House of Representatives
30 November 1976

30th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.

page 2935



– I have to inform the House that we have present in the Gallery this afternoon members of a delegation from the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The delegation is led by the Rt Hon. Lord Drumalbyn, K.B.E. On behalf of the House, I extend a very warm welcome to the members of the delegation.

Honourable members Hear, hear!

page 2935


The Clerk:

– Petitions have been lodged as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:


To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

  1. That the use of uranium as a source of energy is currently unacceptable as it presents problems including radioactive waste, military implications and environmental degradation.
  2. That there can, at present, be no assurances that radioactive materials exported for peaceful purposes will not be used in the production of nuclear weapons.
  3. That there is not, as yet, any known safe method of disposing of radioactive wastes, nor is there likely to be.
  4. d ) That the export of uranium from Australia is internationally irresponsible and is not, in the long term, of benefit to Australia.
  5. That the export of uranium from Australia discourages importing countries from investing research and development funds in finding viable alternatives.
  6. That only the overdeveloped industrial nations will benefit from Australian uranium and the gap between these countries and the energy-starved third world will increase yet further.
  7. That the securing of land rights by Australian Aborigines, promised by successive governments, is prejudiced by uranium mining.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and prohibit the export of uranium until perfectly safe methods of final disposal for radioactive wastes have been guaranteed; will greatly increase expenditure on research into safe, clean and inexhaustible sources of energy; and will aid underdeveloped countries in their efforts to secure a fair share of the world ‘s energy resources, while at the same time honouring its obligations to the future of humanity.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bonnett, Mr Cadman, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Hodges, Mr Jull, Mr Killen, and Mr Mackenzie.

Petitions received.

Aboriginal Land Rights

To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:

That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory.

Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should:

  1. Extend the freeze on European claims to the unalienated Crown Lands of the Northern Territory until 12 months after the passage of the Bill; and to provide for speedy lodging and hearing of Aboriginal claims. The hearing of Aboriginal claims has been postponed as a result of Government decisions, Aborigines should not be penalised;
  2. Amend the Bill to ensure:

    1. a ) The removal of all powers to pass Land Rights Legislation from the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, particularly its control over sacred sites, entry permits, control over the seas adjoining Aboriginal land, the fishing rights of non-Aborigines, the right of Aborigines to enter pastoral stations and control of wildlife on Aboriginal land.
    2. The control of Aborigines of all roads passing through Aboriginal lands.
    3. The restoration of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner’s powers to hear claims based on need as well as traditional claims lodged by Aborigines.
    4. d ) The restoration of all powers vested in Land Councils and the Land Commissioner in the 1975 Land Rights Bill.
    5. A provision that any Government decision to override Aboriginal objections to mining on the basis of national interests be itself reviewed by both houses of parliament.
    6. A provision that land-owning groups of Aborigines may apply to form separate trusts if they wish,
    7. The removal of artificial barriers to traditional owners imposed by the Territory borders on all tribes so affected.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Viner.

Petitions received.

Australian Symphony Orchestras

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 we are deeply concerned at the threat to the continuation of symphony orchestras throughout Australia posed by the I.A.C. and Green reports.

We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way atall

Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to ensure the continuation and growth of our symphony orchestras, thereby ensuring that the quality of life of the people of this country shall be maintained.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Staley, Mr William McMahon, Mr Hodges and Mr Les Johnson.

Petition received.

Australian Broadcasting Commission

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:

  1. Subscribe to the view that the Australian Broadcasting Commission belongs to the people and not to the government of the day whatever political party.
  2. Eschew all means, direct or indirect, of diminishing the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
  3. Reject all proposals for the introduction of advertising into A.B.C. programmes.
  4. Develop methods for publicly funding the Commission which will prevent the granting or withholding of funds being used as a method of diminishing its independence.
  5. Ensure that any general enquiries into broadcasting in Australia which may seem desirable from time to time shall be conducted publicly and that strong representation of the public shall be included within the body conducting the enquiry.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Les Johnson.

Petitions received.


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 Govenor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi and Mr Les McMahon.

Petition received.

Newcastle Symphony Orchestra

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Hunter Valley Region respectfully showeth:

The lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral instruments and career opportunities for young musicians.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Government, Local Governments, and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500,000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.

Petition received.

Budget 1976-77

To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That the Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work.

The Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health insurance scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community.

The Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians.

The Budget will compel state governments to reduce their services and increase charges.

The Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1972 days.

The Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio.

The Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels.

And the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guidelines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon and Mr Antony Whitlam.

Petition received.

Public Telephone at Coombah

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 there is a need for a public telephone to be installed at Coombah Half- Way House for emergency use of the 225 km stretch of lonely highway linking Wentworth with Broken Hill N.S.W.

That continued refusal by Telecom Australia to provide an emergency telephone threatens users of this highway with danger to the life and property.

That the cost of providing a service at the privately owned Coombah Roadhouse is prohibitive to the operator and should be undertaken as a service to the outback travelling public, by the Federal Transport Department.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr FitzPatrick.

Petition received.

Aurukun Associates Agreement Act

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:

Whereas the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act was passed in contravention of a 1 968 agreement;

Whereas this Act conflicts seriously with Commonwealth Government Policy on Aboriginal Affairs and on Australian equity in multinational corporations working in Australia;

Your petitioners therefore note with appreciation the statements already made on the matter by Government members but humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will also:

  1. initiate a Commission of Inquiry into the whole matter
  2. insist that no mining take place on the Aurukun Aboriginal Reserve until a full environmental impact study has been made by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development
  3. refuse to grant an export licence to the Consortium until detailed negotiations are held at Aurukun by Consortium representatives with the Aurukun people, the traditional owners of the land and advisers of their choice, and an agreement satisfactory to all has been reached.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.

Petition received.

Australian Heritage Commission

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:

There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.

That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.

That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.

That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.

That a proper balance between the Governments programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1975-76.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.

Petition received.

Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme

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:

  1. That the Australian Government maintain the effective indexed value of education spending.
  2. That the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme be immediately increased and indexed as recommended by the 1975 Williams Committee.
  3. That the Australian Government implement the 1975 reports of the Schools Commission and the Technical and Further Education Commission; and introduce a secondary students living allowance scheme with principles in line with those advocated for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme.
  4. That the Australian Government implement the 1975 reports of the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education and re-establish the principle of triennial planning.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.

Petition received.

National Day of Prayer

To the Honourable the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully shows 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. 1 4 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 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 Jull.

Petition received.

Citizen Band Radio

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 there is absolutely no valid reason why C.B. ‘Citizens Band radio’, should not be made available to the general public in Australia, by the amendment of the Wireless Telegraphic Act.

Citizens Band radio is so far available in many countries, such as, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, U.S.A., Italy, Sweden, Germany etc. The many thousands of Australian citizens who appropriate this basic right of Communication would also like to be able to do so legally.

These citizens who provide a nation wide communications network, which is used for safety and like reasons, could do so much more effectively when legalised.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Wireless Telegraphic Act be updated to provide for Citizens Band radio in Australia.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.

Petition received.

Aid to Non-State Schools

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 the decision of the Federal Government to restrict aid to multicultural education unfairly and disproportionately disadvantages students in N.S. W. Catholic schools.

We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth, do therefore humbly pray the Commonwealth Government:

That, pending the increase or redistribution of funds in a more equitable manner as per section5.6 of the Report of the Australian Schools Commission 1977-79, emergency interim Australian Government financial assistance be offered to those N.S.W. Catholic schools, with large numbers of students of migrant background, that had anticipated assistance for 1977 as per precedents established in previous years.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Stewart.

Petition received.

Radio Licence Fees

To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That the Executive and Members of the New South Wales Amateur Fisherman’s Clubs Association view with concern the increase in licence fee for 27MZH Radio Transceivers to $20.00.

The radios are maintained for safety and life saving activities and save the Commonwealth many hundreds and thousands of dollars annually in search and rescue operations.

