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 Member 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 m the Northern Territory.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should:
Amend the Bill to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley, Mr Dobie and Mr Les McMahon.
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- 1 972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 - Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guide-lines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon, Mr Stewart and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That 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 McLean.
Symphony Orchestra in Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Hunter Valley region respectfully showeth:
The lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral instruments and career opportunities for young musicians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the New South Wales State Government, local governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony
Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.
To the 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. byMrMacKellar.
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. byMrUren.
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. byMrFitzPatrick.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas your Petitioners respectfully request consideration be given to:
Both of the above being without the prerequisite of referral by a medical practitioner. Therefore your Petitioners pray your Honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrFitzPatrick.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully show us that:
Whatever our ideology, in the sight of God, we, as a nation are politically, economically and spiritually sick and in need of healing.
We, the undersigned, are Christians, and as such recognise the Bible as the word of God, and in 2 Chronicles 7: 14 we are told ‘If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land ‘.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in the House assembled will designate a Sunday of your choosing as ‘a national day of prayer for the healing of our nation’ and to have the day and date of this event published in the daily Press.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, this humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Queensland Symphony Orchestra should exist in perpetuity for the musical and cultural benefit of the citizens of Queensland and Australia. by Mr Moore.
Dockyards at Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley . Research Foundation showed that50 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 showeth:
That, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Ken to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to a question I asked him a couple of weeks ago. Has he given any further consideration to my suggestion that a select committee of the Parliament might be set up to inquire into tourism in Australia?
-I have given some consideration to this matter. So that we could see its implications and could look at the sorts of matters that the committee might inquire into, draft terms of reference in fact have been drawn up. Cabinet will be looking at these matters shortly. Depending on the decision Cabinet takes, they could well be presented to this Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister aware of mischievous speculation in the Press and a feeling amongst certain members of the community that the Government proposes to disband or reduce symphony orchestras supported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Is he also aware that before a recital by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra on 7 November a member of that orchestra, from the stage, criticised the Government and asked all members of the audience to sign a petition condemning the Government for its action? Can the Minister add anything further to his recent Press release to assure the community that this speculation is completely false?
-It is, of course, speculation and I suppose it flowed from the fact that the Green report mentioned the substantial cost of symphony orchestras and invited the Government to consider the matter. The Government made it perfectly clear that it would have no part of any attempt to interfere with the entrepreneural activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but simply said that information as to expenditure and income ought to be made available so that the Parliament would know and understand the level of that expenditure. The Government does not interfere with the internal management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the question of symphony orchestras is a matter for the ABC. I am not aware that at any time the ABC has given me any reason to believe that it is considering the reduction of symphony orchestras in any State of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that he gave an assurance on 22 January last that there would be no raising of the general interest rate structure and, further, that there were strong grounds to reduce some interest rates? Did he also state then that these policies were designed to bring about a recovery in the private sector? How will recovery in the private sector be fostered by the increases in the interest rates on Australian Savings Bonds announced last Thursday on top of the increases in interest rates on treasury notes announced 4 days earlier?
– The answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s question is perfectly clear. Recovery will be assisted as the business community sees that this Government is intent on winding back the rate of inflation. The recent monetary measures I announced some days ago are no more than a measured respose to the need to reduce excess liquidity in the markets at the present time and equally to enable the Government to sell more government paper to the nonbank public, thereby curbing the present inflationary pressure.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Capital Territory. Has he seen the latest demonstration on the front lawns of Parliament House? Is this demonstration in keeping with his own views on giving Canberra greater colour and character? Is there any limit now to the form that demonstrations might take?
-There appears to be no limit to the form that demonstrations might take on the lawns outside Parliament House. I have just had lunch with representatives of the Royal Insurance Company whose manager every Christmas for 30 years has been demonstrating on the lawns outside Parliament House by holding carols by candlelight. This practice of demonstrating outside Parliament House is now far more widespread and is regarded as a sort of sideshow adjunct to the proceedings of this House.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and I refer to reports of a large stock build-up in the retail sector. Does this, in conjunction with recent retail sales and savings figures, suggest that the hoped for consumer revival is not in prospect? Further, in view of the role which stock build-up in late 1974 played in the origins of the present recession, will the Treasurer heed the warnings and take appropriate action to overcome the situation which is developing?
– I am glad that the honourable gentleman remembers some facets of the disaster that he and his colleagues perpetrated in this country during their period in office. I remember that macabre list of disasters very well indeed. The Government has in fact learned from the lesson of the more recent past which, apart from the advice which comes to us from overseas, has been taken into account in implementing the economic policies which have been the subject of many detailed statements in this House.
According to provisional estimates the value of retail sales in seasonally adjusted current price terms fell by 0.3 per cent in September, following rises of 0.8 per cent in August and 0.6 per cent in July. Over the 12 months to September the value of retail sales increased by an estimated 13.6 per cent. The Statistician, in issuing those figures, has given his usual warning that care needs to be taken not to over-emphasise the significance of changes in the provisional estimates of retail sales between single months. The rate of increase in retail sales for the September quarter is estimated at around 2.7 per cent. That reflects some moderate real growth when assessed against the 2.2 per cent increase that took place in the consumer price index during the September quarter.
I indicate to the honourable gentleman that I am well aware that this is not an area in which sales are buoyant. But if the honourable gentleman takes notice of the statement made, I think, yesterday and reported in at least the Sydney afternoon Press by one of the organisational men from the retailers’ association, he will see that the association is looking forward to a marked increase in sales during the Christmas period.
– Has the Minister for Transport seen reports of the criticism made by the Premier of Victoria that the Federal Government is not doing enough to induce overseas Airline operators to fly into Tullamarine Airport? Can the Minister say how many overseas airlines presently fly into Tullamarine Airport and what are the arguments advanced by overseas charter operators for not wanting to land at Tullamarine Airport?
– I have seen such criticism. I must point out to the House that the disparity in the number of airlines travelling into Melbourne visavis Sydney is not because of some failure on the part of myself, as Minister for Transport, or the Federal Government. It is because for some unaccountable reason Melbourne lacks the attractions of Sydney. I do not hold with that view. Nevertheless it has been put to me most strongly by international charter operators that Sydney is a much more attractive city to visit than Melbourne. In fact, I have received a request to permit 10 international Boeing 707s to come into Australia between now and Christmas. The operators have asked to be permitted to come to Sydney. I demanded of them the reasons why they could not go to Melbourne and they threatened to cancel their visits. I do not know the bohemian life of Sydney as well as does my colleague and friend the honourable member for Cook; so I cannot give the reasons why they prefer Sydney to Melbourne, but the cold fact is that they do.
Having said that, I should point out to the Premier that he has been slightly misinformed about the performance of Qantas Airways Ltd in respect of its Melbourne operations. There are now 27 Qantas flights a week to and from Melbourne and there will be 3 more Qantas flights in the new year. To come to the specific point of the honourable member’s question, there are some 1 1 other international operators coming into and going out of Melbourne at the moment and two more will be coming into and going out of Melbourne either before Christmas or just after it.
The Premier was wrong on four other specific points in respect of a number of airlines. Firstly, he said that Qantas was not going to Athens or Rome or that it had only just commenced such services. It has been doing that since 1974. He should know that I have given approval for Olympic Airways to fly out of Melbourne and it will be commencing that service before Christmas. Another example is that Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd has had rights to fly into Melbourne since 1963 and has never taken up its option. I would not know what that says for Melbourne life. Jat- Jugoslav Airlines has had rights to fly into Melbourne and has never taken up its option. Japan Air Lines, which the Premier also mentioned specifically, has never sought to go to Melbourne. I think the campaign that Councillor Ron Walker, Mayor of Melbourne, embarked upon to make Melbourne a much more attractive city, was a very good idea. That may be the only way we can get more flights out of Sydney and into Melbourne.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Major-General Stretton, an officer of the Crown in the National Disasters Organisation, has made severe strictures on the command of the armed services in Darwin and on former Ministers who visited Darwin after cyclone Tracy late in 1974. Has the Government any attitude on these charges? If the Government endorses the charges has it considered giving the people under attack a chance to clear their names, in view of the fact that these charges are made by an officer of the Commonwealth. If the Government has any attitude to the charges what stance has it taken?
– I welcome the opportunity to set the record on this matter at rest, and, I hope, in a proper way. I believe it quite improper for a senior servant of the Commonwealth to criticise politicians or other people a significant time after the event. There were roper or appropriate channels through which e could have made charges at the time if he had wanted to do so. I am advised that he did not do so. I can say these things more easily because it is not a question of defending members of the present Government but stating my belief in the propriety of activities of members of the previous Government. Mr Barnard is no longer in this House but he is involved in this matter. He had tabled in this Parliament a report which I understand was a factual report from Major-General Stretton. Arising out of that report there was no suggestion of impropriety or improper conduct.
Obviously there were difficult circumstances in Darwin immediately after the disaster. I think nobody would deny that. I think nobody would deny that there are lessons that a nation can learn from the experience of a disaster of that kind and I would hope that we have learnt them. If senior advisers and servants of this Commonwealth, whether they be civilians or members of the armed forces, are to take to the Press and attack politicians on one side or the other, the apolitical nature of the Public Service comes to be broken down and destroyed. I believe very strongly that the great bulk of senior public servants in this country respect and do everything they can to enhance the apolitical nature of the Public Service. I believe that is very essential to the good government of this country. Public servantspermanent heads, generals, admirals and air marshals- need to be able to serve politicians from either side of this chamber, and do it with the confidence of politicians from either side of this chamber. I can find nothing good in what has happened over recent times. I believe MajorGeneral Stretton has behaved with great impropriety and I do not believe he has been able to substantiate the charges he has made.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the International Declaration on the Decade of Rehabilitation of the Disabled? What action does the Government propose in respect of the recommendations of the Declaration, particularly the statement that every government should take urgent action to expand and expedite the development of all services necessary to assist the disabled?
-Recently I received on behalf of the Commonwealth Government the International Declaration on the Decade of Rehabilitation of the Disabled. In the course of doing so I met the President of Rehabilitation International, Mr Jenkins, who also is President of the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled. I also met members of the Council and other people concerned with many aspects of the disabled who were present on that occasion. I received the declaration which urges governments to develop services for the disabled to a greater extent. The purposes and objectives of the declaration are totally praiseworthy and ones which I believe any government and all political parties ought to support to the maximum extent possible. So the Government takes the declaration seriously. Within the economic resources available to us we will do everything that we can to develop comprehensive services to support the disabled of different kinds. The Government, as the honourable gentleman knows, receives recommendations from the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped. There is a standing interdepartmental committee on rehabilitation. I have written to the Premiers drawing the declaration and its purposes to their attention. I have suggested that the States, I believe, would want to support the declaration and its objectives and to do all they can in their power to support and to assist the disabled.
-Does the Prime Minister recall last Wednesday answering a question from the honourable member for Adelaide which was based on a newspaper report in the Age and which concerned a disputatious Cabinet meeting on economic policy? Does he recall his reply that the report contained many marked elements of fantasy? I ask the Prime Minister whether he will identify the elements of fact in the report in order to remove the cloud of uncertainty which descended on business, and especially on foreign investment, following the report so that the cloud, hopefully, can be removed.
-The honourable gentleman is about the last person of the Opposition who should ask a question of that kind because some of the predictions, and one in particular, which he has sought to make over the last several weeks have been designed to create uncertainty and difficulty in the very area which he mentions. I repeat that there were marked elements of fantasy in that report. I have indicated this to the House on previous occasions. If anyone would like to know my views on some of the subjects which might have been canvassed in the report, I suggest that he get a copy of a speech which I made last night.
– Does the Prime Minister view the situation in Victoria concerning the Newport power station as a clear challenge to the right of an elected government to make decisions affecting the whole community? Will the Prime Minister take action complementary to that taken by the Victorian Government by stopping work on all possible federal building contracts until the members of construction unions force their leaders to come to their senses and stop trying to usurp the role of the elected Government?
-As honourable gentlemen would know, some several weeks ago I indicated publicly what I had previously indicated privately to the Premier of Victoria- that the Commonwealth would support the Victorian Government in action taken to achieve the construction of the Newport power station. The Victorian Government, as a result of its constitutional position, probably has somewhat wider constitutional powers in relation to industrial disputes than does the Commonwealth. In relation to this dispute the Government of Victoria, in its wisdom, has chosen a certain course of action to achieve resolution of a matter which has gone on for a considerable period and, in the view of many, for too long. The resolute action of the
Victorian Government at this stage is something which I believe a great many people want to support because this power station must be built. If it is not built the fact is that Victoria will go short of power and more people will be out of work. If that is the objective of those who oppose the construction of the power station, let them get up and say so quite plainly.
The Victorian Government is to be commended in relation to this matter. If black bans are to be imposed on various Commonwealth public works we should look at the powers available to us in appropriate circumstances to see what course of action we might think it necessary to take. It was perhaps a smaller matter than Newport power station, but the decision announced late last week in relation to the postal strike concerning John Fairfax and Sons has not been entirely without its own success. That action was taken and resulted in a certain course, which I think has been successful. Let me repeat that the Government stands with and supports the Victorian Government in these matters, just as it would support the Government of New South Wales in relation to actions it might deem necessary in the oil dispute, which is grievously hurting not only New South Wales but also other areas.
The people of Australia have become sick and tired of being held to ransom by a few people who do not represent the views of their constituents and who do not represent the majority of the people of Australia but who try to determine the future of Australia. I believe that the honourable gentleman is right when he indicates that this kind of behaviour represents a very serious challenge- one that is even more important than many people recognise- to lawfully constituted authority in the parliaments of the States or in the Commonwealth Parliament. I can say with complete and absolute certaintly that that challenge will never succeed.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. Is it a fact, as reported this morning in one of Australia’s major newspapers, that Commonwealth Police are trying to discover how the Age newspaper was able to publish details of the views expressed by senior Ministers last Friday week when they held a special meeting to revise the Government’s economic policies? If so, why was it necessary to have a police inquiry when the Prime Minister stated last Wednesday, and has reiterated just now, that the report in the Age contained many marked elements of fantasy?
-As far as I am aware there has been no police inquiry of the sort to which the honourable gentleman referred.
-My question addressed to the Minister for Health relates to recent reports which have drawn attention to the prevalence of eye disease in Australia’s Aboriginal population, especially in central Australia where trachoma is reported to be raging. I ask: Can the Minister indicate specifically what measures are being undertaken to eradicate this disease?
-The Government has undertaken a program to treat trachoma and other eye diseases amongst Aborigines throughout Australia. We have allocated $570,000 through health program grants to the Australian College of Ophthamologists for this purpose. A task force under the control of Professor Hollows has been in the central Australian area, and during the course of its survey in that area it actually screened 8300 people, including 7700 Aboriginal people. More recently, the task force has undertaken field work in the Borroloola area of the Northern Territory, working towards the top end of the Territory. I take this opportunity to compliment Professor Hollows and those who are associated with his team on the excellent job they are doing.
I have already made a public announcement through the media that a new phase of the Commonwealth Government’s national trachoma and eye program is under way and will accelerate towards the end of this month. A surgical team from the Australian College will undertake a series of eye operations on Aborigines in remote areas of South Australia who come from the central region of that part of the inland. The team will be working in a mobile field hospital set up by the Army. I should like to pay some tribute to the work of the Army and to thank the Minister for Defence for the co-operation he has given the team in central Australia. The hospital, complete with a sterile operating theatre, will be established by the Army unit in the Amata Reserve some 400 kilometres south west of Alice Springs. So the survey is well and truly underway. This innovation could well lead to other similar task forces going into the Northern Territory. But, of course, this does not relieve any of us of the responsibility to improve the conditions and the environment in which Aboriginal people live because these factors undoubtedly do contribute to the health of the people of Central Australia and elsewhere.
-I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: Is it true that the extended criteria for entry into Australia by relatives of residents of this country will cease to apply at the end of 1976 and that any applications not completely processed at that date will be considered only on the basis of the previous restricted criteria? If this is the case, will the Minister assure the House that, because of the apprehension that migrants in Australia feel for the safety of their relatives in some areas and the humanitarian aspects of family reunions, the extended criteria will continue to operate in the future?
-The Government over an extended period has given special consideration to people resident in the Lebanon who have relatives in Australia. My latest announcement in relation to this matter was a statement in the House on 23 September in which I said that a special task force was being sent to Nicosia, that relaxed criteria would apply in relation to the relatives of Lebanese residents in Australia, that the task force would be in operation for 3 months and that the situation would be reassessed at that stage. That statement stands. Obviously when special arrangements apply they cannot apply indefinitely. The arrangements were made to cover a specific situation that has existed and, unfortunately, to some extent still exists in the Lebanon. We have to reassess that situation from time to time and I am not going to speculate on the result of that reassessment.
-Has the Prime Minister seen an editorial in today’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald in which it is asserted that he told Parliament last week that the Government’s economic package would not result in a rise in private interest rates? Is his assertion correct?
– I think that there has been a number of reports which indicated that I told the Parliament last week that there would be no rise in interest rates. Unfortunately, my answer should have been read against the question that I was asked because the question referred quite specifically to interest rates in relation to primary producers. I had pointed out how inflation had fallen heavily on some sections of the community- sections unlike public servants and politicians and people who go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and to some extent have their wages indexed. I had pointed out that we would not be seeing additional costs put on such sections of the community. In my answer I also referred to exporters. I said that exporters and primary producers would not be subject to increased interest charges, whether they be small borrowers or larger borrowers within those categories. I also pointed out that this was a matter that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia had agreed to significantly before any announcement about changes in interest rates were in fact made. So I hope that clarifies the matter. The statement was a limited one about a limited group of people who have suffered exceptionally as a result of the inflation of the last few years.
– My question which I address to the Prime Minister concerns an answer that he gave earlier today in which he said that some union officials did not represent the views of thenmembers. In view of that statement, will he explain to the House why the Government has amended the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in regard to the election of union officials so that rank and file ballots for the election of union officials are no longer compulsory. Is it the Prime Minister’s attitude that union officials are likely to be made more responsive to the wishes of thenmembers if they never have to face a rank and file ballot? If not, will he concede that having allowed union executives to take away the right to rank and file ballots, he is now in no position to criticise union leaders for not reflecting the wishes of their members?
– From the nature of his question I think that the honourable gentleman is somewhat confused. The legislation introduced by the Government makes it essential for elected officials of unions to be elected by secret postal ballot -
– That is not true. That is not the legislation you passed.
– This legislation will ensure that the views of the rank and file members of trade unions can get through and be felt -
– That is not true.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. A question was asked by a member of the front bench of the Opposition. The Prime Minister is replying. The front bench of the Opposition should allow the answer to be given without interjection.
– Honourable gentlemen opposite have always been opposed to secret ballots, and to secret postal ballots in particular. Just because the Government introduced legislation several months ago to make secret postal ballots mandatory for the election of elected officials there has been opposition to that concept. Even the former Minister for Labor in the Labor Government admitted that in one major union at least properly conducted ballots were not held. We have been given examples of people in the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union being elected to their positions, under the law as it applied during the previous Administration, by one or two percent of those union members entitled to vote. Under our legislation there will be an opportunity for people to vote by secret postal ballot. If the honourable member for Gellibrand is referring to legislation which allowed unionists a limited right of choice concerning the method in which some unions may conduct their elections, I can only say again that he is seeking to deny the rights of trade unionists to exert their own views and decisions through secret postal ballots. If there is to be an electoral college on a single tier basis, the members of that college must be elected through secret postal ballots. That is the basis of the legislation. That is the basis which the Opposition seeks to destroy.
If a recent report in a newspaper is correct, the Leader of the Opposition accused the present Government of union bashing in relation to the disputes that have been occurring in recent times. I should think that the Leader of the Opposition is very far removed from current opinion in Australia in that respect. At the same time, he is very far removed from the views of the Labor Premier of New South Wales who has been trying to wrestle, not irresponsibly, with a difficult industrial situation. New South Wales- the Leader of the Opposition’s own State- has felt the weight of irresponsible union action as a result of defiance of industrial commissions, the Arbitration Commission and the Supreme Court. To suggest that a government which brings these matters to notice and which seeks to do something about them, is union bashing, is so far removed from the truth and current Australian thought, feeling and concern regarding these matters, that the Leader of the Opposition might well be in another world.
-I understand that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs met some State Munsters and Attorneys-General last week and discussed his proposed co-operative scheme in the field of companies and securities legislation. Can the Minister report to the House on these discussions? Is he able to tell the House when the scheme might be implemented?
– It is a fact that in Melbourne last Friday I met all State Ministers responsible for corporate affairs, with the exception of the Queensland Attorney-General, who is overseas at the present time and was represented by one of his colleagues. The Ministers have agreed to meet again, not later than 18 February, by which time there will have been a complete exchange of views between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the essential details of the Commonwealth’s proposals. I did not anticipate when the Commonwealth put its proposals in July of this year, that this matter could be resolved by one meeting between the Commonwealth and all the State Ministers concerned. It is a complex matter. I have made it clear that it is the Commonwealth Government’s belief that the Commonwealth has distinct national responsibilities in these areas and that those responsibilities go beyond responsibilities as, in effect, agents for the Territories involved in the area. I am still cautiously optimistic that the Commonwealth’s proposals will win the support of the States. I believe it is sensible for the Commonwealth to endeavour to secure a co-operative approach in this area. I believe that uniform legislation is desirable not only from the point of view of investor protection but also from the point of view of the business community. I believe that this legislation can best be achieved by a cooperative approach.
-Has the Treasurer seen a forecast by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development of renewed international recession in the second half of 1977? Does he feel that in view of these changed international circumstances his Budget strategy, which assumed a gradual international recovery during 1977, is still relevant to Australia’s needs? Will he undertake to implement a strategy which is in accordance with facts rather than dubious Treasury assumptions?
-The honourable gentleman would do well not to believe and accept as fact all that he reads in the newspapers. I have seen some imaginative writing about matters which are asserted to have come recently from the OECD. I am informed that these reports are completely without foundation. The facts are that the OECD secretariat has been reviewing its forecasts for the purposes of the Economic Policy Committee meeting which will be held later this month. The Committee will consider those forecasts and the OECD will then publish a revision of the forecasts, if such a revision is required, some time in December. I understand that the reports emanate from some leakage from the OECD secretariat. I am informed that the forecasts do not indicate any suggestion of recession, and any talk along those lines is therefore complete nonsense.
What the forecasts do suggest, for the information of the honourable gentleman, is a slightly lower rate of growth of economic activity in comparison with previous forecasts which are a matter of public record. They go on to suggest that the overall picture is one of sustained economic growth throughout 1977. I understand that the forecasts of the Secretariat imply a slightly faster rate of growth in the last half of 1977 than in the current half year. I assure the honourable gentleman, having been present at the OECD meeting in June of this year, that what the Government is undertaking in its economic strategy was endorsed not only by the OECD at the June meeting but also at the more recent International Monetary Fund- World Bank meeting in Manila.
– Does the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development issue copies of his speeches to the Opposition 2 hours prior to presenting them in this House? Did the Minister extend this privilege to demonstrators on the lawns of Parliament House last Thursday afternoon? If not, will the Minister tell the House how a speaker at the demonstration had a copy of his statement on the Ranger uranium environmental study approximately VA hours prior to its being delivered in this House?
– I cannot say with any assurance that the demonstrators had a copy of the statement that I was to make on that day. The information I have received is that they did have it. I can say that only one statement was issued from my office, in accordance with the norms of this House. That was 2 hours before I made the statement and the copy was issued to the Opposition. No other statements were issued from my office. I would not like to make any supposition, as distinct from presenting the facts I have given, as to how that copy may have arrived with the demonstrators.
– I direct a question to the Foreign Minister. He will know that last Thursday the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development stated that the Government welcomes any international initiatives for strengthening the international nonproliferation regime. Why has the Government not seen fit to take such initiatives itself in view of the increased risk of nuclear war to which the Fox inquiry has now drawn attention in the strongest terms?
-The Leader of the Opposition reveals his own ignorance. In fact, our attitude is stronger in certain areas than as recommended in the Fox committee report.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to the beef industry which has experienced a series of significant reductions in export market opportunities in recent months. I refer to the announcement this morning of a severe reduction in Australia’s quota for the entry of beef to Japan. What action is the Government taking following this announcement? Is there any pressure that the Australian Government can bring to bear on the Japanese Government to ensure reasonable access for Australian beef producers to the Japanese market?
– It seems rather extraordinary that the prospective quota for the first 6 months of 1977 should have been reduced, as it seems prospectively it will be, in view not only of the negotiations that took place leading to the signature by the Australian Prime Minister and the Japanese Prime Minister of the basic Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation on 16 June 1976 but also in view of the very pronounced circumstancesone could call it no less than delight expressed by the Japanese- of the development of trade relations between our countries. Indeed volume 3 -No. 4 edition of the Jetro information bulletin issued in October of this year speaks of the continued expansion of our economic trades and refers to quite a range of commodities.
It mentions that this trade expansion may be due chiefly to Japan’s mounting imports of beef and new massive imports of crude sugar under a long range contract and that considering Japan’s unbroken business recovery since the start of this year its buying of Australian iron ore, coal, raw wool and possibly sulphur for industrial use is generally expected to grow from now on. In fact, the Japanese indicate generally in this edition the extent to which the growth would include beef. On page 5 there is reference to relations not only with Australia but also with respect to Japan and New Zealand. It is stated there that trade problems with beef and other products would soon be solved given the start of Japan’s economic recovery. There is no doubt that if there is to be a significant reduction in the quantity of beef to be exported from Australia to Japan in the first 6 months of 1977, it will have quite a significant impact particularly on the heavy bullock market and the fat cow market in Australia as the chilled beef trade has represented a significant extension of Australia’s marketing opportunities.
With respect to the second half of the honourable gentleman’s question, it so happens that the Australia- Japan fisheries agreement is due to be re-negotiated on 27 November next. The Japanese have been anxious that this agreement should be extended. They have some 360 vessels in the ISO to 330 tonne range employed around the Australian coastline. Those vessels have been enjoying port access since 27 November 1968. Last year a 12-month extension to the agreement was negotiated and there have been some preliminary negotiations regarding its extension. I am told that the industry currently employs in excess of 8000 men. There have been about 762 port calls annually over the past 8 years. The concept is that the Japanese vessels maintain a cyclical pattern between Japan, southern waters and back to Japan with about 290 days out. They then remain for 75 days at home bases refitting. Their objective in coming to Australia is to stay on the grounds longer, to obtain fuel, bait and supplies and to overcome some of their labour problems. The catch from this fleet represents about 10 per cent of all tuna for the Japanese market. The circumstances of renegotiation of that agreement will very much depend on relations between our 2 countries and opportunities available in other areas. As the honourable gentleman would expect, it would be difficult for us not to have regard to the action taken by the Japanese in respect of beef access when we are considering any extension which might be negotiated in respect of the Australia- Japan Fisheries Agreement.
– I ask the Prime Minister. Has he made any inquiries into the sources of detailed information available in the Sydney Stock Exchange on Thursday morning relating to the Government’s decisions of the previous night on the future policies on uranium?
– This is the first time the subject has been brought to my notice.
– ( Fisher-Minister for the Northern Territory)- I seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to make a correction to an answer that I gave in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for the Northern Territory on 10 November. Acting on advice which was given to me at that time I said, among other things in that answer, that the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd gave about $lm to the Salvation Army. Subsequent information available to me indicates that this is not absolutely correct. I am now advised that about $ lm was given by the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd to the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund and that the Sydney Morning Herald gave about Sim to the Salvation Army in Sydney.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the Dairy Adjustment Act 1974 I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Tasmania relating to that Act.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum entitled Towards a National Refining Policy.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on ADP equipment and parts.
Pursuant to section 82 of the Repatriation Act 1920 I present the annual reports of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals Nos 1,2, 3, 4 and 5 for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of the Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– I seek to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– My word I do. In an article headed ‘Silence on Lockheed Papers9 appearing in Things I Hear published on 12 November the following appears, and I will not quote all of the article:
It is many weeks since the Lockheed aircraft bribery scandal broke in the U.S. Its repercussions were felt in Japan, The Netherlands and many other countries. Opposition Member James attempted to extend the uproar to Australia with charges against the late Senator Paltridge, who was Minister for Civil Aviation at a relevant dme. He drew no results, other than criticism of himself for the way he made his charges.
The article continues. At no time have I made any reference inside or outside the House to the Lockheed scandal which is known world wide. I have been misrepresented and my character has been impugned.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The systematic dismantling of the Australian Legal Aid Office by the Government.
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-
-In July 1973 the Labor Government established the Australian Legal Aid Office. The real purpose of its establishment was to assist people who were disadvantaged and those who were in need, as well as many others. By November 1975 the Labor Government had established offices in all State capitals and in 33 regional centres. At the same time it foreshadowed that another 52 offices would be established within a short space of time. It is significant that statistics compiled of people using the service who were interviewed show that 2 1.5 per cent of them were pensioners and 8 per cent were migrants. Further, the Office provided a general problem solving service without the imposition of any means test. One can see from that that there was an established need for this service. It particularly assisted those who were disadvantaged. As has been said, the real advantage is with those in the community who are affluent and not those who are disadvantaged. If one is disadvantaged one is not able in the main to seek legal assistance; nor does one think that one can afford it. A report published by the Director of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research indicates that a person who is legally represented has 6 times the likelihood of obtaining an acquittal as has an unrepresented person.
What is the position as at this day? I now wish to make out a case to show that the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has succumbed to the dominance of the Treasury and, if I may say so, the directions of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in extinguishing the Australian Legal Aid Office. The hopes and expectations of the people of Australia have been dashed. What is the evidence for this? Dismantling is already taking place in Western Australia. The AttorneyGeneral has travelled the country apparently negotiating- secretly, one would thinkarrangements whereby States can take over the ALAO’s functions- in other words, they will be running legal aid- and indicating to them that unless they toe the line they will not get any Federal funds. In the early hours of last Friday morning- at 3 a.m., no less- the Western Australian House of Assembly introduced a legal aid Bill for that very purpose. It seeks to set up a commission. That commission will take over the ALAO’s functions in that State. The Commission is to be run by the profession itself. Consumers and other people, such as legal aid officers- even the Federal Government, which is to be represented by one commissioner- will have no say in that matter, despite the fact that there will be Federal funding in the provision of legal aid in that State.
