, will represent the Minister for Productivity in the Senate.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Is the Department of Productivity to carry out the functions which were to be entrusted to the productivity commission which the coalition parties promised to establish in their science and technology policy published last November and also the functions of the productivity study centre which they promised to establish in their manufacturing and industrial development policy published at the same time? Or is the Government still committed to establishing the productivity commission and study centre?
– I think the honourable gentleman would be helped if he read the statement that was put out on Sunday announcing the changes. Obviously, as the Minister settles into the Department and as the Department becomes established, he will be proposing various measures to the Government in relation to his portfolio responsibilities. I think that the honourable gentleman should understand that a Minister has been given specific responsibilities in areas of importance to Australian industry of all kinds; and quite specifically those responsibilities because- this is no criticism of any departments or Ministers that have been involved in these areas- the problems relating to .productivity, management, labour and new technologies are matters that have always been there. They are long-term issues; they do not go away. So often, as the honourable gentlemen would understand, there are matters of immediate and pressing interest and concern that affect departments and Ministers. Therefore Ministers who have had the general questions of productivity added on to their other more urgent responsibilities have not been able to give the specific attention to this important area which I think is warranted. I make that statement not only in relation to this Government but also in relation to the previous Administration and administrations before that. That underlines the reason for the particular ministry and the appointment of a Minister. In terms of specific policies, I have no doubt that the Minister for Productivity will make proposals to us from time to time.
-The Prime Minister would be aware of the decision of the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Co. Ltd in Tasmania to retrench 400 of its work force in December and January next. Has the company made any approaches to the Commonwealth Government in recent months for assistance? When informing the Government of its intentions, did the company ask for any form of assistance? What action does the Government intend to take to assist the people of Queenstown in their present crisis?
-The Government is very clearly concerned at the decision taken by this particular company. There were discussions earlier in the year following the Industries Assistance Commission report in which a certain kind of assistance was suggested. As a result, there were discussions with the company. I think the company felt that the form of assistance proposed by the Industries Assistance Commission which was generally in the form of loan guarantees would not have helped it in its present circumstances. A number of things have led to the company’s difficulty. There has been a fall in world copper prices, a very substantial increase in wages, and a very substantial increase in State charges of different kinds, such as payroll tax and workers compensation. Workers compensation for the year 1973-74 increased from something over $400,000 to about $1,200,000. It ought to be noted to what extent State taxes and surcharges can affect the fortunes and profitability of companies operating within the boundaries of the State. The company approached me last Wednesday or Thursday, not to ask for assistance but to inform the Commonwealth of its decision. The company did not ask for assistance of any kind but naturally, the Government is concerned about the social and human problems that are involved in this matter.
The honourable gentleman has in Canberra representatives of the unions in the district and the Trades and Labour Council and I hope to see them after question time. I understand also that the warden of Queenstown is in Canberra. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and I will be happy to see those people. In addition, the Premier of Tasmania is here and I will be seeing him about the general problem of malaise in industry in Tasmania. I again draw the attention of the House to the imposition that State surcharges can be on industries and on profitability in those industries. I do not suggest for one moment that that is the sole cause of the problems experienced by this industry. It is not. There are many facets to the problem. A quite dramatic fall in copper prices is a significant part of that problem. The day has long gone when State governments can continue to increase their own domestic charges and think that that action does not have an impact on industries within their boundaries.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. By way of preface, I refer the Prime Minister to the weekly broadcast which he gave last Sunday. He said:
As to the uranium question, there has already been many opportunities for all interested groups within the community to put their views.
I ask the Prime Minister In view of the contradiction between his views and the final recommendation of the Fox report which calls for further debate on the uranium issue before any decision is made, is there any significance in his meeting Mr Justice Fox in his office this morning.
– I hope there is some significance in my seeing Mr Justice Fox this morning. His Honour asked to see me and therefore I saw him. I thank the honourable gentleman for drawing the attention of the House to this fact.
-Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether new hospital agreements with the States in respect of the cost sharing of net operating costs of recognised hospitals have been concluded, bearing in mind that the previous agreements with the States were found to be invalid?
– I wish to pay a compliment to the Minister for Health for the very great amount of hard work that he has devoted to the problems of Medibank and of achieving an acceptance of the new hospital agreement. Our legal advice was that the old hospital agreements were invalid. Whether they were or not, we believe that they were somewhat open ended. The Minister has achieved a very marked measure of agreement with the States over arrangements that the Commonwealth and, I believe, the great majority of the States regard as sensible and forward looking. These arrangements ensure that Australia’s hospitals can plan ahead appropriately, at the same time ensuring that both the State governments and the Commonwealth Government pay due regard to thenobligation to the taxpayers to see that money spent is wisely spent, and to avoid expenditure of money in wasteful terms.
I am glad to be able to advise the House that, as a result of the Minister’s energy, 5 of the 6 States have signed the new hospital agreement. Therefore, under the agreement payments flow to those States in the normal and proper manner. Unfortunately, one State has not yet signed the agreement. Because one State has not signed, payments cannot be made to that State however much the Minister might want to do so and even though he has the cheque in his hand ready to hand over. Regrettably the State that has not signed the agreement is my own State of Victoria. The Minister has $34m that he would like to be able to pay to that State but he would not want to pay it illegally. Unfortunately he will not be able to pay it until there is an arrangement with the State of Victoria in relation to the agreement. The other 5 States have signed the agreement and, as I understand it, have signed it very happily, recognising that such agreements are in the interests of health care and in the interests of patients throughout Australia.
-My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it true that company tax payments for the first 4 months of this financial year are approximately $500m below those for the same period last year? Is it also true that if these tax payments had been collected the annual rate of growth of the broadly defined money supply would have been approximately 1 1 per cent? Would such a growth in the money supply have meant that the latest monetary measures would have been unnecessary and the consequent fears of renewed recession would have been averted?
– The honourable gentleman has drawn too simplistic a nexus between the suspension of the quarterly company tax mechanism and the overall change which has taken place in M3 in recent months, which the Government’s monetary package has been designed to overcome. The Government recognised early the need for immediate relief for companies which had been hard hit by inflation and decided in that context to suspend the payment of quarterly company tax in 1976-77. As the honourable gentleman mentioned- I do not deny it- this did result in a greater upswing in liquidity in the first part of this financial year than otherwise would ave been the case. While this requires greater attention to the administration of monetary policy, the fact in itself must be balanced against, firstly, the boost to confidence arising from a single collection of company tax and, secondly, the availability throughout the year of funds that otherwise would have been paid by business to the Government in the form of tax. The Government is fully confident that this year’s monetary consequences arising from the suspension of quarterly company tax payments can be administered without difficulty.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware that considerable interest has been shown in Western Australia in a request for permission to fly direct from the Pilbara area to Bali? In view of the fact that Qantas Airways Ltd recently announced that it would provide a service from Perth to Bali, will the Minister grant permission for Qantas to land at either Port Hedland or Learmonth en route to Bali? Does the Minister realise that the people of the Pilbara, who number almost SO 000 and who originally requested this service, will be forced to pay an extra $480 approximately every time they travel to Bah? Will the Minister continue to allow Qantas to overfly the Pilbara region without stopping whilst en route to Bali?
– I am well aware of the honourable member’s interest in the subject of getting access to Bali for the residents of his electorate and I would like to assist him with it if I could. I should point out that in looking at the applications for charter licences we had to obtain permission from the Indonesian Government to set up a service. The Indonesian Government would permit such a service if certain reciprocal rights were granted to it in relation to Australia. I regret to say that these reciprocal rights involve much more than just a simple service from Bali to the honourable member’s electorate. Therefore I have had to reject the charter proposition at this point in time. Discussions about that may well continue. In the meantime, as the honourable member has pointed out, Qantas has announced that it will provide a service from Perth to Bali.
The honourable member is now putting to me the proposition that perhaps Qantas could drop in at Learmonth or Port Hedland. I should point out to the House that neither the Port Hedland airstrip nor the Learmonth airstrip is satisfactory for the purpose of taking a Boeing 707 aircraft. They are absolutely not satisfactory. Whilst they might have met some past requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force or others they cannot carry a Boeing 707. Similarly, the normal facilities required for international landings are not available. They would have to be put in at quite considerable cost. The honourable member is shaking his head. After question time I will find out what he is on about. That is the information that has been given to me at this time. I will continue to press the honourable member’s case with Qantas to see whether I can get a satisfactory resolution of it.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer who is reported to have said that the rate of growth in money and credit has been excessive, creating an upward pressure on prices. What evidence is there that the growth m the volume of money and credit in this situation can be equated to the inflation rate in a period when obviously there is consumer resistance and unused capacity in industry? Will he have tables prepared for the House setting out the factual experience from which his policies are derived?
– I will give consideration to what tables may be made available to the House as sought by the honourable member. That information will be provided, after consideration, if the details are available.
– The honourable gentleman is interjecting. He was, after all, one Minister in this House who printed more money than any Federal Treasurer in Australian history. I find it somewhat ironic that the Opposition should be questioning this aspect of economic policy because its bona fides are shot full of holes. After all the Australian Labor Party in power in 1974 unleashed a credit squeeze that pushed the economy to the depths of recession and put some thousands of Australian workers on the dole. That squeeze, applied during 1974, was far more severe than on any other occasion in which the growth of money supply had been curtailed as a consequence of government policy. I refer, for example, to 1961, 1965 and 1970. That is quite apart from the inflationary consequences of the money printing process, something which one honourable gentleman who interjected employed during his period of Federal Treasurer. As for the facts sought by the honourable gentleman, as I said on Sunday night loans in the September quarter by banks and major non-bank institutions rose at an annual rate of around 20 per cent. The honourable gentleman does not need to be an economic genius to see the nexus between the rate of growth in money supply and the inflationary consequences of an overrapid growth which is beyond the needs of companies to finance expansion and investment.
-Can the Prime Minister advise what effects the latest economic announcement by the Treasurer will have on the availability of finance and interest rates for primary producers?
– Some sections of the Australian community have been hit very hard in recent years. A number of the policies of the previous Administration were designed quite directly to hit, to attack and to harm primary producers and, to an extent, exporters in general. The general rise in costs promoted by the policies of the previous Administration hurt exporters very greatly.
– That is absolute rubbish.
-The Opposition does not like the truth very much.
– Order! The question was asked and the Prime Minister is entitled to answer without an array- of interjections. I call upon the Opposition not to interject.
– I have the opportunity of reminding the House that it was the policies of the previous Administration that did so much to harm rural producers and exporters in general. If that were not a deliberate act of policy I would like to know how else it could be described. We had the circumstances in which the Prime Minister of the day and presumably the Treasurer of the day were proposing that the reserve price for wool be reduced from 250c to 200c a kilogram. If that were not a deliberate act to try to take it out on the rural sector I do not know what it was. The Treasurer has made it plain in this recent move that funds for profit productive enterprises are not to be restricted. That is not the purpose of the move at all, especially in relation to groups that have been hard hit by past decisions and past policies. The honourable gentleman may also rest assured that in relation to the area which he has mentioned of the so-called small borrowers or larger borrowers there will be no movement of interest rates.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to provide any further assistance to one of the three major automobile manufacturers in the marketing of its new saloon? He has already taken it on a road test, posed for photographs with it and given an interview about it for a motoring magazine.
– I would sooner promote Australian products in general than imported products. I think the honourable gentleman did not read right through to the end of the article. I do not blame him for that. The article, as it ends, states: ‘I am sorry, Ford, but he won ‘t be spending his money on Fords ‘.
Mr Wentworth proceeding to address a question to the Treasurer-
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that the Treasurer has no responsibility for submissions put to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the employers. If the honourable member does not direct his question to the Treasurer asking for information or a statement of fact, I shall have to rule him out of order.
- Mr Speaker, I am coming to that and you will find that I am in order. I ask: It was stated that the rise in the cost of living for the September quarter -
-Order! The question is out of order. I call the honourable member for Sydney.
– With all due respect, Sir, I am in order. I would like to finish my question.
-Order! I have called the honourable member for Sydney. The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat.
-Is the Minister for Health aware that some private health insurance funds intend to offer direct billing facilities to doctors who charge more than the scheduled fee? Is the Minister concerned that this practice will encourage doctors to charge excessive fees as they will receive a rebate equal to the scheduled fee from the private health funds, even if doctors charge patients a IS per cent or 20 per cent moiety in excess of this rebate? Will this practice also place Medibank at a competitive disadvantage as doctors who bulk bill Medibank receive a rebate equal to only 85 per cent of the scheduled fee?
– I am not aware of the circumstances which have prompted the question. I would very much like to have any information which the honourable member may have at his disposal so that I can examine what is suggested in the question and take appropriate action to overcome any disability which may occur as a result of what might be bad practice.
– 1 direct my question to the Treasurer. Though the importance of the recent monetary restrictions in further reducing inflation is recognised, can the Treasurer assure the House that the restrictions will not undermine the longer term recovery of the small business sector which has always had great difficulty in obtaining finance? In asking this question I remind the Treasurer that renewed entrepreneurial activity in the small business sector is essential to the recovery of our type of economy, particularly after the mauling small business received from the economic incompetents who sit opposite?
-Order! The honourable member has asked his question. I call the Treasurer.
– It was the economic activities of the former Administration which forced a large number of small businesses through the wall. As this Government has consistently said -
Opposition members interjecting-
– Order ! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call upon honourable members of the Opposition to cease the array of interjections.
– As I was saying, it was the direct economic policies of the former Administration which forced a large number of small businesses through the wall, and that is a matter of record. This Government has made perfectly clear that it believes in small business enterprise because it is essentially Australian and reflects the sense of enterprise which is very much at the heart of the philosophy which characterises this Administration. It was as a consequence of that belief that the Government brought down a series of initiatives in the last Budget which were directly applicable to the operations and profitability of the small business sector. I think firstly of the Division 7 initiative, and secondly, of the stock valuation program which I then foreshadowed. So far as the recent monetary measures are concerned, they are designed to soak up excess liquidity but not at the same time to impair the capacity of companies large or small to underwrite economic recovery at the present time.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I draw his attention to the last report of the Commissioner of Taxation which indicates that of the 200 000 companies which made out taxation returns, 0.2 per cent shared SO per cent of the profit of all companies. With those figures available, how can the Treasurer call this a small business economy?
– I repeat what I said before. If anyone has a responsibility for the problems of the small business sector, it is the honourable gentleman and his colleagues. I invite the honourable gentleman to reject the proposition that over the period from 1972-73 to 1975 he and his colleagues were directly responsible for a number of those businesses closing. Surely that is a fact of life. The Government parties have made perfectly clear that we are parties of free enterprise, that they believe in small business enterprise. I invite the honourable gentleman again to reflect on the number of initiatives brought down in the Budget which in fact amply demonstrate that broad thrust. So far as the monetary package is concerned, again I repeat that it is designed to soak up excess liquidity but at the same time to provide adequate funds for the private sector to underwrite its own recovery. Not to have acted as the Government did on Sunday night would have been to allow the money supply to run. That would have been inflationary because of the pressure it would have exerted upon
E rices. At the same time, this Government would ave been unable to finance the deficit in the only non-inflationary way it knows, that is, by selling adequate government paper to the nonbank public.
-Is the Prime Minister aware of the difficult circumstances of a number of Tasmanian industries? Is the Government concerned for the well-being of these industries and their employees? Has the Government considered any measures in relation to these industries?
– The Government has had brought to its attention by the honourable member for Franklin and other honourable members from Tasmania some particular difficulties of Tasmanian industries. Those difficulties apply not only to secondary industries but to others as well. Honourable gentlemen will be aware of what this Government has already done with the freight equalisation scheme and other measures designed quite specifically to assist Tasmanian industries and to establish the circumstances which would enable those industries to compete on an equal footing with industries in other States. Despite the very substantial benefit for Tasmania as a result of freight equalisation costing $ 1 6m or $ 17m in this year, with obviously some additional cost because freight in the other direction is embraced in the scheme, there is still a persistent view that Tasmanian industries operate under a disability not experienced by others. People have therefore expressed concern about the longer term prospects for industry in Tasmania. I think we are all well aware that some of the original advantages of Tasmanian industry, such as cheap power, tend to have been dissipated over the years as later development of hydro-electric power has been in more difficult areas and so at greater cost. In addition to that, the freight problems, despite freight equalisation, have caused some difficulties.
As a result of this I am prepared to propose to the Premier when I see him this afternoon that there should be an examination of the problems of Tasmanian industry to see whether there are disabilities over and above those in other States. One of the things that obviously would have to be taken into account is the impact of State charges, surcharges and taxes. I mentioned one or two in relation to Mount Lyell earlier- the very significant increases in payroll tax and the very significant increases in workers compensation which I know gave additional benefits at the 100 per cent rate to many employees but which at the same time had the impact of doubling, trebling and sometimes increasing by more than three or four times the actual cost of workers compensation. If industries are finding difficulty in competing, those charges must obviously be taken into account. Those particular taxes have been increased in Tasmania very greatly. Obviously it is within the Premier’s responsibility, if he wishes, to do something about it. But we are prepared, out of our concern for people employed, and out of our concern for Tasmania, to undertake such an inquiry if that is something that meets the wishes of the Premier. I do not say that our judgment will rest entirely on his reaction but we hope he would support an inquiry and then that could perhaps go forward jointly.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Last Thursday he was reluctant to answer my question whether during his meeting with the Premier of Queensland he would take the opportunity to discuss such matters as concern both governments as the seabed boundary between Australia and Papua New Guinea and Aboriginal health. I now ask him whether he did discuss with the Premier these issues of the border with Papua and Aboriginal health, and, if so, whether he can inform the House of the outcome of the discussions on those 2 issues?
– I think the House generally knows that the main purpose of the discussions with the Premier related to issues involving Fraser Island which involve not only, as I have indicated, vastly important environmental issues but also issues of great importance, as the honourable member for Wide Bay would be aware, concerning the employment and the livelihood of the people and industries in the area. Beyond that I am not prepared to say what was discussed because it should be possible for Prime Ministers and Premiers to have discussions sometimes that do not have to be the subject of parliamentary debate.
– Will the Minister for Health request the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to consider the addition of fertility pills to the pharmaceutical benefits list since oral contraceptive pills-are already on this list?
– It is refreshing to find that at least one honourable member is interested in fertility and not sterility. I assume that the honourable member for Wide Bay is referring to a drug known as clomid that is available for those people seeking to improve fertility. The National Health and Medical Research Council has, of course, made certain recommendations in respect of this technical matter. I know that the honourable member is interested in this matter as he mentioned it to me earlier. As a result I have obtained some information for him.
– Incorporate it.
– It is very short. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommended in 1967 that these preparations should be available to medical practitioners with specialised knowledge and experience in this type of therapy and using laboratories to ensure proper control of therapy. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee considers it desirable that the drug concerned should be made available as a pharmaceutical benefit but can see no satisfactory means of achieving this end at present due to differing interpretations of the Council’s recommendation by the various States and State health authorities. The situation is unfortunate. However my Department is keeping this matter under review. As soon as we have a more common approach amongst the States we will be able to have this drug referred once again to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee for consideration and hopefully a recommendation that it be included as a benefit under the pharmaceutical benefits list.
-Sextuplets is no laughing matter.
– It is not the function of the Minister to direct the Health Insurance Commission how it shall publish its report. I assure the honourable member that as soon as the report is published and is available for tabling in this Parliament I will table it. I expect that the Health Insurance Commission will honour the undertaking that it gave in the previous report, but that will be a matter for the Commission. It is not a matter on which I would direct the Commission.
– Has the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs heard of reports on radio station 2UW’s John Laws program this morning alleging that citizens who have contributed regularly for periods of 20, 33 and 40 years to the funeral fund operated by the Sydney firm known as Labor Funerals have received a cash benefit from the firm of only $ 1 30 for funerals ranging in cost between $500 and $700?
– Order! I remind the honourable member that the Minister for Health is not responsible for the administration of that particular funeral benefits scheme. I give him the opportunity to put his question into order.
– I directed my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– The situation remains the same.
– I will rephrase the question. Has the Minister heard of reports on radio station 2UW’S John Laws program this morning alleging that citizens who have contributed regularly for periods of 20, 33 and 40 years to a certain funeral fund operated in New South Wales have received a cash benefit from that fund of only $ 130 for funerals ranging in cost between $500 and $700? Does the Minister know whether these allegations are true? If such a rip off is taking place, can the Minister say whether any breach of Commonwealth law has occurred? Will the Minister investigate this matter?
-My attention has been drawn to the reports. I am unaware whether the allegations made in that program are correct. I shall investigate the matter further and let the honourable gentleman know whether it comes within the ambit of Commonwealth law and if so whether anything can be done. I have no idea whether the allegations are correct.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Productivity. Since at a productivity conference in Melbourne recently the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations urged companies to provide worker participation schemes, what measures does the Government plan to take to encourage the private and public sectors to involve their employees in the decision-making process? Is the Government’s decision to remove the staff-elected Australian Broadcasting Commission commissioner an example of the Government’s support for the concept of worker participation?
– I have pleasure in calling the Minister for Productivity.
-The notion of worker participation, of course, means all things to all persons. It would be quite wrong, when we have an embryonic department, for me to indicate any specific ways in which the Government might encourage labour and management to get together. But clearly, the Government has indicated ad nauseam its support for improved lines of communication between labour and management. It would be one of the areas in which we would be endeavouring to assist people really almost on a plant by plant basis to devise for themselves the most appropriate form of communication. The second part of the question is not within my province and I will not have an answer.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. I draw his attention to calculations which have been made recently to the effect that had it not been for the cuts in fares in New South Wales, the cost of living in Australia in the last September quarter would have risen by 2.5 per cent in place of the 2.2 per cent which actually occurred. Does this suggest that there may be some more effective ways of fighting inflation than the negative policy of restriction? For instance, what about cutting taxes and charges in order to reduce price increases? Would he discuss this matter with his Treasury officials, who admittedly are somewhat slow on the uptake, to see whether some more effective policy can be devised to meet any inflationary tendencies in the economy?
– I pay tribute to the robustness of the honourable gentleman’s views on the matter of inflation. Certainly, he has every opportunity on this side of the House to ask me any question which happens to occur to him. I am very well aware of the views of the honourable gentleman on this question. I want to say to him quite clearly without any sense of qualification that the views of this Administration in terms of economic policy are not negative. In fact, those views have the endorsement of every major international economic forum which I have attended since I took over as Treasurer of this Administration.
– That is not true.
– I include, despite the fact that the honourable gentleman is shaking his head, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development conference in May of this year and more recently the International Monetary Fund World Bank meeting in Manila. The Government has no intention of qualifying the essential thrust of the economic policies which it has pursued since coming to power and which we clearly foreshadowed during the course of the election campaign. The Government does not intend at this stage to provide tax relief or to move in any other direction which the honourable gentleman has put down. I make it very clear to the House that part of the reason the monetary package was brought down in Canberra on Sunday night was a reflection of the fact that we intend to remain with the monetary policy which was set out in the Budget documents. So far as what the honourable gentleman says to me is concerned, I would have hoped that instead of endeavouring- I say this with a sense of respect to a very old and distinguished colleague- to second guess -
Opposition members interjecting-
– Honourable members opposite may draw marginal comfort from what has been said. That is their judgment and they can remain with it. Instead of seeking to qualify the reasons why the consumer price index has fallen, I would have hoped that honourable members in all sections of the House, whether in Government or in Opposition, would have been prepared to be encouraged by the fact that over the last 3 quarters the consumer price index has shown a significant fall. I would hope that all of us, whatever our views about the economy may be, might have drawn a sense of confidence from a Government that believes that inflation is the number one priority and whose policies are seen to be working. This is so whether one takes the consumer price index or looks at the price index of materials used in house building. They rose by 2.5 per cent in the September quarter compared with 4.6 per cent in the June quarter and 3.3 per cent in the September quarter of 1975. 1 have to say to the honourable gentleman that regardless of what my advisers say to me I reject what he has put forward.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that a foreign diplomat in Canberra recently sold 2 imported cars at a profit of about $9,000 each and that this is a common practice by some foreign diplomats in Canberra who import these cars quite legally without paying sales tax or import duty? Is the Minister concerned that this aspect of diplomatic privilege is being abused in Canberra? Would he consider amending the relevant section of the convention covering this privilege to extend the minimum period in which diplomats may sell imported vehicles from 2 years to 3 or 4 years.
-I was not aware of the facts enunciated by the honourable member. In those circumstances I think he would understand that it would be advisable for me not to pass judgment until I obtain the facts. Having obtained information from him and having checked elsewhere, I shall not only advise him but also if necessary, advise the House. I could not favour breaches of immunity, set out in the legislation here and as it is normally granted internationally. But I would not wish to judge the matter until I am able to establish the facts.
– The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has indicated to me that he wishes to make a correction to part of an answer he has given.
– During the course of a response to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, when explaining the shortcomings of Port Hedland and Learmonth, I unfortunately bracketed Learmonth with Port Hedland in describing them both as having pavement shortcomings. Of course Learmonth has a perfect pavement as many members of the House will know. The shortcomings of Learmonth are confined to the in-flight facilities which makes it all the more easy, of course, to come to a final decision.
– I present the following paper
Taxation Statistics 1974-75 dated 1 October 1976, supplement to the Fifty-fourth report of the Commissioner for Taxation.
Ordered that the paper be printed.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the structure of the Australian broadcasting system and associated matters.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. Due to the limited numbers presently available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and in the Parliamentary Library. Additional copies are being printed so that the report will be readily available to interested members and senators and to the public. I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to this report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– As honourable members will recall the committee of inquiry, headed by Dr L. R. Hiatt, was set up by the Government in April this year. The report was presented to me last Thursday 4 November. The Government has not yet considered the report but will do so at an early date. I take the opportunity now to indicate to the House the major recommendations and observations of the Committee.
The report recommends the establishment of a statutory Commission for Aboriginal Development by 1980 to function as an advisory body to the Minister with the Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as its Chairman. In addition, the Commission would comprise 9 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island members, five of whom would be delegates from a reformed National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to be known as the ‘National Aboriginal Congress. ‘
In the meantime, the report proposes the setting up of an interim commission for aboriginal development. The report concluded that the NACC had not functioned as a consultative committee and to that extent had not been effective in providing advice to Government on policies and programs in Aboriginal affairs. Further, the great majority of Aboriginals knew practically nothing of the formal activities of the NACC and were thus in no position to judge whether it had represented their opinions adequately to the Government or not.
The report recommends, however, that the body should continue its existence with certain changes to its composition, procedures and functions. These would include: greater representation for tribal people in South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland through an increase in the number of electorates from 41 to 46 and a redistribution in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania; plenary sessions of the NACC be held only once a year with State branch and National Executive meetings 4 times a year; the next elections for the NACC be held during the northern dry season of 1977 for a term of 3 years; official recognition being given to the appropriate role of an NACC member as being that of the politician; and funds and staff be provided for the NACC for the production of a quarterly newsletter and that consideration be given to community radio, film, and video as means of improving communications between the NACC and the Aboriginal people.
Honourable members are assured that the recommendations contained in the report will be given careful consideration by the Government
The members of the Committee comprised Dr L. R. Hiatt, Mr M. Luther, Miss L. O’Donoghue and Mr J. Stanley. Miss O’Donoghue, Mr Stanley and Mr Luther are all Aboriginals. Mr Stanley is President and Acting Secretary of the NACC. Miss O’Donoghue is a former Director of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in South Australia. Mr Luther is a community adviser to the Hooker Creek community in the Northern Territory. Dr Hiatt, who chaired the committee of inquiry, is a reader in Anthropology at Sydney University and Chairman of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies. I wish to compliment all members of the Committee for the report they have presented to me. It is an invaluable document in the history of Government consideration of Aboriginal affairs and particularly the type of representative or advisory Aboriginal bodies intended to assist the Commonwealth in carrying out its responsibilities to the Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal community can be proud of the work done by the Committee on its behalf.
-by leave- If committees of inquiry were responsible for policy initiatives or financial support for Aboriginal people, a great deal of progress would be made in this field. Nevertheless, the Opposition does not want to be churlish about receiving the report which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has tabled. What he has done, in effect, is to endorse yet another Labor initiative. In February 1973 the Labor Government first conceived the idea of a National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. My colleague the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who was then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, presided over that Committee at its opening session.