Over 33 members whose signatures appear hereunder respectfully request that serious consideration be given to reducing the present fee.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wentworth.

Petition received.

page 2938


Want of Confidence

Mr E G Whitlam:
Leader of the Opposition · WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:

That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Fraser Government because of the total collapse and failure of its economic policies.

Environmental Investigations

Mr Kevin Cairns:

-I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:

That this House is of the opinion that in all future environmental investigations involving industrial or mining projects any recommendation to terminate, phase out or to alter the projects be rejected unless the following considerations are satisfied:

the national economic effects of the recommendations have been evaluated in terms of their detrimental effects on employment, income and population support;

the regional and State economic effects of the recommendation have been evaluated in terms of their detrimental effects on employment, income and population support;

where an export industry is involved, the ability of that industry, for example the uranium industry, to contribute towards the balance of trade and the balance of payments has been evaluated; and

alternative and viable proposals have been made to compensate the industry or project recommended to be terminated or to be phased out.

Suspension of Standing Orders

Mr E G Whitlam:
Leader of the Opposition · WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of which he has given notice.


-The honourable gentleman needs to give me the motion in writing.

Mr Yates:

- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order.


– I will hear the honourable member later.

The Leader of the Opposition having submitted his motion in writing-


– I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:

That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.

The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)

AYES: 83

NOES: 34

Majority……. 49



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -

That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving forthwith the motion of which he has given notice.

Is the motion seconded?


-Mr Speaker, I second the motion. The gagging of this motion is from a frightened Government -

Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:

That the honourable member for Corio be not further heard.


– . . . which wants the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)-


-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.


– … to make scurrilous untrue statements.


-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.

Question put. The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)

AYES: 85

NOES: 34

Majority……. 51



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:

That the question be now put.

Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Original question put:

That Standing Orders be suspended (Mr E. G. Whitlam’s motion).

The House divided. (MrSpeaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)

AYES: 34

NOES: 85

Majority……. 51



Question so resolved in the negative.

page 2940



page 2940



Mr E G Whitlam:

– I ask the Treasurer a question. Was the Reserve Bank consulted about the decision to devalue? If so, was the advice which the Bank gave accepted by the Government? If the Bank’s advice was not accepted, did the Bank Board give the Treasurer a statement of its opinions? If that is the case, will the Treasurer table a copy of that statement?


– The honourable gentleman should be very much aware that there has been a long standing tradition in government not to reveal the official advice which comes to government from whatever the source. The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The answer so far as the advice of the Reserve Bank Board or the advice of any other section of Commonwealth administration is concerned is that of course that advice is not subject to disclosure.

page 2941




– I direct my .question to the Prime Minister. In considering the Green report on the Australian broadcasting system and associated matters and in particular the membership of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was the Government concerned only with the present Commissioner appointed by the ABC Staff Association or is the Government concerned to create a Commission with expertise, experience and responsibility? Is the intention of the Govenment to guarantee the political independence of the ABC?

Prime Minister · WANNON, VICTORIA · LP

-The Government is determined to guarantee the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to establish circumstances in which governments are less able to control what happens in broadcasting than has ever been the case in the past. Honourable gentlemen, I think, have not given adequate attention to the fact that the Broadcasting Tribunal will now be the final determinant of who does and does not get licences. In the past there has aways been the circumstance where the Australian Broadcasting Control Board made recommendations to the Government, but the Government had the final determination as to whether those recommendations were accepted or not. Under our proposals the Tribunal will have the final say in these matters and there will be no appeal to the Government as such.

So far as the Australian Broadcasting Commission is concerned, we believe that there ought to be a proper balance between the States. I find suggestions that some States are unable to provide people worthy to fill positions on the Commission as utterly offensive to those States. There will be a proper balance in these particular matters.

There is one other point I would like to mention. In our industrial relations policy we have emphasised time and time again that there ought to be permanent mechanism for consultation between the management and the people employed in a particular industry or operation. The legislation for discussion in the Parliament will contain a requirement that there be such a permanent mechanism in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This would open up avenues for consultation between the ABC and its own employees on a broad-ranging front and I would hope on a regular basis. I hope that that would be consultation not merely with one person but with a significant number of people so that of the people employed by the ABC all the different shades of opinion could be represented adequately on that particular body. I would hope that from time to time the whole Commission might well meet with such a body and that the meetings, at least with management of that body and the chairman of that body, would be on a regular basis. This is designed to establish a real and effective basis for consultation which will give weight and depth to the sort of things that ought to occur.

One of the things in which the Government has a very real degree of sympathy is that those on the producing end of the ABC, in the news broadcasts, the news rooms, on This Day Tonight, on State of the Nation and the drama programs- the producers and others who actually get the programs on the air- appear to be the ones who are taking the brunt of the cuts in relation to the ABC. People who have spoken to me on these particular matters have pointed to very large scale engineering staff, engineering divisions, which are preparing and designing certain equipment which they also tell me can be bought down the street on a ready-made commercial basis or at least from overseas but that the ABC has preferred to do these things for itself. The complaint from those on the sharp end has been that these particular areas in the ABC have not suffered any reductions in expenditure, that the administrative arm has protected itself and has taken it out on those who are producing the news services, the State of the Nation program and those producing the drama programs. So far as the Government is concerned we will be doing what we can to protect those who are producing the news services, the drama programs and the commentary programs. These are the people in whom the public are interested.

Mr Innes:

– How about a program on devaluation?


-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent.


– I was surprised, when I appeared briefly on the program for the inventor of the year award a week or two ago, to learn that in Sydney there was a view that the Government had directed that the program State of the Nation be cut. I do not know how this view came abroad. If any element in the management of the ABC has ever said anything to give that indication to any employees of the ABC it is acting completely falsely. In any case, to suggest that that particular program ought to be cut as an economy measure seems rather ludicrous. It is a most economical program to produce. It is an entertaining program. The players who appear on it generally do so without fee. In fact, they are queued up waiting to get on the program if they can.

Mr Hunt:

– Are you queuing up?


– I have asked if I can be in the queue for this week so I can go on the program to defend it and say that it ought not be cut. I hope that it will not be cut. On that sort of basis I hope that those operating the ABC will understand the Government’s view on this matter and will not listen too much to the propaganda from what I believe would be a minority element in this organisation and which does not depict the views of the Government. Members of that minority element, just as much as those opposite who are unable to listen and who are uninterested in the truth, do little, if anything at all, to promote the truth.

page 2942




-I direct my question to the Treasurer. I ask: In view of the fact that as late as last Wednesday he gave an assurance, which was published in the Press, that there would be no devaluation, does the Treasurer accept the fact that many people, accepting that as a truthful statement, would have lost very heavily from the subsequent devaluation? Is there any intention in those cases to pay compensation? Also, will the Treasurer give any indication in the future as to which of his statements may be regarded as serious statements of Government policy and which as window dressing?


– A function of any Treasurer, whether here or abroad, is, of course, to be utterly dogmatic about matters which involve the currency of his country until such time as a change is made. The honourable gentleman is quite right in referring to an article that appeared in the Australian last Wednesday. In fact, the interview was taped the previous Saturday. Ministers who were concerned in relation to a decision about devaluation did not. in fact, meet on this matter until Thursday and Friday of last week.

page 2942




-I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Following the devaluation of the Australian dollar, can the Minister indicate whether the minimum reserve price level for wool will be reviewed?