Western Australia has been disposed of in accordance with the Attorney-General’s views.
What is happening in the rest of the States? I am advised that, as a typical example of cooperative federalism, a similar situation has arisen in South Australia. South Australia had the choice of either participating in a nationally co-ordinated legal aid scheme or not getting any funding at all. The Attorney-General’s slow strangulation of the Australian Legal Aid Office will mean that there-will be no required services for those people in need. The only alternative for the South Australian Government was to cooperate in the setting up of some form of commission or not to have any funds from the Commonwealth. At least we can be sure that in South Australia’s case the scheme will not be a complete sell-out to the legal profession, as was the case in Western Australia. On a recent visit to Tasmania the Attorney-General attempted to instil confidence into the Australian Legal Aid officers. Did he succeed? I suggest that the reverse was the case. The result will be further dismantling of the Australian Legal Aid Office. People committed to extending social justice in the community are to be put out of work.
No one is convinced by the AttorneyGeneral’s reassurances. We all know that when one starts to curtail, to abandon or virtually to restrict the provision of finance one causes instability and unemployment and one therefore gets no real stability in that scheme. Let us look at the evidence of that as it applies to Tasmania. On 12 November the Australian Legal Aid Office Staff Association issued a memorandum in which it stated:
The Spokesman informed the Attorney-General that the staff association was extremely upset and concerned at the lack of consultation as to the proposed form of future legal aid services and at the fact that staff members had not been given any information at all as to the progress of those negotiations.
Another matter mentioned in the memorandum was this:
The Attorney-General was informed that the staff associations considered that the consequence of forming a Tasmanian Commission to provide legal aid services in Tasmania would be disastrous in that:
i) it would lead to a desertion of all competent staff.
it would be impossible to recruit competent staff to the commission.
the lack of competent staff would in turn grievously and adversely affect the provision of legal aid to the disadvantaged people of Tasmania.
What is the position in Victoria? There is one office which is located on the tenth floor of a rather magnificent suite of offices in Collins Street. It is rather ineffective in coping with the legal aid needs of the community in Victoria. Is it the intention of the Attorney-General to hand the legal welfare of Victoria to the legal society there which has, if I may say so, an appalling track record when it comes to legal aid, selfinterest being the main motivation? That is the society which was prepared to go to the High Court and challenge the validity of the Australian Legal Aid Office being established in Victoria. It obtained a fiat of the Victorian AttorneyGeneral for that purpose. I am happy to report that that action has been discontinued. The Victorian government and the legal professional bodies nave neglected legal aid so badly that the community there has had to set up its own voluntary legal aid service. This has been done in Fitzroy and it has done a splendid job. There is a great demand for its service and it needs more assistance. In view of this performance surely the Commonwealth Attorney-General would not suggest that professional bodies and State governments are the only appropriate bodies to administer a Victorian legal aid commission?
Let us look at New South Wales where perhaps the problem is not so acute because in New South Wales there has been for some years some real legal aid scheme in the form of the Public Defender and the Public Solicitor. They have a full salaried legal staff which operates very effectively and very efficiently. The Commonwealth Attorney-General, by continually refusing to co-operate in negotiations with New South Wales, is denying the people of that State access to legal aid in Federal matters, and very importantly m family law matters. On many occasions in this Parliament we see the AttorneyGeneral stand and hear him complain that the New South Wales Attorney-General will not write to him. His plea is: ‘Write me a letter, Frank. I want to hear from you’. That will not solve the problem.
We want to see an effective legal aid system in all States, one which is properly funded by Federal funds. Real dominance in this field is exercised by the Treasury which is being so mean and miserly in respect of this matter that it is indicating that there is going to be only a small portion of funds allocated and that has to be enough. We get heartily sick of the Attorney-General’s excuse that there is something wrong with State Attorneys-General, such as in New South Wales for example, and therefore we do not get an effective legal aid system. Let us put the responsibility where it lies, fully on the Treasury and fully on the Prime Minister. I would remind the House that the Prime Minister said in the Budget debate on 26 August last year when he was Leader of the Opposition that his Government would abolish legal aid. I think this is being carried out now by stealth rather than in an open fashion.
The Attorney-General is not able to admit yet that in New South Wales a former President of the New South Wales Law Society Mr Loxton, has been appointed, or it has been suggested that he be appointed, to inquire into the Sydney operations of the Australian Legal Aid Office. The Attorney-General has not admitted this yet; obviously it has been leaked to the Press. That Society has been anxious to promote its own scheme. I might say that this is happening against the views of the New South Wales Government. I am not being personal and Mr Loxton has his own views. The New South Wales Attorney-General already is conducting an inquiry into all aspects of the legal profession. It is somewhat of an insult to think that this Government is overriding that situation and suggesting that somebody else be appointed to inquire into another aspect of legal aid in that State. Speaking of Mr Loxton, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, in reply to a question without notice on 10 November, stated at length that Mr Loxton was not an opponent of the salaried service and showed a real sympathy for setting up legal aid offices.
In that context the Attorney-General mentioned Mount Druitt as an example. I want to get the record straight. The office at Mount Druitt is not an Australian Legal Aid Office but a creation of the New South Wales Law Society. It is operated by one man and it channels a fair percentage of its work to the private profession, as it has to do. It has been criticised on the basis that it does not refer eligible people to the Australian Legal Aid Office. In order to straighten the record further, Mr Loxton said in his 1975 presidential address to the New South Wales Law Society that he was prepared to plead guilty to seeing all significant legal aid work being done by the private profession’. Mr Loxton ‘s statements are on record. It is wrong for the AttorneyGeneral to claim that Mr Loxton is without hostility to non-private professional dominance in legal aid.
Having seen the chaos and fragmentation caused by the dismantling of the Australian Legal Aid Office, inevitable disadvantages flow. Separate State bodies mean that differences will grow between means tests and accessibility of legal aid to the community. Jurisdictional difficulties will arise. There will be high administrative costs. Legal aid must be available on a national basis. One example would be the basis of Medibank. We will have forum shopping arising where people move interstate to commence litigation because they would not be eligible for assistance in their own State. There could be cases where one party in an action is granted legal aid in one State while the other party is not able to defend because of the stricture’ of a legal aid means test in another State.
Fragmentation of the existing national scheme has caused great anguish and dislocation to employees of the Australian Legal Aid Office. They feel betrayed. They have organised a staff association which includes all employees, not just the professional officers, to act in their own defence. This body was set up primarily because of concern for the future of the Australian Legal Aid Office and a lack of consultation between the Attorney-General and the Office. He consults with professional bodies but not with the Australian Legal Aid Office. The mooted appointment of Mr Loxton casts grave doubts on the bona fides of the Attorney-General in relation to the salaried legal service.
The Attorney-General has circulated a draft ordinance dealing with the setting up of a legal aid commission in the Australian Capital Territory. He stated that the Australian Capital Territory body will be a model on which other commissions will be based. In keeping with the policy of secrecy the draft was circulated to one or two self-interested bodies but not to those immediately affected- the consumers of legal aid, members of the Australian Legal Aid Office, the State Attorneys-General and, m particular, the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. The ordinance relates to the setting up of a 7-man commission dominated by the private profession. It allows for one representative of the Legislative Assembly and one from the Australian Capital Territory Council of Social Services. That particular member did not get a copy of the draft ordinance. The commission will be dominated by committees which will have the real power to dispense legal aid in the Australian Capital Territory. The legal aid committee will have the real power to dispense commission funds. It will decide all applications for legal assistance and decide whether to refer them to a private practitioner or to a salaried legal officer. This ordinance destroys all the aims of the Australian Legal Aid Office, a body which was accepted by 94 per cent of the Australian people.
The Western Australian legislation was introduced at 3 a.m. on a Friday morning, the same time as the milkman would arrive and with about as much notice. In that State it is already a fait accompli. Yet in this House on Wednesday of last week the Attorney-General said that he was discussing the matter. He said that at that very time officers of his Department were having close discussions with officers in Western
Australia. The Bill would have been drafted by then because it was introduced in the Western Australian Parliament within 24 hours. Is the Attorney-General so out of touch with his Department on negotiations or did he offer Western Australia carte blanche to go ahead with a commission without telling this Parliament what the funding arrangements are to be? We all would like to know what these funding arrangements are and what the financial cost is to be. What was the need for introducing this legislation so hastily? We might ask whether it was in order to spur some of the more genuinely concerned States into premature action. The AttorneyGeneral has a duty to explain his role in dismantling the Australian Legal Aid Office and setting up State commissions.
Legal aid is a matter of public importance and it should be a matter of priority. This Government’s deceitful and underhand attempts to dismantle the ALAO and to give it to the States is typical of its discredited federalism policy. That policy aims at off-loading areas of national concern on to the already financially overburdened States. Mr Fraser said in reply to the 1975 Budget that the Liberals would abolish the ALAO. This has been done. Despite contrary and confusing statements by the AttorneyGeneral, that threat is now being fulfilled.
– It is very unfortunate that the Opposition has moved to debate this matter of public importance because it is quite evident that it is attempting to create a situation of confusion to try to stop the Government from establishing an adequate and proper legal aid service in this country. I immediately give the he to dominance by the Department of the Treasury which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) suggested because this year the figure for legal aid in the Budget has increased from $ 12.5m to $ 16.24m. An increase of something like 25 per cent. If we were about the job of disestablishing the Australian Legal Aid Office we would not be increasing the budgetary figure; nor would we have introduced what might, on the face of it, be an unpopular provision, namely, the payment of a $60 fee per divorce application to the Family Law Court. The purpose of that fee was to enable some additional funds to be provided for legal aid. That type of measure was adopted previously in New South Wales and it was an adequate way of financing legal aid. Quite clearly the Government is not about the task of dismantling the Australian Legal Aid Office.
This is a mischievous attempt on the part of the Opposition to create the impression that we are dismantling the Australian Legal Aid Office. The record of the Australian Labor Party in this field can be looked at in terms of figures. For the year ended 30 June 1975 the number of matters committed to the legal profession was 20 326. For the year ended 30 June 1976 the number of matters so committed was 45 706. In that last year, 5 months represented the time when a Labor Government was in power. In the period from 1 July 1976 to 30 September 1976 the total number of matters committed by way of legal aid was 12 766, which is a rate of 51 000-odd a year. In other words, on average, matters were committed to the private profession at the rate of 5 1 000 per year in the first 3 months of this financial year. The fact is, of course, as the honourable gentleman knows, the Legal Aid Office has been maintained at the level of commitment fixed by his Government in September of last year.
The referrals have continued and, as I have shown, they have continued at a rate which exceeds that of his Government. During the last 11 months of the Australian Labor Party Government the average number of personal interviews in the Australian Legal Aid Office was 1 1 693. In the first 6 months of this year the average number of monthly personal interviews in the Australian Legal Aid Office was 12 230. What is the honourable gentleman talking about when he speaks about the dismantling of the Australian Legal Aid Office? One can patently see that he is politicising this matter and trying to throw confusion into the staff and also to stop me in my endeavour on behalf of the Government to set up a proper system of legal aid in this country. Let us have a look at what has happened. From the beginning of my term as Attorney-General I have gone to the Legal Aid Office in every capital city in this country and sat down and talked with the staff. I have assured them of the fact that they will not be sold out, that adequate provision will be made to protect them under any system and I have given them the assurance that they should not be concerned.
In that period, of course, we have had constant attempts by the Labor Party Opposition, both federally and in the States, to try to throw these poor people into confusion. These are the people who were thrown onto bare floors in offices in capital cities and told- this was in 1974- to administer legal aid. In Sydney and Melbourne the staffs were thrown onto large floors, without partitions, and told to administer legal aid. There was inadequate support staff. This is the record of the then Government which now, in Opposition, is attacking this Government in relation to legal aid. I ask: What else did that Government do? It created a state of complete mistrust between the salaried service and the private profession. As I have said in the House before, we in our turn have created bridges between the salaried service and the private legal profession. In the Australian Capital Territory, for instance, I have established a legal aid committee on which is represented, on an informal basis, the Director of the Legal Aid Office and representatives of the Law Society of the Australian Capital Territory and the Bar Association of the Australian Capital Territory.
What else has happened there? Members of the private profession are now attending the legal aid office in Canberra on a voluntary basis to give advice to members of the public. That is an initiative that I took. The other thing which that committee is doing from time to time is looking at matters which go to the private profession by way of referral. In other words, I am building bridges which were not there between the salaried officers and the private profession. In fact, those bridges were deliberately destroyed. Of course, the speech of Mr Loxton in 1975 which the honourable gentleman quoted is a reflection of the attitude which was left in the minds of the private profession. Let us be clear about legal aid. The Government for 2 reasons cannot through salaried officers provide legal aid in this country. First of all, no government can provide a bottomless pit for legal aid. That is quite clear. The other reason is that the day that we have legal aid provided through a salaried service alone will be the day when people are deprived of the independent legal profession and the lawyer of their choice. I do not know whether that is the philosophy of honourable gentlemen opposite but to me that seems to be their philosophy.
My purpose in setting up a legal aid commission in every State would be to make sure that the legal profession had a substantial involvement, not for one moment so that it could be involved in a rip-off. As far as I am concerned, the legal profession has to make its contribution towards legal aid. A legal aid office should be the social service arm of all lawyers, not just of the private profession. It ought to be the place through which lawyers express their concern for the community. Because private lawyers must make a contribution I take the view that they should have a substantial involvement in the running of any legal aid commission. I am not asking any State Attorney-General to ensure that the State involvement be more than 50 per cent, 50 per cent or 40 per cent. I take the matter State by State or territory by territory. I shall attempt to arrive at that conclusion which is most likely to meet the needs and attitudes of people in a particular State. I have told this to the Law Council of Australia.
I have also told the Law Council of Australia that I am not in the business of destroying the Australian Legal Aid Office and that in any arrangement with States’ officers, those officers have to be looked after. If the States engage in any commission in an attempt to destroy the salaried service, as far as I am concerned I shall be moving my Government to withdraw funds from those commissions because I am not in the business of destroying the salaried service. They have established themselves in cities and towns as an organisation which can provide legal aid on a proper basis. One of the misfortunes of the previous Government was that it did not set up a salaried service on a proper basis. I have already indicated the way in which it did it. For instance, it did not give that service enough support staff. It left them to do administrative work. A lot of these people are disillusioned. They are wondering what the Legal Aid Office is all about because they are not doing full time legal work.
I want to achieve a rationalisation of legal aid services through a State commission which is the only instrument we can have in which the effect will be that salaried officers will be doing legal work, not sitting down doing the work of a magnified clerk, working out whether the means test has been satisfied in a particular case. That is not work for lawyers. Yet that is the state in which I found the Legal Aid Office of this country. I have purposely left the Legal Aid Office in more or :ss the same form in which it was taken over so that the rationalisation of services could be undertaken in each State. I have referred before to the case in New South Wales, and it will be a disgrace if politicians cannot solve this problem. We have public defenders, public solicitors, the Law Society scheme and the Australian Legal Aid Office. How confusing that must be to members of the public. Imagine the premises that are involved, the overlap of staff that is involved. All I want to do is sit down with Mr Walker and work out a proper system. It has been said by the honourable gentleman opposite that I am refusing to negotiate with New South Wales. That is not correct; it is untrue. I have been trying to get to the table with Mr Walker ever since he came into office, as I was with his predecessor. I will be very happy to talk to him at any time. Mr Walker knows that, and I have had private discussions with him recently on the subject. When he is ready to talk I will be ready to talk, and we will get down to business. But one thing is going to be clear in those discussions; that is, that we are not going to destroy bridges but build them between the salaried office on the one hand and the legal profession on the other.
Reference has been made to the fact that I have thought of engaging somebody like Mr Loxton to advise me in relation to the Legal Aid Office in Sydney. The purpose of that engagement, if it takes place- and no final decision has yet been made- would be, as I have made quite clear, to enable me to know, firstly, what steps can be taken to build further bridges between those 2 groups in New South Wales; secondly, because Mr Loxton is the senior partner of one of the largest private firms in Sydney, to see whether any administrative practices which a large private firm uses can be used in a legal aid office. If anything is wrong with that approach, just tell me what it is. Honourable members may criticise it if they will, but that is the sole purpose of it, and it will be done, if it is done, in a way which will not disrupt the Legal Aid Office in Sydney. The purpose of the exercise is to increase efficiency.
So far as Western Australia is concerned, all that has happened is that a Bill has been introduced, and I am happy in principle with the terms of that Bill. I have an arrangement with the Western Australian Attorney-General that if any minor amendments are needed they will be made next year. But let us be clear about this. So far as the arrangement of detail is concernedthe taking over of the staff and the funding by the Commonwealth- that will be worked out between us in due course. Already quite detailed discussions have taken place, and I trust that finally an agreement will be reached which will put into practice the agreement we have already reached in principle. Let it be quite clear that that agreement in principle will adopt the salaried service of Western Australia, and assurances have been given to the salaried service there that it will be protected in any arrangement.
– Will the ALAO remain?
– The honourable gentleman asks whether the Australian Legal Aid Office will remain. Of course it will not remain as the Aus- tralian Legal Aid Office, but that is because of his jingoism. He cannot stand by and see something which he created disappear in form. All that I am attempting to do, all that the Government is attempting to do, is to set up a legal aid system in which the legal aid officers who now perform salaried service work in the ALAO will in effect be part of the new commission. In due course they will administer the same form of legal aidfamily law legal aid, federal legal aid, legal aid to pensioners- which is presently being administered by them in Western Australia, but it will be done through a commission. There will be no confusion in Western Australia, and when South Australia agrees and when Tasmania and Victoria agree the same situation will apply. The ordinary citizen will be able to go into a legal aid office and say: ‘I have a legal problem’, and he will not be told: ‘Sorry, this is a Federal legal aid office, you will have to go down to the State office’, or ‘This is a State matter, you will have to go for family law to the Federal legal aid office’. That day will be finished.
The other thing we have been doing is ensuring that bodies like the Fitzroy Legal Service and the Tenants Advisory Service in Victoria have been helped. We have also involved the Australian Council of Social Services.
- (Mr Lucock) Order! The Attorney General’s time has expired.
– The proposition for debate at the moment deserves repeating, that is, the systematic dismantling of the Australian Legal Aid Office by the Government. In the last couple of minutes the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has conceded that in fact that is his very definite intention. He has expressed it. He has come out into the open.
– That is nonsense.
-When the honourable member checks Hansard later on he will see that that is what the Attorney-General said. It is the one promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on which he is going to perform. He promised to abolish theAustralian Legal Aid Office and he will. Let me deal with some of the curious arguments raised by the Attorney-General, not in any particularly logical order but in the order in which he raised them. First of all, he said that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) in raising this matter for debate was trying to stop the Government establishing adequate and proper legal aid services. ‘Adequate and proper’- the old code words. Let us consider the legal aid services which existed in Australia before 1973. With the exception of New South Wales, such services hardly existed at all, and in New South Wales they were a very confusing mish-mash of different governmental schemes and private practitioners’ schemes. Legal aid did not grow up in a vacuum in 1 973. It grew up to meet a real human need, and it was opposed at every turn by the then Opposition, which is now in Government. It was opposed by the Attorney-General when he was in Opposition and by every one of his colleagues. If one examines what the Attorney-General said today, their interest first and foremost is that of private practitioners and never of those who are the clients of proper legal aid services.
The Attorney-General then raised the curious proposition that in the Budget this year there has been some increase in the budgetary figure for the Australian Legal Aid Office. He knows that in real terms there has been no increase in the allocation above the expenditure by the Office last year. Of course, the truth is that in February, when the Attorney-General suspended all development and future expansion of the Legal Aid Office, he cut back considerably on its proposed development- development proposed by the Australian Labor Government and voted for by this Parliament. When this Parliament appropriated funds for the establishment of new regional offices and for the employment of additional staff in Legal Aid Offices, those funds were supposed to be spent for those purposes, but in February the Attorney-General cut those funds. He ordered that they should not be spent.
The Attorney-General went on to refer- I should have thought that he would be rather ashamed of it- to the $60 fee he has imposed on applications in divorce. This is the divorce tax introduced by this Government, a revenue opportunity from the other people’s misery. What a great piece of revenue gathering it is. As I recall it, and I have not got the Budget papers here with me, it presents a revenue opportunity of about $2m. To suggest that that will finance legal aid in this country, even at its present inadequate level is, of course nonsense. It will do nothing of the sort. It will make no impact on it. In fact, the Attorney-General has proposed to apply a $60 fee not simply on applications for divorce but on ancillary proceedings for maintenance and custody, and it was only because there was a leak of information and the newspapers got wind of it that the Attorney-General was stopped from further pursuing this iniquitous way of financing -in part, he tells us- legal aid in Australia.
Next and most curiously, the AttorneyGeneral referred to the fact that increasing numbers of matters were undertaken by the Legal Aid Office during the past year and that that reflected an increase in activity. I put it to the Attorney-General that, as he would be well aware, where there is a staff freeze and the same number of staff is conducting more interviews and dealing with more matters, in a legal office that is not a reflection of an increase in productivity. It is a reflection of the fact that less thoughtful time is being spent in counselling the people who have come to discuss their legal needs and in providing assistance to them. The Attorney-General ought to know that big law offices charge on a time basis, and from the sort of statistics he has given to the House today it is quite apparent that less time than is necessary is being spent by staff in Australian Legal Aid Offices branches in counselling their clients. Yet he said, with a touch of pride, that those statistics reflect a wonderful performance by the Fraser Government. In fact the truth is the contrary.
The Attorney-General referred to the staff security of officers employed in the Australian Legal Aid Office. He made great play on the fact that he put it to the Law Council of Australia in no uncertain terms that he was not in the business of putting people out of jobs and that officers of the Legal Aid Office had to be looked after. If that is the position that gives the lie to his rationale for stopping expansion of legal aid officers. In February when the Attorney-General suspended the development of offices that had been proposed, and already undertaken and in relation to which certain expenditure had already been incurred he said that he could not have this, that it would lead to too much staff insecurity. In fact, it is the old story- it is fiddling while Rome burns. He may become known as easy going Ellicott’ but in his provision of legal aid services he will never be known as ‘bustling Bob*. These offices were thought to be necessary. If they had been established and if he is genuine in what he says about officers employed in them being able to be transferred to State legal aid commissions, of course he would have been able to do that at the same time as he established the new offices.
The Attorney-General referred to the fact that the Labor Government had established the Australian Legal Aid office in 1973 and had cast the officers into bare offices to dispense legal aid. I wonder why that happened? That happened because no offices existed before that time- 23 years of Tory Government in Australia had not acknowledged legal aid as a proper subject for the provision of funds by this Parliament. The Labor Government set about rearranging that priority. It established legal aid offices. Of course, they-were bare offices with bare floor boards and without carpets because they were new offices. It was not a matter of being able to improve or touch up some existing legal aid services. None had existed. This was a situation of satisfaction perhaps to those who back the Liberal Party and National Country Party in this Parliament, but not of much help to the many people who have since the establishment of the Office, shown very clearly the necessity for it by taking their problems there, especially to the offices in easy convenient locations in major country and suburban centres.
The Attorney-General has a fixation about the relationship of the Australian Legal Aid Office with private practitioners. I do not suppose there would be any sociologist in Australia who would not be able to establish very clearly that lawyers must be about the most conservative people in our community. Doctors may run them very close but lawyers would certainly be up there with them. I do not think that if we fiddled with any existing scheme we would not discover lawyers who were not disturbed about it. Of course they are. The Attorney-General spoke about Liberal initiatives. He pointed out that he had established casual conferences between members of the Australian Legal Aid Office and persons in the private practitioner schemes- in fact, the people who run the law societies in several States and Territories. In fact, of course, the major initiative of the Liberal Party and National Country Party during the establishment of the Legal Aid Office was to institute a challenge in the High Court of Australia with the fiat of the Victorian Attorney-General to seek to dismantle the Australian Legal Aid Office. They did that at a time when they had not even half-baked plans to establish anything in its place. The fact is that the Attorney-General’s intention to establish legal aid commissions in each of the States is nothing more than an attempt to hand over legal aid to the private profession.
I do not seek here to deprecate those persons in the private profession who are providing services of a legal aid nature. But it has been shown time and time again in Australia that this type of service simply is not adequate. To hand over any legal aid in Australia again to a group controlled by the private profession will simply not be good enough. To talk about its being done on a State by State basis does not help much either. If we look at what has happened in Western Australiathis is a scheme with which the AttorneyGeneral is quite satisfied- we will see that it will be controlled by the private profession.
I do not have the time to go through every one of the points raised by the Attorney-General. But I think it extraordinary when he talks about the multiplicity of sources from which people can seek legal aid in New South Wales- perhaps not unnaturally his obsession has been with New South Wales because that is one State in which there ever was any attempt to provide a salaried service- he talks about clients being confused. I can tell the Attorney-General now that my constituents are confused about going to the branch legal aid office at which they formerly were able to get legal aid because they are now being turned away as a result of the means test which he has imposed. They are being turned away as a result of a tightening of the means test. The Attorney-General talks about lawyers not being supposed to impose a means test- of lawyers having to administer a means test that he has made so harsh.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition has failed utterly to establish the case which is obviously based upon a claim of subterfuge by this Government. It has failed on 3 grounds. Firstly, the Government’s plans have been well known to the Opposition for a long period. Secondly, the Opposition has conceded the need, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) told us, for a nationally co-ordinated legal aid system. The honourable member full well knows that in a federal system with 2 different sets of jurisdictions, plus all the confusion that we have had in the recent past, the only way in which a nationally co-ordinated system is going to work is through a federalist type of plan- through the type of plan that has been suggested and put forward by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). Thirdly, the Opposition agrees that there has been a great deal of confusion in respect of legal aid throughout Australia, particularly in New South Wales.
It has been said that there were 7 or 8 different schemes in New South Wales to which people could go. The Australian Legal Aid Office provided a useful function in its time but all of these schemes added up to confusion. The overall answer was to streamline the procedures. I do not in any way criticise the people who work in the Austraiian Legal Aid Office because I believe that most of them have done an extremely valuable job and that they are extremely dedicated people. But the Austraiian legal aid commissions put forward by the Attorney-General constitute the only streamlined sensible practical proposal that will provide proper legal aid to the people of Australia, and it is the people of Australia who count. The last people who should be arguing the toss about these matters are lawyers who have gone into politics and have sought to use this topic as one of political argie-bargie from one side of the chamber to the other.
When we look at the present situation we see that the Australian Legal Aid Office is still continuing. The funds for the Office have increased this year. An amount of $20m is allotted under the appropriation for 1976-77 as against $ 16.2m last year. That is an increase well above the inflation rate. We see the inaccuracies, to say the least, of the Labor Party’s approach in which it claimed that this is an attempt to hand over to the private profession when we realise in the last month of the Labor Party’s term of office $lm a month of Australian Legal Aid Office funds went to the private profession, and that process is continuing at approximately the same rate. Australian legal aid offices are now interviewing more people on average per month than they did under the Labor Government.
The present Government is determined to ensure that if the State legal aid commissions are set up the Australian legal aid offices and their staff will be retained and will properly be able to continue the services that they already provide. The Attorney-General has given clear undertakings and clear guarantees to ensure that that will be the case. It is quite open to individual States to have a slightly different structure in respect of their legal aid commission. I have no doubt that if the New South Wales Attorney-General sat down with the Federal Attorney-General a scheme could properly be hammered out that would take into account the situation in that State. New South Wales historically has had a public solicitor scheme and a public defender scheme. These schemes have provided very valuable services. At times, they have been overworked. There are some public defenders who have attended 80 trials a year. This is far too many cases for one man to have to prepare and conduct in one year. I have no doubt that if the New South Wales Government was prepared to negotiate as to what type of commission would be acceptable to both the Federal Government and the State Government a commission could be set up that would be representative of all proper groups. The professions would be represented. The State Government would have representatives as would the Federal Government. Obviously consumer affairs bodies ought to have some representation. There may be other groups that ought to be represented on such a commission. If this happened the problems to which the honourable member for KingsfordSmith referred could easily be solved.
The honourable member talked about jurisdictional problems. These problems will be solved by co-ordination within proper commissions in a federal system of legal aid. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith talked about forum shopping. We will get a lot more coordination by the system proposed by the Attorney-General than is the case under the present situation in which one has to forum shop from street to street. Under the present system a person can go into a legal aid office and be told that the matter he has raised is not a Federal matter. He may be told: ‘We cannot assist you, Sir. You will have to go down the street to- well, now, wait till I look up the book’. The officers often have to look up a book to see to whom to send the client. Clients might be sent to the Public Solicitor. They might be sent to the Law Society. They might be sent down to the Divorce Court, where, I think, the family law aspect of legal aid is administered. A person might be sent to one of the 4 or 5 different places. There is also the New South Wales Legal Aid Commissioner, who carries certain important functions.
A person should be able to walk into one central office in the city of Sydney or into regional offices within the suburbs and towns in which the administration is tailored to the needs of the client. The administration should enable an officer to put his finger on the problem and should enable the client to have the best and most efficient legal representation thereafter, be it through the services of the salaried officers, if it is an appropriate matter, or through the services of the private profession, if it is an appropriate matter. This service should be provided, be it in the courts of petty sessions, the industrial commissions, the courts of appeal or any other court throughout the vast range of courts and tribunals that exist.