Subsequently, in December 1973, the first meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, as it was then known, was held. There has been a great deal of criticism of that body since December 1973 when the 41 members of the Committee formally came together. One would not want to contend that the criticism was inappropriate, but it was also to be expected that such a newly constituted body, comprising people with varying degrees of experience- and, if you like, inexperience- would run into difficulties.
I think the honourable member for Wills, when first contemplating this idea, had regard for the fact that in many parts of Australia the Aboriginal tribal system might have been the best system from which to derive some kind of authority in Aboriginal affairs. Regrettably the strength of the Aboriginal tribal system does not maintain any consistency across the length and breadth of Australia. Running from a very strong content in some areas it diminishes in the Aboriginal communities which live in fringe situations, where the tribal system does not count a great deal. The honourable member for Wills, as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, was confronted at that time with the need to contrive a process which would enable Aboriginal spokesmen to speak to the Government on behalf of Aboriginal people in an advisory capacity. As could be imagined, when those 41 people came together there were examples of the tribal people, who in some instances were unable to speak English with any fluency, being disadvantaged by the more sophisticated Aboriginal people from the cities, who were almost as effective as manipulators in the political area as some honourable gentlemen opposite. So some of these spokesmen were disadvantaged.
If there was any total disadvantage to come out of the experience of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee it was probably through the lack of a secretariat. These spokesmen came together from time to time and had very little difficulty in identifying areas of Aboriginal deprivation and in identifying the positive initiatives which should be taken in respect of Aboriginal Affairs, but in the matter of communicating their decisions to the Government there was the deficiency represented by the absence of staff or a properly constituted secretariat I have had the good fortune to talk with the NACC on several occasions. Towards the end of 1975, as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I firmly faced up to the problems which the NACC was encountering. As the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would be aware by now, I assured the NACC at that point that I would be recommending to the Government of the day the acceptance of an NACC constitution which had been modified over a period of consultation. I had also made arrangements to rationalise the budget so that the NACC could set itself up with a secretariat, so that it could engage in a number of conferences at the national level and so that it could set about the process of undertaking regional conferences.
If the prowess of the former Government- the Labor Government- is to be demonstrated in respect of this matter I suppose that it might be shown in connection with the reference which I, as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, submitted to the Remuneration Tribunal. It is interesting to note that a recommendation has been made in this report in the sense that the political nature of being a member of the NACC should be acknowledged. Of course, the Remuneration Tribunal has taken this matter into consideration and has provided a salary for NACC members of $8,925 a year. It has also approved of electorate allowances ranging from $2,500 to $3,750, with additional allowances of $500 for executive members. It has also incorporated in the schedule of remuneration a travelling allowance of $41 a day. So under those arrangements the NACC was very firmly constituted. Moreover, the Labor Government took the initiative to provide NACC members with an electorate office, to furnish the office and to staff it with an electorate secretary. So the Opposition naturally is enthusiastic that the Hiatt Committee has now taken steps to endorse this very significant development in Aboriginal affairs, as initiated by the Labor Government.
I do not think I should allow this opportunity to pass without taking note of the fact that the report has recommended the establishment of a statutory Commission for Aboriginal Development by 1980. This, of course, could be an extremely important milestone in Aboriginal affairs. But a lot more will need to be said about it before it can be expected to receive the imprimatur of either the Aboriginal people or the Opposition. It is noted, for example, that the Chairman of the proposed statutory Commission for Aboriginal Development is to be the Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It has been implied that there is to be a dual approach to Aboriginal problems. On the one hand there is to be, apparently, a continuation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and on the other there is to be a new statutory committee which is to be composed predominantly of Aboriginal people- some 9 Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders, five of whom will be delegates from a re-formed National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. I just say to the Minister that at first glance there seems to be all the propects of a serious problem developing if the Government contemplates for one solitary moment that it can run Aboriginal affairs with both a Department of Aboriginal Affairs and a statutory commission. Obviously the 2 bodies would soon get on to a collision course. So, although the Minister may not have too much clear-cut objectivity in respect of this matter at the moment, I put it to him that unless he does develop a firm attitude he is certainly going to cause a rip-roaring controversy and that if he goes on to give effect to the idea of having a dual authority or 2 authorities then, of course, the results can be quite disastrous.
The Opposition will be reading the Hiatt Committee ‘s report with great interest. We also acknowledge the very valuable service rendered by those distinguished people who were led by Dr Hiatt- all of whom are Aborigines. I must say, as one who gave evidence before the Committee, that I do not find myself at variance with the idea that the NACC should be continued, that it should be called a congress in the future instead of a consultative committee and that it should be supported to rationalise its activities on a State and regional basis. I commend to the Minister the idea that more should be done- for that matter more should have been offered by the Committeein regard to the secretariat needs of the NACC. I have noticed a comment in the Minister’s speech to the effect that funds and staff should be provided for the NACC for the production of a quarterly newsletter and that consideration should be given to using community radio, films and video as a means of improving communications between NACC and the Aboriginal people. Far more than that is necessary. A considerable amount of the funds allocated for the purposes of the NACC ought to be directed to the provision of a secretariat. The Opposition welcomes the recommendation in general terms in that it implies an endorsement by a committee of inquiry of a positive initiative taken in respect of the Aboriginal people by the former Labor Government.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– I claim to have been misrepresented. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), who has just spoken, referred to increases in salaries and allowances of members of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee and said that these had been instituted under his ministry, not under mine. I wish to correct that statement and put the true position before the House. When I came into my ministry I found that although there had been many requests for an increase in salary and allowances by NACC members and that the matter be referred to the Remuneration Tribunal, in fact nothing had been done. The matter was put to me in March when I attended a plenary session of the NACC. Upon discovering that, I immediately put in motion the necessary steps to have the regulations under the Remuneration Tribunal Act amended so that the Tribunal could conduct an inquiry into the salaries and allowances of members. That was done. The Tribunal made its inquiry and brought forward a recommendation for various increases which were then approved by the Government and are presently operative.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in the remarks he just made. I suggest to him that if he checks the minutes of the late 1975 meetings of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee he will establish that I gave an assurance to the NACC to the effect that I would be making such a reference. If he checks the records of his Department he will establish that I had set in train prior to 1 1 November the process which was given effect to in Remuneration Tribunal Determination No. 1976/8.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, mildly but significantly by Michelle Grattan in the Melbourne Age of 8 November. In an article entitled ‘Spotlight on the Backbenchers ‘ she stated, inter alia:
A main motivation of another type, including Senator Rae and Mr Chipp … is their overriding dislike of the Prime Minister and all he stands for.
This is a misrepresentation. Any motivation I may have in politics or in life generally has never been, is not and hopefully never will be the result of any ‘overriding dislike’ of Mr Fraser or of anybody else. Whatever I do will be the result of what I believe to be right, and whatever I say will be what I think ought to be said, notwithstanding any personal cost to myself, and any implication otherwise is a misrepresentation of me. I must say that I and other members of this House will continue to be misrepresented by free diagnoses given us by otherwise competent journalists who feel impelled from time to time to take an old turn into amateur psycho-analysis.
-I found an invention in that article in relation to myself.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, inadvertently, and probably it was my own fault. On 4 November, during discussion of a ministerial statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson), I had observed that the Green report, which has been tabled today, had not been tabled at that time. I made the observation that I thought that the basic decisions had been taken by the Government and so it seemed unreasonable not to table the report on that day. I said: … I think it is a slight mis-statement of the real situation to say that the Government is still considering the report. In essence the Minister is depriving the community of a chance to discuss the report while the Government itself is considering it
That is what I felt and I therefore felt that it should have been made available. But I then said, in a throw-away line:
I see no harm in that sort of approach.
By that I meant no harm in allowing the community to see it even while the Government was still considering it. I am sure that is probably the way I said it, but the intonation in my voice cannot be reproduced in Hansard and therefore the wrong impression is given. That last comment goes quite contrary to the whole of that section of my speech where in fact I was being critical of the non-tabling of the report. Therefore I seek leave to somehow correct the impression I inadvertently gave in Hansard.
– The honourable gentleman drew this to my attention and explained it to me.
I understand the situation. As he said, sometimes the written word does not accurately reflect the spoken word. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications is not in the chamber at the moment but I shall make inquiries as to whether he would agree to some arrangements being made in regard to the printing of Hansard in order to make clear the distinction that the honourable member for Maribyrnong pointed out. If it is too late to do that the personal explanation just made will relate to that matter.
– I have received letters from both the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today.
– He has flown the pond.
-Order! The honourable member for Wills has something wrong with him today. He continues to interject. I warn him not to do so. As required by standing order 107 I have selected one matter and that is that proposed by the honourable member for Adelaide, namely:
The Fraser Government’s incompetent economic management.
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-
-Australia is suffering today not only the most conservative but also the most cynical government in its history. Every day we have yet more evidence of this cynicism. The Government answers in question time today were no exception. There can be only one interpretation of the Fraser Government’s incompetent economic management decisions as they unfold from day to day and that is that this conservative coalition is deliberately postponing economic recovery so that improvements will come only when the next federal election is due.
A year ago the Liberal and National Country Parties were telling the Australian people that they could run the economy better than the Labor Party. What blatant untruths they told then, as they are telling now. What false promises were made then that misled the Australian people just a year ago. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that he ‘could get private enterprise moving’ and ‘create jobs’. He also said that a major element in the LiberalNational Country Parties’ strategy was to bring about growth in production in the private sector. He said that under a Liberal-National Party government there would be jobs for all who want to work. He also said that there would be a return to business confidence and a growth rate of 6 to 7 per cent was feasible.
These assertions sound extraordinary in view of what has happened this year. The most recent national income statistics show an increase of only 0.6 per cent for the June quarter, a sharp decline from the 3.6 per cent growth rate in the first quarter of the year when the Australian Labor Party Government’s policies were working. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in his extraordinarily defensive speech on Friday that ‘there was some slowing in growth in the September quarter’. This suggests that the rate of growth of national income has fallen in two of the last 3 quartersthe only quarters in which the present Government’s policies could have had an impact. Seasonally adjusted factory production excluding power was at the same level in August as in February- that is, there has been no growth in private secondary industry production during 1976. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has stated publicly that during the coming months he expects the highest level of unemployment since the Depression.
The Government is failing badly. Production remains static, unemployment is increasing, inflation is barely improving and investment is falling. Stock exchanges’ prices, obvious indicators of business confidence, are lower now than they were at the beginning of this year and are continuing to fall. Indices for secondary industry particularly are now well below their levels at the beginning of this calendar year. Yet on Sunday the Government announced tighter monetary controls. Credit is to be restricted and interest rates are to rise.
Although the changes are not large they certainly will have the effect of retarding recovery even further. Higher interest rates will raise costs and higher credit will inhibit private investment. As one commentator wrote, many potential bank borrowers who would have been considered creditworthy customers last week will not be able to borrow this week. In addition there will be the gravely adverse psychological effect on a population which already has been unnecessarily punished by this Government. The tremendous attack on consumer confidence is continuing. The storm of reaction to the relatively small monetary measures shows that there is widespread unease about the Government’s economic policies. Gloomy prognostications emanating from business, which the Treasurer noted in his speech last Friday, will be strengthened by these measures. Rather than encouraging the private sector the internal conflicts within the Government’s economic policies are now worsening the economic environment. They are reducing business confidence.
The Government is caught in a dilemma of its own creation. It promised, at election time, to abolish quarterly company tax payments. It did this on taking office. The answer from the Treasurer at question time today, as all objective commentators will note, was completely unconvincing. The result of abolishing the quarterly payments is that in the first 4 months of this financial year company tax receipts were $43m compared with $528m in the first 4 months of last year; that is, company tax payments are about $50Om lower so far this year when campared with the same period last year. This is the principal reason for the higher deficit in the first 4 months of this financial year when compared with last year. The deficit, after 4 months, is nearly $3 billion. As a result the money supply during the last 3 months has grown at an annual rate of 1 8 per cent, a rate of increase which is too fast when compared with the rate of consumer price increases of about 13 per cent or 14 per cent; and there has been very little real growth in the economy at the same time. If quarterly company tax payments were still being made, the annual rate of growth of M3 would have been about 1 1 per cent or 12 per cent. These rates would be well within the Government’s monetary growth target. I supported the growth targets at the time, presupposing other more stimulatory measures in the fiscal field. But I do not support these targets now in the present very stringent circumstances which are creating grave unemployment and grave lower levels of economic activity in this country.
If there had been the proper stimulatory measures which I have advocated we would not have needed or have had this unnecessary monetary package which was announced yesterday. This time last year the conservative parties made much of the size of the deficit after 4 months. The present Prime Minister cynically sang out, to his everlasting discredit, such memorable phrases as: ‘We must rein in Government extravagances’. He was referring to a Budget deficit which is less than the Budget deficit which this cynical Government is running. In fact, the deficit this year is $2 50m larger than at the same time last year. The Labor Government was being called spendthrift. Both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister forecast that the deficit at the end of the financial year would have been $4.5 billion, a claim which had no credibility at any time. The decision to defer quarterly company tax payments has created a problem of monetary management. The whole community is now to pay the cost. It was part of the cynical buying of votes which took place at this time last year. Some of the unwanted liquidity of companies is probably being transferred overseas as a hedge against devaluation. So from every point of view the decision to defer quarterly tax payments was unwise and, as I have said and as I repeat, it is giving rise to this monetary package which is causing hardship. Many companies have greater liquidity than they are able to use because they must prudently put funds aside for tax payments.
Borrowers have to pay higher interest rates. They will have their requests for loans scrutinised more vigorously, more rigorously, and their applications will be processed more slowly than hitherto. Some requests for loans will be rejected and lending for such things as housing will be lower than would otherwise be the case. As well the outflow of private capital has been facilitated and financed in part at least from temporary liquid funds of companies which have to set aside money for tax payments which will not be required until the end of the financial year. This is a clear example of a misguided government policy naively aimed at stimulating the private sector. But in practice it will be ineffective because it has not been accompanied by other appropriate economic policies. The principal error of government economic policy is that at a time of deep recession Budget outlays, excluding the family allowances which are largely offset by higher taxation, are likely to fall by about 8 per cent in real terms during 1976-77. It is time that the advisers to the Prime Minister and to the Treasurer taught them some simple economic realities. A government has one principal policy instrument available to it to influence the economy, and I refer to the Budget. Clearly it is the responsibility of the Government to act in a way which minimises fluctuations in the economy, which tries to smooth out the business cycle and which reduces structural problems.
Most governments in industrialised countries increase real government outlays at times of recession and reduce them in times of boom. However, the Liberal and National Country Party Government because of its doctrinaire opposition to the public sector is reducing government outlays at the time of the deepest recession this country has known since the last war. The Treasurer continues to claim that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development supports his policies. He said this today during question time. But he confuses reduction in the rate of growth of real government outlays in other OECD countries with sharp decreases in the total level of government outlays which are going on in Australia at the present time under his Government. Other countries reduce the rate of growth of public spending while the Australian Government is already reducing the real level of outlays. The effect of this is to reduce total demand for goods and services, making recovery even more difficult. Other major OECD countries continued to use expanding real government outlays to facilitate economic recovery in their countries during 1975 and they are doing so now in 1976. The President-elect of the United States of America is promising even more of this. For example, the Reserve Bank of Australia in its annual report noted:
The Japanese recovery was heavily dependent on public sector spending.
Australia is deliberately retarding economic recovery by reducing government outlays which account for about one-quarter of our economy. As well, personal disposable income has been reduced through the imposition of the Medibank levy and encouragement is being given to people to take out private health insurance. These measures have certainly reduced personal consumption on other types of spending. I suggest that honourable members ask any small businessmen in the community and that they look at the economic indicators right now. So a continuation of the decline in real retail sales which has been noticeable in recent months can be expected.
The Budget Papers reported that increased consumption demand was essential to recovery. Tax indexation was supposed to be the agent for stimulating consumer demand. Of course, tax indexation merely removes the increase in tax receipts due to inflation. A higher proportion of personal income is still being withdrawn to tax payments as real incomes rise. Now the Medibank levy threatens further to lower the level of retail sales. Indeed, a Medibank levy is even counter-productive to the Government’s stated aim of reducing the rate of inflation. By increasing the rate of growth of prices it will maintain the current level of price increases for many months; perhaps even a year longer than would otherwise have been the case. As well, it is an important factor in the maintenance of inflationary expectations which are themselves the principal cause of continuing rates of price increases. If a Labor Government were in office now the rate of inflation would be substantially lower because there would be no Medibank levy and indirect taxes would be reduced, providing a break in the inflationary spiral which would quickly lead to deceleration in the rate of growth of prices. As well, the level of unemployment would be considerably lower because of the selective stimulatory spending program which I have outlined previously and which would have contributed to increasing output in employment in the most depressed areas of our economy.
Exports are the one sector which have been fuelling the Australian economy. Yet they are now under threat because of the slump in the rate of economic growth overseas. The OECD was expecting that the real gross national product would grow by 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent in member countries during 1976. However, as the Economist has reported recently, it now looks as if 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent will be nearer the mark in the second half of 1976. For example, in the United States of America which sets the pace for the level of world economic activity, the rate of growth measured in annual terms was 9.2 per cent in the first quarter of 1976 and 4.5 per cent in the second quarter. It may be down to 3.5 per cent in the third quarter. I mention these things because they are important for economic strategy in this country, and I wonder whether this Government has the flexibility to change its outlook in view of these new factors. In seasonally adjusted terms, exports fell by 18 per cent between July and October. This means all the more that stimulatory domestic economic policies as outlined by me and my Australian Labor Party colleagues are essential. I hope that the Treasurer will not attempt to use the investment figures for the June quarter which were released yesterday as support for his cause. I just refer him to the following comments in the Age, although I wish I had time to go over this matter myself: The Government is falling deeper into the mire created by rigid adherence to doctrinaire monetarism; A wide and growing body of professional opinion is arguing for a change in economic strategy. We share similar objectives- price stability, full employment, balance of payments equilibrium. Certainly we would give much greater weight to reductions-of income inequality than would our conservative opponents, yet the Treasurer persists with a naive, ineffective, unjust and incompetent approach to economic policy.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Let me say at the outset that the Government rejects die charge of economic incompetence contained in the matter of public importance brought before the House today by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), particularly the claims that the monetary measures announced on Sunday night will retard activity or that the Government is deliberately retarding economic activity at the present time. What magnificent irony it is that today’s matter of public importance should be brought forward by a Party which proved in Government to be the most incompetent economic managers in Australian history. The reference to selective stimulatory programs, together with the Opposition’s support for virtual full wage indexation, are in fact no more than a plan for yesteryear. They are a reflection of the policies rejected by the people of this country at the last election, as they continue to be rejected today. What an irony it is, too, that this debate should take place in the light of recent evidence that the Government is achieving significant success in its antiinflationary strategy.
I remind the House that the increase in the consumer price index in the September quarter was the lowest since March 1973, apart from the Medibank-affected September quarter of 1975. Figures published today show that Australia’s rate of inflation is now broadly in line with the average of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In fact, the consumer price index expressed as a compound monthly rate of 0.7 per cent is actually marginally better than the 0.8 per cent for the OECD countries as a whole. As the Government has consistently emphasised, the downward trend in inflation will establish the basis for sustained recovery in economic activity and growth in employment. As I said in a statement issued last Friday, a reasoned assessment of economic trends shows that momentum has been building up in the economy even though there has been some slowing in growth in the September quarter. Taking the most recent indicators at face value, there is no basis for suggesting anything other than that this recovery is continuing. Industrial production did flatten out in the June quarter but is again on a slow upward trend.
So far as consumption is concerned, retail sales have not grown as much in recent months as earlier, but allowing for improved price performance, some real growth in retail sales has continued. Demand for motor vehicles moved ahead satisfactorily during September, following the sharp fall experienced in July and August as a result of the introduction of more stringent emission control regulations. The weakening in the labour market that appears to have taken place since the March quarter- although almost exclusively in the State of New South Wales- has been largely arrested over the course of the September quarter. Activity in the housing industry remains buoyant. There are also some fundamental differences in the economy compared with a year ago which, taken together, point clearly in the direction of continued growth.
Because this matter of public importance has obviously been inspired by Sunday night’s monetary announcement, I intend to deal specifically with monetary management in my response today to the honourable member for Adelaide. In a major speech on 3 August this year the opposition shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide, set down the Australian Labor Party’s approach to monetary management in the following terms:
The rate of inflation would be reduced by a combination of policies including . . . allowing the money supply to grow at a rate sufficient to accommodate a recovery of economic growth and a declining rate of price increases.
That statement points to the political opportunismthe hypocrisy- of the matter now before the House. In August the Labor Party’s spokesman on economic matters presented a mirror image of the Government’s monetary policy. In November he claims that measures taken in line with that policy will lead to a credit squeeze.
This is, of course, not the first time the honourable member for Adelaide has attempted to pursue this line. I refer specifically to the introduction in January this year of Australian savings bonds as part of a monetary package to drain off the excess liquidity that then existed. I remind the House that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the second shadow Treasurer in the Australian Labor Party- the combination of Bib and Bub- my predecessor as Treasurer, had himself in his understanding of those matters welcomed that package in the following terms:
The Federal Government’s new economic package is an appropriate measure at this point. In the last election campaign I said several times that the Labor Government was considering a package that was very similar.
In spite of that statement by the former treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide- the first or second shadow Treasurer on the other sideissued a Press statement on 1 1 February commenting on the package:
It constituted the start of a vicious credit squeeze.
It is a matter of record as the honourable gentleman ought to be the first to admit, that no credit squeeze came about as a result of the ‘January package’, and in fact the Government’s monetary management during the seasonal downswing in liquidity towards the end of the last financial year was a major success. I must say that the Opposition is today indulging in the same kind of exercise which characterised it in earlier months.
– They are wrong again.
– Of course they are wrong again. The Government rejects this matter as irresponsible and a further element of the Opposition’s campaign that is designed to talk the economy down.
– You were masters at that in 1972. That is all you ever did.
– The measures that I announced on Sunday night are in strict conformity with the monetary objectives that I announced in the Budget Speech.
– You are a disgrace to the country.
– The honourable gentleman is an old political lag -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. The honourable member for Robertson must not continue to be disorderly. I ask him to retain his peace.
– I was about to say that the honourable gentleman is obviously an old political lag whose earlier delinquencies have now become habitual.
– I ask the Treasurer to withdraw that remark.
– To withdraw what comment in the remark, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-The personal reflection on the honourable member.
– If I accuse him of being an old political lag do you regard that as a personal reflection, Mr Deputy Speaker?
– I think the honourable member could well do so. He has not demanded it, but I would ask the Treasurer to withdraw that remark.
– I would not want to upset the honourable member any more than he is upset now. I will withdraw.
The House would do well to recall that the monetary problems facing the economy at the present time came about as a direct result of the permissive policies pursued by our predecessors. There can be no argument with the proposition that the policies of 1975 resulted in a potentially highly dangerous situation of excess liquidity. In the year to December 1975 the liquidity base of the private sector increased by $2,702m- almost 4 times the average increase recorded in the preceding 10 years. The increase of the liquidity base of the private sector during the 6 months to last December alone was $ 1,900m, and the fiscal irresponsibility of the former Government was the major factor contributing to this flood of money. Not only did our opponents in this house open the monetary flood gates in 1975; they also clamped a monetary vice on the economy that led to the worst credit squeze in Australia ‘s postwar history. It was the 1974 credit squeeze, brought about by the Labor Government, that pushed the economy to the depths of its recession and forced thousands of Australians on to the dole: The rapidity with which the volume of money was contracted during 1974 has no parallel in Australia ‘s post-war history.
I said in response to a question in the House today that the squeeze applying during that year was more severe than on any occasion when the growth in the money supply has been curtailedfor example, in 1961, 1965 and 1970. The volume of money, broadly defined, declined at an annual rate of almost 7 per cent during the 3 months to September 1974. The violent contraction that took place did so in circumstances where the volume of money had grown at rates in excess of 20 per cent in the previous 12-month period. There is no record of the honourable member for Adelaide having expressed any concern by comment in this House, so far as I have been able to search it out, about the credit squeeze imposed in 1974. 1 take this opportunity to say to the honourable gentleman that the Government’s monetary measures during 1976 have been an outstanding success. The Government ‘s economic policy is in line with the consensus that has emerged on this matter in international economic forums. If the honourable gentleman queries that, I believe he ought to pay attention to the 1976 annual report of the International Monetary Fund which had this to say. . . . current rates of monetary expansion are still in double digits in most of the industrial countries and still need to be reduced considerably if a return to reasonable price stability is to be achieved in the next few years.
For 1976-77 a rate of growth of the broadly defined money supply of between 10 and 12 per cent, as referred to in the Budget Speech, will on present indications be consistent with growth in overall liquidity entirely adequate to support expansion by the private sector. It will also have the effect of bearing down on the rate of inflation and reinforcing the other measures taken by the Government to curb the rate of price increase.
But, as I said on Sunday night, developments in financial markets since the Budget was brought down have meant that the Government has been less than successful in selling government securities to the non-bank public during the period of the seasonal liquidity upswing. During the September quarter loans outstanding by banks and major financial institutions increased at a seasonally adjusted rate of around 20 per cent. There have been insufficient sales of government paper in spite of adjustments to treasury note rates prior to the October loan, a slight increase in the yield on Australian savings bonds and the October loan itself. The take-up of government securities by the non-bank public since the end of June has been no more than $2 90m and, within this total, the authorities have actually been net purchasers of shorter-dated bonds. That is, in the most recent period bonds purchased by the authorities have actually been exceeding sales. All of these developments, especially in the light of the October loan result, were comprehensively reviewed by Ministers last week and the monetary measures were decided last Friday. Assertions that these measures will bring about any form of credit squeeze are in fact without foundation.
Calls to statutory reserve deposits of 1 per cent amount to around $170m, as compared with deposits held by the trading banks of around $17 billion. This will simply bring back the margin of free liquidity of the banks to around the levels existing in August and September of this year. The average liquidity ratio of the banks during August and September was 25.3 per cent, by contrast with a ratio of something over 26 per cent as at the end of October. The new monetary measures embody, of course, a lift in short term official interest rates. Treasury notes are being increased by around Vi per cent and this will be reflected in the yields on short dated bonds over the next few days. As against this, private short term interest rates have declined during the recent period, as liquidity has eased. For example, the yields on 90-day bank bills are about 8.9 per cent now, compared with the average of around 10.7 per cent in June.
As to bank lending, the fact is that the banks have been providing finance for the corporate sector, both for working capital purposes and for investment and expansion. The authorities will continue to implement Government policy which provides for adequate funds to underwrite economic recovery. If excessive growth in money and credit were allowed to continue it would result, essentially, in more upward pressure on prices. This is, after all, the key lesson of the experience in the United Kingdom in recent years, and in Australia during 1975. As well, by making more sales of government paper now, and by avoiding excessive growth in lending at this time, the seasonal tightening of financial markets in the June quarter of next year will be easier to handle. In short, action taken now will obviate the need for monetary measures towards the end of the financial year that would have been inconsistent with continuing increase in the level of activity.
It is precisely because the Government aims to lift economic activity, and to deal with the level of unemployment, that action is being taken to keep the growth of the monetary aggregates at a rate consistent with further reductions in inflation. The Government believes that its policies are being successful and it does not intend to be pushed off course by the kind of unsubstantiated assertions that have been made by the Opposition in this House today. The Government for its part rejects the matter before the Chair.
-This matter that is now before the House is an important matter not only because the economy generally is obviously very important but also it is especially important because almost exactly one year ago this Government seized office substantially on the basis that the then Government was incompetent in its handling of the economy. Having grabbed office by breaking all the conventions of political behaviour in this country, the Liberal and National Country Parties have shown over the past year that they have no answers to the economic ills of this country. The latest frantic moves on the weekend show that the Government is no nearer to finding an answer. In fact those moves on the weekend fit into a pattern that is now well established in other areas of economic activity- that of treating business too generously and creating off-setting problems that have to be corrected. I refer particularly to the taxation and wage policy, and I will come to that later on.
The measures announced on the weekend will have some effect in further inhibiting economic recovery despite what the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) says. In fact it is very interesting that his statement seems to be a fairly casual statement in the sense of trying to persuade people that there would be no real problems created by these credit restrictions. But if one looks at the statements by Mr Knight, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, one can see that a rather different picture emerges. He said that the SRD call up would reduce the banks’ free liquidity to relatively low levels and that further call ups may be made. He added that the increase in the SRD ratio was being accompanied by a request to the trading banks for some further moderation on the growth in their financing and that savings banks and permanent building societies were also being made aware of the need to avoid an upsurge in their lending.