Minister for Primary Industry · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

– The result of devaluation is, of course, that there has been a change in the relative prices that can be expected to be paid for the Australian wool clip. At the close of trading last week the price overall was 280c a kilogram clean whole clip average, ranging in the degree from the 19 micron to cross-bred carding wools from 308c a kilogram down to 212c a kilogram. This compared with a floor price over the same range of 291c a kilogram down to 124c a kilogram. The Government decided that there should be an adjustment of the floor price to the full degree of the 17’/i per cent devaluation, which means that the new floor price at wool auctions will be 284c per kilogram clean whole clip average. The price relativities for various wool types for the purpose of reserve price support around the average will, of course, be announced by the Australian Wool Corporation. In addition, the Australian Wool Corporation has announced this morning that it will be operating its flexible reserve at prices which will maintain the closing price trends as adjusted by the full amount of devaluation. In this way the full measure of devaluation can be given to the wool market and passed on to the primary producers who so well deserve it.

page 2942




– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Is it true that Australian Government officials have begun talks with Japanese officials to study the feasibility of uranium enrichment in Australia? Further, if this report is true, is this further evidence that the Government is determined to go ahead with its uranium program and to ignore public debate, as recommended by the Fox report?


– I have not been advised of any such talks. The Minister concerned has not been advised of any such talks. If any such talks have taken place between any officials this would be contrary to the Government’s intentions in relation to the handling of the Fox report.

page 2943




– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and concerns school leavers. I preface my question by pointing out that over the past 12 months unemployment in several States has declined or remained relatively static and that 95 per cent of last year’s school leavers were successfully placed in employment. I now ask the Minister: What are the prospects for those leaving school this year? Is alarmist talk about those prospects nothing but claptrap?

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters · CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA · LP

-The Department of Education estimates that in the course of the next few weeks approximately 250 000 young people will leave secondary education. Some will try to find employment. Some, of course, will go on to further education. It is estimated that last year approximately 180 000 of these people actually entered the work force. It is interesting to note that, of that number, only some 60 000 at the peak period of registrations, were registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Clearly, the majority found jobs for themselves. As occurred last year, the vast majority of school leavers will find employment. As the honourable member said, over 95 per cent of last year’s school leavers have done so. But for some, because of the present difficult state of the economy, there will be problems in getting employment quickly.

Recently, the Government has taken several initiatives in this field to help. I refer particularly to the subsidy of $59 a week to employers who- I emphasise this, Mr Speaker- provide a course of training for young people who have a history of high unemployment in the previous 12 months. This initiative is already a great success. I am advised that some 2300 young persons have been placed now under that scheme. We will be monitoring that scheme very carefully and will review it at the end of January in the light of the employment situation then.

Also, we have introduced the community youth support scheme. We have received more than 200 inquiries for assistance under that scheme. The first approvals have been made already. I am pleased to tell the House that the first assistance which I approved was in relation to an application from the electorate of the honourable member for Murray. The Government will continue to assist young people who are experiencing employment problems. I mentioned earlier the special subsidies under the National Employment and Training scheme. I am pleased to tell the House that, when the

Government reviewed the NEAT scheme and introduced new guidelines for it, the estimate was that some 3000 more people would be able to receive training under that scheme. At the time the Labor Government left office there were 7700 people receiving assistance under NEAT. There are now over 12 000 people. The Government will continue to use this form of emphasis on in-plant training to help the employment prospects of young people.

page 2943




-Does the Treasurer recall that, in his Press statement issued following the announcement of devaluation on Sunday last, he said that the Government would, therefore, be doing everything in its power to ensure that any identifiable effects of the devaluation decision upon the consumer price index did not flow on into wages, either through national wage case hearings or more generally. I ask the Treasurer: Does that statement imply that the Government has in mind some form of incomes freeze? If so, will he indicate how the Government intends to achieve that objective, given the difficulties of our Federal system? If not, in order to avoid sowing confusion in the minds of members of the work force, both working class and middle class, and provoking those people unnecessarily, will he state at least generally the sorts of measures he has in hand to achieve this objective, especially in the light of the singular lack of success that the Government has had recently in this area?


– If there is one thing I can say of the honourable gentleman it is that certainly since assuming Opposition he has for the first time become seized of the need for open government. On many other occasions, the honourable gentleman has sought from me indications of policy which he, when in government, traditionally refused to answer during question time. In the statement that I issued last Sunday, a series of detailed comments were made by me as Treasurer as to the need to provide offsetting action in the non-external policy field. My announcements covered a series of monetary policy measures designed to ensure that there was not excess liquidity in the general community as a consequence of the decision to devalue. There was also a reference to the need for firm action on the fiscal front. As to the general wages question, the honourable gentleman should know that, apart from what that statement includes, policy matters will be made known by the Government as and when the Government determines appropriate.

page 2944




– Will the Minister for Post and Telecommunications indicate what plans exist for the installation of television in areas of the Kennedy electorate and other similar areas throughout Australia which do not have this amenity or much else to make life easier? Would he not agree that the areas involved provide for this nation a great part of its overseas earnings because of the industries they sustain?

Dr Klugman:

– Why don’t you distribute photographs?


– Why don’t you go and play with a yo-yo or something. Those industries are beef, sheep and mining.

Mr Armitage:

– Why don’t you take your hand out of your pocket?


-Order! The honourable member will ask his question and cease arguing it.


-The honourable member for Melbourne speaks from experience, no doubt. I refer to the beef, sheep and mining industries which should, of course, be 1 V/2 per cent at least better off now-


-Order! The honourable member will ask his question and cease arguing the cause of his electorate.


– They will be better off because of the splendid decision of the Government to devalue.

Mr Eric Robinson:

-I am concerned about the problems of providing communications in all parts of Australia. The facts are that we do have television facilities for more than 90 per cent of the Australian community but they serve only, I think, about 15 per cent of the land mass. As for the honourable member’s electorate, I know there are problems there, as there are in a number of other large rural electorates. These are being looked at. The Government, as financial arrangements are available, will seek to do what it can to improve television viewing facilities. I noted the honourable member’s observations about the contribution his electorate makes to the generation of wealth within Queensland and Australia. I share that view and I share his view that the Government’s decision on devaluation will assist. Could I observe also to a friend and colleague that the contribution his electorate makes to Australia is reflected in his contribution to this Parliament.

page 2944



Mr E G Whitlam:

– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. It is prompted by the recent closure or threatened closure of some well known and long established New South Wales private schools to which successive Federal governments for many years have granted very large sums for buildings and equipment. I ask whether the Government has considered taking some security over school buildings and equipment for which it has granted financial assistance. What steps will be taken to ensure that public investment in education is not placed in jeopardy or set at nought by inadequate or irresponsible school councils?

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– I am not in a position to give the honourable gentleman a detailed answer to the question. I will seek the information from my colleague the Minister for Education and give it to him as soon as I am able to do so.

page 2944




– Could the Minister for Post and Telecommunications tell the House what aspects of the Green report are to be instituted immediately by the Government? Has the Minister directed his Department to proceed with any other proposals of the report? Has a senior officer of his Department called an interdepartmental meeting for 2 December to establish the guidelines for the granting of licences for frequency modulation radio stations in accordance with the Green report recommendations?

Mr Keating:

– I take a point of order. This will be the second announcement by a Minister of policy or detail at question time. I put it to you that Ministers should give statements to the Parliament on decisions the Government has taken and not use question time to advantage supporters by announcements of policy.


-There is no substance to the point of order.

Mr Eric Robinson:

– The main thrust of the Government’s decisions have been in the area of the structure of broadcasting. One of the principal decisions is to disband the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and to replace it with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. As the Prime Minister said earlier, it, and it alone, will have the right to decide the allocation of licences for commercial and public broadcasting. There will also be a broadcasting council which will bring together the national network, the public broadcasting, the commercial network, the Department and the community so that we can have a greater community involvement in broadcasting.

Mr Innes:

– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I refer you to standing order 1 43, which reads:

Questions may be put to a Member, not being a Minister or an Assistant Minister, relating to any Bill, motion or other public matter connected with the business of the House . . .

The next standing order lists the general things that can be put. I draw your attention to the fact that there is before the House a Bill which involves this question. I ask for your ruling as to whether the question is in order.


-The question is in order. A member is entitled to ask questions, and a Minister is entitled to give answers, that relate to legislation before the House. That is what the Minister is doing, and that is what he was asked to do by the questioner.