The Opposition sought to make some play of the tory approach to legal aid, as it was called. Members on this side of the House are fully committed to the interests of the individual first and foremost in this problem. The former Liberal government in New South Wales, which the Opposition would call a tory government, was responsible in that State for some of the most far reaching innovations that any government in the English speaking world has introduced. It established the Law Reform Commission. It established a trust system, whereby moneys could be used for legal aid, a legal education and a legal foundation. Thanks to the legislation enacted by the former Liberal Government of New South Wales, there is now a college of law in Sydney to replace the ancient articles system. It established consumer claims tribunals to assist the individual. It established the office of Ombudsman, the State Pollution Control Commission, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Privacy Committee. It had night courts in the pipeline to help take the financial burden off people by enabling them to attend at nights and not have to take time off work. This is a definite way to ease the financial burden of the individual.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith mentioned the situation in the various States. I do not know the situation in all of the States; I am more familiar with the position in New South Wales. The honourable member gave the lie to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Anthony Whitlam) who talked about handing over this function to the private profession. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, in his plea for a nationally co-ordinated legal system, pointed out that in South Australia there has not been a full sell-out to the private profession. Nor should there be a sell-out one way or the other. It is quite inappropriate to talk in terms of sell-outs. If a system has been worked out in South Australia to which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith gives at least qualified approval, there is absolutely no reason why cooperation would not produce a proper system in New South Wales.
What situation exists in that State? There is an Attorney-General who seems to refuse to assist at all. He seems to have a sincere commitment to legal aid but he also seems to have some sort of paranoia about the private profession, of which he has been a member for many years and of which many other Labor lawyers have been members. I do not quite understand why, when many of these Labor lawyers go into politics, they suddenly turn round and want to criticise and destroy the private profession that fed them for many years. They should be adopting a sensible approach towards co-operation between the private and governmental professions.
Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, has gone to the extent of heaping abuse upon the scheme of the Law Society in New South Wales. This action is most unbecoming. There is no hope for the individual client while politics are used to seek advantage for one party or another. We can have a forward looking system of legal aid in this country. We can solve many of the still very vexed problems. The problems are still very urgent because the range of services provided by the Legal Aid Office still needs improvement. We still need to be able to see that every person before the Courts receives fair representation. One has a better chance if one is represented. It is an undoubted fact that the system needs improvement. The scheme proposed by the Attorney-General if brought to fruition, will undoubtedly give us a co-ordinated, sensible legal aid scheme serving the interests of the people of Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The discussion is now concluded.
– I move:
The Customs Tariffproposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Customs Tariffproposals No. 24 give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on Leather and Leather Substitute Products. The effect of this decision is that, in the long term, a rate of 25 per cent will be applied to imports of leather and leather products except those of artificial fur which will be subject to a duty of 12 per cent.
The Government did not accept completely the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in respect of the phasing arrangements in relation to handbags, wallets, belts, travel goods and similar products. The Commission recommended that a duty of 34 per cent be held for one year, after which it be reduced to the long term rate of 25 per cent. Following a recent survey of conditions in the industry, which is composed predominantly of small businesses, the Government has decided that duties on these products should be phased down more gradually than recommended by the IAC. Accordingly, they will be subject to a general rate of 34 per cent for 2 years, reducing to 30 per cent in the third year and then to 25 per cent in the fourth year. Goods of New Zealand origin, other than leather wallets, will be admitted free of duty. The duty on these wallets will be increased to 25 per cent from their present duty of 6 per cent.
Customs Tariffproposals No. 25 (1976) give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on ADP equipment and parts. The effect of this decision is that a duty of 6 per cent will apply to imports of ADP equipment and parts with the exception of cathode ray display terminals, to which a duty of 24 per cent will apply.
In addition to the 6 per cent duty, the production of ADP equipment, other than parts, will be supplemented by bounty for a period of 7 years. A bounty equivalent to 20 per cent of value added in Australia by ADP equipment manufacturers will be paid for the first 3 years. For the fourth and fifth year the bounty will be equivalent to IS per cent of value added and for the remaining 2 years equivalent to 7.5 per cent of value added. Some changes of an administrative nature are also included in these Proposals. A comprehensive summary of the changes which operate from tomorrow is now being circulated to honourable members. I should make it clear to the House that eligibility for the bounty will operate from the date of enactment of the relevant bounty legislation.
I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 11 November, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I wish to conclude the remarks which I was making concerning this matter when the House rose last week. At that stage I complained bitterly about the decline in both production and returns to the dairy industry. I claimed that these declines had brought distress to a large and economic group in Australia, particularly in the electorate of Macarthur. The point has, in fact, been well made by the President of the New South Wales Dairy Farmers Association, Mr Jack Eggert, who pointed out that Australian milk consumption had dropped by 4 1/2 per cent since 1973. There is no real reason for this drop except the fact that marketing is not properly organised. Last week I pointed to the need for further research into methods of increasing exports of milk protein. I hope that a fair proportion of the research undertaken under the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill will go towards the provision of finance for finding methods of exporting dairy protein.
There is no doubt that the domestic marketing situation also needs a great deal of stimulus. We should look at the promotion part of this activity in the Bill now before us with a great deal of interest. There has been a degree of attempt at self-help within the industry. I know that New
South Wales dairy farmers are keen to get together to pay a levy from their own incomes to mount a massive drink milk campaign. Of course their cause was not at all helped by the removal of the free milk scheme to schools by our predecessors. There is no doubt that the declining returns to the efficient sections of this industry have brought immense distress. One of the major reasons for this immense distress is what the New South Wales Labor Government has done to the dairymen of New South Wales and particularly to those in my electorate. No matter what sort of promotional efforts are made there seems to me no doubt that the actions of the New South Wales government in mucking around with the quota system will mean greater inefficiency and greater distress.
It is extraordinary that the New South Wales Labor Government can claim that it will be cheaper to bring milk into Sydney from hundreds and hundreds of miles away than it will be to provide milk from the richer pastoral areas of, for example, the south coast of New South Wales. If members of the Opposition ever get into the country- they have an urban bias- they would see on visual inspection that these areas are green, rich and lush and produce much better milk. The facts are that these areas are close to markets and are being disadvantaged. The existence of quotas is to make certain that there are no shortages of milk. There is no point in having promotion levies, as this Bill provides, if there will be no milk in winter to promote. It was a Labor State Government which introduced the quota system in New South Wales. The reason it did so was to avoid the habitual milk shortages which occurred every winter due to cows drying off. Another reason for the quota was to encourage dairy farmers to suffer a loss in winterwinter feed can be provided only at great costand offset it in summer by getting higher prices than would normally be available in the flush milk periods. It was a sensible scheme and it worked. It brought justice to the industry and in fact maintained the most efficient dairy producers in the most efficient areas in a reasonable way.
The system is now being destroyed, curiously enough by a State Labor Government which apparently has never read about, listened to or taken notice of its Labor predecessor which introduce the scheme in the first place. The fascinating morality of the situation strikes home I believe at the very heart of what so many governments believe they have the right to do; and that is to change the rules in the middle of the game. Dairymen have been buying quotas.
Let us face it: The quota is an asset. The Industries Assistance commission’s report on dairying has recognised that the possession of a quota is a real asset and yet these quotas will be taken away, wiped out, by a stroke of the administrative pen. There will be no compensation whatsoever. There has been a suggestion by the New South Wales Dairy Farmers Association that something like $150 should be paid to the dairymen for every gallon of milk lost over the quotas. The abolition of quotas will send people broke. Efficient producers will be sent broke not because they have done the wrong thing, not because they are getting rich and not because they are doing anything disgraceful, but simply because the State Government has decided that in order to hold the seat of Casino in New South Wales, it will sacrifice the efficiency of this industry and the producers who are nearest and most capable of coping with the local demand for milk in the city areas. It will be interesting to see what happens in the first winter of the milk discontent after this system is destroyed by the State Labor Government. Who then will provide milk that the cities will need? Who will care at all whether there is a promotion levy to promote the sale of non-existent milk?
The general problem facing the dairy farmer has been well recognised not only by the IAC which, as I said, recognises these quotas as a real asset, but also by the Australian Agricultural Council which met on 8 October this year in Sydney. The Council quite clearly recognises that orderly marketing of both manufactured products and market milk continues. I think the House should note what the Agricultural Council- composed as honourable members know, of representatives of all States, including Labor States- had to say. It stated:
Preservation of orderly marketing for market milk was seen by certain States particularly New South Wales as an essential condition for participation in the new marketing arrangements.
If orderly marketing is required for heaven’s sake let it be done on a fair and reasonable basis. Let us, if we can, encourage the New South Wales Government to recognise the injustice of what it is doing to the producers in New South Wales. Recently the Jamberoo Co-operative Dairy Society, which is in the Macarthur electorate, expressed its concern to the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on this matter. I want to stress that pamphlets put out by the Labor Party have been going around in my electorate claiming, quite improperly, that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Primary Industry are opposed to the existence of quotas for milk producers. These pamphlets are, of course, utter nonsense and nothing that either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Primary Industry has said could be judged to be any rejection of the principle of having quota entitlement for capital city milk suppliers. The facts are that to guarantee supply an incentive must be provided for people to keep cows productive in their dry periods. Winter feeding is a costly practice.
I have here a letter from the Minister for Primary Industry which I hope gives the lie to the statements being made by the Labor Party in New South Wales. In a letter to me he said:
While we believe that there is a need for a closer integration of market milk and manufacturing milk sectors at a time of major adjustment within the industry, the steps taken by the New South Wales Government to cut down market milk quotas certainly seem inequitable. There are other ways by which some adjustment in returns could have been made without severely prejudicing the entitlements of market milk producers.
It is quite important that this Government’s position, vis-a-vis the New South Wales Government’s disgraceful and serious attack on an efficient and hard working industry, should be clearly stated as it was in that letter from the Minister. There is no doubt that this Commonwealth Government is making a very strong and determined attempt to fix up what is obviously a difficult and disturbed industry.
Admittedly, the underwriting arrangements for butter, cheese, skim milk powder and casein for 1976-77 season are only a holding operation. We must get longer term marketing arrangements implemented for the dairy industry. The Government has set forth a policy of introducing methods by which the industry will be improved and the people within the industry will not be on the starvation line and will not be struggling to survive in a prosperous world where, as usual, the city people seem to do so well but the people who work from before dawn to after dark in the country seem to get a bad deal. At least this Government is aware of and is concerned about those people, which is more than was the case with the previous Government. The interim measures which we have introduced at least will help out the industry until the further consideration of the very detailed recent report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the marketing arrangements in the dairying industry has been completed.
There is no doubt that the underwriting arrangements for 1976-77 must be accompanied by appropriate adjustment assistance measures to help potentially viable dairy farmers to remain in the industry. That is obviously the Government’s policy. At the same time, there is no doubt that some dairy farmers would be better off out of the industry producing something else. There is no doubt that measures taken against our export industries by the previous importers of our products- the countries which have been our customers in the past- have in effect destroyed the prospects of many of our dairy farmers. For example, an extraordinary position arises in respect to the European Economic Community. The organisation was allegedly built up for the betterment of the world and to increase stability. In fact all that happens within that organisation in terms of its trade dealings is that it tells the rest of the world to go to blazes. The export dairy farmers of Australia have been told to go to blazes by the Common Market. It seems distressing that the most industrialised and developed section of the world- the Common Market countries-should be taking measures which grind down and attack the developing areas. They attack the most efficient producers in the world. These countries are involved totally in an introspective approach and an attempt to make Europe a sort of grand extension of the old Napoleonic French empire. It is some kind of extension of the French dream of honour and glory to the exclusion of all else, particularly the dairy farmers of Australia. I regret that so many dairy farmers in Australia who have been hard workers, people who have dedicated their lives to an industry which has never given then immense returns but which in the past has enabled them to live reasonably, are now suffering to the extent that they are being forced off their farms. I hope that the Government’s discussions and implementations of measures arising out of consideration of the dairy industry inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission will result in a great period of stability for this industry. I hope that the dairy farmers of Macarthur, at least within 2 te years, will be able to look forward to a situation in which a government will be returned in New South Wales which will enable their just right of access to the city milk market to be restored to them. I think that what has happened in New South Wales is a typical example of the attitudes of Labor parties throughout this nation to the rural sector. I think that it is typical of the approach that is antagonistic to the people who work on the land. I use the word ‘work’ in a very real sense. For farmers there is no six or seven hour working day as now seems to be the popular approach in the cities. There are no demarcation disputes. There is no refusing to do the job because you do not like the look in the foreman’s eyes. The facts are that people engaged in the dairy industry work. I am afraid that it is one of those situations in which people have not been receiving a just and adequate reward for that work. This Government at least is endeavouring to do something to improve the lot of the dairy farmer. I trust that this Bill- the Dairy Industry’ Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill -will be only one part of a great collection of measures aimed at assisting those people who so very dearly and sincerely deserve our help and support.
-I do not think I can let pass some of the remarks of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). He has spoken as if there is only one view in the Government parties on this matter of milk quotas he raised and that the only people proposing or supporting the removal of the milk quota zones were in the New South Wales Government. I can assure him that that is not so. I think that in the national Parliament we should be looking at that matter in the light of the reality of the situation. The present problems which are besetting the industry and the internal fighting which is taking place between those who have the milk quota and those who have not has been a fact of life for quite a number of years.
I remember attending a very well supported meeting in Warrnambool several years ago at which the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) both dealt with this problem. It is a problem at the moment of the haves and the have-nots. The honourable member for Macarthur quite properly has defend the haves in his electorate. I am quite certain that there are other honourable members of this House whose electorates are further removed from the Sydney Milk Board region who would be proposing a quite different set of circumstances. If I may say so, the battle is joined very strongly in Victoria. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) would be more than well aware of it.
The problem really is that there has been firstly, a decline in the available markets. I am not sure whether one could blame the French Government for its protective measures. Not very long ago that country was in diabolical economic straits. The fact that it has found a solution to its problem which is not to our advantage, is regrettable from our point of view but I am certain that it is not regrettable from the French point of view. I think that we are entitled to be looking after our own interests as we are seeking to do with the beef contracts. We are quite horrified that Japan and other countries would impose quotas on imports of Australian beef. But in my electorate, we would be quite horrified if we did not impose quotas on the importation of Japanese motor cars. So it is not all milk and honey. The problem is one of insufficient markets and the capacity to supply goods very efficiently- goods which at the moment cannot be sold at anything like a reasonable price.
One of the factors which I think honourable members opposite might remember is that a number of years ago there were very strenuous efforts made by Ministers of a government of the same political colour as the present one. Indeed, I think that the responsible Minister at the time may well have been the present Leader of the National Country Party or the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair). I think it was the Leader. Bitter debates took place between the then Bolte Government in Victoria and its Minister for Agriculture, Mr Smith, and the Federal Government about the expansion of dairy areas and the continued development of dairy farms in that State. Up until early this year the Victorian Government was, in fact advertising dairy farms for persons to settle. This was a case of providing properties which could efficiently produce dairy products. There was no question about that. But they were to produce products which could not be sold.
At the same time in the same areas dairy properties were being handed over for the development of softwood forests. On the one hand, the State Government was developing, advertising and seeking people to go on to properties; on the other hand, people long established in the industry were going off properties in exactly the same area. To me, this is a very shortsighted policy. It is a policy which was epitomised by the former Premier of Victoria who said at the time of this argument: ‘While we can put people on to properties who can produce efficiently, we will put them on the properties and the Federal Government can go jump in the lake’. I do not profess to have used the exact words of the Premier of Victoria, but they are the sort of words he would have used. Certainly, this is the meaning of what he had to say. I might not be able to say here what he actually said.
The problems of the dairy industry are problems which exist in almost every Australian industry which is dependent on export markets and access to those export markets. Australia in the 1960s moved to a position very close to free trade in many areas. Other countries at the same time moved away from that position. The tariff walls and the import barriers- there were some very successful barriers which were not claimed to be either- have been built into the system to the extent that large sections of industry, and primary industry is amongst the hardest hit, are not able to sell their product in the quantities which they can produce efficiently, more efficiency than those countries which are excluding the products. This is a general breakdown and I do not believe the problems can be solved by highlighting the internal differences within Australia on the question of access to markets. I also have a milk area in my electorate. The argument at this stage obviously is not as heated in Victoria as it is in New South Wales because the Victorian Government has not moved into that area, but the pressure in Victoria is very great and we could move into this problem area in the not too distant future. Hopefully we will not Hopefully the problem can be solved by finding adequate markets for those people who are able to produce efficiently and if it can be done by finding alternate usages for land for those who cannot so produce. However, it is not easy. Generally the problems in this area are problems which need solution not by removing someone else’s markets and destroying the total industry but by concentrating the industry in those areas where it is possible for people to make a living quite properly from that which they do most efficiently.
-I support the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill. There can be no doubt about the wisdom of bringing this Bill into the House. It has been supported by both sides- by the honourable members for Fraser (Mr Fry), McMillan (Mr Simon), Wills (Mr Bryant) and Macarthur (Mr Baume). Although there may have been some technical dispute between the honourable member for Macarthur and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), generally the Bill has been well received and for obvious reasons. No one can question the need for the dairying industry. We must have this industry for the wellbeing of the community. No one would question that fact. The subject has been covered in fairly great detail and I would like to comment upon 2 problems as I see themproblems which may be tackled by the Dairying Research Committee and the Australian Dairy Corporation by way of research and promotional activities. Perhaps these 2 problems are of minor significance to the industry when taken from an overall point of view but I believe that they highlight the total problems of the industry.
The problems I refer to concern butter- to be precise, its spreadability and packaging. Let me say at the outset that I do not believe there is any substitute for the taste of butter. In my opinion margarine has been chosen by the housewife not for its taste but for its other qualities. First of all it is chosen because of its spreadability. It can be taken straight from the refrigerator and put on to bread. It has a better use in that context. We all know that butter is unspreadable when taken from the refrigerator. It must be warmed first. Even the containers built into refrigerators do not solve the problem. It is a problem with butter. Secondly, I turn to packaging. Margarine is supplied in very attractive containers which in some instances are re-usable. Butter, for as long as I can remember, has not changed in its presentation. We still get, speaking roughly, a pound slab or its metric equivalent wrapped in a piece of paper which in my young days made a suitable insert for a cake tin because it was greasy. But butter remained in that same package until 1976. This detracts from the very good article which is enclosed in that paper.
There is a third minor point. Diet is becoming of the utmost importance in affluent societies, and the polyunsaturated quality of margarine makes it preferable to butter. Some research has been done and in South Australia there is a product called butterine which is in some way polyunsaturated. Generally speaking, however, butter is not a competitive product on the market today. That is one thing which the Research Committee should look at as a matter of urgency and one also for the promotional side of the Corporation to look into. Years ago we had a promotional campaign which suggested that butter made better lovers. I have not seen too many rushing to the supermarkets to purchase butter for that reason. We must become more serious in the promotion of the product and put it on to the market in a competitive form. If this were done I believe that because there is no substitute for the taste of butter, butter would sell in larger quantities. I suggest that these matters be taken up by the Research Committee and the Australian Dairy Corporation.
As previous speakers have done, I would like now to range a little wider than the contents of this Bill and to speak briefly about the industry itself. We have heard previous speakers say that the industry at the moment has a problem. The honourable member for Wills stated that the industry had an economic problem. He said- I quote him- ‘We are speaking about an industry which is in trouble in an economic sense’. That tells only half the story. The industry has a tragic social problem at this moment. There are families- men, women and children- involved.
Some of the hardest working people in this country are facing this serious problem right now, and this is what we must remember. Let us forget about the economics of the situation and think about people and the problems facing them. Let us look back at the reasons that these problems exist now.
We can talk about world over-supply and so on but I would like to turn to the financing of the industry in Australia and to a book put out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and so is authoratitive, called Public Authority FinanceFederal Authorities. It tells a pretty vivid story for those who do not know it, and I hope that those who do not know it will know it as from today. In 1971-72 the subsidies paid to the dairying industry amounted to $39.882m. That is why Opposition members have always cried ‘another handout to the cockies’. In 1975-76 the subsidies paid to the dairying industry dropped to $ 1.275m.
– What were those figures again?
– They are almost disastrous. They have dropped from almost $40m to Sim- a drop of 4000 per cent in the subsidies paid to the dairying industry. The Industries Assistance Commission has provided some figures which show that in 1971-72 the subsidies paid to manufacturing industry in Australia amounted to $2,000m. We have all come to learn that tariff protection is a subsidy paid for by the exporter. The rural industries of this country, which in 1971-72 earned 58 per cent of the export earnings of this country, would have paid more than $ 1 , 000m to manufacturing industries in the form of subsidies.
I no longer want to hear in this House the cry of ‘hand-outs to farmers’ when these subsidies are being discussed because it is a lie to say that they are hand-outs and those who spread that around are doing a grave injustice to the people on the land. For too long we have heard the subsidies to rural industry being referred to as handouts. They are nothing more than a tariffcompensating factor for those engaged in rural industry. When one looks at the dairying industry and sees that in 1971-72 the subsidies amounted to $40m and that they were progressively cut back by the Labor Government by more than $10m a year one can see part of the true story emerging. If this Government can bring in any legislation to give some compensation to those people who work probably the longest hours of any member of any industry in this country, then I believe that it is bringing in wise and correct legislation.
I suppose one can say that the present shipbuilding industry has a chance of being retained as an industry. The subsidies from the taxpayers of this country amount to $13,000 per man per annum. I believe that the car industry is currently being subsidised to the extent of $4,000 per annum for each man in the industry. Those are pretty frightening figures. No one denies that the dairymen are efficient. We have all agreed that the dairying industry is an efficient industry. I dare say that if the dairymen were working in the shipbuilding yards we would have the most efficient shipbuilding industry in the world. Some of us are standing up in this House and arguing the point quite strongly for the retention of the shipbuilding industry; yet here we are saying to the people who are the hardest workers in this country: ‘Go and find somewhere else to get your money. Work a bit harder. Work longer hours. Get up earlier than 3.30 in the morning and go to bed a bit later than 10 at night’. It is just not good enough.
I believe that the true story must be told not only in this House but also through every outlet of the media in this country until the message gets home that the people responsible for productivity in this country are currently in grave trouble. Until that message gets home the country will remain in trouble. There is no other way. We are not going to get out of trouble in this country by giving subsidies to the people who are totally inefficient. We are only going to get out of trouble when we recognise that the way out of trouble is to produce more and to sell more.
I support this Bill because it involves the promotional side of this industry. There is no short term panacea for the industry itself except the provision of financial assistance by this Government to help it over a very difficult period. That is what I believe this House as a whole must recognise. We must look at the industry and its problems in the same way as we have looked at this Bill. I have said that both sides of the House have supported this Bill. But that is not good enough. We cannot get our consciences off the hook simply by coming in here and saying that we support this Bill because it will do much for the industry. It will do only a little and it will do that in the long term. The industry needs assistance in this grave period and that must be given.
I do not think that I need say any more because the subject has been covered in a fairly detailed form by previous speakers. But I do believe that the research and the promotion must be aligned towards making the product of this industry competitive not only on the home market but also on overseas markets. Recently I saw an Australian Broadcasting Commission program which involved a conversation between a person from a Middle East country and a representative of the Commission. The gentleman from the Middle East country said quite clearly that milk was not being purchased from Australia because it was packaged wrongly, that according to the system of packaging in Australia the containers were not being filled to their cubic capacity as they should have been and that European countries were getting the markets because their milk was packed in a better way. I believe that this is something at which the research committee can have a look. When those things are done I believe that they will offer some long term prospects for the industry. I repeat that I believe that this House must recognise the very serious problem that the dairying industry faces today and that I believe that we all have a responsibility to do something about it.
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.
– I seek leave of the House to make a personal explanation.
-Ii leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In answering a question from the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) this afternoon I indicated that only one advance copy of a statement I made in the House last Thursday entitled ‘Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry- First Report- Statement by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development’ left my office. Unintentionally in making that reply I was inaccurate. In fact, the position is this: At approximately 3.40 p.m. on 1 1 November 5 copies of the statement were passed to the office of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), in accordance with the normal practice. I understand that of these copies one was retained in the Leader’s office, 3 copies were passed to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the chamber and one was dispatched to the office of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). At approximately 4.15 p.m. reporters came to my office asking for copies of the statement. When asked why they were asking for copies of the statement they indicated to my staff that copies of the statement were circulating amongst the Press Gallery. I am advised that at approximately 4.30 p.m. demonstrators who were outside the House on that day were noted to have at least one copy of the statement. At approximately 5.10 p.m. 5 copies were passed to the office of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who represents me in the other place. I understand that they were passed on to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers).
– When was that?
-At 5.10 p.m. I am advised that those copies were not distributed to the Opposition in the other place until this morning. Further, at approximatley 5.20 p.m. one copy was forwarded to each member of the Cabinet and one copy was forwarded to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott). I made my statement on that day at approximately 5.40 p.m. No copies embargoed or otherwise, were handed to the Press or to any persons other than those I have just listed. I would like to add that I can make no implication, nor do I intend to do so, as to how demonstrators outside the House or the Press came to be in possession of the copies that I have explained.
– I seek leave to make a statement on the same matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am glad that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) made that amended statement. In answer to a question from a Government supporter today he made statements which, as they stood, reflected upon a great number of people. The Minister said at that stage that he had given the Opposition one copy of his statement. A copy, one copy, certainly was given to my office. I was told it was left in the in tray, I do not know by whom, at 3.45 on Thursday afternoon. I certainly took amiss the suggestion that any copies should have been distributed to unauthorised persons by me or by anybody in my office. I certainly did not give a copy of the statement left in my office to any other person. I would be certain that nobody on my staff did so.
As the Minister’s reply stood, I certainly felt there was some reflection on me and on my staff.
Perhaps to explain this matter, because like all matters that come before the Parliament it looks a bit esoteric, the Standing Orders of the House provide that ministerial statements may be made by leave. For very many years, certainly through the 1970s, the practice has been for the Opposition, composed of whichever party or parties it was, to give leave if a copy of the proposed statement was received by the Opposition 2 hours beforehand. I had assumed that it was in accordance with that long standing practice that I was given a copy of this statement. I am not quite sure why it was given to me. I think I usually have a copy of proposed ministerial statements given to my office by the Leader of the House on my side, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). He was not here on Thursday afternoon. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) was acting in his stead and I assume I got a copy in that way.
I was not surprised, of course, that I should have received a copy because on Thursday morning I had asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the first question of the day, at about 11.50 a.m., on this very subject. I had heard- I had not read- that Cabinet had considered its response to the Fox inquiry on the Ranger uranium proposal the previous night and had made a decision. I thought it likely that a statement would be made. I had been told by the Leader in the House (Mr Sinclair) that it was not proposed to make one immediately after question time which is the usual time for ministerial statements. It was clear that no statement had been received in anticipation 2 hours beforehand. The Prime Minister said in his reply to my question:
The honourable gentleman must be able to read my mind because the Government has made certain decisions in these matters. At an appropriate time … a statement will be made which will indicate the extent of any decisions taken to this point.
I was not surprised, therefore, to receive a copy of the statement and accordingly I read it.
There were implications- deliberately, it seemed to me- in the reply by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development at question time this afternoon that members of the Opposition had given people outside the House copies of a proposed ministerial statement. It now appears that a very great number of people had copies of the proposed statement. I am told- here again I may be casting implications myself- that many members of the Press also had copies by about 4.15 p.m. Where they came from one can only speculate. It is quite clear that there was not one copy given out; there was a very great number of copies given out.
I make allowances for the fact that the Minister has not held office for so very long but I do believe that the affairs of the House will proceed much more correctly and much more courteously if we assume that we all behave in accordance with the proprieties. The Minister has now made a second statement which lifts the implications against us. I am sorry for taking up the time of the House but I certainly do not want it thought that if I get a proposed statement by a Minister or if anybody in my office gets a proposed statement by a Minister in accordance with a long standing practice, we will act in any way to disrupt that practice. It is a practice which is necessary for the proper consideration of matters in the House. Ministers get leave to make a statement and members of the Opposition have an adequate time to make a statement immediately if that is what they desire, or to seek to have a debate on it at some later stage if they think that is the proper course. I thank the Minister for having made this second statement.
-I seek leave to make a short statement on the matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, you will have noticed that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) stated quite properly at what time he handed the statement to me. That would have been at some time on Thursday afternoon in this House. For the sake of the record, I was leading for the Opposition in the education debate which commenced at 2.30 p.m. and did not conclude until 6 p.m. I did not leave this chamber at any stage. In fact you will notice that I was speaking between 2.30 p.m. and 3 p.m. and spoke again in the Committee stage at 5. 35 p.m. So no copies of the statement were dispersed by me. That debate was extensive in nature as it encompassed 8 other Bills. It was a cognate debate. It lasted all afternoon. My good colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) was absent in Melbourne and the shadow Minister was absent in Darwin. I was fully engaged in the education debate all that afternoon and the statement remained here. It remained here from the time the Minister gave it to me and it certainly was here when he asked leave to intervene in the education debate at about 5.40 p.m. I gave him leave. You will notice that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) moved the motion for the adjournment of that dabate. We want to make it clear that as far as members of the Opposition are concerned, the statement was confined to this House because there was no chance for us to leave it.
Debate resumed from 3 November, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill is for the Parliament to authorise the appropriation of non-repayable grants to the States over the 3 year period 1976-77 to 1978-79 to qualify and quantify the underground and surface water resources of the various States. Initially this program was aimed at quantifying water resources. It was established for this purpose back in 1964. In 1974 the program was extended by the then Labor Government to include an assessment of the quality of underground and surface water as well as the quantity. The Commonwealth implements its own program on water research in the various Commonwealth Territories as well as assisting the States to do the same. Grants which have been payable to the States to date total $34.4m over a 12 year period.
One pleasing characteristic about this scheme is that it is not one where the Commonwealth has the only growth contribution operating. The States, encouraged by the Commonwealth, have incurred expenditures under these water resource programs in excess of that required to attract the maximum Commonwealth grant. The statistics on stream gauging stations bear this out. They have increased from 1450 in 1964 to 2750 in 1975. During this period the area over which surface water resources are now measured has increased by 40 per cent. The same kind of picture emerges in respect of underground water resources. The problem is, however, that there remain large areas of the Australian continent where detailed knowledge of water resources has not been accumulated. Obviously, if the quantification has not taken place, qualification has not either. So in the next 3 years emphasis under the legislation will be placed on these areas.