Mr Knight is saying that the bank lending has already been curbed, that it would be curbed further, quite aside from the SRD call, and that other finance groups have been warned not to try to make up the short falls created as the banks lent less. That is a different picture entirely from that given in the Press statement on Sunday night by the Treasurer or now in this House by the Treasurer. In fact, the moves on the weekend will have a restrictive effect and they will further inhibit recovery and perhaps cause more unemployment in this country, and that is an important matter certainly worthy of discussion in this House. I think it is also important to reiterate the fact that at the present time, early in November 1976, the Budget deficit is approximately $250m higher than it was this time last year before the then Government was thrown out of office. This is the situation confronting a government which when in Opposition berated the then Government left right and centre for the extraordinary level of the Budget deficit and suggested that astronomical deficit levels would be created if this trend continued. We are now in a situation where the Budget deficit is substantially higher than it was at that time last year. Again this shows the incredible irony of the situation. I would also point out that despite the fact that there have been substantial efforts by this Government to borrow overseas and also through increases in treasury note interest ratesthe Government has tried on 3 occasions in the last 10 weeks to get more money from this source- the fact is that the deficit is still being largely financed by printing money. Remember how we used to talk last year and the year before about financing deficits by printing money? The then Opposition used to berate us daily with that kind of talk. Here it is, in government, printing money like mad to finance the deficit which it has created. In fact over the last 4 months it has borrowed from the Reserve Bank $ 1,000m in treasury bills to finance the deficit. So who are honourable members opposite to talk about a Labor Government printing money to finance its deficit when they are doing it as fast as can be? Because they are worried about the fact that they are doing that, these measures were taken at the weekend.
It is again ironic that the major reason for their having to take these restrictive measures at the weekend was that they had been trying to be over-generous to business in this area. They abolished the quarterly company tax payments, which were instituted by the Labor Government, with the result that company tax collections in the first 4 months of this year were $43m compared with $528m in the first 4 months of last year. Quite clearly if quarterly company tax payments had been continued the Government would not have needed to undertake the restrictive measures announced at the weekend. Another $500m-odd would have been in the accounts and therefore there would have been no need to worry so much about the increase in the money supply which has necessarily been created by the need to go to the Reserve Bank and borrow $ 1,000m worth of Treasury bills. All of this money sloshing around that the Treasurer is talking about is largely the result of his own policy of cutting out company quarterly tax payments. It seems to me that if he had allowed company tax payments on a quarterly basis to continue it would have been a far better result for business than restricting credit and increasing interest rates in the way of the announcement at the weekend.
It is also very important to reiterate just how bad the state of the economy is at present. The really key indicators are worse than they were at this time last year. For instance, the number of registered unemployed is 15 000 higher than it was at this time last year. That means we will have much higher levels of unemployment at Christmas time and in the January period than we had earlier this year. I also comment in passing that the figures for the registered number of unemployed will be somewhat understated in the next few months because this Government has tightened up on the work test particularly in relation to not paying unemployment benefits to school leavers and leavers from tertiary institutions. Right now students leaving universities after finishing their courses and enrolling for jobs are being told that they will not receive any unemployment benefit until next February. A lot of these people will not bother registering and the unemployment figures will be understated. Even so, I suggest figures will be substantially higher than they were last year. The registered number of vacancies is 700 less than at this time last year. In the last month the figure fell by 800 on a seasonally adjusted basis, a factor which the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) forgot to mention in his statement announcing the latest unemployment figures. The latest survey of the Bureau of Statistics on unemployment showed that 4.8 per cent of the work force was unemployed- that is the highest figure recorded. Last year at this time the figure was 4.6 per cent.
Even on inflation the Government’s record is nowhere near as good as it tries to make out. The fact is that over the last 12 months inflation in this country has increased by 13.9 per cent. In the previous 12 months to that it was 12.1 per cent. Where is this great advance in control of inflation about which we hear so much? Over the first 9 months of this year inflation increased by 7.9 per cent; last year in the first 9 months it increased 8 per cent. So congratulations to the Government; it has reduced inflation by 0. 1 per cent in the first 9 months of this year. Whichever of these 2 important indicators, unemployment and inflation, one looks at, the fact is that they are both in a worse state than they were at this time last year.
One can go through the various other indicators but time does not permit. I make the point that if one looks at the Government’s economic policy strategy in relation to taxation and wages the fact is that both of those policies have been geared in a way to try to assist private business but in trying to do so they have had off-setting effects which are detrimental to private business. On the taxation side the concessions which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars this year and over $ 1 ,000m next financial year, have had to be offset by substantial costs in government expenditure. Those cuts in government expenditure are daily creating more unemployment and the evidence is there for anyone who wants to look. Time does not permit me to go over the evidence but it is there for anyone who wants to see it. Company after company is now complaining that its business is being affected by cuts in government expenditure. The same relates to the wage policy. The cutbacks in the real level of wages to transfer income from wage earners to profit earners might be beneficial to business in the very short run but if it means that consumers therefore will not increase their consumer expenditure and will not buy more goods and use more services business will not be assisted and thus the economy will continue in recession for a long time.
-The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said that there was irony in this matter proposed by the Opposition. I would stress the Opposition’s gall for it was the Labor Party when in government which created the mess of historic proportions from which we are extricating the economy- the high and stubborn inflation rate, the more than a quarter of a million unemployed, the serious deterioration in our competitive position in the world economy and the massive deficit in the public accounts. We have the task of extricating the economy from this mess. The Government is getting the situation under control. Its economic management is paying off. Inflation is coming down. The figure of 2.2 per cent for the September quarter, even if enlarged for the factor referred to by my colleague at question time, is still below the level of the September quarter last year not including the Medibank change. The comparisons just made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) lean heavily on the fact that in the September quarter last year there was an artificially low figure- 0.8 per cent- recorded for the increase in prices, the underlying rate with the Medibank factor excluded being 2.9 per cent.
Albeit the growth in the September quarter slowed, as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) stated, the important point is that growth is continuing. Albeit the indicators are somewhat equivocal the economy is on a path of moderate sustained growth. Real consumption in the June quarter was 3 per cent up on a year earlier. Perhaps the retail figures have not been too strong since then; however I note that the sales of new motor vehicles, seasonally adjusted, increased 10 per cent in September to stand 12 per cent above a year earlier. It is the year earlier comparisons that I stress. I take dwellings. In the June quarter fixed capital expenditure in constant prices of dwellings was 34 per cent up on the year earlier. There is still momentum as private dwelling approvals in the September quarter were 12 per cent up on a year earlier.
Unemployment, unhappily, is still high though not higher than a year earlier if allowance is made for short-term palliatives such as the Regional Employment Development scheme by which the previous Government attempted to mop up unemployment but only got the situation further into difficulty. As against that, employment is edging up and overtime is increasing.
Exports in the September quarter increased 12 per cent to stand 29 per cent higher than a year earlier. And all these factors to which I point are taking place against the background of broadly favourable factors. The overseas recovery, though perhaps not as fast as earlier anticipated, is proceeding in the world’s major economies, the shake out in stocks which depressed product during 1975 appears to have run its course, and other factors.
It is against that background that I affirm that the mix of policy we are pursuing is the only way to restore economic health to this country. A recent issue of Business Week referred to the considerable consensus among economists ‘as different as Britain’s left wing Joan Robinson and the U.S.’s conservative Henry C. Wallich, member of the Federal Reserve Board ‘. There is an approach and a broadly agreed one. It is along these lines: First and foremost, it is to counter inflation. We put the emphasis there because inflation itself is a main, if not the principal, cause of unemployment. Only the other day the British Prime Minister, Mr Callaghan, stated that nobody seriously disputed that inflation is the number one enemy of employment. So we put emphasis on inflation. To beat that there has to be fiscal restraint, that is, restraint in government spending and tax raising and, in particular, in getting hold of deficits. There has to be monetary restraint. The fact is that over a time the inflation rate runs at just a few points below the increase in the money supply. There are all sorts of mechanisms in that upon which I cannot elaborate. However, I will mention this one: Local, and also importantly, overseas investors confidence is significantly influenced by what is happening to the money supply as an earnest of the Government’s determination to beat inflation. Also there must be incomes restraint, notably the increases in wages and salaries. In these ways, policy moves to counter inflation. Then, in a context of declining inflation, the stage is set for restored thrust in the economy, for investment, growth and increased employment, given appropriate consumer and business confidence.
There are currently 2 major areas of difficulty for policy against that background. The first is monetary policy, the context in which this motion is put forward, including the weekend moves on the monetary front. That well illustrates the delicacy of striking a right balance between the instruments of economic policymonetary in this instance- on the one hand and the important requirement of moves to engender confidence on the other hand- the confidence to which the honourable member for Adelaide made repeated reference. With the recent growth in liquidity, new lending and the money supply, the Reserve Bank of Australia’s action affecting the short end of the interest rate structure was essential. I stress that the Australian Saving Bond rate is a short term rate in this context. The very process of properly managing and financing the deficit makes this essential. The honourable member for Gellibrand had a lot to say about the size of the deficit. But what is important is not just the size of the deficit but also how it is financed. We take this latter aspect seriously. The condemnation of the Australian Labor Party when in government was not only on the basis of the size of deficit, although that was important, but also that it made no serious effort properly to finance and manage it.
These measures were essential. But against that, there is the confidence area. Let me state categorically to the Australian community what the Treasurer has said. He said that this is not- I repeat the word ‘not’- a credit squeeze. It is not a cutting down in the availability of finance for legitimate private productive activities, which is what a squeeze implies. It is not a cutting of the reasonable requirements of economic activity. Rather, it is a matter of mopping up of an excess of liquidity. The Government has been obliged to keep on with its expenditure, but receipts at this time of the year lag behind. It is true to a significant extent in this case that this has been due to the changes in relation to company taxation. But that again was a measure important for the confidence and the capacity of industry to invest. So the aim of this Government is not in any way to deprive any legitimate borrower for a genuine productive purpose of the necessary finance. What these measures will do is to forestall a real credit squeeze, the sort of thing that the Australian business and private community experienced under the previous Government in mid 1974, a squeeze which would otherwise occur in the latter stages of the financial year if this excess money or liquidity is not mopped up now. So I put it to the Australian community: Ignore the posturings of Opposition members on this matter and get on with the business of your normal economic activities.
The other major area of difficulty is in respect of incomes growth. This Government has not flinched from the task of endeavouring to slow the growth of money wages and salaries. I say that the great majority of Australians recognise the correctness of this action. They recognise that in the interests of the unemployed, and in the interests of effectively protecting and in the end advancing the standard of living of all Australians the growth of money wages and hence of costs must be slowed.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This afternoon we have heard the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) talk about the faults of the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. Both stressed the fact that we had too large a deficit. The honourable member for Berowra cited figures in his speech to show what happened in August this year compared to August last year and said that this was the comparison that had to be made. As there is so much stress in economic arguments about the deficit which was budgeted for by the Australian Labor Party, let us have a look at how the deficit of this Government is at present operating. In the 3 months to 30 September 1976, the deficit of this Government was $2,275.9m. For the same period 12 months ago, to 30 September 1975, the deficit was $ 1,887.3m. Any excuses that the honourable member for Berowra can give as to why the deficit of this Government is higher than the deficit of the Labor Government in 1975 hold no water. The real reason that the economy of Australia is not improving is because this Government does not know how to handle it.
This is the fifth attempt at economic measures made by the Treasurer. The first was in January. There were two in March, one in May and the major one on 17 August. Let me remind the House of the words of the Treasurer in that Budget Speech. He said:
When this Government was elected on 13 December last, Australia was in bad shape.
Inflation was out of hand, economic activity was falling again and unemployment had risen to record levels.
The Government immediately set about the enormous task of repairing the damage and restoring confidence.
Recovery is no w getting under way.
The private sector is growing again and confidence is gradually returning.
This Budget will aid that recovery and rebuild the confidence further . . .
It is a Budget for confidence; it is also a Budget for reform.
But suddenly over the weekend the Treasurer came out with new economic measures that took most of the people by surprise. A special meeting of Cabinet was called on Friday because the Government did not know what to do or how to doit.
Opposition members are not the only people in the community who are complaining about the economic mismanagement of this Government. Harsh and continuous criticisms are appearing every day from all types of organisations. They include the manufacturing industries, the building industry, the Australian Industries Development Association, the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers, banks and bankers, chambers of commerce, retailers, small businessmen, multi-national companies and the Premiers of the various States. In the 5 attempts to do something about recovering the economic situation in Australia, this Government has not succeeded at all. All of its ideas and all of the predictions of the Treasurer have become unstuck. Most sections of the community are either stagnant at the moment as they have been for the last 12 months or are experiencing conditions which continue to decline. It is no good this Government saying that it is what we did or did not do between December 1972 and November 1975 that created the economic situation that exists in Australia today. Between 1949 and 1972 Liberal-Country Party governments were in office. It was the laissez-faire private enterprise capitalist attitude taken by this present Government or its forerunners that allowed the economic situation to deteriorate to the extent that it did when we came into office.
Honourable members opposite are all inclined to say that it is only the Opposition in this Parliament that is criticising the Government’s economic policy. The Premier of New South Wales, after hearing of these announcements on Monday, said:
The recession is now well into its third year and the current series of measures just doesn’t give the stimulus necessary to get real recovery under way.
He went on to say:
We have got the highest unemployment on the mainland and our building industry, already hard hit, has been given another kick in the guts by the so-called economic measures.
When we look at what has happened to our economy in the last 11 months m which this Government has been in office, we find that the number of new car registrations has decreased. They decreased alarmingly in August. They increased slightly in September. Unemployment is still increasing. Retail sales are running below price increases. Savings are still rising rapidly. There was $180m in savings accounts in July. The volume of money, broadly defined as M3 was increasing at the rate of 19 per cent in the 3 months to August. There is still a lack of confidence in the business community.
I have quoted from the Treasurer’s speech of 17 August in which he said that confidence was returning. Our balance of payments situation is declining. Factories are working below capacity. I correct the honourable member for Berowra and inform him that the rate of overtime being worked at the moment is declining, not increasing. Our personal taxation has been increased. Even the Australian Taxpayers’ Federation is asking when this Government will keep the promises made by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he was going to cut out the tax rip-off. The people of Australia cannot even see a ray of light in the economic inflationary tunnel, let alone see this Governmentthe Liberal-National Party Government- live up to its slogan that it would turn on the lights. These new measures will do nothing to increase productivity. The laughable announcement of the establishment of the Department of Productivity will do nothing either to increase productivity or to help the situation in Australia. This is band-aid, patchwork-quilt economic management.
In the few moments left to me to speak I ask what effect the introduction of a Department of Productivity can have on increasing production in Australia when most factories are working under capacity- some as low as 60 per cent of capacity and others perhaps as high as 80 per cent. In this Government there are 4 Ministers concerned with business or industrial management. The first is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) who controls business practices, duties on customs and excise, and bounties on the production or export of goods. Then we have the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). His duties take in industrial relations including conciliation and arbitration in relation to industrial disputes, the Commonwealth Employment Service, and the reinstatement in civil employment of national servicemen, etc. The third Minister is none other than the Minister at the table, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman). Some of his duties encompass the building industry and housing.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is interesting to come into the Parliament and see that again the Opposition has brought forward a matter of public importance about economic management. It seems that only yesterday we had a discussion on a similar subject of public importance. What interests me is the fact that the Opposition gives this Government credit for economic management. It may not agree with the way in which this Government is going about it, but at least it says that economic management exists. That, I think, is something for which we cannot give credit to the previous Administration. Honourable members opposite spent 3 years wallowing around in some form of economic activity which could not be blessed with the title ‘management’. They come back to this chamber again and again attempting, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) says, to talk the economy down, attempting, for some political advantage no doubt, to cause disruption in our community and attempting to create confusion in the economy as a whole. I believe, as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said that there is a degree of confusion among the members of his own Party.
-I did not say that.
-No, I retract that remark. The honourable member did not say that; I said it. The honourable member for Adelaide said that the Budget is the most important instrument that a government has available to it. It is not so many years ago that one of his predecessors as spokesman for his Party on economic matters, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who was the Treasurer at the time, said that the time had come when budgets were not to be regarded as the most significant instrument available to a government. He said that economic management should take place on a continuing basis and that we should get away from the emphasis that is traditionally attached to a Budget. Today we are getting back to the more traditional line and the honourable member for Adelaide is rejecting the prognostications of his predecessor in that respect. We have further confusion between the honourable member for Adelaide and his Leader. We are told by the honourable member for Adelaide that what this Government is doing in its economic strategy is attempting to delay economic recovery until the next election.
– The thieves cannot even agree among themselves.
-That is absolutely right. He said that we are managing the economy in terms of electoral strategy. That seems to me an interesting process because we .have been told on the other hand by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that we are about to call an early election. One thing is not consistent with the other.
– Yes it is.
– Well, if we are trying to delay the election until 1978, 1 do not see how we can be trying to call an early election.
-I did not say ‘delay until 1978’; I said ‘ delay until the next election ‘.
-The honourable member said we were trying to delay until the next election.
-That is right. That could be at the end of 1977.
– That is right. The honourable member gives us a remarkable degree of credit because, if we accept his arguments, we have the ability to move the economy in any direction to suit our own electoral purposes. That, I think, is something which is a great compliment to this Government.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) told us that cuts in Government expenditure are important; that they are affecting people; and that they are reducing the number of jobs in the community. The honourable member for Adelaide told us that the Government sector of the economy is not really important because it accounts for only 25 per cent of economic activity. So, I think there needs to be some degree of unanimity among the members of the Opposition.
The important feature of this matter is that we have exemplified economic management The Government has demonstrated to Australia and to the community at large that it has been pre- pared to take charge of the shambles that was eft behind by the Labor administration of the previous 3 years and to accept the challenge to come forward with a firm policy to restore confidence and activity in the community. That is what is important.
What the Government has done throughout the year is to make adjustments to that overall strategy. The strategy announced by the Treasurer on Sunday night is no more than that. The Government unlike the Opposition, is tuning the economy. While in government, the Labor Party manipulated, overturned, juggled and tried to keep all the balls above its head but was not able to achieve that. The Treasurer and the Cabinet must be given credit for having stuck to the same economic line all the way through. They are not being rattled. They are not being put off their course by people such as the honourable member for Adelaide or by commentators.
-Why should they?
-As the honourable member for Maranoa says, why should they? The Party represented by the honourable member for Adelaide has a record of economic management and achievement that can only be regarded as disastrous. I do not know why anybody would want to take notice of the Labor Party. I do not know why honourable members opposite have the arrogance to suggest that anybody should take notice of it. The fact of the matter is that the Government has been consistent in its approach to the economy. It has been consistent in the strategy which it is applying to the economy. That is what is important.
I think that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) confused everybody with the figures that he quoted during the debate. The honourable member talked about deficit levels and tried to confuse what was said by the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards). The important point is what happens at the end of the financial year. The deficit in June, August, September or February is not really significant. What is significant is the overall result for the year. That is the way economic performance is measured in the Budget context. The changes that have been made to company taxes and things of that nature are the indicators. There have obviously been changes in the way in which Government receipts have been coming in. To try to compare the figures for the first 3 months of this year with last year’s figures is not on. The honourable member for Lang has said that we should not blame the Labor Government. But I put it to him that what we are suffering now is not the result of mild changes to a system that had been in operation for years. What we are suffering at the moment is the result of drastic changes that were made to a system in a period of 3 years.
One cannot solve problems and overcome drastic changes which have been made in a short time. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said- he has been backed up by members of his Ministry- that the job facing us is a full 3 year job. That is a proposition which has not been disputed. The fact that inflation is showing encouraging signs of coming down within the first year of the Fraser Administration is, I think, a credit to the policies which have been pursued by that Administration. The honourable member for Lang tried to suggest that the Labor Government was unable to achieve its tasks because the Liberal-Country Party Coalition had been in office for 23 years previously. But the fact is that we have always pursued a stable economic policy. In the 3 years of the Labor Government there was nothing stable about any of its policies, let alone economic policies. It takes a long time to recover from those influences.
The Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, has been mentioned in the debate as an independent observer. I think that was probably one of the lighter moments of the debate. Perhaps honourable members should be grateful to the honourable member for Lang for making this statement. I believe that even the honourable member for Berowra would acknowledge that the Premier of New South Wales is not one of the great economic minds of our time. For members of the Opposition to introduce the comments of the Premier of New South Wales into this debate is probably not doing justice to this Parliament. This Government has a consistent approach and a consistent policy line towards the economy. The Opposition is intent on trying to justify its actions over the last couple of years. It is trying, for its own political ends, to promote a situation in the economy in which confusion reigns. It is trying to ensure that there is a continuation of confusion and uncertainty in the minds of businessmen and consumers in Australia. That is not something with which the Government agrees.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. This discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Killen, and read a first time.
– I move:
This is a small procedural Bill which seeks to amend the Defence Act. It arises out of a suggestion made by the Chief of the Air Staff that the term ‘air’ within the Royal Australian Air Force organisation is confusing some people because they believe that it applies to civil aviation. The purpose of the Bill, m effect, is to put that position beyond all doubt. The term ‘air’ within the RAAF organisation will be replaced by the term ‘air force’. Therefore, ‘Air Office’ will become ‘Air Force Office’ and ‘Defence Instructions (Air)’ issued by the Chief of Air Staff under the Defence Act will become ‘Defence Instructions (Air Force) ‘. That is the thrust of the Bill. It seeks to amend section 9A of the Defence Act and also makes routine amendments to the Defence Act. I have already said to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who is at the table, that I do not think it is the sort of Bill which will cause tumult throughout the country. Nevertheless, it is a Bill which I commend to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Modernisation of facilities, stage 2, HMA naval dockyard, Williamstown, Vic.
The proposal is for the provision of improved facilities for ship refitting, outfitting and administration facilities. These will allow the dockyard to better utilise the stage 1 facilities which are currently under construction and due for completion in August 1978. The proposed works comprise:
New Nelson Pier West, crosswharf and workshop;
Extension to existing pipe shop; New administration/training/laboratory centre;
New dockyard store, oil fuel installation and gate house;
Temporary fleet maintenance party workshop;
Extension of electrical, mechanical and hydraulic services, including provision of a new boiler house; and
Services tunnel extension.
The cost of the proposal at July 1976 prices is $24m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 2 1 October, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill, the States Grants (Beef Industry) Amendment Bill, is to amend the States Grants (Beef Industry) Act 1975, legislation enacted by the former Labor Government, to enable the Commonwealth to provide up to $ 15m to match on a dollar for dollar basis State funds approved for lending in 1976-77 under the beef carry-on loans scheme. The scheme provides low interest carry-on finance to specialist beef producers with a sound asset structure who would be viable given a return to more normal beef market conditions. The words used in the introduction of this legislation must be a great let down to the beef industry of Australia- to those thousands of beef producers who thought great promise would be shown by the present LiberalCountry Party Government. After all of its extravagant election talk and all of the massive claims and promises throughout the election campaign the Government has finally got down to extending an existing Australian Labor Party scheme that was initiated in 1974. It might be worth while at this point to quote the words of the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) during those irresponsible days of the election campaign of last year and before it I refer firstly to an article in the Australian of 18 August of last year headed ‘Sinclair puts plan to save beef industry’, which reads:
The program also calls for more carry-on finance for beef producers, claiming the present $39.6m government allocation is inadequate.
The present Minister for Primary Industry claimed then that the Labor Government’s scheme was inadequate; yet his Government is now putting up only $ 1 5m. The article continues:
It is understood the Country Party wants at least S 100m lent to producers at 4 per cent interest with an initial 2-year interest moratorium.
So much for the $ 100m and so much for how bad the $39.6m given by the Labor Government was when this Bill provides for the provision of only $15m. Let me quote again from another of the pearls of wisdom that fell from the lips of the present Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to a Press statement of 5 September, which reads: ‘Beef crisis is a social and economic crisis’, says Ian Sinclair. ‘The time is rapidly passing for the Australian Government to take amon to relieve the position of the beef industry -
Of course, it was the Labor Government which he said should be taking action- the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Sinclair, said today. Speaking to a public meeting at Wan- garatta, Mr Sinclair said: “The economic problems facing the eef industry are generating grave social problems for the families of beef producers and their employees. These social problems will become more pronounced as long as the Government fails to act to assist the industry. The total failure to act will bring down on Australia not only an economic tragedy but also a widespread, lingering social tragedy. This basic fact needs to be recognised by the Government. Up until now the Labor Government has chosen to callously disregard the position of the beef industry and its problemseven though, only a few years ago, it was Australia’s major export earning industry.
One can see what hollow words they were when one looks at the legislation introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry during the 12 months in office of this Government. He was critical of the Labor Government, but he has done little even to match what that Government was prepared to do. I refer now to an article in the Canberra Times of 1 1 October of last year, which was just before the election, headed ‘Beef industry dying ‘. It reads:
The death warrant of the Australian beef industry would be signed unless the Government took action to assist the beef industry, the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Sinclair, told a Queanbeyan-Canberra branch Graziers Association meeting . . . Assistance for the beef industry was urgently needed and long overdue.
It says so much for the words of the National Country Party and so much for its interest in the great Australian beef industry that all it has now done is meekly introduce a BUI to enable the provision of $ 15m for a carry-on scheme initiated by the former Government. When one looks at the former Government’s scheme one sees that it was for $ 19.5m and not $15m, that the $ 19.5m was at 4 per cent interest and that an additional $20m was provided on a commercial interest rate basis. So $39.5m was made available. The sum of $15,000 a year was provided for producers in Queensland and the Northern Territory, and $10,000 a year to those elsewhere. The Government has now brought those recommendations into this legislation. To all producers in the pastoral zone it is prepared to give $15,000 and to those elsewhere it is prepared to give $10,000 at an interest rate of not less than 4 per cent per annum. But the point is that the situation in the beef industry now is much worse than it was when the Labor Party was in office. Costs are higher and markets have not improved. In fact, the markets have been hit by the Canadian quotas and could feel the effects of United States quotas in the future. Let me again quote the Minister. A report in the Hobart Mercury of 26 September of last year reads:
Australia ‘s agricultural marketing position overseas would improve dramatically under a Liberal-Country Party Government … Mr Ian Sinclair said in Hobart yesterday.
So much for that claim, because he was the Minister who trailed his coat and was successful in getting a quota imposed on Australian beef imports into Canada. What do we find? We find that this Minister’s performance has led to a deterioration in the market situation for Australian beef overseas.
I think it is probably opportune to put on the record what the Labor Government did for the industry lest there be any more of this double talk and, in fact, these irresponsible deceptions by the Minister. I will cite some of the things that the Labor Government did. I deal firstly with the Australian Government and State government concessional loans. The States Grants (Beef Industry) Act, to which I have already referred, provided for the provision of $ 19.6m to match State funds for the provision of carry-on loan finance to beef producers. An additional $600,000 was subsequently made available to Northern Territory producers. The loans were to be administered by the State rural reconstruction authorities. Persons eligible as specialist beef producers whose incomes were traditionally derived preponderantly from beef and who were judged as viable on the resumption of market recovery were also given carry-on funds. There was an interest rate of 4 per cent in all States except Queensland, where the State funds were at 2Vi per cent for the first year, giving an overall average rate in that State of *3V** per cent. No capital repayments were required in the first year and the first year’s interest was capitalised. There was a maximum term of 7 years. There was a maximum loan of $10,000, except in respect of Queensland and the Northern Territory, where it was $15,000, and there was to be a review of loans after 12 months with a view to commencing normal service arrangements. That is not bad when one considers that this Government cannot match that record in any way.
I refer now to specific Australian Government assistance under the Labor Government. I refer to the Development Bank loans. The Government decided in November 1974 to provide $20m to augment Development Bank funds to enable the Bank to broaden its lending to seriously affected beef producers. A further $8m was provided in the 1975-76 Budget. The funds were lent at commercial rates of interest. The Bank also used the funds to assist those producers preponderantly relying on cattle whose capital structures were seriously affected by trends in cattle prices but who, in the opinion of the Bank, would have remained viable. For instance, the Bank took over some burdensome short term debts and funded them in the longer term. That is an indication of what the Labor Government in fact did for the beef industry during its tenure of office. One can see from that how poorly the present Government has performed. As I said earlier, after all its extravagant election promises it has quietly slipped into the House this amendment to a piece of Labor Party legislation which provides for the provision of $ 15m to the beef industry.