Mr Eric Robinson:

– This broadcasting council, which will have a consultative role, will be of great assistance to the Australian community and to the industry generally. The industry and the community will be better informed. The council will reduce the political involvement in the broadcasting system. That is desirable. That is the thrust of the Government’s decision.

One of the changes to the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be that although the Commission of nine will remain the same there will be a requirement for each State to have at least one representative. Of the 9 members, two will have to be women. At present the Act requires that only one of the nine be a woman. Another change will be that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be subject to an independent inquiry, perhaps every 5 years. It would be a good thing for the Commission and for the Australian nation if the community had the right from time to time to comment independently and, if necessary, to criticise the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This will not be a directive. The Commission will be free to act upon those comments and upon that inquiry as it sees fit.

Of course the Department is working on the Green report. We have looked only at the structure. The Green report contains a number of recommendations. The Department is looking at some of those recommendations. There are meetings in the Department and with other departments on matters pertaining to and flowing from the Green report. I say to the honourable member for Bowman that no decision will be reached. I think he asked particularly about a meeting on FM scheduled for 2 December. I understand that there is to be a meeting. I assure the honourable member and everybody else that no decision on FM will be taken until the new year. It will be the subject of a separate submission to Cabinet.

page 2945



– I would like to add something to an answer which I gave to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Since I gave that answer it has been brought to my notice that in 1973, at a joint ministerial meeting in Tokyo, Australia proposed to Japan a joint feasibility study on the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in Australia. When the Prime Ministers of Australia and Japan met in Australia in November 1974- the honourable gentleman will be not unaware of the importance of the datethey agreed on the study. I have been advised that some continuation of discussions has proceeded as a result of that joint Prime Ministerial agreement. This Government will not have a bar of any decisions until we have the Ranger inquiry and the second report.

page 2945


Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

– Pursuant to section 5 of the Dairy Adjustment Act 1 974, 1 present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of South Australia relating to that Act.

page 2945


Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976.

page 2945


Minister for Transport · Gippsland · LP

– Pursuant to section 12 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959, 1 present a statement on the operation of that Act during the year ended 30 June 1 976.

page 2945


Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · Bennelong · LP

– For the information of honourable members, I present a resolution concerning the further extension of the International Sugar Agreement of 1 973.

page 2946


Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs · Bennelong · LP

-For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on animal foods, etc.

page 2946


Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

Pursuant to section 9 of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937, 1 present a report on the work done under that Act during 1974.

page 2946


Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · Stirling · LP

– For the information of honourable members, I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Education relating to the nongovernment schools building program; advance approvals of grants and loan guarantees.

page 2946


Minister for the Capital Territory · Chisholm · LP

– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority for the year ended 30 June 1976.

page 2946


Ministerial Statement

Treasurer and Minister for Finance · Flinders · LP

– by leave- When this Government came to office the Australian economy was in the grip of its most serious post-war recession, and inflation was still well into double digits. At the end of 1975 the private sector was employing no more people than it had been 3 years earlier although the labour force had grown by 370 000. Unemployment was at about 4 1/2 per cent and had remained at that level throughout the year. Non-farm production was still about 5 per cent below its level 2 years earlier, and the farm sector was in a state of collapse. Company profits had fallen absolutely in 1974-75, and their share in total income remained depressed well below the long run average, and business investment was falling. The consumer price index in December was 14 per cent higher than a year earlier, and inflation showed no real prospect of a sustained downward shift.

Right at the heart of the problem, particularly the inflation problem, was the unrealistic view held by the Labor Government- our opponents in this House- as to the role of the public sector. Quite unrealistic views were also fostered in the community about future incomes and the capacity of the economy to sustain those incomes. The expectations aroused by our predecessors have bedevilled the economy to this day. Even so, under the policies that have been pursued by the Government significant progress has been made in reducing the rate of inflation and in setting the economy on a path towards sustainable growth in output and activity. Suggestions that the Government’s economic strategy has failed are without foundation; what has not been possible is the continuation of efforts to hold the exchange rate. It has not been possible because of the obvious limitations in the extent to which reliance can be placed on any single instrument of economic policy. Let me repeat: Assertions that the Government’s economic strategy has not worked neglect the achievements that are the direct result of that strategy.

The rate of inflation has moderated in each quarter since the 5.6 per cent increase in prices recorded in the December quarter of last year. Prices increased by 3 per cent in the March quarter, 2.5 per cent in the June quarter and 2.2 per cent in the September quarter. Figures published recently show that Australia’s rate of inflation is now broadly in line with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average. Industrial production has firmed since July. Activity in the housing sector remains buoyant. Registrations of new passenger vehicles have recovered to more normal levels, following the sharp decline in July and August due to the introduction of more stringent emission control standards. The weakening in the labour market has been largely arrested over the course of the September quarter. There are also currently some fundamental differences in the economy compared with a year ago which, taken together, point clearly in the direction of continued growth. First, the growth in the June half-year occurred despite a decline in Government demand; momentum for growth lay entirely in the private sector. Secondly, recovery in many of the world’s major economies has consolidated. Thirdly, as a result of these factors, and the moderation in the rate of inflation, many of the distortions inflicted on the economy during 1974-75 have begun to correct themselves. For example, business profitability has grown and the savings ratio has declined. Fourthly, and connected with the foregoing, consumer confidence and business confidence have been improving and are higher than a year ago. Fifthly, the shake-out in stocks which depressed product during 1975 appears to have run its course.

I turn now to the measures that I announced on behalf of the Government on Sunday evening. In large part, the devaluation was forced on the Government by the deterioration in the underlying external situation which occurred during the period of the previous Government. When our predecessors came to office, Australia’s international reserves stood at an all time record level of $4.6 billion. By the time the present Government took office a substantial part of those reserves had been squandered. They fell by no less that $ 1 ,600m during the previous Government’s period of office to stand at less than $3,000m at 12 December 1975. The number of months’ cover of reserves to imports fell from 13.5 in 1972-73 to 4.4 in 1975-76.

There were a number of fundamental reasons for this extreme weakening in Australia’s external position. An important element in the overall deterioration was the falling away of overseas investment. During the 3 years from the beginning of 1973 to the end of 1975 annual total private capital inflow averaged only $2 15m, compared with an average annual inflow of $ 1,080m in the previous 5 years. The factors behind this fall-off are, of course, well known. Our opponents in this House literally drove overseas capital away by their hostile and narrow ideological attitudes to foreign investors and by the domestic economic policies they pursued. These policies completely failed to come to grips with inflation; indeed they greatly exacerbated the inflation thrust.

The Labor Government, by its own policies, initiated a wage explosion of unprecedented magnitude. First, it lent general support to excessive union claims, particularly in submissions before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration commission. Secondly, it deliberately pushed up wages, and more significantly, promoted improved conditions of service for Commonwealth employees in a pace-setting fashion that had highly significant flow-on effects throughout the community. As a result there was a dramatic deterioration in the international competitive position of Australian industry. After allowing for the effect of exchange rate changes, wage costs in this country increased by 1 5 per cent more than the increase in our trading partners between 1972 and 1975. In the last 6 years wages in Australia’s manufacturing industry increased by 130 per cent, compared with 53 per cent in the United States of America and 70 percent in West Germany. This single fact, more than any other, serves to demonstrate the extent of the problem which the present Government inherited when it took office. Not only did we have to get Australia’s cost inflation rate down to that which was being experienced by our competitors; we also had to try to make up the ground that was lost during those 3 disastrous years.

From the outset this Government sought to hold the exchange rate as part of its overall antiinflation strategy. We did so with the full knowledge that the Australian dollar was over-valued and that economic developments, particularly the disparity in Australia’s cost structure compared with other countries, could have justified a variation in the exchange rate earlier this year. Towards this end we resumed official borrowing overseas as necessary to support the overall level of reserves. At the same time we moved to bring down, as rapidly as possible, cost and price increases, in order to restore our competitive position. In addition we have acted to encourage a resumption of private capital inflow more consistent with the developmental needs of this country. We have made it clear to foreign investors that they do have a role to play in Australia ‘s development and that we welcome their involvement in partnership with Australians. These efforts led to the development of extensive investment proposals that were, in spite of approval in many cases by the Foreign Investment Review Board, not being implemented.