Under this legislation the Commonwealth proposes to allocate $5.658m by way of a nonrepayable grant to the States to assist in their proposed programs for 1976-77. In real terms this is the same as the assistance granted in 1975-76. Also the Commonwealth has agreed to take part in the programs for 1977-78 and 1978-79 but at levels yet to be determined. The last few years have seen many natural disasters in Australia, particularly floods and droughts, making it obvious that there is a high variable factor in Australia’s weather and rainfall; and therefore in the flow of its rivers. Too many communities have been disadvantaged by inadequacy of knowledge in this area. This can be rectified only by continued co-operation at a Commonwealth-State level. The continuation of this program for a further 3-year period should go a long way in quantifying and qualifying the surface and underground water resources of Australia and all kinds of climatic conditions. Without this kind of basic information planning, development and management of our water resources for a variety of uses becomes impossible. The Opposition supports the legislation as it did in government in 1974 by expanding the program to improve the assessment of the quality of surface and underground water in Australia.
-The States Grants (Water Resources Assessment) Bill 1976 is one of many Bills being debated by honourable members in this Budget session. I trust that the significance of the Bill is not lost in the flurry of legislative activity. The Bill will enable the Commonwealth Government to supply in this financial year $6.658m to State governments for the purpose of assessment of quantity and quality of water resources. A brief history of the previous Acts is given in the 1975 report of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. It states:
On 11 December 1974 the Australian Parliament passed the States Grants (Water Resources Assessment) Act 1974 which amended the States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Act 1973 to include the assessment of water quality in the National Water Resources Assessment Program. Although the original program had resulted in a great improvement in the knowledge of Australian water resources, this knowledge did not relate sufficiently to the differing quality of water available for use. Inclusion of water quality measurement in the program should furnish the data necessary for such an assessment.
The allocation of funds in this financial year will be the first in the triennium which ends on 30 June 1979. The allocation of funds for the remaining 2 years will be assessed by the Commonwealth Government at a later date. The allocation of the current year’s total of $6.65 8m was recommended by the Australian Water Resources Council. In October 1975 the Australian Water Resources Council, comprising the respective Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for water resources and management in their State or Territory adopted a policy document entitled Proposed National Approach to Water Resources Management. This document sets out in general terms the basic principles and objectives which the Council considered were essential for a policy on water resources in Australia. It has been tabled in the Federal Parliament and adopted by most State governments. The first paragraph in the policy document states:
The conservation, development and management of water resources must take place in the broad framework not only of development and management of resources generally, but also of overall economic, environmental and social planning.
The policies suggest a multi-objective approach to the development, use and management of our water resources. The Council’s statement is an extremely significant policy document which all honourable members should understand if the development and conservation of any part of this continent is under consideration. I shall briefly refer to the statement and then trace the relevance of a national water policy to the Australian people. In paragraph 2 the Council recognises the force of the economic thrust in any developmental process but warns that goals, other than the production of goods have, particularly in the past few years, been given a new significance as some of the harmful effects of the pursuit of economic growth as the dominant goal have become more evident. I shall refer to this point later in considering the Mornington Peninsula and Westernport developments in Victoria.
The Council’s statement recognises the disparity in climatic and demographic conditions across the Australian continent and advises that because of these climatic conditions and limitations on the amount of water available, extensive water conservation will be necessary for development and to maintain and improve the quality of life. Water will be a scarce resource if proper conservation and management controls are not adopted at all levels of government activity in this country. Many of our streams, lakes, bays and waterways are presently polluted. The community is now paying substantial moneys to correct existing pollution. We will require stricter controls in the future. Controls and standards will be attained only if we have measured and assessed the quantity and quality of our various water resources. The Council’s proposed statement refers to the management of water. If, for example, it is necessary to dam a river, the direct effects are considerable. Not only is the submerged area directly affected but also the whole ecosystem downstream, the habitat of fish and other wildlife, the farming and townspeople who depend on the water flow from the river; in other words, the total environment downstream. The dam will further affect those land owners whose properties the pipeline will traverse. We then ave the questions of acquisition of easement, compensation and access which often disturb the individual and the community generally.
The philosophy which the Australian Water Resources Council proposes seeks to maximise community benefit, having regard to economic growth, the impact on social wellbeing, on regional development and on environmental qualities generally. Before considering specific examples of water resource management and assessment in Victoria, I shall briefly refer to the Australian position in the world. It is encouraging to note that the Council’s policy accords m general terms with the recommendations of the Habitat Conference for National Action on Human Settlement which was held in Vancouver earlier this year. These recommendations, known as the Vancouver Plan for Action, have been considered by this Government. In relation to the scope of national settlement planning, the Conference concluded:
Settlement planning at the national level must be concerned with the co-ordination of those developments, activities and resources that have national significance. These are particularly the general distribution of population, the significance of development of certain economic sectors and certain infrastructure components.
This would include:
Provision for elements of vital importance for health and survival, especially clean and safe water, clean air and food.
The Conference took note that in many underdeveloped nations nearly two-thirds of the population do not have reasonable access to clean and ample supplies of water. The Conference therefore called on all attendant nations to establish quantitative and qualitative targets to serve the population and to do so before the United Nations conference on water in 1977. The water conference is addressed to the policy makers of all United Nation member countries and has, as its primary aim, the promotion of levels of preparedness needed locally, regionally, nationally and internationally if water quality and quantity crises are to be avoided in the future. Australia will be participating in the United Nation water conference. Many papers have already been prepared including one entitled Development of a National Approach to Water Assessment, Research and Management and another on the establishment of quality criteria for water use in Australia. Moneys made available by the Commonwealth Government under the 1974 States Grants (Water Resources Assessment) Act would have produced some of the basic statistical data upon which those papers were written.
The preamble to the Council’s document outlining the national approach to water resources management makes it clear that responsibility for the development and management of water resources rests with each government, both Commonwealth and State. Many aspects of the national water policy must be implemented by local authorities and State instrumentalities. I shall now consider some examples within the McMillan electorate which have relevance at the national level. A great deal of controversy has been created by the Victorian Town and Country Planning Board’s statements on planning policy on the Mornington Peninsula and Westernport. The Town and Country Planning Board in Victoria is required by the Government to declare broad policies for the future planning and development of nominated areas within the State. The advantages of tangible policies on future planning and development will be obvious to many members of this House. If we are to protect this country from the speculator, the exploiter, or those people bent on the destruction of our environment we must adopt and act in accordance with a land use and water resources policy. The honourable member for Gwydir, (Mr Hunt), speaking in the second reading debate on the States Grants (Water Resources Assessment) Bill in 1974 warned the House in the following terms:
We can no longer tolerate the ruthless raping of our water and land resources and leave the next generation to get on the best way it can. Effective land use policies must be based upon the realisation that there are multi-purpose uses of the resources of the land and the water, that each reacts upon the other with long term and often disastrous unforeseen results.
The relevance of water resources assessment is exemplified by the Westernport studies. The basic premises upon which the Town and Country Planning Board has based its policies are, firstly, significance in a State and national context of the deep water in the western entrance and north arm of Westernport Bay for deep draught shipping, and, secondly, the recognition of the sensitive ecosystem of the Westernport region and its catchment area. The Board recognises the value in protecting and conserving the foreshores, streams, mud flats and mangrove swamps within this significant and unique area. One of the most significant environmental studies undertaken to date, and continuing, relates to the waters of Westernport Bay and the catchment area, including groundwater. I quote from the Draft Environment Protection Policy:
This Policy determines the overall basis for the future management of water quality in the region, and establishes water quality objectives for the protection of various beneficial uses . . . The policy will become binding on all sections of the community-industry, trade, commerce, householders and Government Departments and agencies, including the Environment Protection Authority and the Environment Protection Appeal Board.
That policy was developed from the 1973-74 Westernport Bay Environment Study- the socalled Shapiro report. Phase 1 of the study was a 2 year multi-disciplinary study consisting of some 48 individual research projects coordinated by the Victorian Ministry for Conservation and jointly funded by industry and government at a total cost of $ 1.5m. The important point I emphasise is that this was an environmental study under a conservation ministry laying down a policy which will allow development of resources without damage to a sensitive and significant coastal and water environment. The study was undertaken pursuant to the reference that Westernport Bay and the catchment area should not deteriorate further in water quality- not in the bay, not in the input streams, not in the groundwater. The Draft Environment Protection Policy on the Waters of Westernport Bay and Catchment recommends that the Environment Protection Authority in Victoria: . . shall ensure the development of a comprehensive strategy plan for the implementation of the policy, using mathematical modelling and other water quality management techniques.
I respectfully suggest to honourable members that funds must be made available by Commonwealth and State governments to enable such studies to continue.
The second Victorian example to which I refer is the Thomson Dam project. This was one of two projects recommended in the Victorian Parliamentary Public Works Committee report of 1967 on the future water supply for metropolitan Melbourne. Droughts in 1967-68 and again in 1972 prompted the Victorian Government to direct in the following year the development of the Lower Yarra and Thomson River schemes. Before works could commence the Government required an environmental study to be presented. Investigations, public meetings, written submissions, and a study of the implications of the works on the natural and social environment during the phases of construction, inundation and operation have been completed. In general terms, the investigators found that no major environmental defects would result from the proposed works, although the exclusion of the public from parts of the catchment area of the Thomson Dam is causing concern to a large number of people and to local government authorities in the Latrobe Valley area of Victoria.
The need for increased water for the Melbourne metropolitan area, and for the Mornington Peninsula and Westernport areas has in a large part been based on the increased per capita usage of water and the projected expansion in population. Although the Borrie report has introduced vastly different population projections for Australia over the next 25 years from those population projections which were available in 1967, the rate of growth of population within the areas to be served by the Thomson River and Lower Yarra projects demands new sources of water.
The assessment of resources such as water in strategic planning for urban and rural Australia must be continuous and must be the subject matter of constant measurement and examination. The need for this assessment is heightened when one considers the population distribution and movement in Australia identified in the Borrie report. It will be recalled that the report suggested a growth in our national population of between 4 million and 4.5 million over the next 25 years. That projection was based on a net immigration gain of 50 000 people per annum and an assumed continuation of the presently low level of fertility. The population distribution factor of the Borrie report has even more significance to those responsible for future planning, whether it be urban, industrial, economic or resource planning. The total planning disciplines require a knowledge of resources. This Bill and the funds which will be made available by the Commonwealth to the States will greatly assist those people seeking to measure, record and assess the water resources of Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (5.1 1)- I support the States Grants (Water Resources Assessment) Bill 1 976, and point out that it is consistent with my attitude expressed in 1973 when the Labor Government introduced a Bill into this House to increase grants to the States to make provision for $ 13.7m for surface water measurement programs and for $ 16.5m for underground water measurement programs. It was pointed out at that time that this was an 85 per cent increase in Commonwealth aid to the States for that purpose. Speeches made at that time on both sides of the House indicated that members were conscious of the value of having a knowledge of the quantity and variations in the quantity of surface as well as underground water resources. However, it was also obvious that honourable members sought some knowledge of the quality of the water available. Many of them referred to the pollution in some of our inland water storage projects and in many of our major streams and rivers.
I think it was a source of some satisfaction to most of us that in November 1974 the then Minister for Health, Dr Everingham, introduced a Bill to make available $807,905 to the States to investigate the quality of water in addition to the record amount of money which had been allocated to the States for the measurement of the quantity of water. The Minister informed the House at that time that it was intended to introduce the Bill before the commencement of the financial year, but because of the elections in May of that year it had to be set aside. However, the Labor Government was conscious of the importance of the measurement of the quality of water and still intended to make available the full amount requested by the States in that financial year. No doubt members of this House who are conscious of the value and importance of water resources will derive some satisfaction from the fact that the present Government is following the lead given by the Labor Government in that year and is working in co-operation with the States, not only to improve our knowledge of water resources but also to improve our knowledge of the quality of water resources available. The quantity and the quality of water resources are involved in the lives of every man, woman and child in the nation, and to a large degree decide conditions of health and happiness in every town and village.
I might also add that the availability of water resources has a great deal to do with the beauty of life. However, despite this, water has been taken for granted for a greater part of our history. When it has been in short supply, of course, people become very concerned and very critical of the authorities and the government of the day. Unfortunately, when water is in reasonable supply very little concern is shown and water is taken for granted. In the past instead of harnessing and directing the waters of our great rivers and streams we have polluted and in many cases destroyed them. I think it must be admitted that economic merit has been the principal criterion in the assessment of our water development schemes. One must admit, of course, that some very good schemes have been introduced on the basis of economic merit. Probably one could mention the Snowy Mountains project in this context. But some very bad decisions have been taken in respect of water development schemes designed to provide a greater production of water in areas where water is already in over supply. It must be admitted that we would soon find ourselves in financial difficulties if we did not give some consideration to the economic merit of our various water projects. Nevertheless, we should be more conscious of the harmful effects of the indiscriminate pursuit of economic growth as a dominant goal of our effort.
There has been much debate in my electorate over the years on the merits of low level weirs against the merits of high level weirs. It seems to me that we should have more debate in this House on the merits of some of these undertakings which are often constructed as a result of the decision of some governmental department, either State or Federal. No matter what system one supports there is no doubt that the damming of a river has a direct effect, as the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) has already pointed out, not only on the submerged areas upstream but also on the characteristics and the pollution of the river downstream.
Another problem is the damage caused to rivers and streams by stock. Quite often properties use windmills and pipes to carry water from dammed creeks to troughs for the watering of stock. Unfortunately, stock on many properties that have river frontages are watered directly from the river and as a result break down the river banks and pollute the river. There has been a good deal of debate as to whether this practice damages the water stream. Many people upstream seem to argue damage is not caused whilst many people downstream seem to take a different view.
Since entering this Parliament I have received complaints on many occasions from water users downstream about a claim that too many water rights are given upstream and that this slows down the rate of flow of a river and often increases the pollution and salinity level of the water. I do not think that anyone could deny that laws and regulations that determine the rights for the use of water can be the means of distributing rural prosperity often to the advantage of those property holders upstream and to the disadvantage of those downstream. I am not suggesting that governmental departments have not given this matter some consideration. Of course they have. But the situation is not to the complete satisfaction of water users downstream. I believe that not only should this factor be given some consideration but also consideration should be given to how much of our water projects should be set aside for recreational purposes. Perhaps consideration could be given as to how these 2 considerations can be combined. I have in mind the Menindee Lakes scheme which has now become one of the great picnic areas of Australia which is used for sailing boats, speed boats and many other things. As you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, water from the Menindee Lakes is used in the electorate of Angas and places in between.
I believe that we require a public education and involvement program aimed at ensuring a proper understanding of the public responsibility in the use and management of our water. The present system in most of our towns of charging water rates on the basis of the value of the property seems to be, in many cases, wasteful. One often finds that the owner of a valuable property will use up more water than he requires for his small garden just because he has paid for that water as a result of being charged a certain level of water rates.
One source of water used to be water tanks. At one time nearly every house in inland towns, particularly mining towns, had a water tank. Of course a great deal of valuable water must be lost because these tanks no longer exist as a result of most of these places having access to a good supply of water. So it appears that the better the water supply the more wasteful or less conscious people become of the value of water.
I believe that authorities should be conscious of the public’s right to be involved in and the contribution that the public can make to the planning and management of water enterprises. I believe that people directly or indirectly affected by decisions concerning the management of our water resources should have a voice in the planning and implementation of proposals and that ample opportunity should be provided for those people with information and ideas to ensure that their views are heard. They should have this opportunity not only to influence the program but also so that they can acquire a better understanding of what has been planned on their behalf. I believe that if this had happened we would not have had the tragedy of Chowilla on which many millions of dollars were spent. After public debate, work on that project was set aside and as a result a great deal of taxpayers’ money was wasted. The agencies concerned with water resources should ensure that provision is made for effective public participation starting as early as possible in the planning process.
Another matter that I believe deserves some more serious consideration is the zoning of flood prone land with a view to its orderly management. In my electorate the same properties have been flooded in the last two or three floods and a call has gone out to the government of the day to provide assistance for flood damage. It does not seem to be right that people who build properties on flood flats should be allowed to call on taxpayers’ money to meet the cost of flood damage.
I believe that one subject on which we should have more information and debate is underground water. I believe that the official term is ground water’. In my opionion ground water has contributed largely to meeting the needs of developing Australia. It is the main source of water in the arid parts of our continent. This problem greatly concerns a large number of people in my electorate. We must have a continuing planned program in the water field. We must continue this close collaboration and consultation between the Australian and State Governments and other bodies interested in water, as well as the general public with interest in this field. We must continue our support of the existing Commonwealth-State program of measurement and investigation of surface and underground water sponsored by the Australian Water Resources Council. We should accelerate the current study by the Australian Water Resources Council of the requirements for a national water quality assessment program. We should try to involve the general public as much as possible in these investigations.
-Members of the National Country Party fully support the States Grants (Water Resources Amendment) Bill which provides financial assistance to the States in connection with the assessment of thenwater resources. Country members of the Parliament are well aware of the need to conserve water resources. We are, of course, vitally concerned with floods and droughts that occur from time to time and we know the great benefit to be derived from the conservation of Australia’s water resources. There are 2 river systems in my electorate of Paterson. One is the Hunter River which rises in the Dividing Range and traverses the rich Hunter Valley, flowing out eventually into the sea at Newcastle. It is pleasing to note that on this river we have the wonderful Glenbawn Dam situated above Scone, which provides water all year round for irrigation, stock and domestic purposes. On the other river system, the Namoi River system which flows on the other side of the Dividing Range, there is another splendid dam, the Keepit Dam which provides water for the Namoi River for irrigation of cotton crops, pastoral crops and cereal crops.
This Government is vitally concerned with furthering the program of water resources in Australia. A few weeks ago the New South Wales Grant (Namoi River Weirs) Bill was passed by this House. This provides for 4 weirs on the Namoi River to irrigate cotton and cereal crops. Only several weeks ago, on the Gwydir River in the north-west of New South Wales, the great Copeton Dam was officially opened. The Government provided a huge amount of money- I think it was over $20m- towards this conservation program on the Gwydir River. It is good to see our water resources being conserved in this manner. Country members feel that there should be far more dams and conservation schemes implemented throughout the countryside.
The Bill provides for the continuation of assistance to the States in the conduct of co-ordinated programs for the assessment of the quantity and quality of water resources, both surface and underground. Assistance to the States was initiated by the States Grants (Water Resources) Act of 1964. This was the beginning of the scheme which we are debating today. The legislation was enacted as a result of recommendations made by the Australian Water Resources Council, which was established in 1962 by agreement between the Commonwealth and all State Governments. The Council was set up with the objective of providing a comprehensive assessment of Australian water resources on a continuing basis and the extension of measurement and research so that future planning can be carried out on a sound and scientific basis. The Council consists of Commonwealth and State Ministers with responsibility for water resources. Most States have a water conservation and irrigation commission. These would be the Ministers conferring with the Commonwealth in this Council.
In a publication entitled ‘Review of Australia’s Water Resources’ published in 1963, the Council explained the importance of making a comprehensive and continuing assessment of water resources on a national basis. It made 3 points:
Data is necessary for the economic and safe design, operation and management of water control projects; Australia is the world ‘s driest continent. There is a real need to know the potential and limitations of water resources; and Water resources have a bearing on population growth, decentralisation of population and industry, increasing exports, improving standards of living and national defence.
As I said earlier, these water resources have a bearing on irrigation of crops, the increase in cereal and cotton crops, dairying and pasture improvement. The work involved in water resources assessment is being carried out in close collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology, which is making detailed assessments of rainfall distribution for the Water Resources Council. Country members of Parliament find that the advice provided by the Bureau of Meteorology is invaluable at all times. Indeed, in times of flood on the northern rivers of New South Wales, its information is extremely accurate. So, if the Bureau’s information is accurate for flood purposes, it will be accurate for the purposes defined in the Bill.
The Water Resources Council has appreciated that stream gauging could not be sufficiently comprehensive to embrace the whole continent. Many streams would remain ungauged. Honourable members who have travelled around Australia, as most country members do, would know that Australia is a huge continent with many streams and many untapped water resources to be investigated. The network of gauging stations could not provide data to enable more general assessments of catchment areas. To overcome this deficiency, the Australian Representative Basins Program has been devised by the Council. Under this Australiawide program up to 100 carefully selected representative catchments are being assessed in detail. Honourable members can readily see of what great value this information will be. From the data collected it will be possible to estimate the likely water resources in areas between catchments. The data recorded in each catchment includes climatic conditions, geology, soil types, topography and vegetation. Measurements are made of rainfall, stream flows, evaporation, humidity, solar radiation, groundwater storage and underground water movements.
Since 1964, States Grants (Water Resources) Acts have provided assistance to the States for measurement of streams and underground water resources. The basis for assistance is a grant of an amount which a State spends over and above a base amount. For each State a maximum amount of grant is provided. Expenditure by a State up to twice the base amount attracts a grant equal to the excess over the base amount. Further expenditure by a State is funded on a dollar for dollar basis until the maximum amount of grant is payable. The amount of Commonwealth assistance provided in the Bill which we are now discussing, and available for each State, has been allocated in accordance with an agreement of the Australian Water Resources Council. Earlier Acts since 1964, covering successive 3-year periods, have provided total grants to the States of $3 1.4m over 12 years. These Acts are concerned with the measurement of discharge of rivers and investigation and measurement of underground water resources. During this period the number of river gauging stations has increased from 1450 to 2750, the measurement of surface water has increased by 40 per cent and underground measurement has increased by one-third. These figures are extremely interesting and indicate the progress that is being made in investigation in the water resources field.
In 1974 the program of work for the measurement of water resources was expanded to embrace the assessment of the quality of surface and underground water. This broadening of the work being done is reflected in the Bill by defining ‘assessment’ to include measurement of flow and quantity, the examination of quality and the work of recording, arrangement, analysis or publication of information. The Bill makes available $6.658m for 1976-77 and enables the Commonwealth assistance to be maintained in real terms. The levels of assistance for the years 1977-78 and 1978-79 are to be determined before the commencement of these years. Schedule 1 of the Bill outlines the amounts payable to the various States for the assessment of surface water sources. Schedule 2 indicates the amounts payable for the assessment of underground water resources. We know the value of these investigations. We support the Bill in its entirety.
– I do not wish to take too much of the time of the House. I would like to be associated with this legislation principally to draw to the attention of the House some matters which will have to be considered by the Government, if not by the House, at a future time. The Bill and the whole program of water conservation are obviously beneficial but the program is not one without problems. The Blowering Dam and the Burrinjuck Dam are located in my electorate. Obviously they are backed up by the whole Snowy system which is not in my electorate but which has a significant effect upon it. In the last 3 years we have had major flooding on the Mumimbidgee as a result of heavy rain, not necessarily in the area, but in the Snowy catchment area, and because of the inability of Blowering and Burrinjuck to control the flow of water there have been significant floods and a lot of damage. Flooding has affected in particular the town of Gundagai; in the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife), the town of Wagga; in the electorate of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), towns such as Narrandera; and, dependent on the severity of the flood, towns down as far as Balranald. The floods also have affected those people who are trying to farm areas along the Mumimbidgee all the way from Burrinjuck to the River Murray.
There is a problem in terms of management. The Burrinjuck Dam is controlled by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission as it was known until recently. I think it is now called the Water Resources Commission and is a statutory authority of the New South Wales Government. Burrinjuck is an irrigation dam. It is not a flood mitigation dam. Blowering is in a peculiar situation because on it are power generation plants which are the responsibility of the Snowy Mountains Council. Once the water has passed through those plants it becomes part of the body of water in Blowering itself and then comes under the responsibility of the Water Resources Commission. Although there is probably a good degree of co-operation between the Snowy Mountains Council, which is a federal instrumentality, and the authorities that look after the States’ water resources, there is still an apparent inability to be able to regulate the degree of flooding which occurs in the Mumimbidgee system. It is indisputable that no matter how good the management, major flooding cannot be avoided.
In some of the recent flooding experiences the rainfall has been such that there would have been no way, if all the dams had been empty, that we would have been able to stop them filling and indeed flooding the Mumimbidgee system. The authorities are trying to meet the needs of electricity generation and the needs of the water users and irrigators further downstream. These are among the prime purposes of the Snowy system. At the same time, as far as flooding is concerned, the authorities are doing there best to act in a way which is not irresponsible. The primary problem that exists in my electorate is that there is just no way that we seem to be able to manage the system of dams so as to reduce the flooding that might occur. The flooding affects a lot of people and a lot of different industries in the Mumimbidgee Valley.
I make particular reference to the Mountain Maid operation which is probably known to all members of this House as a vegetable and fruit processing co-operative. Mountain Maid owns an asparagus farm which is a magnificent piece of country on the banks of the Mumimbidgee. In the last 3 years water has covered the property to varying degrees and has caused significant damage. Mountain Maid also draws very heavily from other growers along the Mumimbidgee Valley who grow under contract. When their crops are wiped out, as they have been with monotonous regularity in the last 3 years, obviously the Mountain Maid operations are affected as well as the well-being, economically and socially, of the growers themselves.
There is another serious problem although it probably does not affect as many people. I refer to the raising of the water table particularly below the wall of Blowering Dam. The wall of Blowering is on the Tumut River. Some magnificent properties there have been highly viable in recent times. Since the construction of the Blowering Dam their whole economies have been severely affected. For large portions of the year when water is released to those further down in the irrigation areas and the water table below the wall is raised, the users cannot get their tractors into the areas, crops become waterlogged and significant problems result. Obviously the value of the land has been cut quite drastically. People in that area are having great difficulty in being able to get compensation, particularly in this case from the State Government which in its legislation has protection from claims by landowners as a result of action taken by it.
I do not want to get into further detail at this moment. I want the House and those who might be listening to this debate to be aware of the fact that problems are associated with what is obviously a significant program in the national interest. I think that there may be a need, as I said at the outset, to bring back to the House at a later time the sort of problems which are being experienced in the Mumimbidgee Valley in particular. I am very grateful to the managers of business in the House and to members of the House for the opportunity to make this small contribution to this debate this afternoon.
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 Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 November, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is supporting this Bill, the Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill 1976. It fulfils a commitment made by the Government in bringing down its 1976-77 Budget. At that time the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) promised that the level of the exemption from payroll tax in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern
Territory would be increased to the level which the States had then recently adopted. At that time the exemption level planned was $41,600 per annum. However, after that announcement the New South Wales Labor Government raised the exemption level in that State to $48,000 as from 1 January 1977. The present Federal Government, following Labor’s lead and showing an unusual degree of flexibility, has decided to alter its Budget commitment to bring the territories into line with New South Wales. As the Treasurer rightly pointed out in his second reading speech on this Bill, it would be ridiculous for a payroll tax differential to exist between the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Such a differential would affect the choice of location of business enterprises between the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales.
It is a pity that the Treasurer is not more concerned with the discriminatory effects that other government policies, including cuts in government spending and ceilings in Public Service recruitment, have had on the Territories. The effect of the measures contained in this Bill is that an employer whose total wages Bill is less than $900 a week will not have to register for payroll tax purposes. This should provide some measure of relief for small businesses, something that other government policies such as the investment allowance have not done. In mentioning the investment allowance, I pay tribute to the Hirers’ Association which has mounted a magnificent display on the lawns in front of Parliament House today drawing attention to the injustices done to them in the investment allowance legislation.
Although payroll tax is recognised today as just another part of the overall taxation system which obtains revenue for government, it was introduced in 1941 to finance a particular government scheme. That scheme was the child endowment scheme. The Pay-roll Tax Act and Child Endowment Act were introduced as companion measures in 1941. Child endowment was seen by the government of the day as an adjunct to the wages system. It was regarded as logical that part of the cost be borne by employers. Since that time, however, the practice of earmarking proceeds of various government revenue raising measures to particular expenditure proposals has been largely discontinued. Nowadays, child endowment or family allowances are part of general welfare expenditure and payroll tax is just another revenue item. Payroll tax remained a province of the Federal Government from its introduction in 1941 until the early 1970s. At the
Premiers Conference in June 1971 the Australian Government agreed to transfer payroll tax to the States on the basis that, subject to certain qualifications, the resulting losses to the Australian Government Budget would be offset by reductions in financial assistance grants.
The Prime Minister at that time- Liberal Prime Minister Gorton, it should be noted- suggested that the States should be given access to payroll tax as a form of growth tax. He felt that it would not be advisable for the field of personal income tax to be re-opened to the States. The conservatives have, of course, these days disassociated themselves from many of Prime Minister Gorton’s pronouncements. However, when one considers the farce which surrounded the introduction of the new federalism tax sharing Bills, it would seem that the present Government should have paid more heed to the advice of its former leader. As a result of that 1971 Premiers Conference, the Federal Government now collects payroll tax only in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Incidentally, I believe that Mr Gorton is held rightly in very high regard by many Australians. If we must have Liberals in this House, it is a pity that he is not still one of them.
As this Bill enacts a measure which in design at least is aimed in the broad direction of affecting the level of income activities in the territories, I would refer briefly to that subject. What has happened to the territories, particularly the Australian Capital Territory, is a prime example of the inordinate effect a government policy applied indiscriminately across the board can have in a particular area. Since coming to power, this Liberal-National Country Party Government has made a virtue out of cutting public spending. In fact, it could be suggested that the prime vehicle of the Government’s anti-inflation policy has been to cut public expenditure. Some sort of strange folk lore has been built within the Government regarding this issue. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer have begun almost to equate cutting public expenditure with cutting inflation which, of course, is quite absurd.
-It did in 1929-30, too.
– The Government did that, as the honourable member for Corio says, back in the days of the last depression. There has been no recognition of the fact that when there is a substantial degree of unused capacity within the economy, cutting public spending will simply mean cutting employment. The level of inflation will be virtually unaffected by the expenditure cuts. Perhaps the Government’s real reason for cutting back the public sector is actually to increase unemployment and hence by that means to lower inflation indirectly through prolonged unemployment. This would fit in with the strongly held theory that the aim is to postpone recovery until just before the next election.