This Government has failed to do anything substantial about the plight of the Australian beef industry. The Government- particularly the Country Party section of it- has failed to honour its election promises and bring to fruition the promise it gave to the industry in those heady days during the election campaign. Instead of looking for new markets all that we find is that the Minister has gone overseas- to Canada in particular and the United States of Americaand bad mouthed the Australian beef producers to such an extent that the Canadian Government has been forced to put quotas upon the importation of Australian beef. Let me quote the Minister’s words in Ottawa as reported in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 17 June. The article reads:
The Australian Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, told Canadian officials today he was concerned that Australian beef was being re-exported through Canada to the United States at less than home market prices.
In other words, he was saying: ‘My producers back home are dumping beef on you. You are foolish not to try to correct the trend’. Of course, the Canadians were quick on the uptake. They took the hint and put quotas on beef imports. The Australian Financial Review has pointed out that it will cost us sales of about 8000 tonnes of beef a year. So much for a Minister saying that he will improve the market conditions. Because of this little procedure the United States of America then started to look at the matter again and breached the upper limit of the beef import quotas. That was directly attributable to what the Minister said. The Minister could not sustain an argument that the beef was being sold at less than the Australian domestic price and he could not sustain an argument that it was being dumped because the definition of ‘dumping’ is the selling of goods to other countries at less than the home consumption price. So, in terms of the Australian beef industry, the Minister cannot be trusted out of Australia. He cannot be let out of this country. The industry needs to keep a watch on every word he utters because he is an outside devil and an inside angel. When he gets back he will go around the north and all the beef producing areas and tell them anything they want to hear. When he gets overseas he is Mr Responsible. He talks about the irresponsibility of his producers and politely and quietly sells them down the drain.
Let us look at the situation in the United States of America. On what basis could President Ford withstand pressure for quotas after the Australian Minister went over there and said that his own industry was dumping beef? President Ford subsequently lost the election in the United States. He laboured under difficult circumstances trying to carry the mid west and areas where there are beef producers. It is no wonder that the United States Administration was forced to put on beef quotas. We find not only is the deception promulgated by the Minister for Primary Industry but also by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It was interesting to note that The
Bulletin ran a story on 14 August about Australia losing its beef cattle.. The Bulletin is not what could be described as a Labor journal by any manner of means. I Will read a couple of little jewels from that article. It states:
In contrast with its success in ideologically icy Moscow, the Fraser Government has failed as a salesman for Australian beef in the much more intimate atmosphere of Washington. The failure has been accompanied by official misrepresentation.
That is a fairly strong claim for a very conservative journal like this. The article refers to a question addressed to the Prime Minister and what he said about our beef negotiations. The Prime Minister’s reply was:
I think that’s an area where you could say 2 good friends are having a vigorous discussion. The vigour of that discussion will continue.
What do we find later in the story? Mr Roland Anderson, the Director of the Dairy Livestock and Poultry Division of the Foreign Agricultural Services Section of the United States Agriculture Department, said:
The issue has been put to bed. The numbers stand on their own . . .
Further on the article said: “The thing is over, but I don’t think he (Fraser) wanted to announce that it was over’, another official said. ‘It probably would have got headlines in Australia saying ‘Ford rebuffs Fraser’.
The article went on to say that in the American view the whole matter was closed and that the Prime Minister came back and said that he had continuing negotiations and the negotiations were to continue. Later in the story the writer said:
This action was taken at the request of Agriculture Secretary, Erl Butz, Sinclair’s ‘close personal friend’ who, the Minister said in June, had given him an understanding on the subject that made him, Sinclair, ‘very happy’.-
Mr Sinclair was very happy about the way he was very nicely done over in the United States. So much for the special relationship that this Government claims to enjoy with the United States. The charge against the Labor Government was that because of its foreign policy stance, in the view of the then Opposition which is now the Government, the Labor Government had blotted its copy book with the United States administration and was jeopardising Australia’s market position, particularly for beef, in the United States. But we found that that was not the case. The Labor Government did very nicely, thank you. This present Government claims to enjoy a special relationship. The Prime Minister ran over there without reason to talk to President Ford and other people in the administration. He foisted himself on them in a year when they could have well done without him. We now find that the special relationship does not mean a thing in terms of United States imports of Australian beef and in terms. of dollars and cents. Not only are there no new markets; there is also a diminishing market in the United States.
Contrast that with the way the Fraser Government is kicking the Russians to death in terms of foreign policy. At any chance it has a jibe at the Soviet Union yet its Ministers are still trotting off to Moscow and trying to arrange meat quotas, meat imports, in order to save their bacon back in what they believe are traditionally National Country Party electorates. The point is that the National Country Party believes it has the rural vote sown up and its interest is in the big mineral areas. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), the Leader of the National Country Party, is the Minister for National Resources. He is interested in the mining companies- the iron ore, the coal, the uranium, the oil and all the rest. The beef people and the other people exist just to vote him into Parliament. The mining companies are there to contribute to election slush funds and that is where the interest of the National Country Party is to be found.
Getting back to beef, scant regard is paid to our trading prospects overseas. When these Ministers go overseas they are not strong enough to stand up for their own industry. Let us take the position of the United States, because 70 per cent of Australia’s total beef exports go there. Of the total imports to the United States, 52 per cent come from Australia. Therefore if the United States drops out there will be a sizable impact upon the Australian beef industry. The United States, as honourable members well know, is the only market for some types of beef, particularly beef from the Northern Territory and Queensland. But, of course, people are prone to believe what the Minister for Primary Industry says on his junketeering through the Northern Territory or Queensland and do not analyse his performance in this House or overseas, or his legislation.
The result of all these risque promises and bad mouthings about the former Labor Government is a Bill to amend a former Labor Government scheme and provide $15m. That is not even as much as the Labor Government gave. I give the present Government credit for the fact that it did lift the beef export charge levy. Its supporters will point to that and say that that represents $20m going back to the producers. However they know damn well that that money has gone straight into the pockets of the exporters and nowhere near the producers. There is no relief for the beef industry in that direction. It has just made all the meat companies and the exporting companies much fatter than they would be otherwise. My colleague the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) will demonstrate later in the debate how much these companies have been fattened by the decision of the Government and responsible Minister who are always happy to oblige these companies all under the ruse that this will help the Australian beef producers who the Minister knows, politely, have been forgotten.
So much for what this Minister and this Government say about the beef industry. They have been looked at and scrutinised for 12 months now and have been found wanting. They have not done anything significant about the beef industry. They do not care about it. They had to at least amend the Labor Government’s scheme to show some regard for the state of the industry. In fact the industry now is in a much worse state, as I said earner, than it was when the Labor Government introduced assistance worth $39m for the industry.
No matter where one looks, in relation to the United States market or other markets, this Government has been powerless to do anything. Take dairy products. In no way have dairy products gone to the United States of America. In respect of the wool industry, this Government and previous Liberal-National Country Party Governments have never been able to remove the 25 per cent excise duty on imported wool to the United States. This is a big factor in keeping down the consumption of Australian wool in that market. There is a massive clothing market in the United States, as honourable members know. Not even the European Economic Community imposes a tariff on wool but the United States does and this Government, which is supposed to enjoy a special relationship with the Government of the United States of America, cannot do anything to get that excise dropped. What are this Government’s trade relations worth? They are worth nothing. They are regarded around the world as a joke, particularly by the United States. The United States thinks it has this Government where it wants it and it does not have to oblige it one way or the other.
I will instance the contempt with which the beef industry should regard statements by leaders of the National-Country Party. I hark back to some of the statements made a couple of years ago by the Leader of the National Country Party about beef production. In a submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices a couple of years ago the Leader of the National Country Party stated:
The Country Party believes that Government policy inasmuch as it relates to the beef industry should be directed to: (a) the encouragement of production.
He went on to state:
If, as appears likely, a world beef shortage is developing, then Australia must respond in the most effective manner possible to meet this position.
The date of that statement was August 1973. In other statements made at about the same time, for example in an address to the Agricultural Machinery Exhibition at Gunnedah, New South Wales, the Leader of the National Country Party said:
As incomes rise demand for meat will rise. In fact, I think demand will rise so fast that well be flat out trying to keep up with it. The thing that will most help us to meet the demand will be encouragement of higher production- and if people will restrain themselves from doing silly things about meat prices, production will rise quickly.
In the same address he went on to state:
There will be industries for which production increases will be the appropriate policy at particular times. The meat industry, the wheat industry and the wool industry are current examples.
Among the many statements made at about that time was a Press statement about the Budget issued on 21 August 1973 in which Mr Anthony went on to explain:
At a time when production should be encouraged and decentralisation encouraged, the Government’s strategy is to reallocate resources away from the rural sector.
In September 1973 he concluded a statement by saying:
At time when the urgent need is for stimulation of meat production, the Government seems to be going out of its way to find ways of discouraging production.
That is the kind of advice the National Country Party has been giving to the beef industry for years. That is the kind of cheap, irresponsible politics it engages in. It has no concern about the dislocation it causes to families, to districts and to a great industry. It has no concern or worry about the heartburning it causes producers. It just happens to suit the politics of the Country Party at that time. That is the overriding consideration. All other considerations fall into the background. If the industry collapses the attitude of the Country Party seems to be that that is a contingency with which it will deal in the future. A great swag of regional newspapers throughout Australia, mostly controlled by conservative individuals many of whom are associated with the Country Party, will always guarantee to give these people protection in the public media. They will always be protected from the irresponsibility of their actions and when the industry is going bad. But the industry is not going bad. It has gone bad and it has gone a lot worse since this Government has been in office.
All we see today is an amendment to an Australian Labor Party scheme to make available $15m for carry-on loans to the beef industry at a low interest rate. Yet this amount compares with $ 19.6m which was given by the Labor Government. Since then we have had a year and a half of double figure inflation which means that $ 19.6m would look like $22m if, in real terms, that amount were to be equalled. But we find that it is $15m, not $22m. Criticism was offered because of the $39.6m support which was given by the Labor Government to the beef industry. Now we find that the Government trots in this Bill to provide $15m. The beef industry should laugh the Government out of the Parliament and laugh Government supporters out of their place in office. The Government has dismally failed the Australian beef industry. I hope that honourable members on the Government side who follow me in this debate will not have the hide to get up and try to talk their way out of the predicament the Australian beef industry is in. The Government has an absolute disregard for the seriousness of the situation. Let it be honest and say: ‘What we have done is not good enough. We are buttressing and reinforcing a scheme which was introduced by the Labor Government. But we will do this and this as we promised during the election campaign’. It is time that this Government put its money where its mouth was and is, particularly where its mouth was during the election campaign, and showed the Australian beef producer that this is not the cynical display of politics which the producers are beginning to believe it is.
The National Country Party which has just used this situation unscrupulously for its electoral advantage has thrown the beef industry in the rubbish can. Later it has come in with this trite piece of legislation and is concentrating all its efforts and interests, as usual, in the mineral sector. The Opposition supports the legislation because it will help the beef industry. We are interested in doing that. We certainly demonstrated our bona fides when in Government. We will do so again. We urge the Government to consider this industry and to treat it better than it has done. The Government should not persist with the notion that the lifting of the beef export charge of $20m helped the industry at all. It has helped only meat exporters, not the industry. The industry needs more help than has been given by the Government. I believe the Government would do well to consider the words I have directed to it today.
-We just heard a snivelling, nit-picking speech by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who is becoming an expert in this sort of tactic when he has nothing else to say. Furthermore, I say that it was an attempt to seek a form of political justification. It is well known that the Australian Labor Party has wrecked a lot of industries, including the beef industry. Now it is trying to clutch at straws and by the use of the Parliament and of the broadcasting of this debate to justify its rotten record as a Government.
– You refute it.
– I will. I am just about to commence. I shall start with a phrase which the honourable member wrongly used. He said: ‘Callous regard’. I will give the honourable member the benefit and suggest that probably he meant: ‘Callous disregard’. I start my speech by talking about the callous disregard of the last Labor Government and the effect it had on export industries in the rural sector of Australia. There will be no crawling out of this one by the time I have finished. Let us look at the record as it is. I suggest we look at inflation. We have had a debate on this matter today already. There is no single person in the rural areas of the community involved in export industries who does not clutch at trying to bring down tariff protection as it affects Australian industries and consumers. We might ask why. It is because it is the only area left in which these people can move. Why is that? It is because the last Government, over the last 3 years, so increased costs that the whole competitive position of Australian exports today, with the possible exception of some minerals, has become open to a great deal of doubt. That is the first point of condemnation of the last 3 years of mismanagement of the Australian economy. That is not the direct cause of the troubles of the beef industry today but it is a strong factor. The fact is that the industry is non-competitive when it looks for new markets in competition with other countries. That is the first important point. The honourable member for Blaxland who is the Opposition spokesman in this House on rural matters very rarely saunters into a paddock in case he gets stung by a bee. If he did, he would know very well that not one member of the rural community would not agree precisely with what I have said this afternoon.
Let us go a little further. The honourable member picked on a man on this side of the parliamentary fence, namely, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). We have a great and healthy respect for the Minister. He has worked hard and diligently up and down the countryside to do everything he possibly can to alleviate some of the problems which are occurring due to Labor’s mismanagement over the past 3 years. He is left with the job of trying to pick up the threads following the total irresponsibility which has been going on. Let us have a look at one or two of the points concerned, such as killing works. I suggest that we leave aside- it might be considered political- the question of whether the owners of the souls of the current members of the Opposition are the trade unions which take advantage of blackmail in killing works. The unions always strike in the middle of a glut. There has not been a spring in Adelaide during the last few years when the unions have not gone out because it is spring and because the farmers’ stock is coming in at that time of the year. I cannot remember one year which they have missed. I do not know whether their souls are owned by these people who are so irresponsible as far as the country is concerned. I do know that if we look at the cost of killing a year ago. which is when I last looked, we find that one firm had exactly doubled the cost of killing inside 3 years.
What does that do to help the competitive position of beef producers? I perceive a notable lack of answers to that question. The reason is that this cost has made it much more difficult to meet any export markets, except that of the United States of America. It has forced the Australian Meat Board and Government spokesmen not only to go and look for new markets but also to find them. This is contrary to the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland. New markets have been found- they are good ones too- in Israel and in Arab states. Sweden has been opened up as a profitable market. In a lot of risk markets the Meat Board has the job of trying to get incentives into all exporters in order to keep up the increasing rate of slaughter of Australian cattle and to try to do something to lower the rate of increase of the national beef herd today. One could go on. I think the honourable member, quite frankly, has forgotten that this Bill is only about carry-on loans. It has nothing to do with other forms of loans. It has nothing to do with loans to the States in an indirect sense. It has directly and it amounts to a total of $30m on top of last year’s expenditure for beef producers. But this relates to the pure field of carry-on finance which, of course, is not applicable to some producers. So bad is the mess caused by increasing costs in the beef industry today that recently when I led members of the rural committee on an inspection of the brigalow scheme we ran into an appalling situation which I think, quite frankly, in many cases is way outside the totality of this Bill which we are debating today. In area 3 of Brigalow the total debt structure on land, stock and plant averages $108,500 for those who have been there for longer than 3 years. For those who have been there less than 3 years- with less time to put it up, one might think, but of course they missed the high beef price of that time- the total debt is $137,000. What hope have those people got? Across the general beef industry spectrum in States like Queensland, which has been favoured by this Government in the past with a higher loan limit than for other States, and now pastoral areas are going to be added on to the area of Queensland, I hope that generally these carry-on loans will be of great help.
I want to spend a moment on areas like the Brigalow, for which I feel a great deal of sadness and in some ways an emotional attachment. If one goes from farm to farm one can see people who are trying to make their way on the brigalow scrub, living in tin sheds, in timber houses slapped together pretty quickly, and in some cases in lean-to tents. One comprehends then the determination still in the Australian spirit to go out and try to carve an existence out of the scrub. It is very heartening to see. In relation to the Brigalow, there are odd areas and pockets in Australia, such as those in the Goulburn Valley where the Victorian Government is involved with the canning fruit industry, which are perhaps not typical of the overall agricultural well-being throughout the area. Where there is such a pocket, there is a responsibility not only on this Government to go and look at the problem and do what it can to help. There is also a responsibility on the State governments to pick up some of the load, and in this Bill they have done so to the tune of 50 per cent. But where there is a pocket which is going badly wrong, it must be and probably should be the responsibility of State governments to put forward propositions for help.
Examples of where this has been done before are legion. At present it is happening in my own electorate in the Riverland area, where the State Government is taking specific action to help the canning fruit growers. In the case of the brigalow, in reply to correspondence pointing out that the Queensland Government itself has a responsibility in these areas, I have replied consistently that if they come to Federal Treasurers looking for specific assistance for a particular area which through no fault of the blockers is going wrong, then I am sure that they will find Federal governments very sympathetic in relation to helping the State governments in particular ways. The honourable member for Blaxland is still imbued with the centralist tendencies of his own Party. He insists that this Government is responsible for everything that goes on. I have mentioned one case where we are not primarily responsible, and if we were, it would be because we had found finance- in some ways unwisely as a Federal government- to help develop the brigalow scheme.
Let me return to the Bill, which some honourable members might think is a pleasant change. The scheme provides low interest carry-on finance to specialist beef producers with a sound asset structure who have a chance of being viable when beef markets return to normal conditions; that is, if their costs after the last few years still allow them to be competitive. Up to 2 years carry-on finance will be provided with a loan limit of $15,000 a year. As I said before, currently that applies only to Queensland but it is now to be extended to all eligible producers in the pastoral zone who are on pastoral or similar leases. In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
Limits in all areas may be relaxed in special circumstances at the discretion of the loan administering authority.
I am hopeful that that particular clause will allow, even within the framework of this Bill which deals with carry-on finance, a certain amount of dispensation for those in the Brigalow scrub area, particularly in area 3. 1 like the wording of that clause, and I hope that the administering authority will take a fairly sympathetic view when interpreting the clause. I will finish on this note: In these areas, in spite of the degree of poverty, there is hardly a person who does not acknowledge the difficulty of the situation in relation to beef exports, a difficulty which the Government has undertaken to try to resolve. If one goes there today one will find that they acknowledge very much the great help given to them by the new child endowment provisions. In some areas they acknowledge the Government’s action to allow unemployment benefits to flow to rural areas.
– It is very acceptable in that area.
-It would have to be in some of it, I am sure. The honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) knows a lot about that. People there are waiting, as are many members of this House today, for the final agreements between the State and the Federal Ministers for rural industries, whom the honourable member for Blaxland attempted this afternoon in a rather amateurish fashion, I thought, to condemn. People are waiting for the public announcement on the final agreements on rural reconstruction in the broad sense, and that will be made in a week or so when the parties meet. I hope there will be some good news in that field to add to the Bill before the House today.
I have mentioned new markets. I have mentioned the fact that when industries go wrong oppositions find it easy to blame governments. When things go wrong in rural areas they sometimes look for a scapegoat, and I think that the Meat Board and the chairman of that Board are probably examples of people trying to find a scapegoat when prices have plummeted. To my mind, the rural committee has produced an excellent paper dealing with the restructuring of the Meat Board. I hope that before the end of the year we will have some news of that because I think it is the sort of action which is necessary to give further heart to people who have been hit by this dreadful downturn in world prices and, at the same time, by the huge increases in costs with which they have had to contend. I support the Bill.
– I should like to support my colleague the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who presented the case for the Opposition in a very professional manner and not by any means in an amateurish way. Certainly I support very strongly his views and the criticism he made of the way in which the Government has mishandled the beef industry. I do not think there is any doubt that the beef industry is in a very bad way indeed. That is why the Opposition supports this Bill, but we would also take the opportunity to point our why the industry is in such a bad way and why this Government must take some responsibility for the present position of the beef industry. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) made some play of the fact that the Government had sought out and obtained new markets. That is very good news, and I concede that the Government did find some new markets, but they were very small markets. If they had been as successful as the honourable member claimed it would not have been necessary for Australian exporters to exploit the local producers by buying meat on an over-supplied depressed market and then dumping it on the Canadian market. If the exporters had had reasonable markets that would not have occurred, and I think the Government must take full responsibility for that. It did not happen in the time of the Labor Government; it happened in the time of this Government. It knew what was going on, and it did not raise a finger to stop it. The Government was caught out and then threw up its hands in horror. It has to take responsibility for that. The Government took no action to protect the producers, and it stands condemned in the eyes of the Australian beef industry. Members of the National Country Party of Australia in this House, of course, should have been up in arms and screaming about what was going on but they were silent. The Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) turned a blind eye and I am quite sure that they knew what was going on all the time.
Getting back to the Bill, I notice that an extra $ 1 5m is to be provided. This raises the question, of course, of what happened to the allotment last year when $ 19.6m was made available and, I understand, only $ 12.3m was actually used. If we are asked to support this Bill, to get up and debate it and to talk about the beef industry, I think it is only fair that the Minister should come along and give us information about how that money was used last year. I think he should tell us what category of producers used that money, what size the loans were, what interest rates were paid, where the money was used and in what States the money was used. If he gave us this sort of relevant information we would be in a better position to make a judgment about whether this extra amount of money is now justified or not. I ask the Minister to make those figures available so that we can make a better judgment.
The other element of the proposition that I would question concerns the interest rates. Here again the information is quite vague. All we are told is that the interest rate must not be less than 4 per cent. We do not know in fact what interest rates the borrowers are paying. I am always very concerned about low interest rates because I always want to be reassured that these low interest rates are not being used to make an unviable proposition look viable. The conditions applying to the loans specify that the loans should be made available to people who would be viable in a normal market situation. That is fair enough, but I think that an undertaking that is viable should be able to pay an interest rate that is closer to normal interest rates. I am not suggesting that extremely high interest rates should be paid- and I deplore the present interest rates- but I think that the bottom of commercial interest rates would be a fair rate for commercial enterprises in beef production to pay.
I am always concerned that people apply for these loans because the interest rate is low rather than because they really need the money to carry on. This is always a problem when one is offering loan money at special interest rates. I would rather increase the term of the loan than charge special interest rates. Perhaps producers would be better off to take a loan over 3 years at normal interest rates rather than to try to repay a loan over 2 years at a special interest rate. Indeed the Industries Assistance Commission report on this subject notes that a low interest rate is discriminatory when we compare the beef industry with other rural industries or other manufacturing industries. It is discriminatory and the IAC did not put up any good argument or any rationale to justify a low interest rate. I have never heard a good argument to justify low interest rates, or excessively low interest rates, in respect of rural subsidy loans or any other sort of subsidies.
There is no question that the beef producers have had a very tough time. Everyone agrees with that. But it is very interesting to look at another section of the industry and to find that it has not had a tough time by any means. In fact, when we look at the figures we find that meat exporters have had a real butchers ‘ picnic at the expense of the producers. They have had a real holiday. I can produce figures which have been prepared by the Parliamentary Library, to support that statement. The figures show the trading results over the past 8 years of some of the leading meat export companies selected at random. F. J. Walker Ltd, a well known exporter, turned in a profit of $2.2m. Certainly this company has had a couple of bad years. But $2.2m is the biggest profit it has had in 8 years. A profit of $2.2m is a tremendous increase on that company’s previous figures which were averaging about $0.5 m profit a year.
The Metropolitan Meat Co. Pty Ltd turned in its biggest profit for 8 years- from $715,000 to $2.6m in 1975-76, an increase of 350 per cent. The profit of Huttons Ltd went from $870,000 to $1.3m, an increase of 60 per cent. The profit of T. A. Field Holdings Ltd went from $736,000 to $ 1 .6m, an increase of 100 per cent. Many of these companies had already shown a good increase in profit in 1974-75 as against 1973-74.
– What is the percentage return on capital?
– I will come to that later. The daddy of them all, of course, is Tancred Brothers Industries Ltd which is of particular interest to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) because he is one of the directors on the board of that company. I pointed out last year that Tancred Brothers had doubled its profit from $1 12,000 to $213,000. This year the profit went to $899,000. The company had a 400 per cent increase in profit after it had already doubled its profit the year before. That was a remarkable result which just follows the pattern of all the other meat exporters. Conkey and Sons Ltd increased their profit 100 per cent and maintained a 1 5 per cent dividend.
I would like to refer to the question that was raised by my friend about earnings on capital. I do not have the capital figures but it should be noted that the higher profits of 100 per cent, and 200 per cent up to 400 per cent, were made with very small increases in turnover. This is understandable because the price of cattle was so low. The sales made by Tancred Brothers, whose profit increased by 400 per cent, went up by only 10 per cent. This reflects the low price of the stock. It means that this company’s bank overdrafts are low. It means that its stock values are down. As well as increasing its profit that company has been able to do so with a much smaller amount of money. I do not have the figures on the return of capital because they are not available to me at the moment. However, in view of these figures and the fact that profits have increased by 300 and 400 per cent with a very small increase in turnover- the turnover increases seem to be around 10 per cent, 15 per cent to 20 per cent- it is apparent that these companies have been performing quite well in that respect.
As I said, Tancred Brothers is of particular interest because the honourable member for Macarthur is a director of that company. I do not know whether the profit made by that company is a compliment to the economic advice he offers as a member of the board. I have noticed that in the last few months he has looked very happy. He always had a big smile on his face. I now know why he had a smile on his face- it was because Tancred Brothers had a 400 per cent increase in profit. The smile has gone lately because the game is up, the picnic has ended and the Minister has stopped the dumping of meat on the overseas market.
I often wonder what the beef producers in Macarthur must think when they are represented by a member who has a vested interest in an exporting company that is making huge profits at the expense of the producer. Perhaps the National Country Party should be thinking about running a candidate for the seat of Macarthur, someone who would possibly look after their interests. But on second thoughts, that may not be necessary because I am quite confident that at the next election the Labor member, who does not have a vested interest in the meat companies, will be returned in Macarthur. I am quite sure that he would look after the interests of the beef producers as Labor Party members have always done.
– Why did you want the National Country Party to contest the seat?
– I think that in its interests it should take that precaution. It should think about this because if I were a beef producer in Macarthur I would be very unhappy if I knew that my member was on the board of a meat company that had increased its profit by 400 per cent when the producers had such a disastrous year. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table showing the trading results of some meat exporters that has been prepared by the Parliamentary Library.
-Is leave granted?
– As the honourable member has assured me that the document has been prepared by the Parliamentary Library and represents statistics that are factual, I have no objection to the table being incorporated.
-There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– The picnic has ended of course. The exporters and the Government have been caught out in dumping meat on the Canadian market in contravention of accepted international practice and in contravention of voluntary restraint which we were supposed to exercise. Despite the assurance of the Leader of the National Country Party that we have a special relationship with the Americans, we have no special relationship when it comes to people not doing the right thing on the international market. We were dumping meat on the Canadian market and some of it was finding its way to America. The result is that our quotas have been severely cut and the practice has had to stop.
It is rather amusing to see the Minister for Primary Industry complaining bitterly about the actions of the Americans. I am sure he must have his tongue in his cheek while he is bleating about the American action. He is even talking of referring the matter to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade for consideration. What a hypocritical approach this is when we do not observe voluntary restraint- no doubt this was done under pressure from the meat exporters through their friends in the Liberal Parry- do not observe international conventions about dumping surpluses on overseas markets and then complain when the victims of our irresponsible action retaliate and impose quotas. This is the ridiculous situation in which the Minister for Primary Industry now finds himself.
I make the point clearly that the Government has acted very irresponsibly. Government supporters could have imposed minimum export prices early in the piece but they chose not to. They pretended they did not know about what was happening. They should have taken the initiative. If members of the National Country Party had been looking after the interests of the producers they would have been pressing the coalition to take the initiative and impose a minimum export price as the Minister has now said he will do if necessary. It is quite apparent that they turned a blind eye. They were caught out. They have been exposed as not looking after the interests of the producers in this situation. I hope the producers are aware of the position and now know who has been getting the cream at the expense of the beef industry and consumers now know because they have not been getting any cheap beef either.