I turn now to a vital determinant in the weakening of Australia’s external position, particularly in recent months. I refer to speculation about the Australian dollar. It is a matter of the greatest concern that senior members of the Opposition in this House should have fuelled speculation about devaluation by their public comments since December of last year. It will be recalled that the former Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), predicted during the last election campaign that a LiberalNational Country Party Government would devalue the dollar, if confirmed in office at the election. Those remarks, made during a halfhour television debate with me, as a Treasurer in the then caretaker Government, greatly added to the speculation in the Christmas-New Year period of last year when Australia lost more than $600m of overseas reserves. On 19 February of this year, the Opposition spokesman on economic matters, the honourable member for Adelaide, (Mr Hurford), said:

Costs of production in Australia are out of line with overseas costs at the present exchange rate, so that the import competing sector will continue to lose ground to imported goods. And a further devaluation scare . . . must be expected at any time.

On 7 September the honourable member for Oxley said publicly that ‘Blind Freddy and his dog’ could see that the dollar was over-valued and went on to say that devaluation was inevitable and gave general support to the figure of 15 per cent. These grossly irresponsible comments were headlined in all of Australia’s major newspapers and led directly to a weakening of Australia’s reserves position. The honourable member for Oxley is quoted in some parts of yesterday’s Press as saying that the decision was inevitable’ and, in other parts, describing it as madness’. His comments yesterday reflect only his naked complicity in developing a climate for profiteers to make a killing at the expense of the Australian nation.

In recent weeks the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) has persistently questioned me in the Parliament about the exchange rate and loss of reserves. In one such question on 1 1 November, having listed the loss in reserves in previous months, the Deputy Leader described the position as a ‘disaster’. It is also a matter for concern that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should have been part of the general speculation in this country about devaluation. In awarding its recent wage increase, which was contrary to the whole thrust of the Government’s attempts to restore this country’s competitive position, the Commission saw fit to cast public doubt on the future position of the currency. By doing this the Commission greatly worsened a situation which was, ironically, in no small way due to its previous decisions to increase wages at a rate beyond Australia’s economic capacity to absorb. In all these circumstances, the Government was unable to prevent the continuing decline in reserves. The loss of reserves, aside from Government borrowing, in fact increased significantly in recent months, with a fall of around $80m since the end of July- almost four times the amount the Government was able to borrow overseas in that period. In September reserves declined by $204m, excluding overseas borrowings. In October the reserves figure fell by $269m. Up to 26 November there was a further fall of over $260m.

This decline in reserves had continued despite the additional monetary measures announced on 7 November and left official reserves at 26 November at around $2, 100m, sufficient to cover less than 3 months’ imports; to be precise reserves were covered by just 2.7 months of imports last Friday. Moreover, the level of reserves, net of borrowings, was becoming increasingly untenable relative to the current account position that was in prospect. I emphasise, in this connection, that the Government faced the prospect of an even greater rate of outflow around the end of December early January period and I remind the House that more than $600m flowed out of Australia during the equivalent period last year.

As I emphasised on Sunday night, to have allowed the situation to deteriorate further would have been to admit the possibility of enormous speculative gains, with consequent costs to the authorities. The fact is that, faced with the rundown in reserves, there were only 2 alternatives before the Government. The options put to the Government by its advisers were devaluation or borrowing on official account, of the order of $ 1 billion, to shore up the reserves position. In these circumstances the Government could have allowed the situation to drift on and attempted to arrange further borrowings overseas to finance what would inevitably have been further outflows of private capital. The announcement of large additional borrowings, in a situation where our underlying external situation remained out of line with our competitors abroad, would have had perverse effects, leading to an escalating increase in the rate of loss of reserves.

Such a loss, together with any additional borrowings the Government had been able to undertake, would have involved enormous costs to the authorities in the event that we were forced to make an exchange adjustment. Further to that, the most recent decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission effectively put paid to any prospect of restoring, within a tolerable time span, the competitiveness of Australia’s industries by purely domestic policies. Beyond all of the foregoing considerations the Government would not have been able to borrow funds on private markets sufficient to cover the rate at which reserves were running down over recent months and, particularly, to cover the loss that was in prospect over the Christmas period. A possible drawing of some $1 billion from the International Monetary Fund would only have bridged the situation temporarily. Given these facts no responsible government would have acted differently to the present Administration of this country. We were not prepared to put the national interest in hock. We were not prepared to let profiteers take this country to the cleaners. I have no doubt that our opponents in this House would have chosen the opposite course. They would have employed another Khemlani to raise $4 billion.

I turn now to the size of the devaluation. It should be clearly understood that nothing would have been achieved by a devaluation that was insufficient. An inadequate devaluation would have failed to restore our competitive position and would not have been credible. That would have left great uncertainty in the minds of business and investors. The Government is fully aware of the potential for increased capital inflow. Indeed it is a primary objective of the devaluation to increase the level of inflow. We will be monitoring closely external developments, including developments in capital inflow. The Government has indicated that the rate will be administered on a flexible basis.

Adjustments will be made to the rate to the extent necessary to ensure that it remains consistent with overall external and domestic policy objectives, particularly monetary policy. Under the new pattern of management of the exchange rate a tradeweighted average rate will continue to be computed daily on the same basis as previously. However, the exchange rate will no longer necessarily be pegged on a fixed relationship to the basket of currencies. Instead it will be kept under review and varied as appropriate in the context of overall management of the economy.

The new pattern of management of the exchange rate will enable more frequent, more timely and smaller adjustments to be made to the rate; is appropriate to the changing nature of the world economy and to Australia’s international trade relationship; is designed to avoid the build-up of an expectation of major changes at long intervals in the future; will permit the use of the exchange rate as appropriate, as a more flexible arm of economic policy; and will require little or no institutional changes. The new arrangements are a further step in the development of the Australian foreign exchange system.

A close watch will need to be maintained in order to see how things develop from this point. There are elements in the new system which must be held close; in particular the management objectives used in determining the variable link to the basket of currencies. Otherwise, the system would lose flexibility and there would be a strong possibility of speculation against the central bank. Exaggerated fears have been expressed about possible effects of increased capital inflow on domestic liquidity. The Government will not allow any such developments to occur. Such investment capital will be an important ingredient in ensuring the continued recovery in economic activity. The reserve losses of recent months should be reversed as the delays in export receipts and early payment of imports, which have been induced by exchange rate uncertainties, are in turn reversed.

The Government’s action has been criticised on the grounds that it will lead to further inflation. Unlike the devaluation of our predecessors in September 1974 that took place at a time when inflation was running at a quarterly rate of some 5 per cent, Sunday night’s adjustment was against the background of a moderating rate of inflation from S.6 per cent in the December quarter of last year to 2.2 per cent in the most recent quarter. The devaluation will, of course, affect prices to some extent, even though stringent off-setting measures have been simultaneously taken. In particular, the price of imported goods will be higher, in terms of Australian dollars. But imports account for only 16 per cent of the gross domestic product and, further to that, the prices of all imported products would not be expected to rise by the extent of the devaluation.

The overall price-raising effects of devaluation depend very much on the circumstances in which the measure occurs; devaluation necessarily has a lesser impact at the early stages of recovery that it does when activity is at full swing. When demand is still short of capacity, as it is presently, there is scope and incentive for business to increase output rather than to increase prices. In fact, some costs should actually fall, as a result of devaluation. An over-valued exchange rate has prevented import-competing and export industries from approaching their most efficient scale of output. In these circumstances devaluation can be expected to actually lower unit costs in some industries.