In implementing its wrong policy, the Government, through a combination of rigidity and lack of foresight, has caused a greater degree of disruption in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory than anywhere else in Australia. Any practical government concerned more with the impact of a policy than with the ideology of the decision would have taken steps to ensure that the cutting of government spending did not affect one region of the country more than another. Nowhere is the lunacy of the proposition that the public sector had to be cut back to allow the private sector room to expand made more apparent than in the Australian Capital Territory. In the Australian Capital Territory the private sector, from the retailers to the building industry, is dependent on the public sector for its survival. The percentage of the workforce employed by the public sector is much higher than anywhere else. The Government knew all this, yet it allowed no flexibility in its approach. Government spending cuts and staff ceilings were imposed across the board without any consideration of the consequences. The private sector was cut back just as effectively as the public sector. With all these harsh policies affecting the territories and, indeed, the rest of Australia- but as this Bill is about the territories I mention the particular hardships in them- at least it is a matter to be thankful for small mercies in that some alleviation is given to some people in the measures brought into law in this Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill 1 976.
As so many people are of the mistaken impression that the Opposition opposes everything, I hope it will be noted that that does not apply to the Australian Labor Party in Opposition. We take a responsible attitude on all matters and support government Bills when they are correct. This is one of those cases. We do not oppose this Bill which gives some relief from payroll tax to small businesses. In fact, we support it.
-The Payroll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill is a very important piece of legislation for the people in the Australian Capital Territory. Honourable members will remember that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in delivering his Budget Speech stated that the exemption levels on payroll tax were to be doubled from $20,800 to $41,600 per annum. When he introduced this legislation the Treasurer indicated that the exemption level was to be improved to $48,000. This legislation is a recognition of the need for business in the Australian Capital Territory to be placed on the same basis as its competitors in the surrounding areas of New South Wales and Victoria. It is a recognition which this Government has quickly made and which was not made last year by the Labor Government when we dragged somewhat behind the other States. It is a quick reaction to the improvements introduced by Victoria and New South Wales after the Federal Budget- an introduction carried through in recognition of the need to support small businesses in Canberra at a time when they are suffering some difficulty. It is the first piece of legislation introduced by the Government specifically for the benefit of the business community in the Territory and as such highlights the changed attitude of this Government compared with that of the Whitlam Government which did everything possible to beat business in Canberra into the ground.
I take this opportunity to outline the Government’s policy in relation to business development in Canberra and to examine the current status of business in the Territory which the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) canvassed in his speech. I do not do so because I feel there is something special about the business sector in Canberra compared with the public sector but because it is a sector absolutely vital to the proper growth of the Australian Capital Territory. We must have a private sector in Canberra if this Territory is to grow, to prosper and to gain maturity. The policy on which the Government went to the people in November and December last year capsuled this belief. It stated:
The Liberal and National Country Parties believe that the Australian Capital Territory and its region is too dependent upon public sector expenditure for employment and business stability. We will seek ways to encourage private enterprisebased industries and businesses to locate in Canberra, and in the regional towns, to increase employment opportunities for Canberra and adjacent New South Wales residents alike, particularly school leavers, women and university graduates.
At a time when the Government has a clear directive from the people that they want the size of big government reduced and its interference in their lives and its rapacious need for funding diminished, the need for support for the private sector in Canberra is obvious. Employment opportunities in Canberra for many years have been those offered by the public sector. This has been a company town and our young people have relied heavily on the Public Service for jobs.
With the introduction of staff ceilings in the Commonwealth Public Service, this ready access to jobs for our school leavers has at least in part diminished.
I suggest that the reliance built up in Canberra for easy employment in government has been growing to unhealthy levels. Many of our young people were rushing into the warm bosom of our Public Service in a quite uncritical way and in many cases without thinking of the alternatives or even realising that there were other forms of employment. Many found employment in such large organisations as the Public Service departments unfulfilling and stultifying. Those young people who wished to express their individuality and independence were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Public Service and left disillusioned and bored in many cases. With a small private sector in Canberra there were few alternative job choices and many young people on becoming disillusioned with Public Service employment were forced to leave Canberra and their families and go interstate. It is obvious that it is imperative to expand the employment base of Canberra, firstly, because of reduced employment and recruitment in the Public Service and, secondly, because an unhealthy reliance on one area of employment is undesirable in any community.
I believe it is possible even for the Opposition to support the public sector and the private sector in this way. The real question is what the Government has done in its 11 months of office to widen the employment base and to encourage the private sector to expand in Canberra. I will leave aside the general thrust of the Government’s economic policy at this stage as I want to discuss the long term thrust of our policy in Canberra, not the short term aberrations that the honourable member for Adelaide has been speaking about.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I asked the question: What has the Government done in its 11 months in office to widen the employment base and encourage the private sector in Canberra to expand? One of the first initiatives of the Government, in recognising that the Australian Capital Territory needs a wider economic base, was the creation of a unit within the Department of the Capital Territory to attract business and industry to Canberra. Advertisements soon will be appearing in newspapers throughout Australia emphasising the benefits of establishing business and industry in the A.C.T., with particular encouragement being given to light, non-polluting industries.
To add to the work being done by the Department of the Capital Territory, private enterprise has established the Canberra and Regional Development Committee. This Committee is pushing forward quickly and decisively and is inviting executives of companies interested in establishing new businesses in Canberra and its region, or in expanding existing ones, to promotion and information sessions in Sydney and Melbourne in the next month or so. At those interstate sessions members of the Committee, all of whom have been drawn from private enterprise, will explain the advantages and opportunities for businessmen in the Canberra region. The Committee will explain the facts of commercial life in this area and the roles of bodies such as the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Capital Territory.
The Committee is identifying the advantages of the region and will give publicity to this aspect. It is also researching other incentives which the Government may offer as an inducement to private concerns to match the incentives offered by State governments through their industry development branches. In doing so both the Department and the private sector Committee have firmly in their minds the need to ensure that the industry attracted to the area will not have deleterious effects on the character of Canberra. The industry to be attracted should complement the unique attraction of the area rather than detract from it. To assist in this initiative the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) has already made a number of moves aimed at building up Canberra’s light industries. The Minister has approved some 30 leases for a wide variety of industrial purposes, ranging from bakeries to a tannery. Further industries are negotiating with a view to expanding or establishing their activities in the A.C.T. I have been led to believe by the Minister that about 30 different industries are negotiating at the moment.
I think this indicates the interest of the Government in firmly building up a wider employment base in Canberra- a base built on supplying an affluent regional population of some 300 000- and I have no doubt that, given the continued strong government we have seen over the last 1 1 months, characterised by uncompromising stands against inflation, economic maturity for Canberra will be seen and will be achieved. It is imperative that Canberra becomes a real city- a city of Australia experiencing the breadth of Australian life and not just a special city of bureaucrats, politicians and academics. It will be a better city, a city of more light and shade and, most importantly, a city with a diversity of employment opportunities for the children of its residents, which must be important to us all.
Many people will challenge what I am saying in relation to the encouragement of the private sector by this Government at this point in time- I emphasise the words ‘at this point in time’- particularly in Canberra, where the private sector is so intricately linked with the growth and prosperity of the public sector. During 1976 we nave had many dire predictions from the Opposition and some industry sources about what was in store for Canberra. Not, many of those predictions have come to fruition. Unemployment in Canberra has risen since this Government came to office last December, but the amount of unemployment has not grown as much in the last 1 1 months under our administration as it had previously under the former Government. There seems to have been a steadying down in Canberra. Businessmen can now make decisions on the future; business administration seems to be much firmer; shops are being built in the suburbs; developers are taking up commercial sites; and builders can quote on jobs with some certainty in relation to labour costs and material charges. Certainly the tempo of unbridled growth has changed. If I may say so, the headlong gallop towards the great god of growth has slowed to an orderly trot. The inflated expectations of the Whitlam years have been pricked and normal and manageable growth is the order of the day.
I do not deny that there are some business enterprises in Canberra which are feeling the pinch at the moment. That is why the improved level of payroll tax exemption is especially welcome at this time. Private enterprise is much more efficient now than it was 12 months ago. It is lean and, I might say, hungry and fit to compete and the consumer must benefit from this through greater competition and more stable prices. During 1975 prices in Canberra spiralled and we all suffered. In 1976 prices are coming under control and proper competition is being restored.
The big question for Canberra at the moment is whether business is running down. The Chamber of Commerce in Canberra has asked that question of its members in relation to the 3 months ended August 1976 compared with the same period last year. The answer is not really surprising as the August quarter in 1975 was a period of hothouse growth. The survey indicates that businessmen allied to the building industry are severely depressed. The incomes of architects and other professional groups are at low levels and the outlook for them is critical. These groups built up their capacity quite dramatically during the Whitlam years when the people’s taxes were flooded into the area of urban development. These people are now suffering.
Tourism has been declining in Canberra, as it has been doing elsewhere in Australia. This is due in part to a slight reduction in the number of tourists visiting the Australian Capital Territory, but is due mainly to the quite impossible wage rates that unions extracted from a compliant Administration during the Whitlam years. People just cannot afford to pay the rates which hotels, motels and restaurants must now charge. They are opting for shorter stays and camping holidays. The effects on employment in our tourist industry have been savage and staff retrenchments have been widespread. Proprietors of restaurants had the unsavoury task last year of refusing employment to staff over the usually busy Christmas period because double and treble time rates make it quite uneconomic for them to open their enterprises. Many instances of staff offering to work for time-and-a-quarter and time-and-a-half rates have been mentioned to me but, of course, their employers cannot take up the offers.
On the other hand, small retailers have been maintaining their position fairly well. Improved turnovers have been experienced in shopping centres in the outlying areas of Canberra where parking and shopping are more convenient. These smaller businesses, which are often operated by their owners, are doing quite well because they have had some success in containing cost increases. The payroll tax which is the subject of the debate tonight will help those people further and reward their enterprise. It will help them to compete with the larger firms. However, the impact of wage increases is still with us. Seventy per cent of the businesses recording increased turnovers have found that their wage costs have grown faster than their turnover percentage has improved.
It is evident that the business community in Canberra is becoming stronger and surer of economic recovery, due to the solidity and the strength of the economic policy that is being put forward. We are seeing signs of cost increases stabilising and inflation being brought under control. Business people in Canberra recognise that bringing government spending under control is an important prerequisite to stable economic management. They are still concerned by the difficulties of recruiting and holding good staff but I understand that this problem is easing. Many retail and service business houses look to a steady improvement in general business conditions up to Christmas with a general resurgence in March-April next year.
Living in my electorate 7 days a week, which is not the experience of most other members of the Parliament, keeps me close to the people who elected me. I can assure members of the House that even in this embattled city of Canberra where we have taken many knocks over the past few months there is a general feeling of satisfaction with the general mode of Government administration. Businessmen expected the economy to be pulled under control. Public servants wanted their Service to be brought back to the level of professionalism that had been their pride for many years and builders wanted to build rather than spend all their time combatting strikes and escalating demands from subcontractors. The people of Canberra were sick and tired of seeing their suburbs being built without facilities and the relentless sprawl of suburbia consuming the beautiful countryside. Many people who do not live in Canberra believe this is the town of the handout mentality. Those of us who live here and love the city know that this is not so. We want work, a good environment with the sort of community facilities modern urban living should provide and the right to earn and pay our way.
The former Government turned the town into an experimental goldfish bowl in which our taxes rose and inflation ate away our savings. Now we have a government that is interested in governing Canberra like any other part of Australia. We have been asked to pay our way and to contribute to the running cost of this city through increased rents, increased bus charges and some increase in interest rates. Many other people who live in Canberra have said that they are not unhappy with the increase in government rents and interest rates because under the Labor Party those people who borrowed from building societies, banks and insurance companies had their interest rates put up 2 years ago. They do not think that it was so unfair for the rest of the community to be brought into line. All this has been done with the introduction of an extremely fair rental and interest rate rebate scheme for those on lower incomes.
Good government has returned to Canberra. We are still uncertain; we are worried about jobs for our school leavers; but on balance my constituents are feeling relieved after the first 11 months of Liberal-National Country Party
Government. Quite candidly, I think they thought it was going to be worse than it has been. In spite of the huffing and puffing of the honourable member for Adelaide who spoke before the sitting was suspended for dinner, and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who is trying to bring the economy down with talk of devaluation, the economy is on the mend. The long haul back to economic sanity is progressing well. The legislative and other measures to broaden the economic base of Canberra which are being introduced by the Government recognise the advantages of sound economic planning and a sound economic base for the Australian Capital Territory as it approaches maturity.
I will be followed in this debate by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) who represents the other half of Canberra. I might say without prejudice that he does it very well. I am sure he is very pleased to see the sound economic management that is coming into Canberra because under the Government of the Party he represents he saw over a period of 3 years a large part of his electorate being developed with very little community faculties and very few of the proper facilities for the people who live there. I would think that all in all Canberra is becoming pleased with the measures being introduced by this Government. The business people particularly are very pleased with this new payroll tax legislation.
– I am pleased to support the Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill. It was good to hear the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) describing the sort of city he would like Canberra to be- a modern swinging city with good quality homes, all mod cons, all the facilities we have come to associate with a modern city set in a very attractive rural environment. He was describing Canberra at it was in the years of the Labor Government. That is precisely the sort of city it was but that is not the sort of city it is today. He said he had been speaking to builders and public servants who had said that they were very happy with what is going on here. He and I must talk to different builders and different public servants because that is not the message I get. I find that people generally are very disillusioned with the Government, even people who voted for it. They have got the message that life was not meant to be easy for people in Canberra under this Government. It was not meant to be easy for the honourable member for Canberra either. I have a lot of sympathy for him. This Bill is a little bit of consolation for him. It is the only positive thing that I can recall this Government doing to aid the business people of Canberra, particularly the small business people. They have taken a terrible battering under this Government.
I refer to such things as the very savage ceilings put on the Public Service and the cutbacks in the budget of the National Capital Development Commission. These things have reflected on business in Canberra in one way or another. The profits of business people are down and in most cases their turnovers are down. People just do not have the money to spend. There have been very drastic increases in rents for government houses. There have been increases in interest rates on existing government housing loans. All these things have eaten into the spending money of the ordinary people and this is reflected in very poor returns to many business people, particularly people with small businesses.
While the Opposition welcomes this Bill it has great limitations. It will apply to a very small group of businesses. There are quite a few unsatisfactory features of the Bill. One thing that I would like to draw to the attention of the House is the fact that in some States there are special dispensations in the case of payroll tax to encourage particular forms of industry or to encourage decentralisation in particular areas. I believe that the Victorian Government makes such concessions but there is no such concession in Canberra. Therefore in that respect, while the legislation brings businesses into line with the States they are disadvantaged in regard to the States in some cases. If some special dispensation is given to encourage particular businesses to decentralise and go to Queanbeyan the equivalent business in the Australian Capital Territory certainly would be at a disadvantage.
The other unsatisfactory aspect of payroll tax generally is that it tends to discriminate against labour intensive industries as against capital intensive industries and in that way there is a direct disincentive to employ people. This is so particularly in the case of marginal businesses so far as this legislation is concerned. If a businessman is in the situation that he becomes eligible for payroll tax if he employs another person there is a strong incentive for him not to do so. A businessman may even put somebody off so as to become eligible for exemption from payroll tax. Another unsatisfactory aspect of payroll tax in a national sense is that generally it tends to favour imports. It represents an added impost to the local manufacturer who is trying to compete with imported goods which may come from countries with very low labour costs.
While we acknowledge the benefits of this Bill to the small businessman we also must be aware of its limitations. In Canberra the general payroll tax exemption is for people with payrolls of less than $48,000 a year which is less than $1,000 a week. The application of this exemption would only cover people with four or five employees. Anybody with more employees would have to pay some tax. The general exemption for payment of no payroll tax would apply only to very small businesses. Certainly it would be a great help to small retail businesses. The partial exemption on payrolls up to $120,000 a year, which is something like $2,400 a week, applies only to businesses with up to 12 or 15 employees. Above that there is no exemption. Of course, the large majority of businesses in Canberra would be in that category. While we welcome the Payroll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill we must realise that its limitations are very grave. I could not get figures on to just how many enterprises the exemption would apply. But on those figures it would be a fairly small number and certainly it would be a small amount in terms of the total turnover of business enterprises in Canberra.
While this Bill gives some consolation, it certainly does not offset the terrible battering which businesses in Canberra have taken at the hands of this Government. While I appreciate the efforts which have been made on paper to try to attract people to Canberra and to try to flog off leases to get people to start businesses, in the current attitude I am afraid that in cold, practical terms it will take much more than advertisements in the newspaper to get people to come to Canberra and to set up in business. The trend is, of course, to get out of Canberra because of the very serious effects which the cuts in government spending are having on Canberra. These cuts have been much more serious than they have been in capital cities and other parts of Australia. The effect of government cuts has been very serious here. The honourable member for Canberra talked about the building industry being happy. I do not know to whom he has been talking but where we had a situation with practically no unemployment, we now have something like 3000 unemployed in Canberra. This is unheard of here. Certainly that is not many compared with other States and other areas but in Canberra’s unemployment figures it is a very serious situation. We have to acknowledge that.
While the Minister has taken certain action to try to encourage people we have not really seen anything on the ground. This is in contradiction to what the honourable member for Canberra said about getting people to come in and buy business leases. Recent information I have is that the department has found the sale of business leases very sluggish indeed. The National Capital Development Commission has confirmed this in recent information given to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. Obviously the honourable member for Canberra and I look at Canberra through vastly different glasses when we talk about it in the House. Things must be very different on the other side of the lake. I am afraid that the picture which the honourable member for Canberra is painting is nothing like the picture I get on my side of the lake. I really do not think there is that much difference but time will tell, of course, at future elections.
The other unsatisfactory feature of payroll tax is that it is a State revenue and it goes into the State coffers. I am sure the honourable member for Canberra will agree with me when I say that revenue taken from the business people in Canberra through payroll tax does not go into the coffers of the Department of the Capital Territory. It goes to the Department of the Treasury and the people of Canberra never see it again. That is another aspect to the myth that we do not pay our way. Of course, people who are familiar with the figures know that we do pay our way. We more than pay our way in terms of personal tax and company tax. We do not get any direct return for it.
Payroll tax is another example of the way in which the people of Canberra and business people pay. The revenue does not go into the accounts of the Department of the Capital Territory. It is grabbed by the Taxation Office people and it goes to the Treasury. If allowance were made for all these things it would be seen that Canberra pays its way. If we got the per capita subvention which the small States like Tasmania, South Australia or Western Australia get, our accounts would look much sounder. If the money from payroll tax came back into the revenue of Canberra that revenue would look much healthier. I welcome the Bill. It is a small blessing and it is something to offset the terrible battering which business in Canberra has taken. For that reason we support the Bill.
– I shall mention a few of the remarks made by the Opposition concerning the Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill. Although the Opposition supports the Bill- and so it should- we heard the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), who represents the people on one side of the lake, speaking about the battering that business has taken at the hands of this Government. For heaven’s sake, business took the greatest battering of all times at the hands of the Australian Labor Party Government. For honourable members opposite to get up, as did the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), and say the same sort of thing is complete nonsense. I ask: Who organised the high unemployment? Who organised inflation and high interest rates? It was the Australian Labor Party. Supporters of that party are talking as fast as they can to try to convince the people of Australia that this Government is responsible whereas, in actual fact, the Labor Government was utterly responsible for battering business, causing unemployment and high interest rates and generally running the economy on the rocks.
Honourable members opposite get up again and again to try to convince the people of Australia that this Government is responsible. But this Government is bringing the economy back on the rails again. It is a hard row to hoe because the Labor Government had run the economy down to such an extent. I ask the honourable member for Adelaide, who sanctimoniously told us what should be done, what he would do, as shadow Treasurer, in an endeavour to get the economy of Australia back on a sound basis when the Labor Government had run it down. The Labor Government ran up the borrowing rate and wrecked the country. What would the honourable member do now? I think he is very fortunate that he is in Opposition. He can snipe at anything this Government is trying to do in order to get the finance of the country back into a workable order.
I recall that the honourable member for Adelaide mentioned the hiring industries spectacular display out on the Parliament House lawns this afternoon. I would agree with him except that I do not believe that the lawns of Parliament House should be used for demonstrations of any type. I commend these men just the same, for the slickness with which they appeared, the efficiency with which they erected their marquee or circus tent or whatever it happened to be and for the way in which they took it down leaving none of the mess which can clutter up such a beautiful place which it is the right of all Australians to enjoy. I commend them for the way in which they handled their demonstration. I only hope they made an impression on the people they were attending.
In relation to this Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill, I commend the Government’s action in raising the level of exemption in the first place from $20,800 to $41,600. That is of substantial assistance to small business. I hope that it will bring as much assistance in this Territory as it does in mine. Looking at the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) I notice that he complimented his Canberra colleagues for the strong representations they made concerning the increase in the exemption level. I would like him to realise that my colleagues in the Northern Territory such as the executive members and members of the Legislative Assembly, members of the Chamber of Industries, not to mention my Senate colleagues and myself, made equally strong representations during the time that the Government was considering raising the exemption from $20,000-odd to $41,000. 1 appreciate that the amount has been increased to $48,000. The people in the Northern Territory and especially my colleagues in the Legislative Assembly will be gratified to realise that the Government has taken note of their representations and of the strong representations from the honourable members and honourable senators from Canberra. I support the Bill and commend the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4 November, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– 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 this Bill and the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? As there is no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The purpose of the first Bill in this cognate debate, the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1976 is to authorise the Treasurer to guarantee on behalf of the Commonwealth loans raised by Qantas Airways Limited to finance the purchase of 3 Boeing 747 series aircraft. The proposed Government guarantee is to be limited to $US117m, which represents 80 per cent of the total cost of the 3 aircraft and associated equipment. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. These aircraft are the 13th, 14th and 15th Boeing 747Bs to be put into service by Qantas. By taking advantage of the present trading terms and by accepting delivery in 1977, Qantas should save about $7.8m on the standard purchase price of each aircraft. Clause 3 of the Bill, by enabling the guarantee to cover promissory notes and securities, will provide Qantas with greater flexibility in borrowing. Clause 5 sets out the conditions of the guarantee given by the Commonwealth which must be met before the Treasurer can give a guarantee. Briefly, the conditions are: ( 1 ) That the moneys are borrowed on terms and conditions that the Treasurer is satisfied are reasonable; (2) that proper security is given to the Commonwealth over the aircraft; (3) that the aircraft, spares and equipment subject of the security will be kept insured to the full insurable value against customary risks; (4) that the aircraft, spares and equipment will not be sold nor made the subject of a mortgage having priority over the Commonwealth’s security in respect of the guarantee; and (5) that any special condition may be implemented that the Treasurer may see fit to impose.
Whilst the 13th and 15th Boeing 747Bs will be of the usual configuration, that is, carrying 1 1.2 tonnes of cargo and 398 passengers, the 14th 747B will be the combined version known as the combi’, which is a combined freight and passenger version with a capacity of 28.8 tonnes of cargo and 276 passengers. A large rear door will give access to the main deck, which will be specially stressed and fitted with a power driven roller system to enable containers up to a maximum of 20 feet in length to be loaded. Passenger accommodation will be in the forward section of the aircraft. I note that while this Bill provides that the guarantee on loans to purchase the 3 aircraft is to be limited to US$1 17m, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) when announcing approval for Qantas to purchase the 3 747Bs on 27 July this year said that the cost, including spares and equipment, would be $1 17m. If the Minister meant at that stage that the cost was to be $A1 17m, that amount would then be US$1 44m, taking the average exchange rate. I would like the Minister to clarify that point at a later stage in the debate. Either the guarantee is for US$ 1 1 7m or US$1 44m, or the Minister’s earlier statement was incorrect.
International airlines, as well as our domestic airlines, have been experiencing a most difficult trading period. Increasing costs, allied with little or negative traffic growth, have put airline managements to severe tests in seeking to maintain profitability. Despite an 18.2 per cent increase in revenue in the year to 31 March 1976, Qantas showed a loss on airline operations of $ 14.2m. The Chairman of Qantas, in his report for 1975-76, attributed the major share of the loss to illegal international air fare discounting. On page 4 of the annual report of Qantas he said:
The ample evidence made available this year has clearly demonstrated the widespread malpractice, the violation of governmental agreements in the Australian market place during 1975-76 and the loss to Qantas of passenger revenue estimated to have been as much as $25m with very little offset in operating expenditure. The cost to Qantas of malpractice in overseas markets was certainly no less than that suffered in the Australian market
So it can be assumed that that too was of the order of $2 5 m.
Simply stated, that is the overwhelming reason for the lag in revenue growth and the disappointing financial outturn in the past year.
When announcing amendments to the Air Navigation Regulations on 24 February 1976 to enable the Department to more adequately police illegal international air fare discounting, the Minister ignored the fact that his Government had shilly-shallied for 3 months in amending the Air Navigation Regulations. The amended regulations were almost ready for tabling at the time of the infamous events of 1 1 November last year. On Sir Lenox Hewitt’s estimates, the Government’s 3 months delay cost Qantas to the order of $6m in Australian sales alone. Since it is believed that illegal international air fare discounting cost Qantas about $25m overseas, one would have expected that this Government would have acted to correct the situation. Again, perhaps the Minister will tell us something of what proceedings in that area have been, if he has done anything at all.
The Chairman of Qantas indicated in the annual report tabled in September that Qantas was then paying its way, but a number of issues surrounding the future of Qantas should be clarified by the Government in this debate. Firstly, there have been regular reports of unrest amongst Government back benchers over the fares charged by Qantas. At the Government Caucus meeting on 24 March, Government members were reported as having stated that the International Air Transport Association agreement was ‘a vicious price fixing cartel’, that Qantas needed stiffer competition and that, compared to Singapore Airlines and Thai International, in-flight service with Qantas was not good. In August 1976, following another Government Caucus discussion on the Qantas fares, the Minister announced that he would soon be putting to the Cabinet a position paper on the protection Qantas received against other International Air Transport Association members, non-IATA carriers and charter operators. Nothing further has been heard of that paper. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was reported as having asked in the Government Caucus room if Qantas ‘was not perhaps over protected’. Subsequent to that Government Caucus meeting, it was announced that the Government would initiate 2 inter-related inquiries into the Australian tourist industry which would embrace the activities of Qantas. Clearly, there is a great deal of opposition amongst Government supporters to Qantas membership of the International Air Transport Association and all that it embodies. Secondly, for a long time Sir Reginald Ansett has sought a reallocation of the so-called regional air routes from Qantas to the domestic airlines, Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines. On 2 June the Minister replied to a question I had put on notice, and I should like to quote from page 2908 of Hansard. I asked the Minister:
The Minister’s answer at best was unclear. His reply reads as follows:
The Minister for Transport has received the following requests from Sir Reginald Ansett, Managing Director, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, relating to re-allocation of services on routes presently operated by Qantas:
(a) Action is being taken in respect to the responses to the offer by Antas and the requests by Sir Reginald Ansett.
The next answer was in respect of my request for a categorical assurance as to the future of Qantas. The Minister said:
That answer did not give a clear statement as to the Government’s future intentions for Qantas or for the regional air routes and their possible transference to TAA and Ansett. Subsequently I wrote to the Minister seeking a clarification of his answer and a more specific response. I will quote in part from the Minister’s reply to me of 8 September 1976. The fourth paragraph states:
However, I have felt that the issues involved were sufficiently important to merit proper study being made in the Department of what would constitute the best possible arrangement in regard to the operation of regional air routes in the longer term and in the national interest. I might add that Qantas as well as the domestic airlines are being fully consulted by the Department of Transport on the whole question and are co-operating fully in the provision of material and comment in relation to it.
The last paragraph is quite ominous. It states:
I do not expect an early decision to be made to alter the present position in relation to these regional air routes because the issues are complex: In fact, it may well be -
I emphasise the words ‘it may well be ‘- that the policy of maintaining Qantas as the exclusive international operator of scheduled services will remain unchanged at least in the forseeable future.
Both the Minister’s reply to the question on notice and his reply to my letter represent a considerable weakening of the Government’s policy on the future role of Qantas when those answers are compared with the Minister’s statement in this. House of 2 March this year when I had raised the same issue. On that occasion he said:
There is no challenge to Qantas being our flag carrier, our international carrier.
The Chairman of Qantas thought so much of the fairness of that reply that he included it in the annual report of Qantas. I would like to refer to the last paragraph on page 16 of the annual report of Qantas which states:
In themselves, the Company’s operations amply demonstrate that Qantas merits your statement in the Parliament on 2 March 1976 that:
There is no challenge to Qantas being our flag carrier, our international carrier’.
The chairman went on to say:
It would be damaging to the national interest, as well as to Qantas, to invest the domestic trunk operators as second and third international flag carriers of Australia.
Quite clearly, if Qantas is to have a future, if we are able to plan and if this Bill is to ensure increasing capacity for Qantas the Government should have very clear guidelines on what it proposes to do with our domestic airlines and the regional air routes. The Minister’s weakened stand on the future of Qantas is clearly indicated in his reply to my letter and in his reply to the questions on notice. What also needs to be considered is the Liberal Party and National Country Party election policy of last year which states:
To positively encourage the active participation of private enterprise in all transport undertakings.
That again indicates that the Government is thinking about and is disposed towards a transfer of publicly owned transport enterprises to privately owned transport enterprises. Further, an inquiry is presently being conducted into government transport undertakings including Qantas, TAA, the Australian National Railways and the Australian National Line, chaired by Sir James McNeill of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I have referred to this committee as a scandalous committee because of the conflict of interest of its members. That committee is also looking at Qantas. Further, the request by the Papua New Guinea Government to purchase the Qantas and TAA shareholding in Air Niugini adds to the doubt that surrounds future plans of Qantas by this Government. Lastly, there is the proven record of Sir Reginald Ansett in being able to get what he wants to get from Liberal-Country Party governments. I think when all those facts are taken together -
– Whatever he asks for he gets. He tries his hardest.