All these meat exporters are also meat wholesalers in Australia. I produced figures last year to show the tremendous increase in the share of the consumer’s dollar which the wholesalers got, and that position is much the same now. The wholesalers have got the money from the consumers. It is not the butchers or the producers; it is the wholesalers and the exporters who have been ripping off the producers and the consumers. I have produced figures to support that. I hope the public will be aware of what has been going on in the meat industry over the past year or so. If a Labor government had been in power it would have taken the initiative and put minimum import-export prices on beef to protect abuses.
– That is wrong.
– Of course we would. We believe in stabilised organised marketing. That is what we would have done; and that is what the Government should have done. Country Party people should not have let the Government get away with this neglect of the producer in the way that it did. We hope people are awake up to this fact once and for all about how the Government does not look after the interests of the beef producers of this country.
-Along with the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) I feel quite proud in supporting this Bill. This Bill makes available an additional $ 15m to match the State funds approved for carry on beef loans for 1976-77. The Commonwealth commitment to 30 June 1976 under the existing scheme was some $ 12.3m out of the $ 19.6m prescribed in the principal Act. Hence this Bill provides for a total Commonwealth outlay of some $27.3m from the inception of the scheme. I was slightly amazed to sit here and listen to the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) -
– You were enlightened.
-I certainly was enlightened. I was enlightened by the ignorance of the honourable member for Fraser. He argued against himself. He admitted quite frankly that the beef industry was in a serious plight and then questioned why beef producers ought to be allowed to borrow money at a low interest rate. He said virtually that there was a rip off by the beef producers. I am led to believe that the honourable member has once or twice walked out to Queanbeyan and seen a dairy cow. I assure him that a dairy cow looks similar to a beef cow but really and truly they do not perform the same functions.
The honourable member for Fraser once again was terribly critical when describing viability. I would like to know his definition of viability. I am quite sure that it is entirely different from the average producer’s definition of viability. He also went on to talk about the great rip offs by the meatworks and the processors and about them living off their fat. If the honourable member for Fraser thinks that the packing houses and processors are making such an exorbitant profit, why the devil does he not buy some of their shares? He would then understand how much capital these people have involved and therefore the interest rates they are making. He spoke at great length about the picnic being over. The primary producers in my electorate would be highly amused to think that they had even engaged in having a picnic for a long time. I will talk about that a little later. The honourable member went to great pains to explain how the Labor Party, had it still been in power, would have had a minimum price scheme. The worst price that the beef industry has had for many years that I can recall occurred while the Labor Party was in power. Why should the honourable member be hypocritical and stand up and condemn our Government for not introducing a minimum price scheme when his Party had the power to do so? His Party said that it had all the expertise and brains on its side. It even told the people in 1975 that it was the intelligentsia of Australia.
I am sure the House was very interested to hear the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I will say a little more about his remarks later. In the meantime I draw the attention of the House to the speech made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) in this House last Thursday evening. I support many aspects of his speech. In doing so I am duty bound to say that the honourable member gained the support of many primary producers not only in his own electorate but also in the balance of Australia. I am sure that in his speech there was a message of which all parliamentarians should take note. As I said, I am sure the House was interested to hear the speech of the honourable member for Blaxland. He once again showed the complete lack of understanding that the Opposition has for Australia’s rural industries, a fact that will remain in the memory of all people in Australia’s rural areas who suffered in desperation during Labor’s 3 years in power. Actually one can describe that power as havoc, I think.
The honourable member for Blaxland was the Minister for Northern Australia for a record period of 3 weeks during Labor’s twilight days. At least, I suppose, he was one Labor Minister whom we cannot blame for doing much damage. He was not there very long. Presumably he was appointed to that position because of some expertise in the unique problems of northern Australia.
– He went west.
– As the honourable member for Wide Bay says ‘he went west’. I was thinking of the honourable member for Wide Bay when the honourable member for Fraser was speaking. I thought that as the member for Fraser maybe he would like to go up and take over Fraser Island. There are wild horses up there and the honourable member’s education might be furthered in that regard. If the honourable member for Blaxland had some expertise in northern Australia it is strange that he never demonstrated that expertise here today. His ignorance of the beef industry is abysmal. No sector of the economy has been harder hit by inflation than the rural sector. No rural industry has been harder hit than the beef industry. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in my electorate.
Whilst I am dealing with my electorate, it is relevant that the honourable member for Angas spoke at great length about the plight of the
Brigalow settlers. I was very interested to see the expression on the faces of honourable members opposite. I am sure that quite a few of the honourable members opposite are not aware of what the Brigalow scheme is all about and how depressed that area is. It is in my electorate, as in the rest of Australia, that cattlemen suffer as a legacy of Labor’s economic mismanagement. It is almost impossible for cattle producers to be squeezed any further. On the one hand, they are faced with costs of ridiculous proportions. Unfortunately, they cannot pass on these costs to the consumer because they have no control over their markets. They have been forced into personal indebtedness and in many cases they are leaving the land. They earn their livelihood now mainly by working on roads or upon other public works so that they can feed and clothe their families. These are the very same people about whom the honourable member for Fraser was talking as having a picnic. The position will remain until this Government can rectify Labor’s economic disaster.
I have mentioned that on the one hand the producers are faced with high costs. On the other hand, they have been faced with depressed overseas markets. The honourable member for Angas highlighted some of the new markets that our Government and the Minister for Primary Industry have gone out to establish. The previous Labor Government must accept a lot of the blame for these depressed markets, our traditional beef markets. The Labor Party’s foreign policy antagonised the great nations of the world. It abandoned our traditional trading partners during those 3 dark years and our trading partners very soon abandoned us. Our Government is now working to right the wrongs and to re-establish our markets. Therefore I commend this Bill because it will provide low interest carry-on finance to beef specialists. Whether or not the honourable member for Fraser agrees with that action, we intend to carry it out. With a sound asset structure these beef producers would be viable, given the return to more normal beef marketing conditions. They will be able to avail themselves of this money at an interest rate of 4 per cent. The honourable member for Fraser also questioned whether they ought to be allowed to borrow this money at 4 per cent. I personally think that a 4 per cent interest rate is far too high for them. I am pleased that this Bill recognises the special problems of beef producers in Queensland and more especially in my electorate. As outlined by the Minister, up to 2 years carry-on finance will be available with a loan limit of $ 1 5,000 a year. This applies all over
Queensland. In Queensland we are by our very nature exporters of beef.
– Good people too.
-They are excellent people in Queensland. Their qualities are surpassed only by the qualities of the honourable member for Dawson. This eligibility to obtain funds of up to $15,000 under the current Act applies only to Queensland and the Northern Territory. But now this has been extended to all eligible producers in a pastoral zone or on pastoral or similar leases throughout Australia. In other areas the existing loan limit of $10,000 a year will apply. The Government has kept faith with the beef producers, contrary to what honourable memers opposite were saying earlier. The estimated cost of the Commonwealth contribution under this scheme will be $ 15m. The Commonwealth’s commitment to 30 June 1976 was $ 12.3m. This Bill provides for a total outlay of $27.3m from the inception of the scheme. So nobody can or should say that our Government is not mindful of the plight of our beef producers.
I would also like to sound here a word of caution to all honourable members. Our beef producers are almost at the end of their tether and their problem has been compounded further by the ever-increasing interest rates that apply to the rural sector today. Only a few years ago primary producers could and did borrow money from their agricultural banks at an interest rate of about 4e per cent. But today that rate is in excess of 9 per cent and in some cases it is up to 1 1 per cent. If the producer is forced to go to private lending sources, the interest rate is often far in excess of 14 per cent. It is these interest rates that are forcing people further into the mire. I wish that the honourable member for Fraser was present in the chamber. He was condemning the Government for making money available at an interest rate of 4 per cent. The honourable member ought to keep it firmly in his mind that it is the high interest rates as well as the depressed markets that are virtually forcing our producers to the wall. Unless there is some relief in this area, one can expect to see more of our producers go to the wall because they have little or no hope of servicing their debts given the current depressed beef prices.
The export value of this industry surely indicates clearly how valuable it is to the economy of Australia. An examination of the position only up to the end of October in this calendar year shows that some 483 571 tonnes of beef and veal were exported out of total exports of all meats amounting to 695 529 tonnes. So beef is the predominant export in this field. For the financial year 1975-76 beef and veal earned $487,784,000 out of a total export earning of $653,460,000 for all meats exported. This surely indicates how valuable this industry is. If we look at the amount of subsidies that apply to the total rural sector we find that it is some $61 m, while the manufacturing industry receives a direct subsidy of $ 159m. If we take the figures of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) of subsidies equivalent to tariffs, we come up with the enormous figure of $3,900m. Surely this shows the very poor recognition given to the value of our rural sector. Our Government has gone a long way towards recognising its value. The Minister, the Government members rural committee and honourable members on this side of the House all recognise its value. It is a shame that honourable members opposite- strangely enough, there are only two in the House -
– You are not on the Government benches.
– Yes we are. Who does the honourable member think we represent if we do not represent the Government? This is the reason for this Bill being introduced to provide low interest finance to our beef specialists. One should not overlook the other issues that have been implemented by our Government in the area of tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. The Government has adopted the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendation. The scheme has been continued since January 1976. Our Government decided to liberalise the basis for compensation payments after 1 July 1976. The Government decided also to accept the IAC recommendation, namely, that a brucellosis slaughter compensation scheme be introduced from July this year. The scheme will operate under a joint Commonwealth-State program and owners are compensated for animals slaughtered following a positive reaction to a bovine tuberculosis test. An amount of $6.5m has been allocated for compensation payments during the year 1976-77. In the area of meat export inspection charges, our Government is providing $24. 7m. This is another area in which the honourable member for Blaxland was terribly critical. It is providing this amount instead of imposing an export levy on our exporters who in turn would have deducted that amount from the price paid to our beef producers. In the research and promotion area, we have provided $2.7m above the amount that will be collected by the existing slaughter levies.
There are many more areas in which this Government has made a positive move to assist our producers. It will be very interesting to hear what the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) has to say about how his Party would solve all the problems of the rural sector. I am very mindful of the fact that we still have a long way to go but at least we are trying to allow this industry to become viable once again. Honourable members opposite took only 18 months to wreck the industry completely. It took them a total package, I guess, of 3 years but in the last 18 months of office they really created havoc within that industry.
Having said all that, I now emphasise my concern about the proposed new control of beef exports to the United States of America. If the Australian Meat Board implements the Mackie scheme in its present form, my area and northern Queensland will be disadvantaged to the extent of a minimum of 10 000 tonnes in any one calendar year. This, in turn, would be a loss of revenue in excess of $5m. I must emphasise that this loss will be felt most in central Queensland and northern Queensland where, in the main, there are seasonal meat works. As I said earlier, this is the area that has been most affected by the beef recession. It seems most unfair that these producers should once again be penalised. In conclusion, I emphasise that this Bill has my full support and the full support of all honourable members on the Government benches. I am quite sure it also has the full support of each and every beef producer right throughout the length and breadth of this land.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (5.56)-When the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) was sitting on his side of the chamber and wearing his other hat, he made an attack on the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). He said that the Australian Labor Party had wrecked the beef industry. I inform the House that the rural policy committee of the Labor Party had many conferences with beef industry representatives. On nearly every occasion the recommendations brought down and the policies introduced were at the direct request of the representatives of the beef industry. I notice that later on, when the honourable member for Angas had run out of insults, he attacked the trade union movement. He got back on to what seems to be the old favourite of the trade union basher. He said that the trouble in the meat industry was caused by strikes in abattoirs. Of course this is the sort of attack we so often hear in this House. On the one hand the Government asks the trade union movement to accept a package deal. It says: ‘We will give you full indexation’. On the other hand, it hands out investment allowances to big industries in the hope that we will, have an investment lead recovery. But the outcome is that the worker is getting less and less out of the wage indexation increases and the investment allowance goes to big companies to buy machinery that does away with labour.
– Let us talk about -
– The honourable member for Angas blamed the trouble on the trade unions and I am just answering him. The honourable member for Capricornia who keeps trying to interject made so many misleading misquotations of the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) that it will certainly take me till well after 6 o’clock to right the records on that point alone.
I support the States Grants (Beef Industry) Amendment Bill 1976 because it amends the States Grants (Beef Industry) Act 1975. 1 do not think that anyone could doubt that the long suffering and financially pressed beef producing industry is vitally in need of carry on finance. It is of some satisfaction to know that the Government is prepared to provide up to $ 1 5m to match on a dollar for dollar basis funds that have been approved for lending in 1976-77 by the States under the beef carry-on loans scheme. I notice that the Minister or Primary industry (Mr Sinclair), in his second reading speech, informed the House that the revised terms and conditions of the Bill closely followed the Industries Assistance Commission recommendations and that the States had indicated their general approval.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8.5 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I had pointed out to the House how unjust it is for Government supporters to continue basiling trade unionists in order to cover up their own sins of omission in rural industries. I also had occasion to point out to the honourable member for Capricornia that he was continually misquoting the honourable member for Fraser. I note that the Minister for Primary Industry informed the House in his second reading speech that the revised terms and conditions of the Bill closely follow the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission and that the States have indicated their general agreement to providing low interest carry-on finance for specialist beef producers.
I want to express some concern for those in the beef industry outside the group that might be termed specialist beef producers. It would be extremely hard to define what the Minister had in mind when he said in his second reading speech that this low interest carry-on finance would be available to specialist beef producers whose undertakings would become viable on a return to more normal beef marketing conditions. It is extremely hard to understand exactly what he means by those words. Does he mean that a return to more normal beef marketing conditions would be when the price of beef rose by $ 10 per tonne or $20 per tonne or $100 per tonne? The Minister did not say. What assistance will be given to beef producers in the pastoral zone who do not meet these qualifications? This question vitally concerns me, whatever the qualifications are, because it is quite obvious that there will be a lot of beef producers who do not meet them.
I ask that these producers not be penalised to provide better market opportunities for other specialist producers in more favourable circumstances. Many pastoral zone producers are already facing severe liquidity problems. It is, unfortunately, very unprofitable for them to engage in what is called a ‘turn-off’ of cattle production. Freight charges are so high that, if they were to take the cattle to the market, the freight expenses would be higher than the prices they would receive for those cattle. This problem vitally concerns many beef producers in the isolated areas in my electorate. I am concerned that they will miss out not only on the freight subsidies but also on the carry-on finance.
It was disturbing to note that the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on short term assistance to beef cattle producers in Australia dismissed the value of freight subsidy because the extra supply of cattle to the present market would depress the prices. This solution might be acceptable for someone who is not experiencing the problem of long freight hauls to the market but it is a definite penalty for anyone who has to market cattle from isolated areas. In that regard, I ask the Government what notice was taken of footnote 14 on page 35 of that Industries Assistance Commission report, which states:
Several witnesses asked for assistance to support export abattoirs that were in financial difficulties, especially those servicing the remote pastoral areas. The Commission was not able to make a detailed study of any specific export abattoirs, and it is not prepared to recommend across-the-board assistance for them all. An assistance mechanism such as that provided by the Special Assistance to Non-Metropolitan Areas (SANMA) scheme would seem to be appropriate for assessing these needs. Currently the SANMA scheme operates only to alleviate unemployment arising from structural changes resulting from action of the Australian Government.
This is the vital point:
The Commission considers that the Australian Government should examine the possibility of prescribing export abattoirs affected by the crisis in the beef industry as qualifying for assistance under the SANMA scheme.
If the Government is right in its claim that it is quite closely following the Industries Assistance Commission’s report it should give some consideration to that paragraph because people in isolated sections of the pastoral areas are missing out in more than one respect. They cannot get the freight subsidy because the LAC claims that it would result in the supply of more beef to the market and therefore cut down the price of the beef already reaching the market. In addition, they cannot get the carry-on finance because they do not come under the other provision that the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech, that is, that they would be viable when the markets return to some supposedly normal situation.
According to the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has indicated that there are 35 000 specialist beef producers and that just under half of them would have doubtful prospects of viability in the longer term. Because the Minister said in his second reading speech that the Bill closely follows the Industry Assistance Commission’s recommendations, I ask: Is it the Government’s intention to act on the recommendation on page 30 of the Commission’s report? I refer to that recommendation, which states:
It is dear that more broadly based assistance proposals, which would affect the longer term efficiency of the industry, deserve closer scrutiny. Some of these longer-term issues are the subject of references currently before the Commission. However, they should be evaluated together in the context of the distinguishing characteristics of all sectors of the beef industry. For these reasons the Commission invites the Government to forward a reference on long term assistance to the beef industry.
If the Government is only picking out sections of this Industries Assistance Commission report and stating them to suit the Bills that it wants to put before the House, it appears to me that the people in the isolated areas are certainly going to miss out in more ways than one. I ask: Will some producers in the pastoral zone miss out on the freight subsidy, carry-on finance and this long term assistance as well? It seems to me that many beef producers in my electorate could be victimised if that is the case. I point out that when opposing the removal of the meat export charge the Opposition said that it was in favour of the provision of more direct financial assistance to the industry. We think that the legitimate charges of meat inspection services should be carried by the industry but that it should get some form of assistance and that that assistance should not go to other than those to whom it is intended to go. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has pointed out how a good deal of that assistance has already gone to the exporters and not the beef producers.
I am not claiming that every measure introduced by the Government is wrong. I am only asking for an answer to be given to some of the questions I have asked. Although there are not many specialist beef producers in my electoratethere are many beef producers but not many specialist beef producers- they are very critical of the action taken by governments of all colours and are also very critical of their representatives. Since coming to this Parliament I have seen problems occur in nearly every rural industry. There have been short term crises in one or another of our primary industries. There have been some facing severe economic problems due to over-production or sharp market reversals. I remember what happened not so long ago when record prices were prevailing for beef. Everyone thought that they would continue until the end of time. I can remember some of the supporters of the present Government criticising the Australian Labor Party because of the things it had done in the rural industry. Let us cast our minds back to the days of the wheat quotas and give-away wool prices when we had the emergency assistance for wool growers and the infamous rural reconstruction scheme under which some growers were to be given $2,000 if they were lucky- no one ever found anyone who got it- to leave the industry. That was in the time of the Liberal-National Country Party Government. Supporters of the Government tonight seemed to be blaming all of this on the Labor Party. Of course, it was a long time out of government at that time.
While all of these tilings are going on the rural industry is undergoing long term adjustment to overcome chronic over-production, with the resultant hardship facing many people in primary production. The mining industry is involved in this type of problem as well as the agricultural industry. I think it should be mentioned that apart from this there is also the added problem of disunity within the framework of rural industry due to the extraordinarily large number of farmer organisations. They are often at odds with each other as well as with the people they represent. Even when governments are introducing in this House Bills that representatives of the industry have requested one often finds that those governments are criticised for doing so.
I believe that primary industry must be better organised and must speak more with one voice.
But it must be realised to a large degree that no matter what governments do or fan to do, the markets will basically determine the prosperity of primary industry. This is one thing that everyone in the rural industry should realise. On the other hand, I think government has some responsibility to give a lead to the farmers that the marketing boards must be the most efficient available. In this respect I often get offside with some of my colleagues in the rural committee of my Party. I take the stand that it is not always of advantage to have a greater number of producers than experts on these marketing boards. I think that we should look for the best businessmen we can get for our marketing boards and not put a man on a marketing board because he is a producer, although, of course, the producers should have a greater say in who is to be elected to these marketing boards.
In addition, I think that government should make every effort to secure markets overseas and to lower world trade barriers. Production costs are also of vital concern. There is no doubt about that. Honourable members opposite have already mentioned the part that inflation plays in this respect. Anyone would be foolish not to admit that that is a major problem and one to which we have to give a fair amount of consideration. In the meantime I think the Government should introduce short term assistance, as it has set out to do in the Bill before the House.
– in reply- I think there is general recognition by those who have spoken in this debate of the very serious plight that the beef industry currently faces. Unfortunately the situation has been compounded by one of the constant traumas of anybody involved in agriculture in Australia and that is the unpredictability of the governments of the countries to which we sell our products. At present we are suffering as a result of* the presidential election in the United States. Quotas were imposed because of the competition between the candidates on the campaign trail. Then there were difficulties in Canada because of the extent to which it was said that meat passed through Canada to the United States. Now of course we face problems in Japan because of the consequences of the suggestion by the Japanese Livestock Importing Corporation that there should not be an availability of quota according to the original schedule. Each of the markets to which Australia sells beef therefore is in the position where there is marked uncertainty. To all our beef producers, wherever they may be around Australia, I give the Government’s assurance that in spite of those present traumas we still think there is light at the end of the beef exporting tunnel. The statistics now coming in demonstrate that consumption is rising and production falling and suggest that even under the normal circumstances of supply and demand the market might well be better next year. The marketing situation aside, it is important that everybody in Australia realises how traumatic is the present income and expenditure position of most people in the beef industry.
The debate today has been around further financial assistance. It is nonsense for it to be suggested that $15m is not sufficient. The amount we are providing under this scheme is in response to requests made by the States for funds in this category. Let me stress to those people involved in rural industry that through this facility, throught the State rural agencies, there are funds available at a significantly concessional interest rate for cattlemen for carry on purposes. Those funds are available to try to overcome some of the traumas that cattlemen are suffering. As the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) remarked earlier, because of seasonal variations and complete dependence on a commodity which has suffered such marked price unpredictability there are in the beef industry, unfortunately, too many of the new poor in our society.
The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), commented on the degree to which the funds have been allocated under the existing rural reconstruction scheme. It might be of interest, therefore, if I explained the State by State allocaton of the original $ 19.6m contributed by the Commonwealth. The Queensland allocation was $10m, New South Wales $5m, Victoria $2m, South Australia $1.5m, Western Australia $0.8m and Tasmania $0.3m. The original allocation was $ 19.6m. The Commonwealth’s commitment to match State lending up to 30 June 1 976 was as follows: $6.9m for Queensland, $3.3m for New South Wales, $1.2m for Victoria, $0.3m for South Australia, $0.5m for Western Australia and $0.1 m for Tasmania. In fact $12.3m has been allocated by the Commonwealth to match State lending. By leave of the House I shall incorporate in Hansard the table I have read as I do not think it could be understood properly as I explained it. It might be more meaningful if the table appeared in Hansard in order to satisfy the request from the honourable member for Fraser.
-Is leave granted to incorporate the table in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– I want to comment now on problems related to the questions raised by the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick), the previous speaker in this debate. He wanted to know what the Government is doing about referring long term assistance for the beef industry to the Industries Assistance Commission. As many people would know, there already is a reference to the IAC relating to rural income fluctuations. Until that report is received it is thought that a reference on long term assistance for the beef industry might be partly redundant. Therefore we have not sent that reference to the IAC, preferring to wait until we receive the report on long term assistance generally to offset rural income fluctuations and to see to what degree we might be able to overcome those problems in general rather than the specific problems of the beef industry.
I am quite confident, with the American presidential election behind us and in spite of the uncertainties of the agricultural policies of the Carter regime, and following the Japanese election on 4 December, that there is a reasonable prospect that Australian beef producers can again look forward to something like reasonable access to export markets. As well as all the problems that affect them generally there is on the one hand the unpredictability of markets, which in Australian circumstances is equated by the continuing uncertainty of seasons, and on the other the escalation of prices. There are a number of areas where something needs to be done about prices and costs. I hope that the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), who nearly saw fit to intervene a moment ago, recognises that what is being done by the meat workers in the trade union movement is not helping beef producers. I believe there are considerable economies that need to be introduced in the handling of beef, particularly on the killing chain. If they can be applied perhaps beef producers might get a higher benefit than they are receiving now.
The Bill before the House is designed to offset some of the difficulties of the beef industry. It is only part of a very significant program that the Government has introduced to help the beef industry. This program ranges from a very significant contribution to the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis, to offset losses incurred during the time of the Labor regime in sales to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and significant assistance in trying to ensure that finance is available in a number of areas to the beef industry. The product of this Bill, together with all those other measures, means that during the present year more money is being allocated to the beef industry than has been allocated by any previous government. In spite of that, we know the difficulties which cattlemen face. We are concerned about their plight. The Liberal and National Country parties, as a Government, are determined to ensure that in spite of all these circumstances we provide the maximum level of government assistance that is practical and worthwhile to ensure the survival of a very important national industry. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
I table the first report of the Tasmanian State Grants Commission. In accordance with the new federalism proposals, the Grants Commission was established by statute of the Tasmanian Government to distribute funds to individual local government authorities. This report details the rationale behind the distribution -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Strictly it might be said that the Minister is making a statement. Is leave granted to enable the Minister to do so?
– How long is the statement?
– It will take about 30 seconds.
– Leave is granted.
-At the risk of being a bore I had better start again. In accordance with the new federalism proposals, the Grants Commission was established by statute of the Tasmanian Government to distribute funds to individual local government authorities. This report details the rationale behind the distribution and the amounts of Commonwealth funds to be received by individual authorities in 1976-77.
Motion (by Mr MacKellar) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21 October, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill is the first major amendment to the principal Act since its passage in 1960. The almost total lack of information in the scant speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on 21 October when introducing the Bill belies the impact on motorists of the proposed amendments. The paucity of information is further evidence of this Government’s growing contempt for the parliamentary process. I note that the Minister is not in the chamber for the passage of this Bill. While we acknowledge the necessity for some procedural amendments which are proposed and which will relate to changed parking control equipment, the Opposition does not accept that the Minister has justified the heavy increase in penalties proposed such as the introduction of multiple infringements for a single offence or the confiscation and disposal of a person’s motor car on the simple authorisation of the secretary of the Department. The Opposition is therefore opposed to the Bill.
The Bill in its present form is heavy handed and ruthless in its attack on motorists. It offers no solution to traffic problems at airports, other than more of the same; that is, heavier penalties which will be, in effect, the means of increasing revenue to this Government. Again the motorist will be slugged hard by the Fraser Government when this Bill becomes law as undoubtedly it will, given the Government’s majority in both Houses. -Briefly, the Bill amends the principal Act as follows: Parking fees become recoverable debt to the Commonwealth. Fines for illegal parking and vandalism are increased from $40 to $ 100. Continuous parking, longer than the permitted period, is a separate offence for each period equal to the permitted period. Vehicles parked illegally may be removed and owners, corporate or individual, will be notified by registered letter or newspaper notice. If the owner does not pay the expenses incurred in removal within one month the secretary may sell by public tender or dispose of the vehicle in such a manner as the secretary of the department thinks fit. The proceeds of disposal will go to Consolidated Revenue and the owner may claim the remainder above liability. The Bill removes the right of the owner to action for damages for loss or damage not wilful or negligent. It will be a defence to a parking prosecution if the vehicle was stolen or not in control of the owner. Parking fines in relation to meters are increased from $4 to $10. An authorised person may require the production of a licence. The penalty associated with this matter has been increased from $40 to $100. The penalty for failure to comply with directions from authorised persons is increased from $40 to $100. The attendance of Department of Transport officers shall not be required in undefended prosecutions.
Having in mind the continual refusal of the Minister to supply information I have repeatedly sought in the Parliament when discussing the estimates for the Department of Transport, the succession of secret inquiries and reports which this Government has commissioned, and a Cabinet decision of 9 October 1976 that legislation should not be introduced to the Parliament when the same objectives can be achieved by regulation, it is worth recalling that the purpose of the principle Act, the Airports (Surface Traffic) Act 1960, was to give legislative form to powers over parking at airports previously exercised under regulation 3 15 (c) of the Air Navigation Regulations, made under the Air Navigation Act 1920-1950. At that time the Minister for Civil Aviation was the late Senator Paltridge. He pointed out that the Commonwealth had power under section 52 of the Constitution to make laws with respect to places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes such as the estab,lishment and operation of airports. Unlike the present Minister the late Senator Paltridge presented in some detail the background to and the necessity for the principal Act. At that time the Opposition did not oppose the legislation. It drew attention to the severity of the penalties proposed for parking offences when compared with penalties levied by State governments for similar offences under State jurisdiction. The then Opposition recognised that the purpose of the legislation was to enable the then Department of Civil Aviation, now the Department of Transport, to control parking and to levy fees and fines for parking offences and vandalism at Commonwealth airports.