The price impact must also be assessed against the accompanying measures. Unlike the circumstances of the last devaluation in September 1974, when there were no off-setting measures taken by the former Government, there has been a significant toughening of monetary, fiscal and wages policies. The favourable effects of devaluation will therefore be allowed to work through the economy in an appropriate domestic setting, by comparison with the former Government’s devaluation which was followed by a substantial easing of fiscal and monetary policies. I emphasise that the package has been designed to counteract, to a significant extent, the inflation impact of devaluation. The monetary measures will contain the effects of devaluation on domestic liquidity; they will not lead to any excessive tightening of liquidity. The Government’s policy remains that monetary growth will be sufficient to underwrite economic recovery without at the same time being accommodating to inflation. Normal financing requirements of business and the housing industry will be met. The fiscal measures will support the Government’s monetary policy and maintain a balance in overall policy. The measures which will be taken on the wages front will prevent, to the maximum extent possible, the feed-through of any price rises into general wage increases.

Our opponents in this House, who have sought to undermine Australia’s external position, have demonstrated again their capacity for hypocrisy and double standards. The devaluation of September 1974 was a panic reaction to the credit squeeze which the former Government’s policies caused. It devalued at a time of near record high inflation and when average weekly earnings were running at unprecedented levels. It took no measures at all to counteract the price effects of devaluation.

It acted at a time when reserves were at a level of nearly $3 billion, or almost $1 billion higher than recorded at the end of last week. At the end of September 1974 the ratio of reserves to imports was equal to 4.8 months’ cover; as at 26 November of this year- last Friday- the equivalent figure was 2.7. In addition to all of this our predecessors leaked their decision to devalue in such a way that speculative profits were made on the London Stock Exchange. The former Government’s decision to devalue was taken at around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 September. The announcement was timed for 6 a.m. on Wednesday, 25 September when financial markets would be closed.

The record shows that the Melbourne Sun reported the devaluation, including the figure of 12 per cent, and the story in question was put together at around 1 1 p.m. on 24 Septembersome one hour after the decision was taken. Subsequently, at around 1.30 a.m. on 25 September, Reuters reported the Melbourne Sun story. The Reuters news report was made public at around 4.30 p.m. on 24 September in London and led to immediate trading on the London market during the final part of that day’s trading. The present Leader of the Opposition refused to answer questions in the Parliament on the following day and refused to initiate an appropriate investigation as to the cause of that leak and its consequences on the London market. In short, the scandal surrounding the leakage of information- an act which under our parliamentary system of government would normally require the resignation of the Treasurer- was covered up by the present Leader of the Opposition and his ministerial colleagues.

What I have said illustrates the blatant opportunism of the criticism that has been made by the Opposition of the statement which we made last Sunday. The Government’s measures have support. For example, the majority of State Premiers- Premiers Hamer, Court, Petersen and Labor Premier Nielsen- have welcomed the package. The Government’s measures have undeniably a number of major advantages for important sectors within the Australian economy. The devaluation of the dollar will greatly improve the profitability of Australia’s export and import competing industries and underwrite Australia’s external situation. The rural sector, which has suffered a disastrous fall in real income in recent years, will now receive substantially higher prices for their exports and their ability to expand market shares will be enhanced. The annual rate of rural exports, currently running at $4.5 billion, should increase by around $700m.

In the mining sector, which is an important focal point for economic growth, new ventures had become unprofitable and some existing mines had closed. The devaluation will restore the long run growth prospects for this sector and increase annual export returns significantlyperhaps by approaching half a billion dollars. The devaluation will also go a long way towards off-setting the effects of excessive wage increases on costs of manufacturing and service industries such as tourism, enhancing their competitive ability. The removal of uncertainty about the exchange rate will restore investor confidence. Firms will be encouraged to borrow overseas and long-term foreign equity investment will increase.

In summary, the devaluation will restore balance between economic policies, easing the excessive burden that has built up on the external side. It will restore balance between economic sectors, easing the burdens on those vital areas of the economy that depend on world markets for their livelihood. Above all, it will remove uncertainty. Uncertainty about the exchange rate has bedevilled many aspects of the economy in recent days. Energy has been diverted from more productive ends into efforts to avoid the losses that large changes in the exchange rate entail. Uncertainty has stifled investment, most particularly investment from abroad. All that can now be put behind us. These are very substantial benefits.

There are, we acknowledge, costs in the decision we have taken. There will be an early addition to prices from the higher costs of imports. But we have acted, in the fiscal and monetary sphere, to do what we can by off-setting action. We have put in hand an examination of Commonwealth outlays to see where further restraint can be imposed. I look to this review to produce a final expenditure outcome that will be even lower than the Budget figure. The monetary measures I announced are designed to soak up any excess liquidity that devaluation may bring in its train. No one can know with precision what may develop by way of capital inflows, but we stand ready to meet the situation as it emerges. I stress that the aim will be to soak up the additional liquidity that may result from devaluation. In that context, any talk in this country of a credit squeeze is nonsense. The general monetary objectives remain: To foster conditions that will be conducive to economic recovery while keeping inflation to a minimum.

These actions, important though they are, will not be enough in themselves. Action will also be needed on the wage front. But others must play their part- in particular, of course, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is vital that the price effects of devaluation are not translated, through the indexation process, into a spiral of wage /price increases. Such an outcome would negate the benefits that devaluation will provide. The Government will not stand by and allow that to happen. Clearly, we need good sense by all who participate in the wagedetermination process. Given that, there is every reason for confidence in the gradual emergence of stable, prosperous conditions from which all Australians will benefit. The Government has acted in the national interest to give greater balance, and thereby greater strength, to the basic economic strategy that has been pursued since we came to office. I present the following paper:

Australian Economy- Ministerial Statement, 30 November 1976

Motion (by Mr MacKellar) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Suspension of Standing Orders

Motion (by Mr Sinclair)-by leaveproposed:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes and the Prime Minister and the honourable member for Oxley each speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.


-No point of order is involved.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Mr E G Whitlam:
Leader of the Opposition · WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– A year ago, at the direction of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the men who compose this Government brought the Parliament to a standstill and blocked the national Budget. The justification for their grab for power was that Australia must be saved from economic disaster. The saviours have turned out to be the wreckers. The Austraiian people were solemnly assured that only a Liberal government could restore Australia to economic prosperity after the international recession; that only a Liberal government could provide sound economic management; that only a Liberal government could restore full employment; that only a Liberal government could revive business confidence and beat inflation; that only a Liberal government could command the confidence of foreign investors and the world economic community. That was the pretext on which the rules and traditions of centuries of parliamentary democracy were overturned in November last year. In November this year we can see the result. The beginnings of economic recovery under the Labor Government and the credibility of the Prime Minister and his Treasurer (Mr Lynch) now lie in shreds amid the wreckage of the Government’s economic strategy. The Fraser Government’s economic policy has not just failed: It has ceased to exist. The Government not only lacks a credible economic policy: It lacks any policy at all.

The vacuum at the heart of the Fraser-Lynch strategy, the panic and desperation evident in their latest decision, is a matter of the gravest concern for the Australian people, for employers, for trade unions, for consumers, for the business community. The motion of censure, which I will move at the end of my speech by way of amendment to the motion comes, from a sense of deep national responsibility. The Government can no longer claim that in drawing attention to its failings the Labor Party is damaging the economy. The damage has already been done. More damage will be done while this Government flounders from one decision to the next. The Labor Party in this Parliament has constantly put forward creative and practical alternative policies to hasten recovery. The New South Wales and Tasmanian Labor Premiers have done the same. The Labor Party throughout Australia has consistently shown a spirit of goodwill on economic matters and a readiness to co-operate in solving our problems which the Liberals never showed to us. The Liberals have torn up every constructive proposal for steady economic recovery. We are left now with the fruits of their blindness and intransigence- a stagnant economy and a massive devaluation, the greatest since the Great Depression.