– The important thing is that he gets it, and that needs to be taken note of. I acknowledge the remarks of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who as a former Minister for Transport ought to know. There are ample grounds and factual grounds for serious public concern as to what the Government has in mind for Qantas and TransAustralia Airlines. I challenge the Minister to make a clear and categorical statement on what the Government’s intentions are in respect of Qantas.
At the same time the Minister might tell us what negotiations have taken place in regard to the proposal by Air Hibiscus of the Bahamas to transport people by cruise ship from Sydney to Fiji from where Air Hibiscus will fly them to London and then return them by the same means to Sydney for a fare of $A980, which I understand is about $200 less than the going fare. It has been reported in this instance, that Ansett is to fly all prospective Melbourne passengers to Sydney. The Fiji Government is also reported in the last few days as having granted Air Hibiscus a charter operator’s licence for one year conditional upon the passengers for that service spending 4 days in Fiji. These are serious matters. They relate to any future financial investment in Qantas, in Ansett and in TAA. The Government should put before the community what it proposes to do so that the management of these authorities and companies can themselves also be aware of what is happening.
When one criticises the International Air Transport Association agreement as numerous Government back benchers have done in their Caucus room -
– Hear, hear.
– The honourable member for Griffith agrees with the comment I have just made.
– I speak for myself.
– I am pleased that he speaks for himself and that he acknowledges that. That gives further evidence of what I was saying earlier in respect of the disagreement among Government back benchers in respect of the role of Qantas in the IATA agreement.
– They are hypocrites.
– The honourable member for Griffith says that they are hypocrites. What has to be considered at the same time in that kind of discussion is that some benefits accrue to air travellers arising from this agreement. These are that the passengers are protected against the activities of unlawful operators; that higher safety standards are ensured; that there is a reliability of services; and that intending travellers have a security for any money they may pay to airlines that are operating under that agreement. In the current period of difficult trading for international airlines it is vital to the performance of Qantas as Australia’s international airline that the management and the Australian community know exactly what the Government has in mind for international air traffic to and from Australia.
I want to turn now to the companion Bill in this cognate debate, the Airlines Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1976. The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries to finance the purchase of its seventh Boeing 727-200 series aircraft. The proposed guarantee is limited to 80 per cent of the total cost of the aircraft and associated equipment which in this case is US$8m. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill.
It is difficult in a debate of this nature to make a valid comparison between the performance of the 2 major domestic airlines- Ansett and TAA. The annual reports on operations for 1975-76 are not yet available. The annual report for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd for the year ended June 1976 is available but the breakdown into airline operations has not yet come forward. But that report shows that Ansett ‘s passenger traffic for the year ended June dropped by 2.5 per cent and that air cargo dropped by 4. 1 per cent to 59.5 million tonne kilometres. But there was a 5.4 per cent increase in the second half of the year and revenue of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd from airline operations increased by $32m to $262. 14m. A statement issued by the General Manager of TAA some weeks ago in respect of 1975-76 shows that TAA passenger traffic was down by 1.1 per cent and that its air cargo declined by .4 per cent. TAA showed an increase in air cargo of 3.9 per cent in the last 3 months, which was similar to the performance of Ansett. The financial results in respect of airline operations for each operator are unknown. I refer to another report which shows that both airlines, in the period since March of this year, have reduced their services by 11 per cent to ensure that they have a 67 per cent load factor.
I am pleased that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), a former Minister for Transport, is in the chamber because I know something of the valiant efforts that he made to try to get Ansett and TAA to come together on rationalisation of services. As I understand it, despite all his efforts they could not achieve any constructive results in the rationalising of services. On many occasions in this chamber I have heard members of both sides of the House ridicule the procedure whereby aircraft from each airline leave airports within a few moments of each other, both less than fully laden. It has been claimed that there ought to be a better utilisation of the aircraft or a better range of services, particularly as to times. As a result- and I suppose this is one of the pluses of the present depression- the airlines have come together and there has been a rationalisation of sevices which, I understand, is continuing. Out of that situation we can expect to see a better utilisation of the public investment, whether it be investment by Ansett shareholders or through the assistance given to TAA originally by government.
What is hampering the domestic airlines is the economic policy of this Government, the enforced stagnation of the economy which, quite clearly, has a political basis. The Government’s economic policy is designed to ensure that there are enough unemployed people outside the gate for acceptance of a reduction in real wages. That is really the exercise. This postponement of economic recovery is having its effect throughout the nation but in this case I refer specifically to its effect on our domestic airlines. The annual report of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, which I mentioned earlier, shows an increase of $6.2m in revenue from television operations. Unfortunately, as I was trying to point out earlier, it is very difficult in this kind of debate to present figures that are properly comparable because there is a lack of information on the range of services provided by Ansett and also on its sources of revenue. Whilst it is possible to obtain from TAA a breakdown of information relating to revenue and expenditure, it is not possible to make that proper comparison with Ansett. The return which Ansett is required to table under the Airlines Agreement lumps together revenue received from Airlines of New South Wales, Airlines of South Australia and MacRobertson Miller Airlines of Western Australia. Ansett ‘s exclusive operations in Western Australia give it an advantage of the order of $6m plus the oncarriage to eastern States that flows from that operation.
I am not being critical of the performances of either Ansett or TAA. All I am saying is that when one is attempting to weigh up which airline has performed more efficiently, it is difficult to do so without the right kind of information. Unfortunately, the information that is available does not allow one to make the kind of critical examination which ought to be undertaken in this place. I turn to the difficulties within the 2-airline agreement, which has worked relatively well. Young Liberals saw it as a vicious price fixing cartel in a motion before their council in Victoria a matter of a few weeks ago. I think it is proper to describe one airline- TAA- as being a wholly owned Government airline, or a wholly owned people’s airline and the other as a private government airline. Quite clearly, Ansett has a great deal of influence with the conservative parties. It has always had that influence. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a third airline from the private sector came on the scene. I would be very interested to see what the reaction of the present Government would be.
I want to refer to an event which occurred earlier this year which shows a disparity in actions and responsibilities as between the airlines. I refer to the air hostesses’ strike which took place early this year. That strike involved both airlines to begin with. A unilateral decision was then taken by Ansett employees to return to work. As I recall the situation, at the time both airlines were having discussions with the union concerned but one airline was also making preparations to go back to work ahead of the other. One can reasonably determine the cost to TAA of that strike to have been to the tune of $lm. The annual report of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd refers to the strike on page 19. It says:
The disputation did not have a major effect on operations.
What actually happened was that Ansett employees went back to work before TAA employees. All the TAA passengers who were stranded were transferred to Ansett, resulting in a considerable cash benefit to Ansett. That may be smart business but it is for Ansett and TAA or for the board of directors to work out whether that action was proper.
If there is to be a 2-airline agreement and if there is to be disputation that requires negotiation between the union concerned and the 2 airlines, surely those negotiations, because of the very narrow nature of the industry, ought to be on a bilateral basis, that is, both TAA and Ansett should continue the negotiations together without one taking advantage of the other. Unfortunately for publicly owned transport enterprises or any publicly owned operation, they are required to stick to the letter of the law. I can imagine what the outcry would have been if TAA had suddenly called off the strike and gone back to work a day ahead of Ansett. But in the light of the time, nothing was said by the present Government. If we are to have fair competition and an extension of competition let us make the ground rules the same. That is putting a case not for TAA but for fair play and better operation of the 2-airline agreement.
The operations of Ansett and TAA will be severely affected by the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission report. There has been a great deal of discussion in this chamber concerning this matter over the 3 te years I have been here, particularly from the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) about the impact of air navigation charges on domestic airlines. It has been the real bogy of all airlines, according to the Minister. I do not refer to the fact that he has raised air navigation charges by 30 per cent in less than 12 months but I want to emphasise that the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) has, for some years, promoted the proposition that fuel prices and oil prices should be increased. In the 1974 election campaign he said that they should be increased by 40 per cent. The implications of an increase in oil prices are much greater for the airlines than the implications of any increase in air navigation charges. I have obtained figures from the 1974-75 annual reports of Ansett and TAA and the 1975-76 annual report of Qantas. These figures show, in the case of Qantas, that expenditure on fuel and oil was $69.8m or 14.4 per cent of total expenditure. In the case of TAA, an amount of $28. 7m was spent on fuel and oil which represents 1 5.4 per cent of total expenditure. In the case of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd I refer again to the lack of information. The figures for Ansett show that the item for fuel and oil also includes services rendered and purchased, and accommodation expenses. I cannot break that down, but that item shows an expenditure of $36.3m or 24.2 per cent of total expenditure on airline operations. Let us assume that Ansett ‘s net expenditure on fuel and oil is somewhere between the 15.4 per cent of TAA and the 24.2 per cent that I have quoted. The actual figure does not matter. What is important is that fuel and oil expenditure of the airlines is about one-sixth of total expenditure. If, as the IAC’s report recommends, the price of local crude is to increase in the terms set out in the report- from 27 per cent of import parity in June 1977 to 49 per cent by 1980- the impact on the airlines will be horrendous. It is small fry to be talking about air navigation charges and airport rentals when the present Government is sponsoring this report from the IAC. Page 2 1 of the report states: . . transport and storage (for which petroleum products represented 2.7 per cent of demand for materials and services-
I stress ‘2.7 per cent of demand for materials and services’. Further on the report states:
In the transport and storage category, which includes consumption of motor spirit by all users, light fuels acount for about 86 per cent.
Earlier the report stated:
An increase in the price of indigenous oil is likely to fall harder on users of light products (e.g. petrol, aviation turbine and distillate) . . .
I mention that in conclusion because the Leader of the National Country Party and the Minister for Transport have both supported the policy of heavy increases in oil prices m this country.
– They have not, and you know it.
– They have. That is their policy. I put to the Parliament that the Government ought very clearly to be thinking about the implications for our domestic airlines. With the present situation even an increase of $1 in an air fare is resisted by consumers. The air fare increase that will be involved if the IAC’s report is adopted, as I understand it will be by this Government, will be massive.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was a bit at a loss to follow the argument of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) the Opposition spokesman on transport. He rambled through a number of areas which I do not think were relevant but showed the usual socialistic desire to bash the private enterprise airline and to make unreasonable comparisons between its operations and those of Trans- Australia Airlines. Briefly I will refer to the program that Qantas Airways Ltd is undertaking and how it proposes to finance the purchases of its next 3 Boeing 747 aircraft In past years this money has come from the Treasury. It is proposed on this occasion that a government guarantee be granted to Qantas so that it can raise this money outside normal sources. I welcome this approach. It is an approach which will allow public enterprises to be more accountable for their operations and to be more flexible in money raising. It follows the successful float of $200m by the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I hope that other public enterprises in the future will show the same flexibility and the same degree of enterprise in going to the market place independent from the Treasury of the time and raising the money that they require for their operations.
In the next 20 years Australia will need a major injection of funds if it is to achieve the level of potential that is undoubtedly in this nation. In government debt it will be argued that a higher level of debt can be carried so that capital works could be carried on from borrowings rather than from current revenue. In the government enterprise area large funds will be needed to keep the services operated by government enterprise up to date. In the case of the present, a government guarantee being granted places these public enterprises in a unique borrowing position and enables them to go to the market and acquire money at a much cheaper rate than would be otherwise available to corporations against which they sometimes compete.
It is the method of raising with which I want to deal tonight. For years Australia has done its major borrowings overseas through prestigious investment houses. The most notable in the United States would be the well-known house of Morgan Stanley. The efforts have been very successful. At all times the Australian rating in the world capital markets has been AAA. One has to look only at the raisings of the last 5 years to see the well-balanced approach and the success of these raisings. In 1970-71 a total of $1 12m was raised from countries such as the United States and the Netherlands. The raisings in 1975-76 totalled $278m. This has been raised from countries such as the United States, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The success of these raisings points to the general standing of Australia and to the ability not only of governments but also of corporations to borrow abroad.
It is because of this unique position that Australia ought to be looking at the mechanics by which it carries out its overseas raisings. Originally the only underwriters of source in Australia were stockbrokers. As capital requirements rose they sold off their money market operations in a typical shortsighted fashion which unfortunately characterises the stock market. If the Australian institutions had shown greater foresight for the long term potential they would have allowed the taking up of holdings in these companies and today there would have been a far greater preponderance of Australianowned merchant banks in this nation than there are. The list of the major merchant banks in Australia shows that only four are owned 50 per cent or more by Australian companies or partnership. It is because of this that I think we should look at the position of developing a capital orientated Australian market. The Government can give a lead in this area. When Qantas Airways Ltd is approached, as it will be, by overseas merchant banks to raise the amount that is necessary for the purchase of these 3 Boeing aircraft, it will be offered fixed rate borrowings, United States private placements and syndicated loans. Qantas will be told by the people offering the loans that they are the only people who can arrange for the loans and the only people who have the expertise to raise this money at the cheapest and most competitive rate. Australians in the field of underwriting will be shown to be lacking in the capacity to raise money, in their ability to be competitive in terms of rate and their ability and their expertise in putting the loans together.
I want to put forward the proposal that the Government give consideration to the inclusion of an Australian underwriter or group of underwriters in future overseas borrowings. By this, expertise would be built up within Australia. Initially, the Australian participation in management syndicates would not be welcomed by the established underwriters. Their ability to perform would be doubted, but their original commitment need be only minimal. I am reminded of the Canadian experience. Canada’s raising of capital in the 1950s was a major project of the Government. Most government raisings were undertaken by underwriters outside Canada. The Government required that a Canadian group be included in future management syndicates. Loan raising programs subsequently took in to a small degree established underwriters of Canadian background. The result has been the development of some major financial houses in that country, the most notable being Wood Gundy. There has been an impact on the invisibles in the balance of trade which could be well looked at. The amounts paid in underwriting commissions both on government loans, which in some cases would run into millions of dollars, and on commercial loans which are similarly raised at very high levels of commission would be overcome. One only has to look at the value to the United Kingdom of its earnings and the invisibles to see how important this matter is to that nation. Australia is a great trading nation. We have very large swings in the balance of trade. It is important, because of this, that we develop in Australia a viable and appropriate size of capital market. It is in this matter tonight- the overseas borrowings of Qantas Airways Ltd- that I put forward this idea to the Government and hope that it might proceed to deal with it.
-The 2 Bills before the House at the moment are the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill and the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill. The first Bill provides for the financing of 3 Boeing 747 aircraft at a maximum total cost of $US1 17m. The airline has to find 20 per cent of the cost of the aircraft. The Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill seeks the financing of a Boeing 727-200 aircraft for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd at a cost of $8m. Once again the company has to find 20 per cent of the cost of the aircraft. What concerns me about the debate before the House at the moment is the attitude of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). Where is he tonight? He is nowhere to be seen. He introduces the Bills into the House and that is the finish of it. In fact, it might be of interest to honourable members to realise what has occurred. I think some of the Government back benchers ought to wake up to the contempt with which their Minister is treating them. It is the Minister’s responsibility and a courtesy that he should extend to the House at all times when one of his Bills is being debated to be here in the chamber to listen to the debate and, if need be, to reply to any criticism levelled at his Bills. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that in the lifetime of this Parliament, which is not quite 12 months, the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, has been absent from the chamber when nine of the Bills for which he is responsible have been dealt with. I do not have time to list each of the Bills. But if honourable members want to look at the list that has been prepared they will see that it shows he was absent from the chamber when nine of his Bills were being dealt with in less than 12 months. It probably means that he was in attendance at an absolute maximum during the debate on one or two Bills.
I turn to the financing of these 2 projects dealt with in the 2 Bills before the House. I sought information from the Minister’s staff as to the procedure for the financing of these purchases. The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) put before the Parliament his ideas on financing. I suggest to the honourable member that he should read just how the aircraft purchases are financed. I assume that the same procedures will apply in the purchase of these 4 aircraft as applied on previous occasions. The honourable member will find that the United States ExportImport Bank provides 40 per cent of the cost and the aircraft manufacturer in the main provides a further 40 per cent either out of its funds or assists the Australian airline to negotiate quite reasonable and satisfactory loans from other sources of finance either in the United States of America or in Canada. Invariably, the interest rate is much below the world going rate for finance. This is a clear indication of the United States Government’s attitude and how it attempts to assist its industries. In the export and manufacture of aircraft, that Government assists the manufacturers in the basic design of the aircraft, using defence commitments and the like. Then, when the aircraft come on to the production line to be sold on the world market, it assists by the use of cheap money. It is a pity that Australian governments do not do likewise for
Australian industries; that is, make money available for the usual procedure of trying to sell Australian manufactured goods on overseas markets.
I come back to the point that not only does the Government and this Minister in particular treat this chamber in contempt by not being present here. In addition, he is not prepared to make members conversant with just how these borrowings are to be financed in the fine detail that is so necessary. When honourable members seek the information, he is not prepared to make it available. He does not say: ‘No, you cannot have it’. But we do not get it. One way is just as effective as the other. The Minister’s second reading speech which was cut to the absolute minimum gives no detail of the financing and no detail on the important question of the economics of these aircraft, how the companies propose to use them or the overall effects. In the case of Qantas Airways Ltd, from reading the company’s annual report and knowing a little about what is going on inside the airline, I accept the fact from that personal background knowledge that it is changing over to the new aircraft because of the clear economics of the Boeing 747 aircraft as against the Boeing 707-300 series aircraft. The Boeing 747 aircraft is a much better aircraft. It is a much more economical aircraft to operate. Therefore, I can understand why the company is buying it. I now turn to deal with the position of the domestic airlines. Ansett Transport Industries Ltd is now buying an aircraft after Trans-Australia Airlines forces it into the position. Representatives of TAA came to me as the Minister at the time and said: ‘We must change over these Boeing 727-100 series aircraft. They are out of date. They have been in the air too long. We think we should be permitted to buy a more modern aircraft- the Boeing 727-200 aircraft’. The reaction of Ansett to that proposal was as follows: No, let us go on operating them a little longer. We can squeeze a bit more out of them’. So far as Ansett was concerned, second best for the Australian travelling public was good enough- not the best.
– That is absolute nonsense.
-That is true The honourable member shows his ignorance by making that interjection. Ansett was completely and totally opposed to the purchase of these aircraft. If the honourable member remains seated for a moment, I will read to him a couple of paragraphs from a letter dated 26 September 1975 from Mr Vial, the then Acting Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission- in other words, TAA. I say to the honourable member for Mitchell: Just sit and listen to this for a moment and he will learn something. This is what Mr Vial had to say to the Minister of the day:
The Commission’s current Boeing fleet comprises six 727-76 aircraft and six 727-276 aircraft. The first two 727-76 aircraft were introduced into service over ten years ago in November 1964.
There are only four 100 series aircraft in service today that have hours in excess of 35 000, and these are the two hightime TAA and Ansett aircraft.
There are a total of 43 B727-100 aircraft operating with flying times in the bracket 30 000-35 000 hours, and four of these aircraft are also on the Australian register, i.e. 17 per cent of the 100 series having hours in excess of 30 000 are on the Australian register.
The Commission’s long-term fleet planning was based on having a minimum of eight B727-200 aircraft in the fleet on the introduction of wide-bodied jet aircraft, at which time 100 series disposal would commence and proceed according to capacity requirements.
Having regard to our early 100 series having the highest hours in the world, it is desirable that their phasing out of service be commenced at an early date.
I ask the honourable member to note that last paragraph which states: it is desirable that their phasing out of service be commenced at an early date.
I raised the question of the economics of these aircraft- whether there was a need to change them over. The technical officers of the Department of Transport assured me that it was a record of which no airline should be proud- to have the oldest and longest flying aircraft in its fleet. It was on that basis alone when that information came to hand that approval was granted immediately. That approval likewise was indicated to Ansett. If he wanted to buy the aircraft, notwithstanding the fact that he had already said to the Department of Transport that he believed there was still economic use in the existing aircraft that TAA was proposing to sell, he could do so. It only goes to prove my point that as far as Ansett is concerned second-best is good enough for the Australian travelling public while for TAA only the best is good enough. I suggest to the honourable member that he keeps those facts in mind.
Let us now look at the operations of Qantas. I hope that Qantas is looking at a more rationalised approach to its world-wide operations. There is a need for it to do so. In the previous 3 years the Labor Government convinced a number of governments involved in bilateral agreements that there was a need for greater rationalisation. There was a cutback in services which in turn lifted the operating capacity of aircraft on a seat/kilometre or seat/ mileage rate, whatever term one uses. Honourable members should know that on the Pacific route today Pan Am and Qantas are operating- I know the correct figure but I am not prepared to divulge it- at about 45 per cent to 50 per cent capacity. On average over 12 months, even though the airlines at certain times are operating at 100 per cent capacity, the airlines are operating at roughly half their capacity. There is no need for that. Qantas would be much better advised to do what it did a few years ago when things got tough. It reduced fares and increased quite’ considerably the number of people travelling. It gave people both overseas and in Australia the opportunity to travel at a fair and reasonable rate. That is what is needed now and I hope that when Qantas gets these 3 additional aircraft it is prepared to look at the rationalisation of air services and get the cooperation of other airlines so that people can travel much cheaper than they can at present.
Although approval was granted for the airlines to buy the Boeing 727-200 series, they should have been moving into wide-bodied jets. Just as, as the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) said, they were difficult to move on parallel scheduling it was likewise difficult to get agreement on the need to bring in wide-bodied jets. There were several reasons for this situation. One was the noise level around airports. The Boeing 727-200 series is a much quieter aircraft than the Boeing 727-100 and in his letter of 26 September on this subject Mr Vial had this to say:
Improved ambient noise: The 200 series aircraft complies with the FAA FAR 36 noise requirements, whereas the 100 series does not.
The Boeing 727-200 is probably the second quietest airplane available to the airlines. The airlines should have been moving into widebodied jets which are much quieter than the Boeing 727-200 and this would have reduced the number of aircraft using airports with a critical noise problem, such as Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and, to a lesser degree, Perth.
-Why haven’t they?
-Because of the obstinacy of a fellow named Sir Reginald Ansett to whom one cannot talk sense under any circumstances.
-Why hasn’t TAA?
– TAA would not be affected. It was moving into that position under pressure of the government of the day and, believe me, it was under pressure. Ansett would not wear it. There is a thing called the two airline agreement which an earlier Liberal-Country
Party Government was responsible for foisting on this Parliament and on the people of Australia
In the short time available to me I want to raise the question of offset payments. Nowhere in the Minister’s second reading speech does he make any mention of offset payments. Honourable members opposite should not forget that we have Australian industries and workmen who have to be maintained and an aircraft industry in Australia comprising Hawker de Havilland Australia Pty Ltd, the Government Aircraft Factory and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation which can produce aircraft parts economically. It has a learner’s curve problem but is getting on top of it, particularly at the Hawker de Havilland aircraft factory in Sydney. Whilst the industry has been getting orders from the United States it has not been getting them in sufficient quantities. This Government has not been leaning on the people overseas. What should be said is what was said in 1973, that is, that we are not committed to the use of Boeing aircraft on our domestic operations like we are committed to the use of Boeing 747 aircraft on international operations and that unless Boeing comes to the party with offset payments we will not buy any of its aircraft for our domestic operations. We can buy the Lockheed 1011, the Douglas DC 10 or the European Air Bus. Any of these wide-bodied jets can replace the Boeing 727-200 series and pressure should be applied to Boeing. It is not being applied by this Government which is a weak-kneed, yellow-bellied pack not prepared to lean on or put pressure on overseas manufacturers. It would sooner kow-tow to them.
How is the Government dealing with its own aircraft that is being manufactured here, the Nomad? The first approach was made 3 years ago and over 12 months ago in September 1975 the Federal Aviation Agency certification group came out here, looked over the aircraft and its manufacture and agreement was reached on the procedure for certification of the aircraft. Over 12 months later there is still not certification of the Nomad. It is a very simple aircraft. There is nothing sophisticated or revolutionary about it. But have we got it certified yet so that it can be sold in the United States? Of course we have not because the Government is not prepared to demand a fair go for Australian industry.
I turn now to another matter. It is quite ironic that it too involves Qantas and Ansett Transport Industries. I refer to the provisional communique on the establishment of a national airline in
Papua New Guinea and seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the whole of that agreement from the 1973 annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Mackellar) has approved of its incorporation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The considerations of Ministers set out below are subject to final approval by the Papua New Guinea and Australian Governments.
Ministers agreed that a commercially viable national airline should be set up as quickly as possible, on or before 1 December 1 973. It was felt by Ministers that it would be appropriate that Papua New Guinea should go into selfgovernment with its own national airline.
It was agreed that the Papua New Guinea Government would take up 60 per cent of the equity in the national airline, that the Australian Government nominees would take up 24 per cent and that 16 per cent would be offered to Ansett Transport Industries Limited.
The Papua New Guinea Ministers pointed out that ATI was a private enterprise which has considerable investments in Papua New Guinea. This indicated confidence in the country’s future. It was therefore considered appropriate that ATI be offered an equity in the new national airline.
Papua New Guinea Ministers were also conscious of the contribution that had been made by the Australian Government through Government airlines and the Department of Civil Aviation in establishing efficient aviation services and facilities, and the Ministers welcomed the involvement of the Australian Government in the new airline.
The Australian Government would give immediate consideration to financing the Papua New Guinea equity purchase by providing a special low-interest loan. The Papua New Guinea Government would have the right to acquire the shareholding of the other participants, at par as and when it desired to do so, proportional to their percentage holdings.
On the assumption that ATI agrees to participate in the airline that company would have the right to nominate one member to the board of the national airline, the Australian Government would have the right to nominate two members, and the Papua New Guinea Government would have the right to nominate four members to the board, including the chairman whose appointment would be agreeable to all parties.
The Ministers agreed that any significant change in the operating principles and policy of the national airline, as specified in the terms of this communique, would be subject to the agreement of both Governments.
The Ministers agreed that managerial skills already available in Papua New Guinea should be fully utilised. As agreed between the previous Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea in September 1972, the top management of the airline should be provided by Qantas.
It would be the responsibility of the national airline to absorb all existing TAA and AAPNG staff in Papua New Guinea who seek to continue employment with the national airline. Further, there is to be clear understanding with the unions that where initial over-manning of positions occurs it shall be agreed that, in time, this will be adjusted by natural wastage.
It was re-affirmed by the Ministers that training programmes would be intensified so that the move to complete control and staffing by Papua New Guineans would be achieved as quickly as possible.
Both Governments agreed to the immediate establishment of a task force to work out the detailed requirements for bringing the airline into operation by the target date.
Australia offered to help provide any specialist staff who might be required for this purpose.
Pending independence, at which time a bilateral agreement governing air services between the two countries would be negotiated, the Australian Government agreed to the Papua New Guinea airline operating under its own identification on the Port Moresby/Brisbane route, with capacity equal to that of Ansett and TAA combined. It was envisaged that the Papua New Guinea airline ‘s share of capacity would be leased from the Australian carriers. The Ministers agreed that no Australian domestic airline will be permitted to operate international air services out of Papua New Guinea.
The Australian Ministers also agreed to explore with Qantas the possibility of a pooling agreement with the Papua New Guinea airline, covering Papua New Guinea/Australia traffic carried on their combined services following independence, and with the Australia domestic operators prior to Qantas’ entry onto the route.
The Australian Government re-affirmed its willingness to provide, on an agreed agency basis, aviation facilities and services and skilled personnel as required.
Papua New Guinea Ministers noted the contribution that was being made by skilled DCA personnel, both in daily operations and in the development of training programmes to provide for localisation as soon as possible.
DCA would transfer all its existing aerodromes, navigation facilities and other assets, mutually agreed, to the Papua New Guinea Government at no cost. The total value of these assets is approximately $24.5m. Aerodrome works at Post Moresby and Nadzab, involving an estimated expenditure of $ 13.5m, would proceed as planned, with costs being met by the Australian Government.
All Ministers expressed satisfaction with the agreements which had been reached and looked forward to continued close co-operation in the establishment of an efficient national airline and civil aviation system for Papua New Guinea.
Hon. W. L. Morrison, MP
Hon. C. K. Jones, MP
-This agreement is between the Australian Government and the Papua New Guinea Government for the setting up of an airline called Air Niugini. The Papua
New Guinea Government has 60 per cent participation while Ansett Transport Industries has 16 per cent, Qantas has 12 per cent and TAA has 12 per cent. What concerns me is the pressure that the Papua New Guinea Government is applying on this Government to allow it to buy out the TAA and Qantas participation. The Australian Government in this agreement made a very substantial contribution to civil aviation in Papua New Guinea at a cost of about $40m to the Australian taxpayer. When that agreement was entered into both parties said they were satisfied with it and signed it, yet we find that a very short time after the agreement was signed pressure is being put on this weak-kneed, yellow- bellied Government to agree to Qantas and TAA being pulled out of the agreement. I am concerned in all these negotiations at the way the private airlines operator in Australia is using his position to duchess, and I use the term ‘duchess’ in the way in which we know it to be used, certain leading people in Papua New Guinea. For example, a particular person was taken through South-East Asia some years ago to duchess him and get him on-side. Even as late as this yearbetween 1 and 6 November- the same person was here in Australia. He is a very important member of the Papua New Guinea Parliament but he was in Australia not on Government business. He was put up at the holiday home of the head of Ansett Transport Industries at a place called Mount Elisa. What for? For one obvious reason it seems to me. He was duchessed, to get favourable preferential treatment for Ansett Transport Industries.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I will not delay the passage of this legislation for any extensive period. I am aware that debates on airline Bills- particularly Bills relating to Qantas Airways Ltd- have been characterised by one thing over the years, that is, the fact that they have been relatively dull. I commend the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) for trying to inject some slight element of humour into the debate. I presume that that is what he was trying to do. I did not realise that he was so preoccupied with the term ‘duchess’. All I can say in response to that is that I think it is unlikely that he will ever be bothered in the future with the accolade of a duke. I apologise for the fact that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is not in the House tonight. It is unfortunate that he has not been able to be present. The honourable member for Newcastle took particular exception to that.
– He made a personal attack upon the Minister.
– He made a personal attack upon him notwithstanding that -
– I object to the way in which the Minister treats this Parliament with contempt.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. When an honourable member is about to make a personal attack upon a Minister is it not the custom for him to inform the Minister before he makes the attack?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. It is a matter of debate.