I turn now to the 1 50 per cent increase in penalties provided for in this Bill. Parking fines will be increased from $4 to $10 as provided for under clause 4, while maximum penalties for court heard offences rise generally from $40 to $ 100. The Minister has given no reason for these massive increases, other than to suggest that they will restore the deterrent value of fines and penalties. If $ 100 is a deterrent then surely $40 is a deterrent. Can the Minister advance some sort of justification or differentiation between the deterrent value of a $40 penalty and a $100 penalty? The Parliament has not been told anything about the frequency of offences, the costs involved in policing parking areas at airports or the difficulties which may have developed since 1960 in controlling traffic in the vicinity of airports. All this information is relevant. Unfortunately no information is available on the breakdown of the costs involved in the ground services provided by the department, in association with airport facilities. The latest statistics available to me on parking offences are found in the department’s annual reports of 1973-74 and 1974-75. 1 seek leave to nave incorporated in Hansard a table setting out the prosecutions, the fines imposed by courts, the number of penalties paid and the penalties paid in lieu of court action.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. Reference to the table shows decrease in the number of prosecutions between 1973-74 and 1974-75. Prosecutions dropped from 358 in 1973-74 to 320 in 1974-75. There was a decrease in the fines paid in 1973-74 and 1974-75. But there was an increase in the amount paid as penalties. Reference to the amount of penalties paid in lieu of court action shows that in 1973-74 $48,556 was paid and that amount increased in 1974-75 to $64,376. That is an increase of almost onethird. But the number of penalties paid was 12 139 in 1973-74. This refers to a situation where offenders have chosen to pay the infringement notice rather than to appear in court. The figure of 12 139 compares with 16 094 in 1974-75. 1 refer again to the fines imposed by the court in 1 973-74. 1 mentioned that the number of prosecutions dropped from 358 to 320 but the fines levied also dropped, from $2,641 to $2,539.
No later information has been made available to the Parliament on these matters. I feel that they are relevant to any proper discussion of the legislation which is now before the chamber. The Government may care to give us some information on this matter at a later stage.
The Minister has told us nothing about how it is expected that the increased penalties will provide better parking facilities at airports, other than to state in the concluding sentence of his second reading speech that some increase in revenue is expected along with cost savings. The motorist who has to take his motor vehicle to an airport will be slugged to provide additional revenue. That seems to be the only major purport of the Minister’s speech. If parking is a problem at airports- I understand that it isbecause it is composed of both travellers out of the airport and people coming into the airport as distinct from visitors to airports, then surely the
Government ought to be putting to the Parliament the proposals it has in mind; what parking stations are under way; whether it is proposed to have further parking stations constructed; what re-arrangement, if any, of traffic is under way; and whether holding areas can be built away from the airports outside Australian Government property. In short, some broad plan should be laid down in relation to this problem.
If revenue is to be the issue I point out that only $64,000 was collected in 1974-75, so surely the collection of revenue should not be the prime factor in this legislation. There is a fixed number of vehicle spaces at an airport. We ought to be concerned about how we can make the best utilisation of that finite number of vehicle spaces. Again, in drawing attention to the lack of information from the Government in support of this legislation, I point out that no reference has been made to alternative methods of transport. Has consideration been given to bringing people to the airport? It used to be that airlines transported people and encouraged them to travel on buses from inner city terminals to the airport, but it seems that the utilisation of those vehicles has dropped off. The movement of people from the airport to their destinations is not provided for in any way at all. While revenue seems to be the key to this legislation, I noticed that in the Melbourne Age recently there was a statement that the Tullamarine car parking station was being let out to tender. The report stated that the Department could not afford to construct the parking station itself. I understand from my own inquiries that in some cases the Department lets out parking stations, and in other cases it operates the stations itself. A decision is usually made on the basis of which method provides the highest return.
That matter too is very relevant to this debate, but there is no reference whatsoever to what is being done there. There is no reference to what is happening in Sydney. There is no reference to the facilities which could be provided for visitors to airports, and certainly a large number of people utilise airports. Back in 1960 when Senator Paltridge brought the principal Act before the Senate, he cited the relevant figures and said that 4000 to 5000 vehicles a day were visiting airports, as distinct from internal airport traffic. In the Minister’s second reading speech there is no reference to such figures. There is no indication of what has happened since 1960. As I said earlier, that information is relevant. If the Department of Transport is to fulfil its broad policy of co-ordinating the modes of transport, then this is a matter relating to the urban public transport system. Is the urban public transport system designed to cater for airport traffic, or is it simply to be a matter of increasing the fines on parking meters, slugging the motorist another 150 per cent, and hoping that the whole problem will work itself out?
As I mentioned a few moments ago, no reference has been made to the profitability of car parking stations. I do not know of any public information which would give a net result on what happens in parking stations. In a Senate Estimates Committee hearing recently this question was asked:
What is the breakup of the income from parking fees at the major airports?
The answer broke up the income into 2 categories, concessions and departmental, and the total concession revenue for 1975-76 was shown as $832,883. There is no indication that that was net revenue. I have since learned that that was the net return to the Department. It is interesting to note that $543,000- well over half of that amount- came from Sydney airport parking concessions. In the departmental column a figure of $1.37m is shown for Melbourne. The total of that column is $1.7m, and the impression is that it is net revenue, but it is not. It is gross revenue. That is the difficulty involved in trying to determine the net return from services provided on the ground. The Minister might be able to provide some information on that.
I move one stage further to the potential impact of these proposals on car rental firms. Since 1960, and particularly since 1969 when the Avis contract was let, the car rental industry has expanded considerably. I understand that quite a deal of congestion at airports relates to people utilising cars they have rented. The use of cars in conjunction with airports and air travel is very widely publicised throughout the nation, and I think we are all aware of the fairly active public discussion going on between the competing companies in this field. One could not be misunderstood in pointing out that one of the results which will flow from the increased penalties provided in this legislation will be that some of the firms which do not have access to authorised parking areas at airports Will have their opportunity to provide a range of car rental services at airports reduced because of the increased penalties. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong. What I am saying is that this is the time to have a look at the problem because a major part of the car rental problem revolves around the utilisation of flydrive.
As I have said, the wide publicity that is given nationally to flying to a destination, hiring a vehicle when the destination is reached and then returning the vehicle to the airport has resulted in increased demand and in expansion of the industry. The only figures which I could find relating to this matter are contained in replies to questions asked at a Senate Estimates Committee hearing. In reply to a question asking for receipts from Avis last year and the estimates for this year, the departmental representative stated:
Avis paid the Government $465,607 in fees for the year 1975-76. It is difficult to predict an estimate for next year in the present aviation economic climate. The figure could exceed $0.5m. The figures are partly related to passenger traffic, but Avis could be expected to propose that much of the revenue related to Avis marketing and standards of service.
That goes back to the point I made earlier that as a result of the promotions that have been conducted, the market has expanded and this has added to the congestion problem at airports. Brisbane airport is one airport which has a severe deficiency in parking facilities. Certainly there are going to be some very unhappy motorists after this legislation goes through both Houses when they realise the impact of the new penalties.
The increase in utilisation of existing facilities ought to be the objective of this legislation and not the increase in revenue which will surely arise from the increased penalties. I cannot determine the Government’s objective, but I believe it relates to an increase in revenue. No information is available on the costs associated with provision of the services; and no information is available on the number of officers involved in policing the parking areas at airports and in removing vehicles under the provisions of the existing Act. The only estimate on revenue for the current year is related to the 3 activities of airport rentals and parking station concessions and totals $2 1.3m. This revenue is part of the whole subject of the aviation industry cost recovery program. I have made this point before and I will continue to make it: While we have secret inquiries and reports about the aviation industry or any aspect of transport, which are not tabled in the Parliament, there cannot be properly informed discussion in the community on the pros and cons of what ought to be done. The McNeil Committee has been looking at publicly owned transport enterprises; the Administrative Review Committee and the Aviation Industry Review Committee all have had something to say about and have some interest in the aviation cost recovery program. I put to the Minister that the tabling of such reports in the Parliament is long overdue so that the information can be examined by everybody and not just be privy to those people who are concerned in the industry.
Ansett Airlines of Australia, Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd are the 3 bodies which constitute the Aviation Industry Review Committee, yet no information is available to the public on which the Committee bases its recommendations to the Government. The Parliament is entitled to adequate information on the Department ‘s activities and it is entitled to adequate information on aviation cost recovery.
The concept of multiple offences which is brought into being in this legislation is something which to my knowledge does not occur in any other State. In this particular case, where the permitted period is half an hour and a motorist leaves his vehicle longer than the permitted period, a situation could develop where somebody who stays for 2Vi hours in a half hour zone could then be charged with 4 separate offences. Little publicity and little explanation have been given to that. In fact no explanation has been given by the Minister other than to say that there will be increased efficiency in the Department’s administration. That is not good enough. The motorist needs to know what is happening.
The staying period at parking meters at airports, particularly at Sydney airport, is IS minutes compared with the usual staying period of half an hour for motor vehicles which are parked at meters in the city. Honourable members can appreciate that it will be very easy for motorists to think that the parking meters at airports allow them to park for one hour or half an hour. This will happen in many cases if the motorists do not read the fine print on the front of the meter. What should be taking place along with the aviation industry review inquiry should be an investigation of the adequacy of parking spaces at airports as well as an investigation of the alternative means of transporting people to and from airports. I separate those people who are actually air travellers and those who are visitors to airports. The last year has seen a decline in the utilisation of domestic airlines and the concept of air traffic has, as I have said, come to embody both car usage and air travel. This legislation provides another barrier in the way of increased utilisation of domestic airlines.
I want to deal now with the dictatorial and high handed confiscation and disposal provisions of this Bill. Sub-section 9 (3) of the Act already empowers the towing away of vehicles. This can be done where a parking infringement is being committed and either the driver cannot be contacted after taking reasonable steps, or if he can be contacted, he refuses to move the vehicle. Sub-clause 6 (b) of the Bill proposes to add seven new sub-sections to section 9 of the Act providing a procedure for disposing of vehicles which have been towed away. The procedure involves notifying the owner that the vehicle has been towed away and that it may be sold if it is not reclaimed and the cost of its removal and storage paid. It provides for the inviting of tenders for purchase and the selling or disposal of the vehicle. The inviting of tenders is not an invariable part of the procedure. Proposed paragraph (6) (d) permits the disposal of the vehicle as the Secretary thinks fit if, in his opinion, it has no commercial value, I emphasise the words ‘if, in his opinion’.
Proposed sub-section 9 (7) will authorise the Secretary to dispose of a vehicle as he thinks fit where no tender is received. Under proposed sub-section 9(8) the person who acquires a towed away vehicle as a result of the proposed statutory procedure is given a clear title to it. Any rights of financiers against the vehicle will be extinguished. What of the rights of the owner of the vehicle? It could well be that the owner still has a residue on the vehicle. I could see a situation where the owner is paying for a vehicle that has been disposed of by the Department and he is precluded from having any rights in respect of the vehicle. That owner could be paying off to a finance company an amount of money for something he has not got. Clause 7 of the Bill proposes to insert a section 9a in the Act giving immunity from action for loss or damage arising during or after the towing away of a vehicle.
Neither of these provisions under sections 6 and 7 makes an exception in the case of vehicles stolen or used other than under the control of owners. While section 8 provides that these circumstances provide a defence against fines being levied on the owners, the Bill as drafted makes it possible for a vehicle to be stolen, or used in an unauthorised way, parked illegally in an airport and then be, firstly, damaged or lost by an officer of the Department when removing it, without a right to sue for remedies or damage or loss and, secondly, disposed of at a price suitable to the Department which may involve substantial loss on the market value of the vehicle. There are no procedures for an independent valuation of the vehicle in any circumstances. The Secretary’s right of discretion in this matter could well give rise to suggestions that a racket in the disposal of vehicles at some later stage could develop.
In short, the provisions of the Bill are dictatorial and heavy handed. The penalties are onerous. The Minister has not in any reasonable way justified to the Parliament support for these measures. In his second reading speech the Minister denied to the Parliament essential and relevant information. We have no indication of the Government’s policy in respect of catering for motorists at airports. One would expect that in this area the Government would be trying to make things easier for people utilising airports rather than using airports as a source of raising revenue. Under these circumstances the Opposition is opposed to the legislation.
-In rising to support the Bill I would like to go over one or two matters that were raised by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). I must say that I thought that the honourable member presented some very good points and some very good arguments. The honourable member raised the question of what happens to vehicles which are taken away following a parking infringement. He said that the owner does not have any rights. But I think that the normal law would apply in this case. If, for instance, there is a residue on a vehicle that has been towed away the party who holds the residue would have a right of action against the party who has failed to pay in the normal way. Mention was made of the increase in fines. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) said in his second reading speech that this Bill was designed to update amendments to the Act that was passed m 1960. 1 am sure that even the honourable member for Shortland would agree that the size of fines in all spheres of the law has increased considerably since 1960. One is likely to receive a substantial fine even if one happens to park one ‘s car over the time limit in a local council area. Such a fine might be for parking for only one hour, let alone for leaving one’s car parked for several days.
I would like to bring before the Minister for consideration the problems faced by country industries, or decentralised industries- whatever term one likes to use- in respect of their management and staff who use air transport facilities and who are forced to park their cars after driving a considerable distance to airports. For a start they suffer the penalty of having to travel some distance to reach an airport. We all know about the telephone costs that have to be borne by country people. They have an added cost in this respect because they are charged high rates to park their vehicles at airports. I suggest that perhaps the Government at some later date might consider making some small allowance to people from genuine industries in country areas who are forced to use the airways as part of their business. I make that suggestion just by way of a comment. I am sure that the Minister will look at my suggestion in due course.
The honourable member for Shortland raised the point of utilisation of transport in parking areas. It is quite obvious to those of us who are forced to park our cars at airports that many people use airport parking bays for their own private reasons. They find that they can park for quite a reasonable charge. Quite often bars at Commonwealth airports are well frequented. Restaurants also may be well frequented. However, the people who patronise these places are taking up valuable parking bays and the people who really need the parking bays have in many cases to park well away from the airport.
One could discuss many things in respect of this legislation. Quite obviously we could say that we should not increase any charges. But surely this Bill is warranted in view of the inflation that was caused over the last 3 years by the Government supported by the honourable member for Shortland and also the natural increase in inflation that has occurred over the last 16 years. Members on this side of the House realistically appraise the fact that this Bill is warranted and we support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 1 October, on motion by Mr Newman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-If we believed that the Fraser Government had a genuine commitment to the protection of the environment the Labor Party would applaud the amendment proposed by this Bill. The amendment to the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974 contained in this Bill while simple could in the hands of a committed government ensure the protection of many of our endangered species and our threatened wilderness areas and provide much needed recreational and national parks. While the Government amends this Act in what could be a meaningful way it has, by its actions in the related areas that measure a government’s commitment to the environment, shown a lack of awareness. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) went to great pains in his second reading speech to demonstrate his Government’s commitment to the environment. I dispute this.
The Australian environment is under attack. It is under attack because of this Government’s desire for uncontrolled growth- growth in migration, growth in mining, growth in woodchip and wood pulping, and growth in the lack of awareness of people who little understand the delicate nature and fabric of our environment. The installation of the Fraser Government last November meant a return to growth for growth’s sake and the bulldozer mentality which highlighted the 23 years of the previous conservative governments. It meant a return to the philosophy which led the Hope Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate in its report to the Whitlam Labor Government to say:
The Australian Government has inherited a National Estate which has been downgraded, disregarded and neglected. All previous priorities accepted at various levels of government and authority have been directed by a concept that uncontrolled development, economic growth, and ‘progress’, and the encouragement of private as against pub- he interest in land use, use of waters, and indeed in every part of the National Estate was paramount.
This report confirmed that the Whitlam Labor Government was the first government to make a genuine commitment to the charting of the National Estate and conserving our environment for the Australians of the future. We acted on these recommendations. We were not a government with a bulldozer mentality. Our 1972 election policy proved this, as did our actions in government. We had a mandate to protect the environment. We set out to do that. We established the Hope Committee. We enacted complementary and supplementary pieces of legislation and we appropriated funds all to protect the environment.
The highlight of our environmental legislation was the Australian Heritage Commission Act. This Act embodied the major recommendations of the Hope Committee report. It supplemented the working of other Acts of the Labor Government including the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Great Barrier
Reef Marine Park Act and the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act. All of these Acts complemented the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act which set out the broad framework into which many of the Labor Government’s programs fitted. All of these legislative commitments were supported by action- action in appropriating funds for projects worthy of our environmental goals.
Unlike this Government we gave a high priority to the matters that affect the environment. Despite the claims of this Government to the contrary, nobody believes that it is genuinely committed to the protection of the environment. This Government asked us all to believe that it is giving the environment a high priority because it has made appointments to the Australian Heritage Commission, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Government may have made appointments, but concerned Australians are not comforted by this. They know that those bodies can function only in an administrative sense. They know that the Government has provided no funds or taken no action to allow these bodies to function properly. The people know that no new projects are being funded under the National Estate program. They know that only projects commenced under Labor and not completed are being funded. The people now know that no action has been taken to proclaim Kakadu and Gudgenby as national parks. The people know that no action has been taken to protect the marine environment. The people know that this Government is not committed to the protection of the environment. The Government has taken no action to introduce the Environment Protection (Marine) Bill drawn up by the Labor Government. This should be done as a matter of urgency.
The Australian Government controls all seas and submerged lands surrounding Australia. It has a duty to protect them from pollution and exploitation, yet it refuses to take positive action. This is just one more example of its lack of environmental commitment. It is further seen in the Government’s stated intention to give the States the administration of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) legislation, its lack of commitment to the built environment, its refusal to fund nature conservation organisations on a non-matching grants basis if funded at all and its abolition of the public environment awareness program. The Government’s lack of commitment to the environment protection legislation has been highlighted in several ways. The first was the unilateral announcement by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) of the approval for Concorde flights to and from Australia. Not only was this decision a clear breach of the legislation, but also it shows a complete disregard that powerful elements of the current Government have for environmental considerations.
The same elements in the Government have been trying to exempt all the mining and woodchip proposals from the operation of the legislation. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is continuing his efforts to have woodchip proposals exempted from the operations of the environment protection legislation. The Harris-Daishowa company’s exemption for extension of their export licence and operations at Eden is just one example. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) ignored the requirements of this legislation when he decided to proceed with an enlarged immigration program for this financial year. Another and more important example is the statement of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development immediately after the Fox report became public that the green light had been given for uranium mining to take place in this country. As the Minister responsible he should have been more concerned. The Minister based his statement on only the first 2 recommendations of the report- he ignored the other 14 recommendations. His colleague, the Minister for Transport, in his capacity as Acting Minister for National Resources, did exactly the same thing only last Thursday when he stated that uranium mining could now proceed. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his weekly broadcast on Sunday 7 November said:
As to the uranium question, there has already been many opportunities for all interested groups within the community to put their views . . .
But the best measure of the Government’s commitment is the future of the environment protection legislation. The Minister has stated in this House that the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) legislation is under review. He said that this Government feels that legislation of this nature is more properly a role for State governments. It is not considered an appropriate role for a Federal government. In saying this, the Government is ignoring the fact that no State government in Australia has adequate legislation designed to protect the environment. Honourable members opposite ignore the fact that the
State governments, unlike the Federal Government, have a basic conflict in regard to the protection of the environment. Of course, I am referring here to the conflict which the States, particularly the less populous States, have in regard to development and the protection of the environment.
The position becomes obvious that this conflict is of the utmost importance when we look at the situation in Queensland and Western Australia. In Queensland there are only 6 people employed in the Co-ordinator General’s Department with the responsibility under the State administrative arrangements to look at environmental questions arising from the development proposal. These people never get the chance to comment upon mining proposals because the Queensland Government feels that the environmental issues concerned can be looked after properly in Mining Warden’s Courts. Officials of this court are not qualified to consider environmental matters. The situation is no different in Western Australia. In reality, none of the States are much better. The expertise of multi-disciplinary teams available to the Federal Government puts it in a much better situation than the States to conduct an impartial inquiry into the protection of the environment. I do not want to be elitist about this issue. I am just dealing with the facts of the issue which are that the Federal Government is better equipped and will look at the position in a much more impartial way. In addition, the Australian Government does not face the basic conflict that the’ State governments face on the issues of development as opposed to the protection of the environment. The Federal Government can take a more unbiased view than the States on this matter.
These are national questions. All Australians are affected by the decisions of this nature made in any of the Australian States. That the national government controls mineral export licensing through trade powers under the Constitution gives recognition of this pre-eminent national interest. Nobody should deny that. Honourable members opposite should not wash their hands of that responsibility. This function cannot be transferred. The Australian Government is the only government that can constitutionally prohibit exports. Apart from projects funded by federal funds or needing Federal Government approval, environmental impact statements can be sought only when application is made to obtain a licence to export prohibited products. Are we going to give this power to the States? Are we going to wash our hands of our responsibility? We should ask ourselves: Are we going to give responsibility to men like Joh Belke-Petersen the Premier of Queensland or Charlie Court, the Premier of Western Australia? These are enormous powers. These men have no real feeling for environmental questions. They are of the same political background and same political colour as these men who sit opposite.
A further illustration of this Government’s lack of commitment to the protection of the environment concerns the nature of their grants to conservation organisations. In the past these grants have been non-repayable and nonmatching. They were used for research and technical, administrative and information functions provided by various environmental action groups of this country. The Labor Government provided these grants in recognition of and support for the valuable work being done by the community action groups in defence of our environment. The Labor Government believed that the protection and improvement of the environment were issues which directly affected everyday life. We thought it appropriate and encouraging that so many voluntary groups were active. This action was considered appropriate by Labor because the Australian Government is prevented from acting on many aspects of the environment by constitutional limitations and by the reluctance and in some cases the refusal of our State counterparts to co-operate with us in these matters. I have mentioned 2 States in particularWestern Australia and Queenslandwhich have been very guilty in this regard. By making grants of this nature, the Labor Government sought to establish a permanent and growing network of action and information groups capable of influencing governmental and commercial impacts on the environment. We considered community participation in environmental decisions as essential. Broad based community participation in the fundamental decisions that affect all Australians is the basis of the Labor Party’s philosophy.
However, this Government has seen fit to abolish payments for research and technical assistance altogether and to provide funds only for conservation organisations on a matching basis- $2 from the Australian Government for every $1 raised by the conservation organisations. The Government claims that it has done this after consideration of advice received from the Australian Heritage Commission. It may have considered the advice but it did not accept the Heritage Commission’s recommendations. In fact, the Government’s proposals on this matter are the complete opposite to the Heritage Commission ‘s recommendations. In total, the
Government has made available $391,500 to the various groups. This might appear generous but, in fact, it is less than the $450,000 appropriated last year. We have to bear in mind that we are dealing with at least a 12 per cent increase in costs this year due to inflation. Therefore, the organisations are in a much worse position than those figures reveal.
We regarded our grants as essential for public awareness and for gathering information and helping local groups to present informed opinions. These grants were intended to encourage community group action and not to control these conservation groups. We regarded the grants as pioneering grants or seed money given to help the growth of community concern and activity for the protection of our environment. We would not have introduced matching grants for many years to come. Even then, some would have been matching grants and some would have been given free of strings to certain conservation groups. In many cases, we would not have introduced matching grants. We would never have forced environmental centres to close as this Government will force the environmental centres of certain areas to close. We must realise that matching grants favour the establishment. This Government is a great one for supporting establishments. The development of new groups will be limited by the matching grants approach. In effect, this provision prevents the emergence and development of new community movements.
On the one hand, this Government gives extremely generous taxation concessions to the mining companies, concessions never paralleled in the history of this nation. On the other hand they are freezing the opposition, the only people who can put the people’s point of view and who make the real effort in regard to the exploitation undertaken by these mining companies. That is the action of this Government. It is a case of supporting the very wealthy but keeping help away from those people who we should really involve and encourage. The Government is not encouraging people’s participation in this delicate area of our people ‘s environment. This is our environment. It is nobody else’s. An area of particular concern to me is the lack of this Government’s commitment to the protection and enhancement of the built environment. We have seen this Government break down the programs introduced by the Labor Government which were intended to improve the quality of life and enhance the environment in our urban centres. The 2 most obvious examples are the Government ‘s virtual destruction of the Area
Improvement Program and the decimation of the national sewerage program.
– What has that got to do with it?
-The Minister asks what the national sewerage program has to do with the matter. I wish that the Minister’s officials in the corner would give him a little education on environmental questions. Of course the national sewerage program is important in this environmental question. I have said a lot in this Parliament in recent times about the Area Improvement Program and assistance to local government.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. I am beginning to feel sorry for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Is the Minister raising a point of order?
– My point of order is that I thought we were addressing this debate to the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Amendment Bill and I ask what in Heaven’s name a sewerage program has to do with this debate.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. This is a free ranging debate. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will probably come to his point and explain the connection.
– Might I give a lesson on environmental matters to the young Minister who has been in the Parliament 5 minutes yet seems to know everything? The fact is that the first principle in environmental matters is that everything is connected to everything else. Everything has to go somewhere. If the Minister does not understand the problem of the sewerage which has polluted our creeks, our rivers, our bays and our oceans it is about time that he started to get some education and understanding of the situation from the bureaucrats who sit behind him.
Honourable members should all be aware that liquid wastes, both human and industrial, are the major pollutants of our waterways, harbours and oceans. The Labor Government recognised this and took firm action to overcome this problem under the national sewerage program and associated works. We did not want to see Port Phillip Bay, the Georges River and the Parramatta River in Sydney and the Yarra River become turbid morasses, nor did we want to see our beaches become the final receptacle for tons of untreated human effluent. During our 3 years in office we made available to the States $259m through grants and loans to help overcome these problems. Of this amount 30 per cent was made available by way of non-repayable grants. Last financial year alone we made available $1 13m under this program. This Government has cut this amount back this year to $50m. If we look at the whole question of inflation again we see that that amount of $1 13m would have been $ 130m this year in money terms yet the Government has cut back this allocation to $S0m. As I said earlier, this whole matter is interconnected.
We had a broad view of the environment. We knew that to protect the environment, related and complementary programs were needed. All our urban and regional development programs complemented our environmental programs. The land commission program is an excellent example of this. While the object of that program was to provide residential land for young people at a price they could afford, it had other important elements. It could be used to ease the strain on existing infrastructure services and to improve the urban environment, both built and natural. The Labor Government, in co-operation with the State governments, used funds from this program to purchase open space in developing areas. Large areas of the Mornington Peninsula were acquired by this process. It was our intention to use this program to set aside large areas of the Dandenongs in Victoria and the Blue Mountains escarpment in New South Wales for the recreational and environmental purposes of our urban dwellers. Labor’s initiatives have been destroyed by this Government. Everyone should demand to know what this Government’s intentions are. Working in co-operation with the State governments, does it intend to protect the Dandenongs and the Blue Mountains escarpment from encroachment by developers? Does it intend to let our waterways die? Does it intend to degrade our living standards?
The duplicity of this Government’s conduct of a public relations exercise, emphasising its commitment to the environment is further shown by this Bill. The nature of the amendment to the Bill is such that if a government were genuine in its intentions it could do a great deal. From a technical point of view, the amendments which allow the Australian Government’s role in nature conservation to extend from mere land acquisition assistance to the States to co-operation in management activities should be supported. As the Minister said, the acquisition of the land in itself is only a step towards creating secure areas where flora and fauna can be protected and preserved. It is equally important that the management of the areas set aside for this protection and preservation should be supported by federal legislation. If this Government had a genuine commitment to the environment, this amendment would be commendable. But the Government, by introducing this amendment, is paying only lip service to the protection of the environment.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, said that his Government and the Victorian Government were co-operating in a program of acquiring land at Yellingbo on the eastern side of the Dandenongs to secure the habitat of the helmeted honey eater, one of the emblems of Victoria. I point out that this program was commenced under the Labor Government. This Government cannot claim the credit for protecting this endangered species. While I am pleased to see that this Government is prepared to continue our initiative on this project, the people of Australia will continue to question the Government’s commitment to the leadbeater’s possum, another Victorian State emblem and another endangered species threatened by the encroachment of developers. This species of possum, the only marsupial indigenous to Victoria, is now restricted to the Montane Ash forests in the East Gippsland district. Their continued survival is threatened directly by habitat destruction brought about by the Gippsland Paper Pulp Company’s concessions in the central highlands. If the Australian Government and the Victorian Government want to protect this animal and retain the unique Montane Ash habitat, both governments must take immediate action to preserve large tracts in national parks and other reserves which exclude the integrated forestry industry and its clear cutting and short rotation management practices. To survive, the lead.beater’s possum needs a minimum of 7000 hectares of Montane Ash forest. They need trees at least 100 years old- trees that have hollowed with time. The proposals to clear fell Montane Ash forests on a 60 year rotation basis will lead to the extinction of this possum. This Bill gives the Government the power in co-operation with the Victorian Government to take positive steps to protect this habitat. The Government should show its commitment by opening discussions immediately with the Victorian Government to ensure that a national park is declared which will guarantee the survival of the leadbeater’s possum.