The difficulty of making any constructive analysis of the Government’s economic policy is simply that it is no longer possible to say what the Government’s policy is. For most of the year it could have been said- the Government itself proclaimed repeatedly- that its policy was to reduce inflation. That was the paramount aim. Every other economic problem- unemployment, loss of productivity, declining business confidencewas secondary. Limited and inadequate as this policy was, it was at least a policy. A week ago it was still the Government’s policy. Today, it is not. At the beginning of the year the Government favoured an investment-led recovery. That policy failed. It switched to a consumerled recovery. That policy failed. It held out the prospect of reduced interest rates. Now it is putting up interest rates. It promised to support wage indexation. Now it is attacking indexation as the cause of all Australia’s problems. Two weeks ago it was still staunchly proclaiming its intention of avoiding devaluation. The Government announced a monetary package on 14 November based firmly on the assumption that the Australian dollar would not be devalued. Yesterday we saw the biggest devaluation in Australia ‘s history since the Great Depression.

In all these feints and twistings, in all this backing and filling, it is impossible to see one consistent theme, one coherent or rational thread in the Government’s thinking.

Mr Kevin Cairns:

– Of course it is.

Mr E G Whitlam:

– I understood that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) was one of those on the Government side who was prepared to be known as a critic. I gave him credit for that.

In every area of economic policy the Government’s measures have failed. Every indicator has pointed to a worsening outlook under this Government. We have had 3 further examples in the past week. The ANZ Bank index of factory production continues to show that production is stagnant. Motor vehicle registrations fell in October. The Bureau of Statistics reported a. fall of about 8 per cent in the real value of investment by Australian businesses in the September quarter this year compared with the September quarter last year. This is the Government that promised to stimulate investment and stimulate employment. It promised to put people back to work. ‘Only under a Liberal-National Country Party Government will there be jobs for all who need them’- those were the words of the policy speech a year ago. Yet unemployment today is rising; in the next 2 months it too will be the highest since the Great Depression. Not only that, unemployment has been a deliberate objective of the Government’s measures. It is the only Government policy that has met with any success, and it has been a consistent and growing success.

The Government’s actions in cutting public spending and reducing purchasing power have retarded recovery and increased unemployment. The Government that blamed inflation for unemployment has now given us its answer: Push inflation up further. That will be the effect of its devaluation- higher inflation and, therefore, according to the Government’s own reasoning, higher unemployment.

The Government’s policy switches have been as frequent and violent as its attempts to blame others for its own mistakes. The picture we are now asked to accept is that of a virtuous and blameless government at the mercy of every hostile and irresponsibe element in society. Everyone is to blame but the Liberal Government. It blamed the Labor Government; but now that its own measures are taking effect and its own Budget is failing, it can no longer blame my Government. It blamed consumers; yet the Government has done its best to attack their wages and reduce their purchasing power. The Government has blamed the unions; it has blamed foreign investors. When the Treasury opposed the Government’s devaluation and fought against it, the Prime Minister responded by splitting the Treasury in two. When the Arbitration Commission granted full indexation for the September quarter the Government responded by vilifying the Commission and blaming it for our economic crisis. What confidence can the Australian people and the business community have in a government which lives by ad hoc and random decisions, which vents its hostility against anyone who questions its motives or its wisdom?

It is easy enough to point to examples of the Prime Minister and Treasurer denying that the Government would devalue; such denials are accepted as routine procedure. But this Government went out of its way to insist that devaluation was out of the question and it based its whole strategy on avoiding it. The denials were not just the accepted counter to speculation, but an affirmation to the Australian people and the rest of the world of a staunch and entrenched policy. On 24 April the Prime Minister said:

We are not contemplating devaluation. There is no doubt about this.

On 29 July he said:

A downward movement in the exchange rate would have inflationary effects contrary to our primary domestic aim.

On 7 September the Treasurer insisted:

Those who, in the name of reducing unemployment, call for . . . devaluation of the Australian dollar are calling for higher- not lower- unemployment in this country.

On 8 September, the following day, the Treasurer repeated:

Of course the Government does not intend to devalue . . . The Government is confident that the strategy which has been outlined will work.

On 15 September the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) said:

Devaluation is not on.

On 14 September the Prime Minister stated:

The Government’s determination in this matter is complete, as is mine and as is that of the Deputy Prime Minister and that of the Treasurer.

On 13 October the Treasurer told the Parliament:

The Government has every confidence that its foreign investment policies will work out effectively in practice and that during the period ahead there will be an inflow- indeed, a significant inflow- of foreign capital into this country.

Since then $400m or $500m have flowed out. On 9 November, the Treasurer told us:

The Government has no intention of qualifying the essential thrust of the economic policies which it has pursued since coming to power and which we clearly preshadowed during the election campaign.

On 1 1 November he said:

The underlying external position remains sound.

On 15 November the Prime Minister himself returned to the subject with a ringing declaration to the Stanford Research Institute in Sydney that our overseas borrowings were ‘a sign of strength’. He said:

Our credit is good and Government borrowing while other policies are working should be taken as a sign of strength. We have given great importance to following consistent and known policies in the attack on inflation.

On 24 November- last Wednesday- the Treasurer said in a long interview in the Australian:

Devaluation would certainly be unhelpful and is not in contemplation by the Government. The external position is sound; the balance of payments is comfortable.

The next day the decision was taken to devalue.

Mr Young:

– John Stone was in Paris.

Mr E G Whitlam:

-I am not in a position to know who gives the advice in these matters. When I had the temerity to ask whether the Reserve Bank had given advice and if it were not taken by the Government whether it would be tabled, I was given the tut-tut: Advice to governments is not tabled. Of course the Banking Act says that if the Reserve Bank gives advice and the Government does not take it then the advice is to be made public. It is tabled in the Parliament. The Act says that. Now I make all allowance for the Treasurer because he said in answer to a question today that in fact his interview with the Australian had been taped 6 days before. I suppose that makes all the difference. Because 6 days before he decided to devalue he said:

Devaluation would certainly be unhelpful and is not in contemplation by the Government. The external position is sound; the balance of payments is comfortable.

It all came unstuck in 6 days. We must sympathise with him; but how much more we must sympathise with our fellow citizens. A devaluation of 17½ per cent is not just an admission of defeat: it is disastrous by almost any test we apply. We know that the decision was opposed vehemently by the Treasury. The Treasurer himself admits to its direct inflationary possibilities. It will push up the prices of imported goods. It will give a whole new impetus to the cost structure of Australian society. It will add enormously to a money supply already growing by 16 per cent a year. The decision will put windfall gains of around $170m into the hands of speculators who have run down Australia’s reserves in the confident expectation that the Government’s nerve would fail. Its nerve has failed; its strategy has collapsed. And the people will pay for it. To meet the cost of the Government’s capitulation the Australian people face even harsher monetary measures next year to stem the inflationary tide this Government is inviting- tighter credit, higher interest rates, dearer money- all the paraphernalia of a credit squeeze with its inevitable check on business confidence and expansion. Whatever short-term gains are made in employment in the manufacturing industries the effect will be swamped by the boost to inflationary expectations throughout the country. Employers will cut back on spending, on investment, on employment. The recession will be prolonged. In the grotesque newspeak of his statement on Sunday night the Treasurer said:

This action should give confidence that we are on the path towards restoration of full economic health.

Who gave the advice to him? You cannot blame John Stone. He was out of the country. If this is the Treasurer’s concept of economic health I would hate to experience his recipe for economic sickness. He described the devaluation as ‘early, decisive action’. One is reminded of the similar, instinctive, immediate, decisive action which Nero took when he grasped his fiddle.

The devaluation is a classic example of the vulnerability of Australian conservative governments to any question concerning the exchange rate. The exchange rate has been the Achilles heel of the Liberal and Country Parties ever since the war. Honourable members will recall the split between Mr Menzies, as he then was, and Mr Fadden, as he then was, over maintaining the value of the Australian pound against sterling or despite sterling in 1 95 1 .