– I rise to another point of order. With respect, I heard what he said. It was a personal reflection.
– You were not even in the chamber.
– I heard it.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle is not helping the situation in any way. I point out to the honourable member for Holt that the remarks that he is making do not establish a point of order. If there had been a personal attack upon the Minister in the sense of being unparliamentary, it would have been the responsibility of the Chair to draw attention to that personal attack. If the honourable member for Holt studies the speech of the honourable member for Newcastle he will find that, no matter what comment he may wish to make upon that speech, there was no personal reflection or attack upon the Minister for Transport. I suggest to the honourable member for Holt that there is no substance in the point of order.
– Irrespective of whether or not there was substance in the point of order, the fact of the matter is that the remarks of the honourable member for Newcastle were particularly inopportune and, I think, a little cowardly in the sense that the Minister for Transport, who has very considerable responsibilities in this Government, is, as the former Minister for Transport would understand, preoccupied with a matter of very considerable moment which in fact affects the jobs of a great many Australians. I think that the honourable member for Newcastle might have been just a little more charitable in that respect. I also acknowledge the fact that the honourable member for Newcastle was trying to put a little more colour into the debate, which is of a type that is, as I have said, characteristically somewhat dull. It is just a little unfortunate that once or twice the honourable member for Newcastle digressed to the extent of making some remarks for which, upon reflection after reading Hansard tomorrow, he may feel slightly regretful.
I am upset to some extent that the honourable member for Newcastle and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) saw fit to attack Qantas in quite the terms that they used. I think that the Government would like to acknowledge the fact that Australia is proud of her international airline. This Government is determined to ensure that Qantas goes from strength to strength. Qantas is providing a remarkably good international air service against overwhelming competition from countries which give a great deal more support to their national airlines. It also should be recognised that the safety record and the service record of Qantas are beyond reproach. I think that the Parliament should recognise those facts every now and then. I was disturbed that members of the Opposition could not bring themselves to make such an acknowledgement during the course of their remarks.
There are 2 matters I want to deal with very briefly. The first concerns the on-going debate as to where the international flights into Australia should land. It is unfortunate that the Opposition took the opportunity this afternoon during question time to try to highlight the difference between Sydney and Melbourne in respect of overseas flights. I do not want to be too parochial about this matter, but Melbourne does offer facilities for international air traffic that are absolutely second to none. I do not think there is any doubt about that. The constraints on Sydney are very considerable in this respect. I often see honourable members on both sides of the Parliament expressing in this chamber to the Minister and the Government in the form of questions and in other ways their anxiety about the nuisance, the noise and associated problems of air traffic coming into Sydney Airport. It should be acknowledged that no such restrictions apply in Melbourne which has an international airport that is second to none. It was designed to be out of the urban areas where the disturbance to people, particularly residents, is absolutely minimal.
I can see absolutely no reason why international airlines should not do the obvious thing and take their aircraft into Melbourne Airport.
That would bring many visitors to Victoria- the garden State. I would venture to say that many of those overseas visitors could do little better than to spend some of their time in Australia looking at the Dandenongs which are in the garden electorate of La Trobe. One can see so much of Australia in such a short time by looking at the beautiful Dandenongs and the Yarra valley. I strongly commend that to the Minister and the Government as a particular justification for Melbourne getting special attention with respect to overseas air traffic.
Leaving the subject of Qantas for the moment, I want to make a couple of comments about the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill. Once again, and characteristically, the honourable member for Newcastle launched another broadside at the operations of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. He has been well known for doing that over a considerable period in this Parliament. I do not want to set myself up here as a defender of the Ansett operations but I do want to draw attention to a couple of clauses of the Bill that I think this House should at least refer to before voting on it. I recognise the fact that the Treasury looks after the national interest very well in respect of guarantees which the Government undertakes on behalf of a commission, corporation, public company or anything else. It is clear that the Government has a very clear responsibility to see that the repayments are met and that the creditability is in no way violated. But I do question certain clauses in the Bill.
For instance, clause 5 (d) (i) allows officers of the Australian Public Service to have full access at all times to the financial accounts of Ansett Transport Industries and, to be brief, associated companies. In addition, it gives the Public Service access to other operations in which Ansett has a majority interest. As I remarked when I started, I am not going in to bat for, defend or promote Ansett Transport Industries. I simply want to say that when legislation like this comes before the House honourable members should look at what is implied in the provisions and take full account of them. In this legislation we are authorising the Treasurer or his officers to look into the details of the financial records of Ansett or its associated companies which is, I think, a privilege we should not take lightly. Whilst I will be supporting the Bill- obviously the Government does so- I think it is important to place on record that I believe that certain of the provisions of the Bill require looking at and reviewing. I hope that before similar legislation comes before the Parliament again this review will be done and that we will see such legislation in a somewhat different form.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 November, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 November, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition supports this Bill. We often see such a Bill in the Parliament to amend the existing Acts Interpretation Act. It is necessary that this be done from time to time because of certain decisions that arise in the community or interpretations by the High Court. This Bill contains formal provisions such as a provision relating to the exercise of certain powers between the passing and commencement of Acts. This situation is regularised. In my view the most important clause is clause 4 because it relates to the application of federal legislation to what is deemed to be the coastal sea. I will come back to that matter. Then we have other amendments relating to constitutional and official definitions, documents purportedly printed by the Government Printer, certain grammatical expressions, matters which arise where a department has been abolished and where the reference to the Minister or the department is not consistent with changed administrative arrangements.
The matter on which I seek some further information from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) is clause 4 which contains this expression: the provisions of every Act, whether passed before or after the commencement of this section, shall be taken to have effect in and in relation to the coastal sea of Australia as if the coastal sea of Australia were pan of Australia;
I notice that the Attorney-General referred quite properly in his second reading speech to the decision of the High Court in the seas and submerged lands case where it was clearly spelt out that there is constitutional authority for this Parliament to legislate in respect of the area deemed to be the territorial sea which is the sea commencing at low water-mark. The territorial sea has been the subject of varying decisions because of international conventions. I seek an explanation for the Attorney-General’s use of the expression ‘coastal sea’ in this Bill. In my view the coastal sea would form part of the territorial sea but there may be some other good reason for saying this.
There is another thought exercising my mind now that we have jurisdiction over the territorial sea. Certain matters already existing, such as, for example, the Bass Strait oil and the natural gas offshore from Victoria, I think would now come under federal jurisdiction. I do not know of anybody who has addressed his mind to this or if there has been any statement made about it. Because of my inquisitive nature I am wondering what might be the situation because it appears that we will have that area within federal jurisdiction now. I trust that the Attorney-General will have a chance to answer those comments in due course if that is convenient for him. We support the legislation because it accords with our views about the matters that are being amended.
– in reply- To assist the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) I would point out that the words ‘coastal sea’ are defined in proposed new section 15b (4) which is contained m clause 4 of the Bill. It states that the coastal sea in relation to Australia means the territorial sea of Australia; and the sea on the landward side of the territorial sea of Australia and not within the limits of a State or internal Territory’. The honourable member might recall the Seas and Submerged Lands Act. It distinguishes between the internal waters as at 1900 and those waters which would be described as internal waters for the purposes of international law- that is to say, for purposes of the convention- which would expand the internal waters as at 1900. In addition there would be the territorial sea beyond that, which would be drawn from the base lines of the territorial sea.
Perhaps it is a complex question of both domestic and international law. It is intended that we draw this valid distinction which the Seas and Submerged Lands Act draws, namely, the distinction between internal waters which form part of a State because they are inter-fauces terrae The honourable member might recall that this means ‘within the jaws of the land ‘. For instance, within a bay whose entrance is 6 miles or less the waters would have been regarded as internal waters as at 1900. But under the Law of the Sea Convention of 1958 you could get a situation where you could draw a closing line across a bay where, I think, the distance was up to 24 miles. The result would be that in international law you would have added to internal waters- those waters which fell within the bay at the point where it was 6 miles across- the waters within the bay where it was 24 miles across. The definition therefore had to take that situation into account. It had to take it into account obviously because insofar as it was outside the internal waters as at 1 900, it was internal waters for international legal purposes, and beyond those closing lines which were drawn it was territorial sea. We also know that the territorial sea, even though the width of it is still 3 miles under our view of the situation, now extends further than it did in 1900. 1 hope that attempt at explaining the matter for the honourable member is successful.
– Very good. What about Bass Strait?
-So far as Bass Strait is concerned, in Part II of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act of 1967-1973 he will find in sections 9 and 1 1 the application of laws and areas adjacent to States. So far as there are oil rigs in Bass Strait etc, I think he will find that those particular Acts in effect extended State law, albeit now to the extent to which the State laws are invalid in the continental shelf area, as Federal law. Of course under those provisions he will find a provision that gives to State courts jurisdiction to deal with breaches of law in that area. That jurisdiction, of course, would be federal jurisdiction. In other words, I think the honourable member will find that there is no omission in the present situation. There are other matters which need consideration and which are in the course of consideration such as offences at sea on ships. That is a matter which I have under consideration at the moment. So this law operates properly to extend Commonwealth law into the coastal sea as defined and to ensure that it operates in a way which is complete as it was thought to operate before the High Court found that the territorial sea was an area over which the Commonwealth has sovereignty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 September, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition supports this Insurance (Deposits) Amendment Bill. In May 1973 the Australian Labor Party Government introduced the Insurance Bill 1 973. The purpose of that Bill was to establish a comprehensive system of supervision of general insurance. The Bill presently before the House is part of arrangements for the carrying out of the business of insurance consequent upon that 1973 Act to which I have just referred. Prior to 1973 the only protection policy holders had against losses if their insurer became insolvent was a deposit which was required to be lodged with the Treasurer before the insurer was given permission to commence business. The Treasurer used these deposits to pay claims by policy holders against the insurance companies if and when any insurance company became insolvent.
The protection offered by the deposit scheme was of limited value only. In general the deposit was insufficient to offer any real chance of adequate recompense being made to policy holders in the event of company failure. Furthermore, after the insurer had commenced business there was virtually no further supervision over that insurance company. However, in the 1973 Act, the Australian Labor Government introduced provisions requiring those companies wishing to commence new insurance business in Australia to be bodies corporate capable of meeting a set of standards of financial soundness which was set out in the Act. The standards in that Bill have stood the test of time. After an insurer has been given an authority to operate he is obliged to maintain those prescribed standards. Provision for continuous supervision is also made and a mechanism for dealing with those who fail to maintain standards is also in operation.
The measures the Australian Labor Government introduced had been urgently required for many years. In fact, the Liberal and National Country parties before they lost power in 1972 had belatedly- due, I believe, to the persistence of questioning by my colleague from South Australia, the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi)- recognised the need for reform in this area. The extent of the proliferation of small insurance companies which had occurred under the deposit system of authorisation is given in the 1976 report of the Insurance Commissioner. Prior to August 1974, as we see from that report, the number of insurers legally entitled to operate in the Australian insurance industry was almost 400. By 30 June 1976 this number had fallen to 214. This reduction in the number of eligible insurers and the actual phasing out of the activities of those ineligible for registration has largely occurred without loss to policy holders and without a diminution in the insurance services available. In brief, the steps taken by the Australian Labor Government seem to have been effective in rationalising the insurance industry and limiting losses suffered by policy holders.
As part of the transition period while the supervisory provisions of the Insurance Act 1 973 were expanded and are being expanded to cover the entire industry, the deposit scheme has continued to operate in a limited fashion. As an insurer is granted an authorisation under the Insurance Act he is no longer required to lodge a deposit with the Treasurer. However, those who have not yet applied for authorisation are still required to lodge a deposit. Also, those who may have been refused authority and who are still operating are required to lodge deposits. Obviously those companies which have been refused authority cannot be wound down until it is clear that they have effectively discharged their duties to their policy holders. That is why this limited deposit protection has been kept. Ultimately all those conducting insurance business will conform to the provisions of the 1973 Insurance Act. This amendment to the Insurance (Deposits) Act 1932 which we are debating right now provides for the circumstances I have just outlined. The deposit requirement is continued where appropriate and authorised insurers are exempt from its provisions and, where applicable, deposits are returned.
It is pleasing to see that the reforms in the insurance industry which were brought in by the Australian Labor Government have been allowed to stand. I only say that it is a pity that some of the reforms brought in in other areas have not also been allowed to stand. Before resuming my seat I pay tribute to my colleague from South Australia, the honourable member for Hawker, who has specialised in this field of insurance legislation. As I said earlier, his questioning and his persistence have been largely responsible for the reforms in the insurance industry. I am glad that he is listed to take part in this debate shortly. The Opposition supports this amendment to the Insurance (Deposits) Act.
– I rise to speak in favour of the Insurance (Deposits) Amendment Bill. I am pleased to hear the Opposition has taken a similar stance. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Insurance (Deposits) Act 1932 to exempt companies authorised under the Insurance Act 1973 from the requirement to lodge a deposit with the Treasurer and to provide for the return of deposits in appropriate cases. Under the Insurance (Deposits) Act a company carrying on insurance business is required to lodge a deposit with the Treasurer. However, I understand that not every company that has been granted an authority under the Insurance Act has in fact lodged a deposit since subsidiary companies are exempt from the requirement if the parent company has already lodged a deposit. When the Insurance Act was passed it was envisaged that the deposit requirement under the Insurance (Deposits) Act would be terminated after the new system of supervision of insurers was fully effective.
Legislative provision was therefore made for the return of all deposits during a 2-year period following the commencement of the authorisation provisions of the Insurance Act; that is from 1 August 1974 to 31 July 1976. I am informed that the Insurance Commissioner is making good progress in examining applications for authority from companies wishing to carry on insurance business under the Insurance Act. In excess of 50 per cent of applicant companies have been granted an authority. However, there are a significant number of companies which have either not applied for or could be refused an authority to carry on insurance business. Those companies will be required, subject to the transitional provisions of the Insurance Act, to terminate their insurance business in a manner satisfactory to the Commissioner. I am informed that it may take many months, even years, before this process will be completed by the Insurance Commissioner. In the circumstances, the Government has extended the operation of the deposit system until 3 1 July 1979 in order to continue to protect policy owners of companies not granted an authority under the Insurance Act. However, I think it would be grossly unfair to retain deposits from those companies who have complied with the more stringent requirements of the Insurance Act. This Bill relieves those insurers of the obligation to lodge deposits, which can be up to $200,000 in individual cases. I therefore support the Bill.
-In supporting the legislation I think I ought to traverse its history in some short form because I had a lot to do with it in 1973. The Insurance (Deposits) Act itself deals with insurance other than life assurance or State insurance within the confines of a State. The Act covers the fields of general insurance, fire, accident and motor vehicle insurance, and I suppose that its basic facet is that all insurers, including brokers, sending premiums overseas must lodge deposits with the Treasurer in the form of approved securities. Each company’s deposit is wholly charged in favour of the owners of the policies that the company issues. The Treasurer may use the deposit to satisfy a final judgment obtained against the insurer in respect of a claim under a policy, and in the event of insolvency of the insurer the deposit must be applied towards settlement of the unpaid claim on the policy. However, regrettably the Act does not empower the Australian Government to inquire into the internal affairs of insurance companies or to intervene in disputes between policy owners and insurance companies. After all, the reason for legislating to supervise insurance is to protect policy owners from the insolvency of companies, and we have had a spate of that. The 1973 Act was structured to achieve that end. It requires companies to comply with mimimum standards of financial soundness.
As I understand it, the Australian constitutional power extends not only to supervision, which is the purpose of the 1973 Act, but could also extend to regulatory powers and to control. For instance, the Marine Insurance Act regulates the terms of insurance contracts. One purpose of my long struggle has now been agreed to by the Tory Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and I am grateful that in respect of insurance contracts at law many of the existing abuses will be obliterated. I have struggled without success for 5 years with both governments, and I will continue my struggle in respect of control. The United Kingdom legislation, for instance, goes part of the way in the sense that a company cannot direct what it will or will not invest in the first 5 years following its authorisation. That ensures that an inexperienced company does not invest its funds in a foolish investment, and if we had had that sort of provision in an Act prior to 1 969 we would not have had the proliferation of collapses to which this country was subject up until 1 973. In a number of European countries investment is strictly controlled for economic reasons, and that ought to be provided for in our Act. Insurance laws around the world are becoming more and more standardised. The industry might not like it, but that is a fact of life. Of necessity, governments are being forced to supervise, to regulate and to control the insurance industry.
The cornerstone of the insurance law is the section prescribing solvency. I will not go into the 4 areas into which various countries in the world structure for solvency. I think that the Australian system has served a really good purpose. As I understand it, this legislation is to allow refunds of deposits made under the Act to companies which have already been granted authority to underwrite insurance in accordance with the Insurance Act 1973. As the requirements of the Act are far more strict than the old deposits system, there is in fact no need for companies with an authority either to lodge or maintain the deposit, as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said. However, I am pleased to note that deposits from companies not granted an authority to underwrite insurance can be used to pay off policy owners with claims against the company if such a company gets into financial difficulty. In these days of rapid changes in the value of money, legislation of the type contained in the Act rapidly becomes outdated and if it is to have any effect it must be updated annually. The only protection afforded under such legislation is when a company goes bankrupt, and frankly it has never been good enough. The whole purpose and the structure of the Insurance Act 1973 is to ensure that insurance companies do not get into financial difficulty which leads ultimately to liquidation or bankruptcy.
The Insurance (Deposits) Act is rapidly being superseded by early warning mechanisms or the devices for surveillance contained in the Insurance Act 1973. This Bill, which the Opposition welcomes, is but another step towards the updating of the Insurance Act 1973. It ought to be acknowledged that the type of deposit provisions contained in that Act are rapidly being phased out and repealed in many overseas countries in favour of the early warning surveillance system. I sound this note of warning. There does not anywhere in the world seem to be any insurance legislation, no matter how strict, which can guarantee that there will be no failures whatsoever of insurance companies. The United
States perhaps is the best example. It has perhaps the strictest regulatory legislation but there are still insurance company failures through mismanagement, fraud or other forms of manipulation and incompetence.
I wish to take only a few minutes more on this issue to put a point constructively to the Attorney-General. It is a pity that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) is not here. The one aspect of the insurance field today which is worrying me is the premium price cutting in fire and industrial insurance which is causing concern both in the United Kingdom and in the United States. Established and reputable companies cannot or will not compete, and that situation is occurring throughout Australia at the moment. It will lead inevitably to an escalation in the fire catastrophe rate of reinsurance on the international market. A premium pool is required by reinsurers to calculate a reasonable charge level, and so far as catastrophe insurance is concerned, if premiums are cut or are insufficient then the reinsurer has no option but to escalate charges to cover the excess risk or gap. Inevitably, this will mean that ultimately a greater charge will have to be borne by the policy holders. It ought to be realised that in the wash-up it will be the Australian companiesI repeat, the Australian companieswhich will suffer most from the price cutting war. The large overseas companies, mainly in the United Kingdom, have more than sufficient fat to survive the cold when it comes, and I am deeply concerned at the effect this price cutting will have on small Australian companies. Such companies will go to the wall, and in turn it will be the policy holders who will suffer most. That problem was indicated only last month by the General Manager of Q.B.E. Insurance Ltd.
I warn the Minister and in turn warn the Commissioner that this matter ought to be thoroughly examined immediately. A major disaster results in a major loss, particularly when there is insufficient premium income to make up the deficiency. I have been warning people since 1969 of the dangers and the sufferings that they could face if an insurance company goes into liquidation or bankruptcy and cannot face up to its policy obligations. While I support this amendment, I warn the House and I advise policy holders throughout the length and breadth of this country that there is only one way to ensure maximum benefit and maximum coverage, and that is to ensure that legislation covering this important area is not only supervisory in structure but, equally importantly, contains provisions which are also regulatory and offer a constructive measure of control. This Act lacks it; the
Insurance Act lacks it; and the Life Insurance Act lacks it. In so many cases insurance companies collapse through sheer incompetence or fraudulent manipulation. As I said earlier, I think it is time that the Insurance Commissioner in particular made a thorough immediate investigation into the price cutting war that is going on in the field of general insurance in this country at the moment. I support the amendment.
– Speaking to the Insurance (Deposits) Amendment Bill, it is interesting to note that it is reported in the last Insurance Commissioners report that the amount that is being held at the moment on deposit in connection with this Act is almost $43m. This total is made up of various amounts in respect of many companies. The maximum amount for a foreign company is $200,000 and the maximum amount for an Australian company is $160,000. This Bill when passed will allow the machinery to repay a considerable amount of this $43m back to the insurance industry. In doing so it must supply a certain amount of liquidity to an industry that no doubt could do with it at the moment.
The fact that this Bill has the support of both sides of the House is, as has been said, a reflection on the success of the Insurance Act of 1973. The opening paragraph of the Commissioners report states:
By 30 June 1976 the Insurance Act 1973 …. had made a major impact on the Australian insurance industry … . One aspect has been the reduction in the number of insurers legally entitled to write business in Australia from nearly 400 prior to August 1974 to 2 14 at 30 June 1976.
These figures are rather significant. While they do show a reduction, I believe that the 214 insurers that remain in the business and were authorised by that Act as at 30 June 1976 were dealing from a position of strength that possibly did not exist before. In fact it is becoming evident that the Act that supersedes the Deposits Act is probably a better control and effects a better oversight for the security of the depositors than did the Deposits Act. I think that this is generally admitted within the framework of the Minister’s comments in his second reading speech.
It is interesting to note that a regulation has been effected to extend the time of this Act for another 3 years, indicating that hopefully by 1979 the necessity for this Act will be no longer there, that the Act can be phased out and that the strength will return to the Insurance Act 1973. One can read the figures and say that the industry must have more solidarity now than it probably had earlier in the 1970s. But when one also reflects on the fact that the industry has gone through a period of the greatest pay-out for any catastrophe in Australia’s history- the cyclone Tracy at Darwin- these figures are all the more significant. The figures from the Commissioners report indicate that cyclone Tracy cost the insurance industry that was established in Australia some $76m and that it cost overseas insurers $ 123m. In fact, the amount of $76m left only some $6.4m for the Commonwealth to pick up. So the final adjustment in respect of the payout for people uninsured at the time was a minimal amount compared to the damage that was suffered.
The fact that these companies that are insuring at the moment went through a period such as the cyclone Tracy catastrophe and, despite the inflationary costs that they have had to incur, have reached the position they are in today speaks a fair amount for the effectiveness of the 1973 Act. As has been said, the Insurance Act 1973 is not an Act that is of monetary concern to the insurers; it provides for an oversight to be exercised by the Commonwealth through the lodgment of forms and the inspection of accounts which gives security to the insurer and also the depositors.
I should like to address myself again to the period that the industry has just gone through. One wonders how far the insurance industry can go in meeting costs and absorbing losses, such as the ones that it incurred at Darwin, from the proceeds of simple premiums. Anyone who had had to pay an insurance premium over the last 6 or 12 months would realise that there has been a tremendous escalation in premiums due to inflated costs and the fact that the industry has also had to pick up the tabs that have existed through the Commonwealth. Certainly, the cost does not stop there.
I believe that one of the aftermaths of cyclone Tracy was not only the increased premiums but also the fact that throughout Australia new standards have been set for building construction, both of a private and commercial nature. Some of the by-laws set by building authorities and local governments have been set unnecessarily high. These organisations have been framing their by-laws in an attempt to prevent or prepare for a situation such as a cyclone, the flood damage that occurred in Brisbane or any other unusual events. So we see that insurers, under the influence of local governments and other authorities which set standards are putting a price tab on the construction of both residential and commercial buildings that has risen over and above the inflated building costs. I have estimated that in some cases this could be as high as 15 per cent or 20 per cent just because of the additional building requirements which have been imposed as a precaution against the situations that I have outlined. This is not reflected in an insurance premium; it is reflected in the inability of some young people, and some not so young people, to get a home because they cannot afford these additional costs. I question whether these regulations are at all times necessary. I wonder whether we are trying to protect the reputation of some professional people or whether we are trying to prevent an unnecessary payout by the insurance companies. Whatever the case, the effect will still be felt by those people who cannot buy a house at this stage.
One final matter that I would like to draw to the attention of the House is that catastrophes such as those I have mentioned have had the effect of insurance companies throughout Australia drawing, not the Brisbane line, but what they call the Sarina line. This means that anybody who lives in north Queensland or northern Australia above the Sarina line pays a penalty in terms of premiums over and above those paid by anybody else. This is the position irrespective of the fact that the greater catastrophes, apart from cyclone Tracy, have occurred below the Sarina line and not above it. Therefore in speaking to and supporting the Bill I should like to draw the attention of the House to these additional facts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 August, on motion by Mr Killen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is a very minor Bill. I would put the position in this way: The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) said all that there was to say. It took him 10 minutes to say it which was 10 times more than the time he required to say it in. We have nothing more to say. We cannot equal that record.
MrHOLTEN (Indi) ( 10.19)- I should like to comment very briefly on the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who was critical of the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). We find that Hansard of 26 August records the honourable member for Oxley as saying, when the Minister introduced the Bill:
I would like to compliment the Minister for Defence on the statement he has just given the House. He listed a long and distinguished line of tided gentlemen-
– Go on and say what else I said.
-Mr Hayden went on to say: .
I will adjourn the debate in a moment, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to observe merely that even corporalshave their time.
I cannot quite follow that. I am pleased, as an exmember of the Royal Australian Air Force and having had some association with the women to whom this amendment refers, namely, the members of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service and the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force- who were known, of course, as the WAAFs- to support the amendment. I realise that time is precious and that this Bill is required to be passed tonight. But I want to say a few words along the lines that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) followed when he introduced the Bill on 26 August.
I am pleased to support the amendment that the Minister presented to the House on that occasion. Briefly, the amendment means that former members of the Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service and the WAAFs will be eligible for assistance under the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residence Act of 1953. It would be fair to say that this amendment is long overdue and is a belated recognition of the very important part played by members of the RAAF Nursing Service and the WAAF. However, I guess it is better late than never. It could be said to be an enlightened recognition of the equality of women in the Services.
I am prompted to reminisce, as did the Minister, but due to the limited time available it will not be possible to reminisce about the 5 years I spent in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. During this time I had contact with members of the nursing service and the WAAF as they performed their duties. I speak from personal experience when I say that these women played a very valuable part during the Second World War and they shared with the servicemen the dangers, the hardships, the long hours, the varying degrees of comfort and fluctuating weather conditions. I can see the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr
Graham) a distinguished former member of the Air Force, nodding in agreement.
In addition, of course, the women shared the food which, for the most part, was prepared and presented by the kitchen staff as well as possible. But I can assure honourable members that it was of a standard which would have caused many complaints to be made, as you would know, Mr Speaker, if served in the dining rooms of this Parliament. I wager that the ex-servicemen in this House will never forget 2 very regular delicacies that were served up by the women in the kitchen, namely M and V, otherwise known as meat and vegetables and goldfish, otherwise known as herrings. They were part of a staple diet that we all enjoyed very much over the years that we spent in the Services.
In conclusion, I say quite seriously that the women to whom this amendment refers played a magnificent part in all the ways I have mentioned. I have not mentioned the care of people wounded in combat or as a result of combat for whom the women of the nursing service were responsible. They played a magnificent part in all the ways I have mentioned and in some ways I have not been able to mention because of the lack of time. They fully deserve to be eligible for assistance under the provisions of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residence Act. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment.
– in reply- I appreciate the contribution of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) to the debate which, I think, took about 15 seconds. The Government appreciates his support, if not his eloquence. It also appreciates the support of the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten). It is regretted that more time is not available to listen to some honourable members’ reminiscences. No doubt arrangements can be made with the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) at a later time tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr McLeay) read a third time.
Industries Assistance Commission: Manufacturing Industries-Torres Strait Islands-Employee Representation on Boards-Welfare of Ethnic Communities-Youth Employment Programs
Motion (by Mr McLeay) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In the 5 minutes available to me I want to say something about the Industries Assistance Commission and manufacturing industry. There is no doubt that the manufacturing industry in Australia, and especially the country’s labour-intensive industries, are under serious threat and even attack from the IAC or certain members of that organisation. The IAC was established with the support of the main political parties, but with qualified support from the National Country Party, with the aim of presenting a more coherent approach towards industry development. However, in its annual report, the Commission pays scant regard to the effect its policies will have on the economic, social and physical well being of the people in the communities concerned. This is despite a specific request from the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) to the Commission on the content of the report, when he said: the Government is concerned to ensure that its decisions upon assistance to particular industries are based upon the fullest possible information about the social and locational as well as economic consequences of adopting the recommendations of the IAC.
The annual report of the IAC blithely recommends a sweeping, major restructuring of manufacturing industry. Resources are to be diverted away from high-cost industries towards industries that are more efficient in the Australian environment. But there is not one practical recommendation from the IAC as to how this may be done.
It discusses at great length efficiency of industrybutnowheredotheCommissionersspellout theirmeaningofefficiencyortheirdefinitionof it.Theypointoutrepeatedlytheneedforindus trypoliciesthatencourageefficientindustries anddiscourageinefficientindustries.Theyadvo- catetheprogressivereallocationofresourcesin favourofthelessprotected,moreefficient,low- costsectionsoftheAustralianeconomyand awayfromthemoreprotected,lessefficientsec- tors.Itmustbeassumed,therefore,thathigh protectionmeansinefficiencyandlowprotection impliesefficiency.Whatanincredible proposition.
I could name many industries that are dependent on protection but whose record is one of excellent productivity and maximum use of capital and labour resources. Yet these industries, because they have relatively high levels of protection, are classified as inefficient. There is no point in anybody saying that resources should be reallocated unless he says where they should be reallocated. Where and what are these new lowcost industries which, according to the IAC, are supposed to spring up? They seem to be mythical. There is no point in the Chairman of the IAC saying that it is not the Commission’s responsibility to point out what low cost industries should be encouraged or developed. There is no point in saying that people can be retrained if no concrete suggestion is made. For what purpose can they be retrained? Where can they be retrained? There is no point in saying that industries should become more efficient. How can they, when efficiency itself is not clearly defined?