Last week the Prime Minister, (Mr Malcolm Fraser) released a series of endangered species leaflets. I question the Government’s intentions. We should ask what positive action this Government has taken to protect those species. I ask the Minister now: What action has his Government taken? If the Government were genuine in its desire to protect these species, it would have commenced discussions already with the State governments concerned. I doubt whether it has done so. It was drawn to my attention recently that one of the last natural habitats of the ground parrot, one of these endangered species, in the Cooloola National Park in Queensland had been severely damaged. This occurred through the action of the Queensland Government in allowing its Forestry Department to burn off most of the park area.
This Government, by the amendment proposed in this Bill, now has the power to set up co-operative management proposals for State national parks. It should do this immediately in an effort to stop ignorant and heartless decisions being taken by government authorities and profit seekers throughout Australia. The latter are particularly inherent in those 2 conservative States of Queensland and Western Australia. I ask the Minister to open up discussion on this matter and institute educational programs to try to do something not only in those 2 States I have just mentioned but in other States as well. When the Government shows it is prepared to take real action to protect the environment and when it shows a genuine concern, it may be possible to reach a bipartisan approach. When it shows that it is prepared to implement the recommendations of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate, it will get support from this House.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) is well able to defend himself. But, as I have the call, I believe I should express my strong resentment at some of the statements that were made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). To castigate the Minister, as he has done in relation to sewerage programs, is most unfair. I have discussed the sewerage program with the Minister. There is no denying that the amount allocated in this area has dropped from $ 130m last financial year to about $S0m this financial year. But the Labor Government, of course, always spent money that it did not have- and plenty of it.
The Government recognises that there are many areas of need. Indeed, the Government has had to show restraint in an endeavour to restore economic stability to Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about taxation concessions to the mining companies. I can assure him that the taxation concessions that are permitted are allowed for a specific purpose, that is, to provide more employment in this nation. If the Opposition likes to tell the nation that it is not interested in reducing the rate of unemployment, I am sure that it will sink even further than the depths to which it sank in December 1975.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also spoke in a derogatory way about the Queensland Government. Let me come to the defence of the Queensland Government in relation to the establishment of national parks and wildlife reserves. I have no doubt that the honourable member is well intentioned. He indulged in spending moneys that he did not have, and that the Government of the day, of which he was a Minister, did not have. He came forward, as did the former Government, with a multitude of grandiose schemes that were pursued with great vigour to the economic detriment of this nation. I think that he has missed the point because the Minister, in his second reading speech, made specific mention of the fact that it was an overriding objective of the Government this year to return economic stability to this nation. There lies the Government’s strategy in restraint in spending in this area.
This Bill amends the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974 and should be welcomed by all State governments. In particular it should be welcomed by Ministers, responsible for the acquisition of land for national parks, from the point of view of their responsibility for the control and management of these national parks under their national parks and wildlife services. The principal amendment is contained in clause 2 (b) of the Bill. In essence it provides that, in addition to land acquisition, the Commonwealth can agree with a State on programs of management and the provision of facilities in parks and reserves in connection with nature conservation. This is a major breakthrough for the States in the area of nature conservation. It gives them the flexibility that we so often hear them claim that they require. If a State decides that it has adequate tracts of land set aside for nature conservation purposes, it can select its priority by saying to the Commonwealth that it wishes to apportion its share of the Commonwealth funds to the management and control of those parks. It is one thing to acquire the land; it is another to be able to provide adequate rangers and supervision to ensure that those parks are not lost to vandals and to people who would plunder the flora and fauna therein.
It was interesting to note in the Second Report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation into
Trafficking of Fauna in Australia which was recently completed and tabled in this House by myself that the view was expressed on numerous occasions by senior officers of the national parks and wildlife services in the States that, whilst this acquisition was essential, they were having difficulty in providing adequate funds for management and control. Of course, these recurring costs are not inconsiderable and are rising each year. In the case of, I think, South Australia large tracts of land had been set aside for national park purposes. The officers in that State were concerned for the safety and the running of these parks in relation, in particular, to bush fires and the fact that there were unscrupulous people who were prepared to go into those parks, destroy them and plunder the flora and fauna.
This Bill gives the State governments the right to be able to set their priorities. If one looks at the State government budgets one sees that Ministers go before their own Cabinets and find, when it comes to consideration of the amount they have submitted in the preliminary stage, that invariably the amount is reduced. So it will be of great benefit to the States to be able to exercise the flexibility that the amendment to this Act provides. I want to make it clear to the House that although this Act came into force in December 1974 the States of course had been pursuing active programs of acquisition of land and establishment of national parks. I do not want anyone to gain the impression that it was the Commonwealth which initiated these programs. In other words, the States have done a commendable job in this area.
I want to offer praise also to the dedication of the officers of the national parks and wildlife services that I have met in the various States as a result of my association first as a member and then as Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. This Act was enacted in 1974 following the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation which reported in October 1972. Incidentally, that Committee was set up under a LiberalCountry Party Government. I think that some priase ought to be given to the previous LiberalCountry Party Government for its foresight in setting up that Committee on Wildlife Conservation which was established in May 1970 and reported 2Vi years later.
The recommendations in its report contained a suggestion that a national policy should be established to acquire land for national parks and reserves to preserve flora and fauna in their natural state. It was also recommended that assistance be given to the States by way of section 96 grants to enable the States to acquire areas of land. An amount of $3.3m has been provided in this year’s Budget for this purpose. The Minister made particular reference to an amount of $75,000 to be made available to the Tasmanian Government to establish a south-west national park. I want to make it quite clear that this Government is committed to a program of protection of our environment. I want to refute some of the misleading statements that were made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In my opinion, his criticisms were in large part unwarranted. This Government is genuine in its approach towards the protection of our natural environment and towards the uplifting of our built or social environment.
The Government has matched its words with actions and the appropriation of moneys in a time of national restraint. It recognises the needs for, and the Minister has stated and restated that the Government will uphold the principles of, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. The Australian Heritage Commission, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service have been provided with moneys by this Government and appointments have been made to these bodies. These bodies enjoy an important place in the operation of this Government and, more particularly, in the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Community Development.
I assure the Minister that I for one am most appreciative of the service and the attention he has given to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. Through him, I also offer my appreciation to his staff who have been most attentive and helpful to the needs of the Committee. I feel I should inform the House of the pursuance of a vigorous program by the Committee to which I have just referred. There are 2 sub-committee inquiries currently being conducted- one into off-road vehicles and another into the Avers Rock and Mount Olga areas. There is also a full Committee inquiry dealing with the urban environment.
I want to dispel the thoughts of the pessimists, particularly those on the Opposition benches, and to assure Australians that this Government is deeply committed to the preservation of the environment and the conservation of Australia’s flora and fauna. In particular, I commend to the House and the nation the leaflets that have just been produced by the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development.
These leaflets, which are on Australian endangered species, have been produced by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. They are the first of a series. They are colourful, informative and educational. I hope that the production of these leaflets continues. They should be placed in libraries and schools right throughout this nation. I hope that they will be reproduced eventually in a booklet form. The Department is to be highly commended for the production of that series of leaflets.
I turn to the report on trafficking in fauna in Australia to which I referred earlier in my speech. I refer the House in particular to recommendations (x) to (xiv) inclusive. Recommendations (x) to (xiii) deal with habitat preservation and research. Recommendation (x) deals with the habitat of rare and endangered fauna and with requiring environmental impact statements on proposed Commonwealth Government financed or controlled development. Recommendation (xi) deals with the Commonwealth taking account- this is what this piece of legislation is all about- of the financial capacity of the States to promote a program of land purchases and other measures for fauna conservation. The words ‘and other measures for fauna conservation’ are what the principal amendments to this Act are all about.
The next recommendation in this report deals with the promotion of a large scale, intensive education program to encourage land holders to establish or retain wilderness areas on their properties. Many of the larger graziers, farmers and land holders in this country are now observing the very thing that is outlined in this recommendation of this report. Recommendation (xiii) deals with the biological resources survey which is involved in the obtaining of data. So little is known of some of the natural species in this country. We have paid so little attention to this matter over the years that it is often difficult to ascertain whether a particular species is rare and endangered or common. Therefore extra assistance and encouragement has to be given to the biological resources survey to ensure that we do know what populations are available in this country.
Finally, I refer to the recommendation under the heading ‘Wildlife Services’ that the Commonwealth Government should take account of the financial capacity of the States to expand their wildlife services. This, of course, is being attended to in this legislation. The 2 bodies concerned insofar as this report on trafficking in fauna in Australia is concerned- the Department of Environment, Housing and Community
Development and the Bureau of Customs- have shown a deep interest in the report and I am hopeful of some of the recommendations therein being implemented in the near future.
Finally, I refer to the various areas of land contained in this continent. I believe that it would be an interesting survey if we were to go into those areas that have been completely cleared for farming and grazing purposes and to compare them with the areas that have been despoiled through mining operations. I venture to say that if we were able to count up the countless thousands of hectares that have been cleared for farming- that is, the complete destruction of the natural environment- and to add to that the countless thousands of hectares of partly cleared land that is used for grazing purposes and were to compare that land with the area that has been despoiled by the mining companies we would all be in for a shock. It is true that there are certain areas that were mined in the past and left in an appalling state, but the fact of the matter is that, with the stringent conditions that are placed today on, comparatively speaking, a very minute area of the surface of this continent insofar as the operations of the mining companies are concerned, we are finding in most instances that the rehabilitation and the restoration of the areas mined is of a particularly high standard. The mining companies are required to contour the land, to plant a surface crop- a covering cropand then to go in and plant native trees that are found in the area.
I had the experience recently of visiting the Utah company’s operations in central Queensland. There is no doubt that a tremendous amount of money is being spent and that a conscious effort is being made on the part of the company to ensure that the land that it leaves after the open cut mining is completed is left in a first class condition. So I will be extremely interrested in finding out whether those figures are available. Farm land is virtually lost forever to our flora and fauna. When one looks at the lack of criticism so far as the farmers and graziers are concerned and compare it with the mass of criticism that flows to the miners one must surely question the motives of some of the environmentalists and conservationists.
-This Bill is concerned with the provision of funds to assist in the establishment of national parks as well as the conducting of research into the preservation and conservation of our flora and fauna. I would like to take the opportunity of saying a few words in defence of a much maligned member of the Australian fauna, namely, the Australian dingo. For many years the dingo has been the victim of a whole range of myths about its way of life, its killing habits, how it travels, how ferocious it is, and how many hundreds of head of cattle and sheep it is supposed to have destroyed. It is supposed to have imposed a huge cost upon the pastoral industry. Fortunately in recent years these myths have tended to be broken down. In more recent years some very sound research has been done which, while it is still in its infancy, has tended to result in a less emotional and more rational attitude being taken towards the dingo. It was very good to see a very fine example set recently by the newly-elected Premier of New South Wales when he suspended the dropping of 1080 baits in the Kanangra Valley on the basis that not sufficient was known about the habits of the dingo to justify having this sort of control measure. I shall certainly produce other information later which supports this contention.
I was fortunate recently to visit east Africa, where I enjoyed looking at the magnificent animal parks and seeing thousands of animals just grazing around in their natural habitat quite oblivious to onlookers. People drive around in their cars looking at these animals and as long as the people stay in their cars the animals do not take any notice of them. I hope that we will get to the stage in Australia- particularly in Canberra, where we are about to set aside an area for the Gudgenby National Park- where we will be able to drive into certain areas and see such beautiful animals as the Australian dingo in their natural habitat in company with the other animals with which they would normally be in company. It is a magnificent sight and something that one really cannot appreciate until one has actually experienced it. So I support in general those people who are working towards a less emotive and more rational attitude being adopted towards the Australian dingo.
One of the great problems with the dingo is differentiating between the pure dingo and the cross-bred dingo. Here again there are a lot of myths abroad. Recent research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has shown that in the Gippsland area, for instance, only 20 per cent of the dingoes are not pure. In fact research into a sample of all bush dogs has shown that 75 per cent are domestic dogs gone wild so it is not correct to say that stock-killing dogs are cross-bred dingoes. A lot of them are pure domestic dogs which have gone wild. In Canberra it is quite amusing sometimes to see the great expense to which the Government is put following reports of dingoes killing stock in the Gudgenby area. Trappers and rangers are sent to that area and all sorts of resources are used to try to catch one dingo which is reported to have killed four of five sheep. There is no proof that the animal has killed the sheep, only supposition. At the same time we find here in Canberra that a domestic dog will get into sombody’s paddock out near the abattoir and kill 50 to 100 sheep, yet the emotive effect is not the same. People go out and try to shoot the dog but it is an emotive approach, not a rational approach, to the problem.
The dingo has bestowed great benefits on the Australian pastoral industry. It was used extensively in the development of the blue heeler which has been of tremendous benefit to the cattle industry. The ability of the blue heeler to nip the heels of a beast, to lay its head flat on the ground and miss its kicks has been inherited from the dingo. The blue heeler’s great endurance and strong jaws also have been inherited from the Australian dingo. That is why I say that the dingo has made a great contribution to the Australian pastoral industry.
There is little evidence of large-scale killing of stock by dingoes. Recent research was done in Armidale by a scientist named Robert Harden. He examined 800 samples of excreta from dingoes and found no evidence of stock remains. The CSIRO had similar results when it examined samples. Mr Harden said he found no evidence of domestic stock in any of these specimens. The examination showed that 60 per cent of the diet of the dingoes he investigated was wallaby, 15 per cent was possum and glider and the remainder was made up of other native mammals. The CSIRO found only a small proportion of domestic animals in an examination of the guts of 1000 dingoes. There is no hard evidence to support claims that dingoes kill a lot of stock in Australia.
Another myth destroyed by research is that dingoes travel large distances. The justification for bait dropping in the Kanangra-Boyd Park of New South Wales was that dingoes went from that area to Oberon and Bathurst and attacked stock. Research has shown that they do not travel large distances. Radio transmitters were put on them and monitored and it was found that they generally stayed in an area of 2000 to 3000 hectares. This makes nonsense of dropping thousands of baits in this uninhabited country on the off-chance they will kill an odd dingo. They may kill the odd dingo but so what. We do not know how many dingoes are killed by 1080 baits, nor do we know how many birds and other animals are killed. Thousands of baits are littered indiscriminately in these national park areas.
I hope that with this sort of research a much more rational approach will be adopted to controlling dingoes or protecting them, or whatever the case may be. I think the dingo is a noble animal that should be protected. Dingoes should be controlled in certain cases when there is firm evidence that they kill stock in any quantity but I think that quite often the dingo is used as an excuse for mismanagement. If people cannot round up the number of stock that they think they have, if they find so many sheep are missing, they blame the dingo. It is very convenient to have something to blame but evidence is not available to prove that dingoes take stock. Even in the early days of Australia we heard of convicts being flogged because they let dingoes take lambs. There was no real evidence that they were taken by dingoes, foxes, native cats, domestic dogs or anything else.
It is good to see these mythical beliefs about the dingo being broken down gradually and a more rational approach being taken. I hope that the establishment of the national parks will see a continuation of that trend. I hope we get to the stage where these animals are not destroyed wholesale on a false premise and that we get the opportunity at some future time of being able to go into these parks and see dingoes in their natural habitat. I am sure people will come to appreciate the quality of the dingo as well as any disadvantages that may arise from their existance. I was in Mauritius recently and noted with interest that its national emblem is the dodo. One can buy cloth dodos, metal dodos or wooden dodos but cannot see a live dodo because they have been extinct for about 200 years. We often hear the expression ‘as dead as a dodo’. I hope we never get to the stage that instead of saying that democracy in Australia is as dead as a dodo we say that democracy in Australia is as dead as a dingo. I hope dingoes never become extinct.
-In October 1972 a select committee of the House of Representatives established by the LiberalNational Country Party Government of that time reported on the broad subject of wildlife conservation. It recommended that the Commonwealth Government initiate a national policy aimed at acquiring land in the form of national parks and reserves for the protection of habitat sites and that a program of grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution be instituted to enable the States to acquire areas of wildlife habitat that are of national importance. As the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) stated in his second reading speech, in 1974 the Parliament legislated to make it possible for the Commonwealth to provide financial assistance to the States for purposes connected with nature conservation. The relevant Act makes provision for the Minister to agree with an appropriate Minister of a State upon programs of land acquisition for nature conservation and for payments of financial assistance to be made to the States in accordance with the approved progams
The amending Bill which we are debating tonight, the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Bill, is designed to provide flexibility in programs for nature conservation developed with the States. It is part of this Government’s clear and stated overall policy of co-operation in State programs of management. This Bill deals specifically with conservation of Australian wildlife. Over the past decade, debate and concern about environmental and conservation matters have been widespread, particularly as they relate to our natural environment. This has been a most encouraging development and many creditable groups have acted in a responsible manner and have stirred public and government apathy. What concerns me, however, is that not all groups supposedly interested in promoting conservation and environmental issues do so with balance or honesty. In many instances some groups are quite irrational and, in fact, are doing the conservation cause immense harm.
It is a natural tendency at our stage of developmenta transition from pioneering in both the agricultural and industrial stages into rationalisation and stabilisation- that issues of conservation and protection of our environment become prominent. Over the next few months this Parliament will be making important decisions closely tied to environmental issues and the preservation of our national heritage. They are closely tied to our responsibility to future generations. The Parliament will be charged with protecting many areas of unique environmental significance. We will be charged with protecting as well the economic livelihood of people, with improving their standard of living while retaining the uniqueness and importance of our national heritage. The world is becoming increasingly doubtful of our materialistic culture. We indicate a desire to live a simpler preindustrialised, pre-scientific day. That cannot be done. Science has created problems but it also has the means, as has been shown in the past, of being able to solve those problems. We cannot abandon agriculture or industrialisation. Our responsibility to a starving world depends on our food supply.
Urban decay and an energy crisis will be solved by technology, not by returning to a simpler way of life. Industrialisation and modern agriculture have pushed the world’s population to 4000 million. These people can be supported only by further advances in scientific knowledge and practice. My constituency, the Mallee electorate in north-west Victoria, contains some of Australia’s most significant wetlands. They are significant as breeding grounds and as a natural resource. They are also significant in complementing the agriculture of these areas. As the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation clearly states: . . . waterfowl are declining in numbers as a result of the encroachment of agriculture and the resultant drainage of swamp land, the damming of rivers, flood mitigation programs and the trampling by stock and feral animals of nesting cover on the edge of lagoons. The flow of most rivers has been reduced by water conservation and flood mitigation schemes. Many of the most productive (in wildlife terms) swamps have been drained.
Many of these measures have been carried out in ignorance, but more usually they have been earned out for the world’s demand for productive and economic viability. The value of waterfowl, unfortunately, has rarely if ever been given consideration when water reclamation and conservation schemes have been implemented. In the inland areas many of the common game ducks have breeding seasons which are directly related to water level changes in swamps and billabongs. Although some breeding occurs each year, extensive breeding takes place only when lagoons and billabongs are replenished or when water spreads across the plains. The whole trend of water conservation on the inland river systems is to diminish or to prevent this flooding. This restricts waterfowl breeding. This Act is an instrument developed to maintain coastal refuges and to replenish adequate inland swamps and billabongs. This will go far towards ensuring the survival of all waterfowl.
Unfortunately, many wildlife conservationists regard protection as the main obligation to native fauna. They cannot accept the idea of conservation for hunting. Perhaps the most viable and effective groups in my area in relation to the conservation of our unique fauna and wildlife are our field and game naturalist groups. It is my view that waterfowl conservation is justified, both because of its value as a game species and as a natural resource. As the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) pointed out, the recent tabling of the report on the protection of our flora and fauna in Australia recognises that habitat destruction is by far the most important threat to our wildlife population. We have made some very drastic and important recommendations which, when initiated by this Government, will assist in protecting some of our unique and rare fauna species. I do not wish to delay the passage of this Bill much longer. There have been increased demands for significant areas of national park development over recent years. Some of these parks are most desirable and wanted. In other situations I believe some of the demands have been totally unjustified.
It is important for all our governments and groups, particularly conservation groups, to recognise that increased public lands require more than the simple proclamation of an Act. They need increased expenditure in many fields other than acquisition. They need increased expenditure in management and in controlling noxious weeds and vermin. I recently did a bit of research in regard to Victoria. It shows quite clearly that spending in relation to the control of such vermin and noxious weeds receives a very low priority. In fact, one man is employed within the service to look after some 3000 hectares of land, an impossible job and one which means that in our State and in most other States, because of its low priority, our public lands are becoming the prime means by which vermin and noxious weeds are being spread throughout the rest of the area in agriculture and through our national parks. As well, we must have increased expenditure on management and in controlling the various weeds and vermin which are one of the very real problems which we face when we increase our areas of public land.
I believe that this Bill will provide the flexibility for States to carry out more appropriate measures in this way. I feel that one reason for local and public opposition to many conservation proposals has been a past unwillingness by many governments to effectively manage public land with the same enthusiasm and effectiveness which they expect from private land owners. I support the amendments moved to the Bill. I believe the Bill will provide in the future the vehicle by which environmental protection and conservation of our natural resources can all be achieved in balance with our needs for productivity and for the nation’s economic welfare.
– in reply- In concluding the debate I begin by thanking at least 3 honourable members who have spoken for their contribution; that is the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), and the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry). In relation to the fourth honourable member who participated, I shall dwell for a few minutes on his contribution. I do not know what to do with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). I am becoming a little bit weary of the absurdities which he produces in the House. After listening to him tonight, I do not know whether to be indignant or whether to start pitying the poor man. I do not know whether to be amused or angry. We have a Bill which attempts to widen the interest of the Federal Government. It attempts to take us into areas where we can really help the States in conservation matters. Yet hardly once- perhaps in passing, to give the man credit- did he even recognise the attempt by this Government to be constructive in the matter of conservation. As usual, he slipped back to his romanticising on past deeds, of what he and his Government did. In doing that, of course, he indulged in and displayed all his favourite prejudices and pursued his favourite task of bashing State governments or, at least, State governments which do not belong to the same political party as he does.
We really cannot tolerate this sort of approach in this place. At least, I do not think we can. I believe that sometimes there is a case for bipartisan approach. I believe there is room for positive, constructive criticism. I think there is even room -maybe I am asking too much- for people to join together to encourage conservation in this country. I have to ask myself just how genuine is this man.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! Would the Minister mind taking his seat for a moment? I remind the Minister that any reflections on the motives of an honourable member of this House are unparliamentary. I mention this matter before we get to that stage. The Minister is getting very close to it. I draw his attention to that fact.
– I accept your warning, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I heed it, but you will understand, as I went through some of the things that were said tonight, that I became so excited, that I made the preliminary remarks in which I indulged myself. Firstly, one of the main criticisms made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concerned funds. The Government has made it perfectly clear that although it would like to be able to fund many projects this year, it sees itself bound by fiscal responsibilities. If it is to cure inflation, the Government is necessarily bound to restrict the growth of public expenditure. Enough has been said in this House on that matter, but it needed to be reiterated tonight.
In relation to this Bill, may I say in passing that this year the Government is spending $3.3m which is more than was ever spent by the Opposition when it was in government, even though it initiated the Bill. For example, in 1974-75 an amount of $9m was appropriated but nothing was spent. In 1975-76 an amount of $ 1.8m was appropriated and approximately $1.3m was spent. I think that those things have to be kept in mind when we hear the ranting and raving of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. So much for funds; but there are some other things on which I must correct him. First of all, on the provision of funds for the National Estate, let me reiterate that it is true that this year the Government has curbed expenditure on the National Estate but the Government has made it quite clear that this is only until the Heritage Commission draws together those elements of the National Estate, or at least is well advanced in that area, which will enable the Government to rationally decide those projects in the National Estate which we will fund in future years. Secondly, in dealing with the National Estate it is interesting to compare the record which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition so proudly extolled. At least this Government can take credit for making appointments to the Heritage Commission, and for making them quickly. The previous Government had made only one appointment by November 1975 although the Act had received royal assent in June 1975. That is not a particularly good record on which to come into this House and make comparisons.
Reference has been made to Kakadu, and I should make clear where the Government stands on the dedication of this park. We cannot do anything at the moment until we have the second report of the Fox Committee because part of the job of the Committee is to help the Government define the boundaries of that national park. However, I am quite prepared to say tonight that my colleague the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) and I are working towards declaring this as a national park at the appropriate time, and nobody should doubt our motives in this matter. As for the Gudgenby national park, my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) declared this park last week. For heaven’s sake, let the Deputy Leader of the Opposition get his facts straight before he comes in here making such wild, sweeping, inaccurate accusations.
There are many other things which were so badly put and so badly misrepresented by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps isolating a couple of those matters will suffice, although I repeat that he said other things which either misrepresents the situation or were inaccurate. I am under some constraint to finish so let me do so on this note: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about the leadbeater’s possum in Victoria and the ground parrot in Queensland. By introducing this Bill and by providing the ability for the Federal Government to assist the States in the management of their national parks, we will be able to help the States in the preservation of species such as those. Through the States requesting help from us the National Parks and Wildlife Service will be able to provide expertise and decent advice which will allow the States to formulate proper management policies which, in the end, will do more to preserve the sorts of species about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking than anything that the last Government tried to do under the existing Act. I could say much more but I conclude by saying that this Bill is a genuine attempt to broaden the scope of the Act in order to develop the interest of the Federal Government in helping all the States better prepare management plans for the conservation of their national parks, their fauna and their flora.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21 October, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr ELLICOTT (Wentworth AttorneyGeneral) May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would Like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering orders of the day Nos 5 to 8, the Federal Court of Australia Bill and the 10 associated Bills- the Judiciary Amendment Bill 1976, the Remuneration and Allowances Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976, the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1976, the Bankruptcy Amendment Bill 1976, the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1976, the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1976, the Federal Court of Australia (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1976, the Income Tax Assessment Amendment (Jurisdiction of Courts) Bill 1976, and the Patents Amendment and Trade Marks Amendment Bill 1976- as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the orders of the day at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 1 1 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– In leading for the Opposition in the cognate debate, I indicate that the Opposition, while not refusing a second reading to the Federal Court of Australia Bill, has an amendment which suggests that it would have been far better for that jurisdiction to be of a wider original base in accordance with that referred to in section 75 of the Constitution and of laws made by this Parliament. In respect of another measure, the Judiciary Amendment Bill, I indicate to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) that the Opposition proposes to move amendments to clause 3. Basically, they relate to the fact that there should be an appeal to the High Court as of right in matters involving interpretation of the Constitution. The other matter to which I wish to refer is the Remuneration and Allowances Amendment Bill relating to the fixing of judges salaries. That operated from 1 June last, and the Opposition approves that legislation. In addition to the Federal Court legislation, 8 ancillary pieces of legislation are listed on the business paper. I do not propose to go through them at this stage, except to say that the Opposition supports the legislation.
Dealing with the first matter, the Federal Court of Australia Bill, let me say that the case for a Federal Court has been argued for well over a decade. I am reminded that Sir Garfield Barwick when Attorney-General was authorised to proceed with such a Bill, and that AttorneyGeneral Bowen introduced a Bill which was not subsequently proceeded with. It will be recalled that the Labor Party’s Superior Court Bill met an unfortunate fate in the Senate. If one looks at that particular piece of legislation and compares it with this Federal Court legislation, it will be seen that the main difference lies in clause 19. Clause 19 of the Superior Court Bill spelled out the original jurisdiction in accordance with section 75 of the Constitution whereas the present Bill indicates that jurisdiction will be that provided by the Parliament. The ancillary pieces of legislation indicate that jurisdiction, and that has been explained to the House by the Attorney in the second reading speeches that he has made. We feel, as an Opposition, it would have been far preferable to give us a federal court that was dealing with all federal jurisdiction and not leave it in a situation which obviously had to develop at the time of federation that State courts would be exercising Federal jurisdiction. In our submission the State courts have done a splendid job but, nevertheless, we feel that they have as much work as any Federal jurisdiction may have and it could well be an over burden on the States to be left with increasing work in the Federal jurisdiction area. Secondly, we are of the opinion that it helps to make good law if it is in the uniformity of federal jurisdiction without the fragmentation that can develop when State jurisdictions are involved. Now we have grown up as a federation we say that the situation is not as it was when that jurisdiction was vested in the State courts. The Bill clearly indicates that there will be jurisdiction in a number of areas. I mention, for example, that the court itself will be in 2 divisions. There will be a general division and an industrial division. One would like the assurance of the Attorney, which he may care to give, that in the industrial division of the court all existing industrial judges will remain and will not be removed into any other sphere. I think the Bill allows it but we believe it would be unwise and unsatisfactory to have people who have that special quality of industrial judges moved to another jurisdiction.