It is this one sided approach of the IAC- this is not only my opinion; it is shared by many responsible and leading Australians in the industrial world- that is completely eroding any confidence that industrialists may have in investment in Australian industry. What is needed is a more positive approach with practical recommendations for a more efficient use of resources in a competitive world environment. We need long term plans from government to restore confidence in industry, to restructure if necessary, but at a pace and price which the community can afford. Above all, we need a policy that takes into account not only the effective functioning of manufacturing industry but also the well-being of the community as a whole. The Chairman of the IAC is reported in last week’s news as saying that tariffs are escapist and that anyone who supported tariffs was guilty of escapism. All I can say is that many developed countries must be escapist.
– Further to what has been said in this debate by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) I wish to read into the record tonight certain comments which have been made in the 1975-76 annual report of the Australian Industries Development Association. I regard the report as worthwhile and certainly as being desirable for consideration in this House. Under the heading Face Up To Employment Facts’ the report states:
Over recent years it has become fashionable in academic circles- the term includes the Universities, the Commonwealth Public Service and some journalist disciples- to scoff at the idea that protection of industry is necessary to maintain employment. This has been echoed by rural interests who see advantages in low-priced imported goods.
People who argue that way have never put forward an acceptable proposition for an alternative to manufacturing industry as an employment base in Australia. Instead, there has been some suggestion that the future lies in mineral developments and the expansion of tertiary activities.
No one has put forward an acceptable explanation of how minerals extraction and benefication could employ a lot of people. It has not been explained how tertiary activities could be maintained at present levels, let alone expanded, if manufacturing industry were seriously reduced. The nearest thing to such an explanation requires acceptance of an academic theory that almost the entire population could make a living selling each other insurance, serving each other meals, doing each others ‘ laundry, and so on.
The Australian Industries Development Association does not believe this to be true. I doubt very much that many members of the Australian Labor Party in particular would believe the theory was true. The report continues:
The case put forward by the opponents of industry protection is the theory that so-called ‘high cost’ activities, which they see as existing only in the manufacturing sector, must be curtailed or eliminated so that more economically desirable low cost’ activities will have room to take their place and grow. These they do not identify in understandable terms. Recent experience has demonstrated that the dole is the replacement activity for most of the human resources subjected to the theory in practice.
Rural spokesmen claim that the cost of protected industry is carried almost entirely by rural industries. They argue for elimination of manufacturing industries so that rural industry costs might be reduced by importing- an outcome that could in no way be guaranteed. They do not answer the employment question, nor the related question of the domestic market which is still highly important to much primary industry.
Put simply the opponents of protection for manufacturing industry do not face the fact that if protected industry is wound down there will be little to take its place. It would be helpful if such people addressed their advocacy in some detail to their particular solution to the employment problem that would be created if anti-protection policies which they advocate were fully implemented.
Among the questions about protection, therefore the most fundamental is- what amount of manufacturing industry is needed in order to provide a desirable level of employment in Australia? The test for protection is whether a particular industry is necessary to make up the required industrial structure. It is to these questions that the many parts of the Government machinery involved in protection policies should be addressing their energies.
It should be borne in mind that as farm incomes have diminished over the years people, particularly young people, have been driven into the great urban sprawls. Unless work is available for them they will be unemployed. They will have no future at all. No rational Australian would want that sort of thing.
– I was delighted at the announcement made on 12 November that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will visit the Torres Strait later this month. He will be the first Prime Minister to visit the Torres Strait, the northern extremity of Australia. It is very important that the Prime Minister should meet the Torres Strait Islanders in their home territory, to see their way of life, to understand the relation between the islands and the sea and that way of life and to hear their strongly expressed views on their future. All of the islands of the Torres Strait are within my electorate of Leichhardt. I have a great respect and affection for this fine and energetic people. They were great warriors and fought to establish and keep their islands. Now they are fighting with words, not spears and clubs, but their fighting spirit and determination is evident in thenefforts to retain their unique way of life.
I have not previously spoken in the Parliament on this matter, but I have been working very hard behind the scenes to present the views of the islanders to the Prime Minister and all other Ministers concerned. This was the best way I could serve my constituents in the area. I decided to speak tonight because of a report in the Courier Mail of last Friday, 12 November. This suggested the possibility of a protected zone in the Torres Strait without a seabed demarcation line running through it as was originally planned. This is a compromise which I have been recommending strongly for some months, although I should point out that I was not the source from which this newspaper report came. Briefly my compromise proposal is as follows: Firstly, a protected zone should be agreed to include all the islands and seas of the Torres Strait and the area of the zone outside Australian territory and Australian territorial waters should be administered by some form of joint commission. Secondly, no seabed line should be drawn within the protected zone. Thirdly, all resources contained within the protected zone, outside Australian territory and the Australian territorial seas generated by that territory, should be shared equally between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Lastly, outside the eastern and western boundaries of the protected zone Papua New Guinea should be allotted the seabed north to the mainland median line and Australia the seabed south of that line.
This compromise overcomes the very stong objections put forward by the Torres Strait Islanders to any seabed line within the protected zone. They believe that such a line would divide their land, their seas and their people and would be a source of future friction and misunderstandings. I agree with them. Traditionally they have always shared the resources of the seas of the Torres Strait with the coastal Papuans and they are quite prepared to continue this sharing within a protected zone. They have their own agreements on the sharing of these resources which have been worked out over generations and are well known to all. If the real problem is the sharing of any other resources which may be found within the area an equal sharing of such resources between Australia and Papua New Guinea would seem to be a very sensible and practical compromise. An internationally recognised commission comprising representatives of Australia, Papua New Guinea, Queensland and the Islanders formed to administer the sharing of resources would overcome many of the difficulties or frictions which are likely to arise if the Torres Strait Islands and the seas around them are divided by a sea bed line or by any other sort of line
Several times both inside and outside this Parliament the Prime Minister has stated that it is the firm objective of the Government to arrive at a settlement which will protect the rights and interests of the Islanders and preserve their traditional way of life and livelihood. He has emphasised that the continued wellbeing of the Islanders is linked to the conclusion of a satisfactory settlement with Papua New Guinea over this issue. There is no doubt now that the Torres Strait Islanders will remain Australian citizens and that the Torres Strait Islands will remain Australian territory. It is now recognised that a protected zone should be an essential part of any settlement. The Prime Minister stated at the Liberal Party annual convention at Toowoomba on 3 October 1976:
The protective zone is a fundamental requirement. My Government believes that the first priority of all is to ensure that the Australian Islanders of the Torres Strait shall be able to live and sustain themselves in the Torres Strait as they have always done. This is an absolute requirement.
It was good to hear such strongly stated terms from the Prime Minister. It is my firm belief that the long term interests of the Torres Strait Islanders, Queensland and Australia will best be served by an agreement which includes a protected Zone.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker.
- Mr Speaker.
-I call the honourable member for Macarthur.
– It is time to call an honourable member from this side of the House.
-If the honourable member for Melbourne returns to his own place, I will call him.
-The problem that concerns me tonight in the adjournment debate is the question of workers representation on boards. This is a matter that in theory I have supported in the past. I believe that employees should be given the right to be involved in and to have an understanding of what corporations, including public corporations, are doing. There is no doubt that one of the major problems we face in Australia at the moment is a lack of understanding and unity of purpose between management and worker. Apparently many union leaders who appear to be able to influence employees have a deliberate determination not to understand what corporations, including publicly owned or government owned corporations, are all about. It way well be that the only way of extending that understanding is, in fact, to encourage workers to have representatives on those boards.
We have seen in the last week or so one unfortunate consequence of this very good theoretical proposition. That unfortunate consequence occurred because a representative of the union was a member of the board of an Australian governmental commission. That union representative encouraged the commission to take action which, in fact, was not in the best interests of either the Government of the people of Australia. I refer to Mr Slater’s role as a commissioner of the Australian Postal Commission. It strikes me that there is a real conflict of interest when a union acts illegally against the instructions of a court and takes on the Postal Commission. There is a representative of that union on the Postal Commission encouraging it at the time, apparently, to take a view which was, I suggest, a disgraceful one. That Commission had to be instructed by this Government to take certain action. It so happens that amendments that were made in the Senate to the Bill establishing the Commission enabled the Government to give that kind of instruction. I want to stress to the House that had the Senate not amended that Labor Government legislation, there would have been no opportunity for the disgraceful lack of action on the part of the Australian Postal Commission to have been corrected in the public interest by the Government.
I suggest that this does raise a serious matter of principle concerning conflict of interest between the pressures upon a union or worker representative actually sitting on the board of a corporation like the Australian Postal Commission. I think that it probably puts him in an unfair position. Perhaps there is another way out of the problem. Perhaps the management of the Commission could also be represented on the union executive. In a kind of tit for tat situation it too could be privy to what the union executive was all about and could endeavour to suborn them away from what the rest of the union executive might feel to be its rightful interest. But there is no doubt that the activities of Mr Slater were clearly involving him in a conflict of interest.
Of course, that raises an interesting question about Mr Marius Webb being a commissioner of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I must say that Mr Webb has done a very good job as a Commissioner. Certainly my former colleagues in the ABC have a high regard for him and are pleased that there is such a commissioner. Nevertheless, I raise this general question: Is there, in fact, an impossible conflict of interest as was shown in the Slater affair involving the Australian Postal Commission? In that case, the union representative was in a conflict situation. He was a representative on the Commission when his union was in direct and in this case illegal conflict with it I believe that such a situation raises serious problems. I believe that the Government should look at the whole question of union representations on corporation boards controlled by it, particularly when they are directly in conflict.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a question that is motivating the minds of people who are responsible for the wellbeing of ethnic communities and who take strong exception to the type of journalism that creates dissension, cleavage and division not only between ethnic communities themselves but also the ethnic communities and the people born of Anglo-Saxon parentage in this country. I wish to refer to the depths of degradation to which individuals will go to pervert their own people’s standing or occupation. It is difficult to contemplate how this occurs. For instance, the headline appeared recently: ‘Greek Woman Raped’. It does not matter a damn whether the woman is Greek, Italian or Australian. The fact is that a woman was raped and -
– That is the mentality of this imbecile who does nothing else but interject on issues, when he ought to be giving very serious consideration to -
– Order! The honourable member will continue with his speech.
-But the mentality is that low that would hardly expect him to understand.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. Is it proper to describe any member of this House as an imbecile?
-The honourable gentleman to whom the remark was directed did not call for a withdrawal. I call the honourable member for Melbourne.
- Mr Speaker, I point to examples of that nature that appear day after day. There is no relevance in making reference to whence the individual comes. It is purely and simply a method of sensationalism in journalism. A number of people from ethnic communities have taken exception to it.
– I am just about to ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table, for permission to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the Australian Greek Welfare Society in which very strong exception is taken to this kind of reporting. I ask leave to incorporate the letter in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 3000
Phone: 662-2868 662-2660 21 October, 1976
Mr A.S. Heinrichs,
The Australian Press Council,
The Australian Greek Welfare Society submits the front page of the ‘Gladstone Progress’ and the ‘Standard Times’ both printed on the 13.10.76 and also the ‘Gladstone Progress ‘ of the 20. 10.76.
We believe that the articles are against the principles laid down by the Australian Press Council (propositions 8, 9 and 10) and are irresponsible pieces of journalism. We believe that the articles are detrimental to the Australian-Greek Community. The Australian Greek Welfare Society requests that the Australian Press Council investigates these articles.
Yours faithfully, (Dr) Spiro Moraitis,
Australian Greek Welfare Socety c.c. The Hon. Mr. W. Jona. c.c. The Hon. Mr Mackellar. c.c. Mr U. E. Innes. c.c. Mr Bill Landeryou.
Community Services Centre c.c. The Hon. Mr Grassby.
– The letter raises the question of the type of journalism exhibited in the Press on 13 October 1976 and 20 October 1976 regarding the problem between the local Australian-Greek citizens and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. The type of journalism to which exception was taken appeared in the Chadstone Progress of 20 October 1976 and the Standard Times of 13 October 1976. The articles are headed: ‘Greek Split over Church Application’ and ‘Greek Threat of Violence; Bitter Row over the Church; petition before the council’. We ought to be encouraging the ethnic community and doing what we as Australians can do to try to resolve the problems and difficulties within the ethnic community. It is not good enough for journalists to endeavour to throw the matter out into the open. This raises the question of the irresponsible journalism which we have come to expect.
– I rise to order. I found the remark made by the honourable member for Melbourne extremely offensive. I gave him an opportunity to withdraw it. I ask now that he withdraw that remark.
-I ask the honourable member for Melbourne to withdraw the remark.
– I rise to order. The honourable member for Riverina has not made clear to which remark he is referring. There have been many remarks made by the honourable member for Melbourne, none of which I would have thought would have been offensive to the honourable member for Riverina.
– There is no point of order. The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat forthwith. I am sure that the honourable member for Melbourne is aware of what I am referring to and I call on him to withdraw the remark.
- Mr Speaker, I put it to you: Are you asking me to withdraw the remark?
-I am asking the honourable member to withdraw the offensive remark he directed to the honourable member for Riverina.
-The honourable member is well aware of it, I am quite sure.
– I am not quite sure. Quite a number of remarks were made.
-The honourable member for Melbourne responded to an interjection by the honourable member for Riverina in a way which was offensive to the honourable member for Riverina. On a point of order, the honourable member for Macarthur asked for its withdrawal.
I ruled that as the honourable member for Riverina had not called for a withdrawal I would not insist on it. The honourable member for Riverina, having learned what the comment was, has now asked for its withdrawal. I do not want to repeat the word. The honourable member for Melbourne is playing games and I am not in any mood to have games played. The honourable member for Melbourne knows that he used an offensive term in relation to the honourable member for Riverina and I ask for its withdrawal.
– I bow to your wisdom and withdraw it.
– As one who a couple of months ago was mildly critical of the Government in relation to the vexed question of unemployment of school leavers and as one who took considerable pleasure from the introduction of the special youth employment program, I bring to the attention of the House the success that that program has had in Tasmania, particularly in the Hobart area. At the time this program was introduced, Tasmania had the highest rate of unemployed 1975 school leavers of any State. What has been achieved in a period of a few weeks I suggest is not only almost unbelievable but also is a great tribute to the initiative shown by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Government. It would surprise many people in this chamber to know that in October unemployment in the Hobart area dropped by nearly 12 per cent. I do not believe there would be too many places in Australia which could claim such a dramatic drop in unemployment at a time when the pariahs and jonahs on the other side of the chamber and a number of speculators and prophets of doom are trying to talk down the economic recovery which has been so carefully planned and which is now starting to show its true worth. There are honourable members on the other side of the chamber who regrettably take pleasure in being able to point to high unemployment figures and high inflation figures and say that our policies are not working. But the facts here are undisputable.
In Hobart the unemployment figure fell by 12 per cent in October. At the end of September 4133 people were out of work in Hobart but by the end of October that figure had been reduced by 455. In addition, and even more encouraging, was the fact that unfilled vacancies in the Hobart area increased in that month by nearly 25 per cent. At the end of September there were 412 unfilled vacancies in the Hobart area while at the end of October that figure had risen dramatically to 513. That is clear, inescapable proof that the policies of the Government are commencing to work. Under the special youth employment projects, which the Labor Party knocked and said were not worth a cracker but were only window dressing, nearly 100 young Tasmanians were placed in jobs in the first three weeks of that program’s operation and 150 employers have come forward and notified vacancies under the program. Nearly 100 of those vacancies have been filled. I am proud to say that where we had a situation this time last year under the Labor Government with nearly 500 school leavers from 1974 still out of work one year after they left school, this year at the end of October there were only 233 school leavers from 1975 still out of work. That is an amazing tribute to the special youth employment program. It knocks completely on the head the remarks of the jeremiahs and jonahs on the other side of the chamber who said that it would not work. As the Minister has said, this pattern is showing up in other parts of Australia and young people are being found jobs and being included in the work force as a direct result of the initiatives of this Government. We on this side take a progressive and active role in getting young people into the work force whereas those on the other side of the chamber prefer to see soaring unemployment figures because they still believe that by continually knocking, by perpetually whingeing and by running down the economy they will in some way prevent the economic recovery which is just around the corner.
I add one final comment in relation to unemployment generally. I believe it is about time certain Press journalists stopped making comments and speculations which have the effect of bringing about economic downturn and speculation. In particular I refer to articles published last week speculating on the devaluation of the dollar. This is an extremely harmful exercise and leads to economic consequences which can only bring about misery and hardship. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) speculated so dangerously about devaluation a few months ago. This is not assisting the recovery; it is leading only to greater uncertainty and will lead to greater hardship for the people of Australia. These speculators ought to shut up and allow the economy to recover instead of using it for cheap political purposes.
– It is regrettable that at a time of economic recession we have to listen to such speeches as that made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). In his comments about the community youth support scheme he neglected to tell the House that the whole concept of that scheme has been rejected by all the youth organisations throughout Australia. He neglected to tell the House that the whole thing was just a window dressing scheme by the present Government because it has no thoughts of its own to solve the problem of the highest unemployment rate in this country for the past 40 years. He forgot to tell us that this is being presided over by a government which when in Opposition sought government by somewhat shonky means in 1975 and which told the people that the then Labor Government presided over the highest unemployment for 40 years. I have news for those who now sit on the Government side. They have eclipsed the record they thought the Austraiian Labor Party held. They now preside over the highest rate of unemployment of any government in this country in the past 40 years, yet they seem to take some pride in the matter and laugh about it.
I remind them that this is November and that at the end of this month and early next month 100 000 young Australians will be coming on to the employment market. There are already more than 300 000 Australians without jobs and this number will be added to by those who leave school this year. The Government has done nothing about this problem except to provide a window dressing exercise which the honourable member for Denison exposed tonight- the sort of window dressing exercise which has been rejected by all youth councils throughout this country and by those who are concerned for the employment of young people, rejected as being without foundation. I invite the honourable member to read the proposition put forward by the Minister for unemployment -
-Order! The honourable member will not misuse the Minister’s title. If he is referring to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations he should say so. It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is concluded. The House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Filing of Documents (Question No. 934)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Representation in Singapore: Prime Minister’s Visits (Question No. 936)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice:
With reference to his reply to question No. 791 in which he stated that the information on which his reply to question No. 36 was based did not come from Foreign Affairs records, from what source did the information come.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The answer to question No. 791, parts (2) and (3), refers to part ( 1 ) only of the answer to question No. 36. That statement applies equally to the responses to questions Nos 292 and 293. The information in part ( 1 ) of the answer to question No. 36, to the effect that the Prime Minister has visited Singapore on a number of occasions, was based on biographical notes supplied by the Prime Minister’s Office.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Medical Benefits Schedule, prior to 1 October 1976, contained no pathology items with differential benefits for specialist services. Thus, although many pathology services were referred by other medical practitioners, there was no requirement for the pathologist to be a specialist and, as a result, to be recognised as a specialist. In addition, no referral details were required by Medibank in order to assess the level of benefits.
The answer to Part 3 of the question (without the specialist-pathologist breakdown) is as follows:
Number of pathology claims with 1 item- 527 770
Number of pathology claims with 2 items- 107 1 84
Number of pathology claims with 3 items- 72 006
Number of pathology claims with 4 items-42 399
Number of pathology claims with 5 items- 28 366
Number of pathology claims with 6 items or more- 55 874
These figures relate to claims for the period 1 May to 30 June 1976 only, as representative of the year 1975-76. They are available from a special study which was carried out in relation to pathology usage and similar statistics are not currently available for the other months in 1975-76 to provide data for the periods requested would mean substantial delay because computer facilities are heavily pressed in relation to the carryover of the original Medibank arrangements and the new operations.
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
Has he requested the Australian Transport Advisory Council to endeavour to ensure that safety related Draft Regulations it approves are enacted in each State and Territory.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Draft Regulations Defining Vehicle Construction, Equipment and Performance Standards for Road Vehicles are formulated by the Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance of the Australian Transport Advisory Council (ATAC). The Draft Regulations upon endorsement by ATAC become recommended model requirements for States and Territories. As a Commonwealth Minister on ATAC I shall continue to press for the adoption of these measures on a uniform basis.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
What action has he taken to implement the recommendation of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety that the Bureau of Road Safety institute procedures for the thorough testing of vehicles to ensure satisfactory compliance with Australian Design Rules.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
By agreement between the Commonwealth and the States the Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board has the responsibility of establishing the compliance of new vehicles with the Australian Design Rules. The evidence of compliance which manufacturers are required to submit include the results of tests conducted in either approved laboratories or laboratories which would satisfy the requirements for approval.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
What action has he taken to implement the recommendation of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety that the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design make a formal approach to individual vehicle companies requesting detailed cost information and other relevant information whether necessary for the purposes of design rule formulation and that manufacturers should also be requested to provide assistance in evaluating the effectiveness of safety features in vehicles.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
See answer to question 1268 (Hansard, 11 November 1976, p. 2669).
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Sales of salted butter were on the basis of mixed quantities of choice and first grade qualities for which only the overall price to the buyer is available. Quantities and prices for these sales were:
Quantities and prices for sales of unsalted butter (all choice grade) were:
3 150 tonnes at $754 per tonne f.o.b
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Is it a fact that in Australian Missions abroad, officers of his Department have been appointed Charge D ‘Affaires a.i. over the head of more senior attached officers and that this even happens in posts in which the predominant activity is the function of the department represented by these attached officers.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is normal practice for the senior officer of the Department responsible for the administration of a missionnormally my Department- to be placed in charge of the mission in the absence of the Head of Mission. This practice is administratively convenient, and reflects the fact that the direction of Australia’s predominant interest in any one country is not necessarily constant.
It also reflects the consideration, in no way derogatory of the capacities and flexibility of attached officers, that my Department is responsible for the totality of the relationship with the country in question; and that supervision of the activities of the mission as a whole, even on a temporary basis, would divert the senior attached officer in question from the more specialised function which he was appointed to perform into areas in which his Department would have little interest or experience.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What sum has the Australian taxpayer been saved in reduced expenditure by Australian Missions abroad in (a) liquor consumption, (b) domestic staff for Heads of Missions, (c) entertainment generally and (d) other specified reductions in expenditure since the Prime Minister announced his cut-back m Government expenditure.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is not possible to give an estimate of savings made within individual categories of expenditure as a result of cutbacks in expenditure announced by the Government. While the expenditure of the Department of Foreign Affairs has increased overall, the rate of increase is less than it would have been had the Government not embarked on a policy of stringent economies. Earlier this year, the Government reduced by 25 per cent entertainment allowance for Ambassadors and other officers with representational duties. Because of a number of variables, it is not possible to give a precise indication of the amount of money saved through this measure. It would be of the order of $200,000 for a full financial year.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Do Australian Missions overseas keep a record of (a) Members of the Parliament, (b) Officers of his department and (c) other officers of Australian Government departments who are met at the local airport by an officer of the Mission.
– There is no obligation for Australian missions abroad to keep records of Members of Parliament, officers of my department or other officers of other Australian Government departments who are met at the local airport by an officer of the mission. Some missions prepare advance schedules for duty officers, and I understand that a few may keep such schedules for statistical purposes.
My present instructions to overseas missions are that Members of Federal Parliament should be met at airports by an official car of the local mission, or if one is unavailable by a hire car, where the Member’s itinerary provides for a stop-over but does not include the conduct of official business locally. Where the conduct of official business is included in the program, the Member is met by an officer of the mission.
Permanent Heads of Federal Departments receive the same courtesies.
Other officials, whether of the Department of Foreign Affairs or other departments, are not required to be met, but missions are expected to make contact with them through a message at the airport or hotel, in cases where they are travelling on official business.
– asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At this early stage, however, it is not possible to forecast reliably the size of the Tasmanian or mainland crops, the volume of Tasmanian apple shipments to the mainland which will take place or the eventual effects of any such shipments on the mainland marketing situation.
The Government will be closely monitoring the movement of Tasmanian apples to mainland markets next year and the effect that this trade could have on interstate markets.
Government decisions for such measures have included the extension for 1976 and 1977 of the apple and pear export stabilisation arrangements, the extension to 31 December, 1976 of the Fruitgrowing Reconstruction Scheme with a liberalised eligibility test for clear-fell applicants, and the grant of $250,000 to the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation, a body which has amongst other responsibilities an import function in initiating and funding research into new apple processed products.
There is the added disadvantage in the proposal, given the extremely tight budgetary situation facing the Commonwealth, that re-introduction of the exemption would involve the foregoing of a large amount of revenue (estimated in 1973 at about $25 million per annum) to produce a relatively small beneficial effect on grower returns.
The above considerations still have a general application and there are no plans to review the Government decision not to re-introduce the exemption.
Senior Women Staff at Overseas Posts (Question No. 1345)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
In which overseas Australian posts is one of the 3 senior positions held by a woman.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no general practice with regard to determining the relative seniority at an Australian overseas mission of officers from different Government Departments. However, in addition to one female Australian Ambassador, there are currently five other female officers of my Department serving as Deputy Head of Mission; they would normally take charge of the mission in the absence of the Head of Mission. In overall terms there are, in addition to the female officer serving as Ambassador to Denmark, two female officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs currently serving as Counsellors, five as First Secretaries, three as Attaches and two as Vice-Consuls.
Other Government Departments, according to records held in my Department, currently have overseas a total of eleven female officers with the designation of First Secretary, Second Secretary, Attache or Vice-Consul.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is:
Surf Life Saving Association
1970- 7 1-$34,000
Royal Life Saving Society
1973- 74-$ 100,000
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Committee’s work is nearing completion following the conclusion of an extensive survey which has been carried out in coastal Queensland and Northern New South Wales. Considerable preliminary fact-finding work was necessary as previously there was no accurate assessment of the numbers of descendants of Islanders now in Australia nor of their living conditions.
The Committee expects to complete its work during December this year and, when the report is received, the question of whether it should be tabled will be considered.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
In which overseas Australian posts is the position of (a) Head of Mission and (b) First Secretary not filled.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Two Head of Mission positions are currently vacant. These are in Beirut and Phnom Penh, where the Australian missions have suspended operations.
The inquiry about First Secretary positions is not susceptible to a simple answer. Staffing practice varies between Consular and Administrative officers of my Department and diplomatic officers (Foreign Affairs officers). The former are posted to established positions at specific posts, but the latter are posted using a pool system which enables the Department to take changing workloads and priorities into account when deciding at what level to staff any particular post. Thus, while I can say accurately and precisely that no Clerk Class 8 or 9 (First Secretary) position overseas is vacant, it is somewhat misleading to say that there is or is not an unfilled Foreign Affairs Officer Class 3 (First Secretary) position at a particular post. However, Departmental records show that as at 10 September 1976 there were a total of seven such positions on my Department’s overseas establishment no actually occupied by First Secretaries. These vacancies will be filled, some of them in the next month or two, when officers currently serving in Australia begin overseas postings.
A number of other Government Departments maintain officers overseas and some of these officers also ha ve the rank of First Secretary. My Department’s records indicate that none of these positions is currently vacant.
Proficiency in Indigenous Languages of Heads of Mission (Question No. 1348)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
In which overseas Australian posts does the Head of Mission not speak the indigenous language?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Ankara, Athens, Baghdad, Bangkok, Belgrade, Bonn, Buenos Aires, Cairo, ‘Colombo, Copenhagen, *Dacca, Dar Es Salaam, Hanoi, *Hong Kong, “Honiara, Islamabad, Jakarta, Jeddah, ‘Kuala Lumpur, “Lae, Lisbon, Madrid, Malta, Manila, Moscow, “Nairobi, Nauru, *New Delhi, Nicosia, “Port Moresby, “Rangoon, Santiago, Seoul, “Singapore, Stockholm, “Suva, Tehran, “Tei Aviv, The Hague, Tokyo.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science upon notice:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
On 31 August 1976 the Minister for Science released a Budget Background statement announcing the allocation of $1.4m to the CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition. These funds were made available to CSIRO through appropriation from Consolidated Revenue. They are not grants in terms of the granting activities of the Australian Research Grants Committee or the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The statement made reference to three particular research programmes in the Division of human diet and dietaryrelated disorders. These involve:
Investigation of specific life-style groups with a view to determining nutrition patterns.
Study of the effects of alcohol and other dietary intakes on the development of the brain in unborn children.
Research into digestion and its relationship with such complaints as heart disease and possibly cancer.
These are components of the Division’s principal research programmes that cover the fields of inorganic nutrition, human metabolism and digestion, and nutrition and human ecology.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What was the total number of (a) First Division Officers, (b) Second Division Officers, (c) Third Division Officers, (d) Fourth Division Officers and (e) locally employed or unattached staff employed by his Department during each year since 1969.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is set out in the table below. The figures quoted are as at 30 June of each year:
Column (2) shows percentages for gross operating surplus which is often used as an indication of changes in the share of profits in gross domestic product. Gross operating surplus is before deduction of depreciation, interest, company tax and dividends paid. It covers all enterprises, including government enterprises, and includes the gross operating surplus from owner-occupied dwellings.
Column (3) shows percentages for household income from interest, dividends, dwelling rent and profits of unincorporated enterprises which, except for small amounts of interest and dividends received directly by households from overseas, is appropriated out of the gross operating surplus used to derive column (2). Household income from interest includes, not only the interest paid or credited directly to households, but also interest on life and superannuation funds imputed to households. This latter component represents the net earnings of these funds which are accumulated for the benefit of policy holders and members.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What proportion of the gross domestic product was represented by (a) wages and (b) profits, interest and dividends during each of the last 20 years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Statistician has supplied the following table which shows as percentages of gross domestic product at factor cost (1) wages, salaries and supplements, (2) gross operating surplus, and (3) household income from interest, dividends, dwelling rent and profits of unincorporated enterprises.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4) see following table.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What was the average number of nurses employed by and the subsidy paid to each home nursing organisation in each State under the Home Nursing Subsidy Act for the year 1975-76.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is set out in the following schedule:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761116_reps_30_hor102/>.