The other question relates to the ancilliary legislation. One example is bankruptcy, which is to be a Federal jurisdiction in New South Wales and Victoria but is still to be exercised by State courts in other States. We feel that is a weakening of the position. We would have much preferred to see a Federal jurisdiction in those States. We note that there can be an appeal from the State bankruptcy /jurisdiction to the Federal Court where there is jurisdiction exercised. We note that there is some limitation on appeals from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. In other words they seem to be restricted as compared with the present situation. We also note the provisions relating to income tax assessment, trade marks and patents legislation. We know in particular in respect of the Patents Act that appeal lies to the Federal
Court as of right. Where a decision of the Commissioner is involved there can be an appeal to the High Court by special leave. In the concept of Federal legislation we believe that the Federal Court legislation is good legislation. We just say that it does not go far enough. It is legislation that we welcome and we believe that it can be built on to give this country an effective Federal legislation in Federal courts.
Another matter that is of perhaps more concern is the amendment to the Judiciary Act. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Constitution provides for an appellate jurisdiction of the High Court with such exceptions and subject to such regulations as the Parliament prescribes; that is under section 73 of the Constitution. The Attorney proposes to amend to the Judiciary Act in the sense that the Parliament itself will indicate what jurisdiction should be available. This creates restrictions that obviously the Attorney feels should be created because of what is deemed to be the excessive work of the High Court. I have already indicated in my earlier comments that the ancilliary legislation for the Federal Court will take some of that work. Nevertheless, the Judiciary Act amendment does indicate that there are to be major restrictions in matters of appeal which may be now brought as of right to the High Court from any State supreme courts and other State courts exercising Federal jurisdiction.
There is to be a repeal of provisions for automatic removal to and exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court in matters involving the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and the States. There is to be complete revision of the subject of removal to the High Court by order of the High Court of cases commenced and pending in other courts, extending the power of the High Court to order such removal beyond the existing category of constitutional cases to cases in Federal or Territory courts and cases where a State court is exercising Federal jurisdiction, and giving the High Court increased power over the removed causes, increased powers or remittal of the whole or part back to the original court, and entirely new powers to direct the further conduct of the cause in the original court. There is to be new power in the High Court of its own motion to remit other court cases commenced as of right in the High Court by virtue of the Constitution. I am advised that this could be of some doubtful constitutional validity but since it is well known that the High Court has sought this power for some years it is thought that the High Court is unlikely to hold the new section invalid should there be any test of that position.
Generally the two new matters of importance are the conferring upon Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General of a new power in constitutional cases in any court of intervention in the suits of private parties, and provisions conferring new rights on legal practitioners of one State to appear m courts of other States. As I mentioned, there are restrictions. One restriction relates to an appeal as of right. At present there is a $3,000 limit. It was to be $20,000 but by virtue of another amendment now there may be no appeal in respect of the quantum; it has to be on other issues. So we do see a restriction there. We have some reservations about that matter because we feel that people must have some basic cause which they would be entitled to litigate. It is a bit unfair to suggest that because there is a sum of money related to quantum only the High Court is not going to be able to be involved unless special leave is obtained.
We are advised generally that at the present time section 38a of the Judiciary Act has the effect that only the High Court may decide questions as to the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of the States, and that present section 40a provides for automatic removal to the High Court of cases commenced in other courts which raise such a question. Clauses 4 and 6 of the Bill will repeal those sections. The result will be that inter se questions may now be decided by other courts and although there will still be power in the High Court to order removal to the High Court of the whole of such a case or the inter se question, there will be no automatic removal. We are suggesting, of course, in our amendment that the High Court still be the major court for the interpretation of the Constitution and there be an appeal as of right in all matters relating to the interpretation of the Constitution.
Generally, in view of the detailed nature of the legislation, I will not delay the House to any great extent. The present section 45 of the Judiciary Act permits the High Court, on the application of a party, only to remit to a State court having jurisdiction in any matter any cause orginally commenced or pending in the High Court. This power has been little used because it could not be exercised on the court’s own motion. It is chiefly relevant to the class of case set out in section 75 of the Constitution, which confers absolutely on the High Court jurisdiction in this class of case, which jurisdiction the Parliament has no power to take away. These cases include cases between States, cases between residents of different States, cases in which the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority is a party. Clause 6 of the Bill relates to section 44 of the Act. It appears to be doubtful because it does, it is suggested, subvert the intention of section 75 of the Constitution by permitting for the first time the High Court of its own motion to remit to another court any cases commenced in the High Court under the Constitution or under Commonwealth legislation. Thus it is now up to the High Court to decide whether it will hear a case which otherwise it must have done under the constitutional legislation.
– I do not think it is the first time.
-You do not? I accept that. There is a new power of intervention by the Attorneys-General. Clause 10 of the Bill proposes to create a new power to a Commonwealth or State Attorney-General to intervene in any case between private parties pending in any Federal court or any Territory or any State court excerising Federal jurisdiction if the case involved a matter arising under or the interpretation of the Constitution. I think also there is a provision for a new right whereby the legal practitioners can practise in Federal courts other than Territory courts.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw to the attention of the House an injustice to the people who live in a large part of my electorate. I refer to the hardy race of people who live and work in the harsh environment of the Pilbara area of Western Australia and who put up with the heat, the dust, the flies and the loneliness. They are faced with the immense cost of living 1000 miles north of the capital city of Perth. The cost of living is high, the cost of transport is enormous and the cost of damage to private vehicles on bad roads etc. is astronomical. These people of the Pilbara produce a huge percentage of the export income of Australia- proportionately far more than any other group of Australian citizens. They are prepared to work in adverse conditions in order to produce Australia ‘s wealth.
The Pilbara people want the alternative outlet of being able to go to Bah on their days off instead of the long tedious haul down to Perth. It is almost the same cost for a return flight from Port Hedland to Perth as it is from Port Hedland to Bah. MacRobertson Millar Airline Services quoted $250 Port Hedland-Bali return as against $207 Port Hedland-Perth return. However because of problems with our overseas airline agreement and the request by the Indonesian airline for reciprocal rights, it has been decided to allow only Qantas Airways Ltd to implement the service. Qantas will fly Perth-Bali-Perth at a fare of $514 or will fly a package tour PerthBaliPerth for 8 days for $455 including accommodation. Qantas will fly another package tour Perth to Bali for 7 days then to Singapore for 7 days and return to Perth for $662 including accommodation. Despite being 1000 miles from Perth and approximately the same distance from Bah and the fact that Port Hedland or Learmonth are almost on the direct route from Perth to Bah, Qantas plans to overfly the Pilbara without stopping.
In an answer to a question I asked this morning, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) may have given the impression that Learmonth was unsuitable as an international airport. He could have been mistaken as Learmonth is already designated as the international alternative within Western Australia and is regularly used by the largest planes operating in Australia today, including Jumbos. In fact a giant American Air Force Starlifter aircraft lands and takes off from Learmonth on a regular round-the-world trip every week. The demand for this overseas flight to Bah originated in the Pilbara and has the support of all local government bodies, all the mining companies and chambers of commerce as well as the 50 000 people living in the immediate vicinity. It also has the support of the State members for Pilbara and North Province who have put forward strong representations on the matter.
It would be criminal if Qantas were to be allowed to overfly the Pilbara without stopping and so force the people living in that area to pay an additional $450 to $480 and be forced to travel an extra 2000 miles. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision and to require Qantas to land at Learmonth on the way to and from Bali. I ask the Minister to identify the deficiencies at Port Hedland with a view to upgrading this airport to the standards necessary to allow use by international flights. When these deficiencies have been remedied Qantas should be required to land at Port Hedland. If this leads to a move to reciprocal flights to and from Port Hedland by the Indonesian airline it will be a desirable extension of the service to the people of Pilbara.
– I take the opportunity tonight to make one criticism of the people who decide programming of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The ABC Monday Conference program last night dealt with Darwin. The pros and cons of what has happened since the cyclone in Darwin nearly 2 years ago were discussed. The point I make is that the program was recorded in Darwin in mid September. That point was also made during the program. It was obviously felt at that stage not to show the program. It was shown last night obviously to publicise the book written by MajorGeneral Alan Stretton. I will not comment on the book because I have not read it and I do not know the details of it, but I think it is completely wrong for the ABC to get involved in commercial advertising without being paid for it. I know that the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) once suggested in this House that the ABC should get involved in advertising. I have some reservations about that. Advertising is a matter of collecting money and not a question of doing the advertising for nothing. It is not a matter of using handouts to publicise a particular commercial venture, and this obviously is a commercial venture. I do not know the publishers of the book but they must have some influence with the programmers at the ABC.
I am not criticising Robert Moore, the producer of Monday Conference. The program was recorded in mid-September and he may well have been unaware that the book by Alan Stretton was to come out some 2 months later. We do not want the ABC to deteriorate into the sort of news organisation of the daily papers in Sydney. The 3 groups, including the old Consolidated Press group, have significant interests in travel agencies. They push overseas travel continuously with pages and pages of publicity handouts. Anybody who reads the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun and the Daily Mirror must be impressed or depressed by the pages and pages of obvious handouts which appear day after day, week after week. The only reason for them of course is that the owners of the newspapers also have an interest in travel agencies and they also accept advertisements from people involved in overseas travel. By doing this the newspapers in effect deteriorate into the sort of throw away papers of the suburbs. The suburban papers quite openly accept editorial matter for the purpose of advertising.
I conclude by in fact giving a commercial for a booklet that has been published by a former Liberal Party candidate for one of the seats in the Australian Capital Territory, Larry Pickering. I refer to a lovely cartoon in which the present Treasurer (Mr Lynch) is depicted walking blindly along the road. Somebody asks him: ‘How come you are blind?’ He says: ‘It is because I have been over-stimulating the private sector’. I congratulate Pickering in seeing that point. I felt like raising it this afternoon when the Treasurer again talked about stimulating the private sector.
– I hope I can have the indulgence of the House to very briefly quote from a speech of mine last week. In speaking to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) 1976 1 said:
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.
For making those comments I was accused by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) of union bashing. I am not sure what the honourable member for Burke interprets as union bashing but I well remember a few weeks ago reading an article written in the Australian Financial Review under the nom de plume of ‘Modest member of Parliament’. He stated that anyone who dares to criticise the union leadership in Australia must inevitably be branded a union basher. I think that this was borne out by the comments of the honourable member for Burke in branding me a union basher for simply saying that the rank and file trade unionists of Australia in fact want to be led by moderate trade union leaders who have their genuine interests at heart. While I must admit to being somewhat peeved by the comments of the honourable member for Burke, I was heartened to some degree when I read the Australian this morning and noted the remarks of one of the most formidable and noted trade union leaders in Australia, Sir John Egerton. Sir John Egerton had this to say on this question:
Unions have been let run wild and the situation is now where they are dictating not just industrial policy but foreign policy, defence policy and a whole host of other things that are not properly within the concept of bona fide trade unionism.
Further on Sir John said:
I am very much opposed to the blatant political actions that some unions are involving their members in and to the detriment of the members.
I am relieved that Sir John adopts the same attitude as I to the actions of the trade union leaders in involving themselves in blatant political actions that are, in fact, to the detriment of the trade union movement and to the detriment of the trade union rank and file member. I was also interested during the debate last week on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in the comments of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). The honourable member said during his speech at the Committee stage of the Bill:
Honourable members Opposite are so inclined to talk about unions but not one of them has ever been a member of a union.
In point of fact the honourable member has not done his homework. I point out that for many years I was a member of a trade union. In fact, I was a member of the Australian Workers Union for 8 years and I was a member of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union for a further 3 years. During the period that I was a member of the AWU I worked as a shearer and a casual farm labourer.
– A good one too.
– I was a good one. I went on further when I was a member of the PKIU to work as a shift operator in a paper factory. Perhaps honourable members opposite wonder why a person who came from such a lowly background might choose to join the Liberal Party of Australia. The reasons I chose to join the Liberal Party was that I worked with those people- the ordinary workers of Australia- who are the very basis of this country. I know what they want, not what the trade union leaders think they want but in fact they do not want I know because I have worked with them. That is the reason. I have gained an intimate knowledge of those people on the shop floor. I believe that it is the Liberal Party which can best represent the ordinary rank and file trade union member in Australia, not these people who abuse their role in the trade unions for blatant political reasons.
– I do not wish to respond to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr). Apparently he has had second thoughts about his speech last week. As he is a former shearer, one would have thought that he was better trained. We must have missed some of them. This week, obviously as will be known to all honourable members, thousands of Australians will take upon themselves their right to participate in demonstrations and to discuss in meetings the impact upon their future Lives as a result of the actions taken in this country just one year ago. I have seen many contributions to that debate and to what Australians might have to discuss in the future and about which parts of the Constitution may have to be amended to safeguard the rights of this House. A little while ago I was given the latest contribution to the debate, a book called The Makers and the Breakers. I do not wish to comment upon the authors’ particular and specific comments about the events but it is interesting to note the way in which they have drawn together quotes of the people who drew up the Constitution. I think it is of interest when looking through these to see that obviously what happened last year in Australia was never seen as likely to happen by the people who framed the Constitution of Australia.
There can be no doubt that whilst the demonstrations perhaps express the rage of the people, nonetheless there will have to be a very serious discussion in this country about the changes which are necessary to see that the House of Representatives, maintains its position as the governing House of Australia. Until such time as that debate is concluded satisfactorily to the House of Representatives no doubt we will see people in the Senate being quite cavalier about the way in which the powers in the Constitution may be interpreted and used by the Senate. Obiously it would mean that if that action was to be continued we could not look forward to a parliamentary democracy in Australia. As one of the founders of the Constitution said, there is a very thin line between what is right and revolution. I think that if honourable members opposite and honourable members on our side of the House were to sit down and look at the record of discussions that took place and the conference minutes of the framers of the Constitution they would see that what happened last year was not envisaged. I quote what Alfred Deakin had to say about the role of the Governor-General:
A Governor-General will be required to act in this as in other matters on the advice of his executive. In no case is he to be endowed with the personal power to act over the heads of Parliament and the ministry.
Obviously Deakin did not see the GovernorGeneral ever taking the decision which was taken in Australia in 1975. Sir John Downer, who was a very conservative politician in that day and age, had this to say:
We are not prepared to interfere with the cardinal principle of our constitution, and that is that the nominal head of the Government should be only the nominal head of the executive and not become a real substantial legislative force in the community.
If conservative politicians in that day and age like Sir John Downer held those views, again this is further evidence that what happened in Australia last year was wrong. Dr Coburn, who was also a participant in those discussions, had this to say:
The Governor-General’s highest function would be to be a dummy and although he was the only link between us and the Crown, in being that link he was less than the least in the whole of the colonies, a useless image and bauble.
Finally, I wish to quote Alfred Deakin again on the question of the Governor-General. I want to repeat this because I think it is terribly important in terms of what discussions take place in Australia in the future. He said:
The Governor-General will be required to act in this, as in other matters, on the advice of his executive. In no case is he to be endowed with the personal power to go over the heads of the Parliament and the Ministry.
– I want to discuss a problem which I have already raised with the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in relation to primary producers. Many people consider that primary producers carry an unfair burden in regard to the estate duty they pay. Figures cited to me reveal that primary producers pay about 6 per cent of total income tax collected and yet pay about 30 per cent of estate duty collected. Of course, the problem arises because a farmer requires a physical asset- his land- before he can earn an income whereas, for example, a public servant has everything supplied by the State or Federal government and has to supply only his labour. At present, the Commonwealth Government applies a rebate of 50 per cent to primary producers whose estates do not exceed $140,000. The rebate then diminishes until it ceases where the estate exceeds $250,000. Two points arise. One is that the $140,000 limit has remained unchanged for a considerable period. Unlike income tax payments which the Government has now indexed, there is no such indexation of rebate limits. I think this should be the subject of Government consideration.
I urge the Treasurer to investigate the possibility of indexing these limits in the next Budget. However, I am concerned that in these times of inflation a 50 per cent primary producer rebate which diminishes under Commonwealth legislation ought to be a flat 50 per cent rebate for all primary producers. I understand that the South Australian and Victorian State Governments already apply a flat 50 per cent primary producer rebate. I strongly urge that the Commonwealth investigate the possibility of doing likewise. I have received from the Minister assisting the Treasurer an undertaking that a proposal for a flat 50 per cent primary producer rebate will be reviewed when the Government examines the recommendations of the Asprey Taxation Review Committee. The amount of the present rural property rebate in estate duty assessments issued in the 1973-74 financial year was $1.9m. A rough estimate of the cost to the Government of making a primary producer rebate of a flat 50 per cent would be under $4m. It would mean that there would be less pressure to sell all or portion of what in many cases are viable farms to pay probate. It would encourage the primary producer in his later years to continue to improve his farm, knowing that his efforts would be of value to his family and would not all go towards paying probate. I reiterate that I urge the Government in its future considerations of this matter to review the plight of the Australian primary producer.
-Mr Speaker, with the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) over the last 6 months there has been an exchange of correspondence concerning 2 important projects in the electorate of Sydney. These projects, one for the South Sydney Municipal Council and the other for the Leichhardt Municipal Council are for welfare centres. The South Sydney Municipal Council has an architect’s estimate of the cost of one project- the renovation of the Reg Cope Welfare Centre which has been in existence for approximately 20 years. Reg Cope is a brother of the former Speaker of this House, Mr Jim Cope. The total cost of the project, is estimated to be $214,000. The property is at 55 Pitt Street, Redfern. It was transferred to the Council on its incorporation in 1968 from the Council of the City of Sydney. There is no trouble about the title. The property is situated within a residential (2)b zone. The unimproved capital value is $26,000 as at 3 June 1975. The Council will provide its share of the project cost from its general revenue fund. There is a plan indicating the location of the Reg Cope Welfare Centre.
The area is well serviced by bus transport to bring patients to the centre and the centre services residents who are within walking distance. The project is designed to provide dining and welfare facilities for approximately 130 persons daily. Daily activities at the existing centre include cards, television, housie, library and indoor bowls. It is proposed to extend these activities to the new building and to introduce arts and crafts and social events- activities now precluded because of the inadequate accommodation within the existing building. It is considered that there will be no future need to expand the premises. The Council is already operating 4 other welfare centres within the municipality. The 4 centres are the Ron Williams Welfare Centre, the Gordon Ibbett Welfare Centre, the Harry Burland Welfare Centre and the Cliff Nobel Welfare Centre. I do hope that the Minister for Social Security in her wisdom will agree to the allocation of this amount of $214,000. It will help the Reg Cope Welfare Centre in South Sydney.
There are 2 welfare centres in Leichhardt. One is the Harry Hannaford Welfare Centre. The Council originally decided to buy the property on 15 July 1975. On 18 August 1975 the Council asked the architect to make a report and to prepare a scheme for the conversion of the property to an aged persons centre. The Council received a plan on 15 September 1975. It applied to the Under-Secretary of the Department of Local Government on 24 September 1975. It enclosed the architect’s report on the scheme and it was agreed to. The Council advised that the total preliminary cost would amount to $165,480 of which the amount of $55,000 was Council’s contribution and was the cost of the land. The Council then asked the State Government for a subsidy of $2 for every $1 under the States Grants (Home Care) Act 1969-73. The estimates went to the State Department of Local Government and were forwarded to the Commonwealth Department of Social Security. While waiting for the subsidy, the Council started to carry on with the work. At this stage it has spent $70,000 including $55,000 for the cost of the land.
We expect there will be a deputation of South Sydney aldermen, the Mayor of South Sydney, Leichhardt aldermen and the Mayor of Leichhardt to meet the Minister for Social Security in connection with these worthy projects for the older people in the area of Sydney. We would like a sympathetic reply. The City of Sydney has 5 welfare centres. South Sydney has four and the Leichhardt Council has two. I think that consideration should be given to granting these extra few dollars to help the older people of the electorate.
– I rise very briefly to pay a tribute to 2 members of this honourable House in relation to 2 separate matters which I believe have a common link. Firstly, I wish to express what I believe to be the pleasure of all honourable members at the appointment to the ministry of the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee). Mr Speaker, I noted with interest that when you called the Minister at question time today you noted the pleasure that you enjoyed, as did we all, in seeing the honourable member for Balaclava as a Minister in this Parliament. Without appearing in any way platitudinous, I noted with some interest today a report in the Melbourne Press of a comment made by an absent friend now representing this country temporarily at the United Nations. I refer to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who, last year, apparently made the complaint that due to noise in the chamber he could not hear the honourable member for Balaclava. He added that the honourable member for Balaclava was one of the few on this side of the House who were worth listening to.
I think it was pleasing that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) had the honour of asking the new Minister for Productivity the very first question that he received in the chamber. The unbridled pleasure which was witnessed on both sides of the House at the appointment of this outstanding member of this Parliament, I believe, is something which ought not to pass unnoticed. He will be an outstanding Minister and if I might say so, as one who has admired the honourable member for a long time, I believe that all in this House will wish him well.
I am aware that the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) wishes to speak and I shall make my remarks brief. The other honourable member to whom I wish to refer is the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom). He has an enormous weight on his shoulders at this time and is fighting a very substantial battle for a very significant part of his electorate. It is a small speck on the map of Australia. I ask the House to take note that the honourable member for Braddon is endeavouring to retain part of his electorate which is on the brink of destruction. It would be a tragedy for this country if the west coast of Tasmania were to go out of existence as it may well do. I appeal to honourable members on both sides of the chamber to support the honourable member for Braddon in what he is doing. He certainly needs the support of this House if he is to save the west coast of Tasmania which is under a very grave threat of extinction.
-I rise to pay compliment to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) for arranging a very novel situation tonight in which the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety went to Yass and talked at first hand with the truck drivers. In particular the Committee looked at the road safety aspects of heavy duty vehicles which was most interesting. I am afraid that sometimes politicians are apt to deal in theoretical situations rather than the practicalities. Tonight we had the opportunity to see these men in action, to find out their problems and to ask them at first hand exactly how they feel about road safety and heavy duty vehicles. I can assure all members of the House that we learned by it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to he honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) and (2) The Australian Statistician has advised that he cannot supply particulars of imports of orchids or greenery into Australia because imports of orchids and of greenery are not recorded separately in overseas trade statistics. However, the Statistician has supplied the following information on imports of:
Increases in Social Security Benefits (Question No. 1351)
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following table in answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
What was the total value of medical claims paid by Medibank in each State in each of the months of September and November 1975 and January and March 1976, and what was the expenditure in each State in the same months under the following headings in respect of (a) specialists and (b) general practitioners for (i) attendances, (ii) obstetrics,
The information sought is not available in the form requested by the honourable member. I have however set out below details of payments by Medibank for the categories of services specified in respect of the half year ending December 1975 and for each of the March and June 1976 quarters.
am asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has provided the following information for answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Further to his answer to question No. 65 (Hansard, 4 June 1976, page 3101) relating to the waiver of charges for pensioner patients admitted to Canberra hospitals under private practitioners, is the same procedure accepted for the States under the new Hospitals Agreements.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the terms of the Medibank hospital agreements an eligible person, other than a privately insured person, is entitled to receive care and treatment as a hospital patient in a recognised hospital free of charge and without means test. An eligible person who is a privately insured person, or who is not a privately insured person but elects to be treated as a private patient by the doctor of his or her choice, is to be charged in accordance with the scale of hospital charges set out in the agreement. No provision exists under the Medibank hospital agreements for the waiver of charges for pensioner patients admitted to recognised hospitals as private patients.
Under the revised Medibank arrangements, the insurance provisions are such that if pensioners who are exempt from paying the levy, or who pay the levy, wish to retain the doctor of their choice whilst in hospital, they are able to contribute to a hospital insurance table to cover themselves for the $40 a day hospital charge applicable. The Government is subsidising this table in order to place it within the reach of the needy members of the community. As a result the contribution rates charged by Medibank (Private Insurance) and most private insurance funds are $1.30 per week for single coverage and $2.60 per week for family coverage. The Government considers these rates to be reasonable and within the reach of most pensioners and needy people who wish to ensure choice of doctor whilst in hospital.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Government finances medical research through the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Council supports at present the following three projects into allergic diseases at a cost of $43,000.
Dr A. J. Woolcock ‘The pharmacological nature of bronchial hyperactivity in asthma’
Dr R. V. Southcott, ‘Harmful effects to man from animals and plants’
Dr K. J. Turner, ‘Immunological studies on allergic disease’.
It was never envisaged that the Committee would provide from within its membership, expertise in all the many specialities of medicine and it does not include a specialist allergist.
However, to keep abreast of the latest developments in the various fields of medicine, the Committee meets periodically with representatives of the various medical Colleges and Societies, including the Australian College of Allergists. In addition, the Committee from time to time seeks expert advice from specialists and specialist bodies where the Committee considers such action to be appropriate.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
In respect of the navies of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is he able to provide operative details of the (a) naval personnel strength (b) marine equivalent strength, (c) total number of ships, (d) total ship tonnage, (e) average ship tonnage, (0 average age of ships, (g) proportion of ships which are aged (i) less than 5 years, (ii) more than 5 years but less than 10 years, (iii) 10 years or more but less than 15 years, (iv). 15 years or more but less than 20 years and ( v) 20 years or more.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information requested may be obtained from current editions of The Military Balance and Jane ‘s Fighting Ships.
Sales Tax on Vehicle Safety Components (Question No. 1265)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Has he requested his Department to review its advice on the proposal for a reduction of sales tax on vehicle safety components in the interest of obtaining increased vehicle safety at a reduced cost as recommended by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety; if so, what was the result; if not, why not.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The question of reducing the rate of sales tax on road vehicle safety components has been re-examined, as the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety recommended in its May 1976 Report. The conclusion reached is that the weight to be attached to the advice conveyed by the Treasury to the Committee remains the same. Indeed, that advice seems to be reinforced by some of the views expressed by the Committee, notably in paragraphs 161 and 173 of its Report.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Why is it necessary for the drug Mogadon to be prescribed in small quantities thus necessitating frequent visits to a doctor and increased costs to Medibank.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In recommending that the maximum quantity of Mogadon available as a pharmaceutical benefit be 25 tablets, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee was in agreement with the National Health and Medical Research Council that the continuous use of sleeping tablets (such as Mogadon) is not generally desirable. The Committee considers that the maximum quantity of 25 is adequate, in most instances, to establish a sleep pattern.
It is recognised that for some patients the maximum quantity of 25 tablets may not be sufficient and provision exists to cover such cases whereby a doctor may, if he considers it to be in his patient’s interest, apply to the Director of Health in his State for authority to prescribe a quantity in excess of the listed maximum.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries (Question No. 1341)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services:
Which recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries, tabled on 1 April 1976, have not been implemented.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Government has not yet taken decisions on the numerous recommendations of this report, which has been put to study by an interdepartmental working group. When this study has been completed the Government will give detailed consideration to the report.
Public Libraries: Expenditure (Question No. 1342)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries (Question No. 1361)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What has been the (a) Australian production and (b) amount of imports of (i) eucalyptus dives or peritone and (ii) cineole for each of the last 3 financial years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Eucalyptus dives is a species of eucalypt and occurs as several varieties, each with a distinctly different composition of oil. It is one of about 12 eucalypt species from which commercial quantities of medicinal, industrial and perfumery oils are obtained. Statistics of production and trade do not differentiate between the various oils obtained from eucalypts.
The following is the recorded Australian production and imports of eucalyptus oil for each of the last three financial years for which statistics are available:
The information on production is thought to be incomplete as some of the smaller operations carried out on private property may not be included.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761109_reps_30_hor101/>.