Mr Graham:

-August, 1950.

Mr E G Whitlam:

– I thank the honourable member. He is my senior in this House. He remembers the close call he had at the next election.

Mr Graham:

-That is when I bought my parachute.

Mr E G Whitlam:

– There will not be enough parachutes in the whole Royal Australian Air Force for the honourable member’s colleagues. In December 1971 we had the demeaning spectacle of the coalition government arguing for 3 days on the future of the Australian dollar. The Prime Minister, my predecessor, the honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon), could scarcely go off to heal a Country Party-Liberal split in western Victoria.

Mr Cohen:

– The best Treasurer we have ever had.

Mr E G Whitlam:

-They have ever had.

Mr William McMahon:

– The honourable member has said it often enough and never said anything different.

Mr E G Whitlam:

– I think the honourable member is the best Liberal Treasurer there has been.

Mr William McMahon:

– The honourable member has gone further than that in the past.

Mr E G Whitlam:

– I agree with the honourable member’s comments on his colleagues. I heard him on AM this morning and I thought he was uncustomarily coherent and persuasive- not a lisp out of place. On all these occasions the Country Party, as usual, put its own interests above those of the coalition and those of the nation and threatened a split with the Liberals unless it had its own way. Their standover tactics prevailed then as they have apparently prevailed now. The devaluationists were held in check on this occasion only by the resolute opposition of the Reserve Bank and the Treasury.

The rest of the world was entitled to assume, after the Budget in August, after the monetary measures announced on the seventh of this month, after the Government’s subsequent statements and after the Prime Minister’s repeated assurances that the Australian Cabinet was unshakable in its opposition to devaluation. I have not quoted the assurance on devaluation which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have given on many occasions overseas in the last few months. What changed their minds? What led to the recent speculation against the decurrency? It was the knowledge abroad that the Liberals’ economic strategy was failing and that the Prime Minister’s own resolution was crumbling. All the suspicions of foreign speculators were confirmed by the revelation in the Press on 10 November that, on the issue of devaluation, the Prime Minister had feet of clay. Who leaked the story? Methought the Treasurer protested too much about leaks, not leaks about devaluation but leaks about those who were in favour of devaluation. Who stood to gain from those leaks? Who was the hero of all the Press statements that the Treasury and the Reserve Bank through their Minister had brought the Prime Minister back from the brink.

Mr Cohen:

-Phil the leak.

Mr E G Whitlam:

-That would be my assumption. The one man who was supposed to have set his face against devaluation, the one man who was said to be firm to his antiinflationary strategy, the leader of the party that for the first time had the numbers in Parliament to resist Country Party pressure, was tempted to devalue himself. As soon as the world discovered that the Prime Minister was weak on this issue, as soon as the speculators discovered that the Liberal Prime Minister was a Country Party man at heart, the game was up.

The Treasurer made a virtue of necessity on Sunday evening by claiming that the Government ‘could not allow uncertainty to continue’. Who caused the uncertainty? The Government caused it. It was uncertainty of the Government’s own making. It was uncertainty caused by the Prime Minister’s own irresolution. It was uncertainty caused by the knowledge that yet again a Liberal-Country Party Government was divided on devaluation. Even its determined and persistent borrowings abroad which the Government presented as a sign of the economy’s strength were interpreted as a sign of its weakness- the weakness of the currency and the weakness of the Government itself. The Government and its supporters could go on ad nauseam insisting that its economic strategy was working, but shrewder and more detached observers could see that it was not. Overseas investors could see that the economy was weak. So could the Arbitration Commission.

Nothing could be more cowardly or hypocritical than the Government’s attempts to blame the Commission for the collapse of its economic policies. One minute the Government claims virtue for its decision and points to the advantages for all concerned; then it protests that the decision has been forced upon it- it has been forced to do good! If the Government believes that wage increases are inflationary why is it adding to inflationary pressures and wage demands by devaluation? The fact is that the Arbitration Commission has done its best to accommodate the Fraser Government’s policies. Any confusion in this area is the Government’s own responsibility. In its election policy it promised to support indexation; then in the first quarterly national wage case after the election, it broke its promise and opposed it. Despite this about-face and despite its natural commitment to the principles of indexation, the Commission went along with the. Government’s viewpoint in the second and third quarterly national wage cases. It has twice taken notice of the Government’s pleadings that to grant full wage indexation would cripple the economy or undermine the Government’s antiinflation strategy. The Government has shown its gratitude by petulant attacks on the Commission’s latest decision. The Commission decided that since the Government’s strategy had been given a fair trial and had been shown to be something less than infallible, a concession to the opposing side was called for in the interests of the whole community. The Commission decided that the Government’s policy had manifestly not brought us closer to economic recovery. Its judgment stated:

The economic situation would appear to be much the same as it was in August. There may be some slight improvement but it is difficult to be optimistic about the economy as a whole, including the further deterioration in our level of international reserves. The rural industry continues to worsen. Unemployment and the rate of inflation are of grave concern. Consumer spending has not increased and consumer confidence is lacking.

Those are the words of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. No wonder the Prime Minister went into a tantrum and tore up the piece of paper giving him the tidings. In granting full wage indexation the Commission plainly rejected the Fraser Government’s whole economic strategy. It refused to accept the view that only by holding down wages and depressing living standards can our economic problems be solved. It refused to accept that there are not other less destructive ways of restoring full employment.

It is understandable that the sorry task of announcing the devaluation fell to the beleaguered Treasurer. The Prime Minister clearly was reluctant to announce the disintegration of his Government’s economic strategy. The Treasurer had to justify publicly the action he had strenuously opposed in Cabinet and publicly repudiated on innumerable occasions. It is not surprising that his statement on Sunday was unconvincing. Nowhere did he spell out clearly who would benefit from it. We know the speculators will benefit, but will anyone else? We are told that manufacturers will benefit, but we know that the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) thinks otherwise. According to Press reports which have never been refuted, Senator Cotton argued powerfully against devaluation when the matter was raised amongst the favoured Ministers on 5 November. Any benefits for manufacturers will be temporary at best. They will have to pay more for imported components and capital equipment, and as inflation rises they will inevitably face pressure for higher wages.

We are told that primary producers will benefit. But will they? The main problem for primary producers is not import competition or competition from other countries in foreign markets but depressed markets generally and foreign quotas on our primary products. Devaluation will add to farmers’ costs as it adds to everyone else’s costs. Many primary producers will not benefit at all. On the radio yesterday the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson)- the man who, it is widely believed, is destined to be Treasurer or Minister for Finance- said that the sugar industry would benefit. I would have expected a Queenslander to know better. Sugar contracts are written in Australian dollars, as are many wheat contracts. Producers of these commodities will not gain a cent. Beef producers and wheat growers will see their gains wiped out by the rise in freight rates. Indeed, every exporting industry, primary and manufacturing, which depends on foreign shipping- and which of them does not?- will pay more. So, for the sake of dubious and at best transitory benefits to manufacturers and some primary producers, and certain benefits for overseas mining companies and financial speculators, the rest of the economy is to be made to suffer. Costs will go up. The fact is that about 60 per cent of our imports do not compete with local goods! Their prices will be pushed up for consumers without any benefit whatever to industries in Australia. Overseas observers can see how doubtful the benefits of devaluation will be, just as they could see the weakness of the Government’s original policies. AM reported this morning on the reaction to devaluation in the United States:

The New York Times says the long term effects of the devaluation are unclear and it reminds its readers that although the Fraser Government has been following a restrictive economic policy since gaining office last December, neither the balance of payments or the rate of inflation have improved as much as we hoped . . . What really interests the Wall Street Journal are the political problems that Mr Fraser has now brought upon himself. The Journal says the devaluation could undermine the reputation with Australian voters that gave Mr Fraser victory barely a year ago. It could also weaken his position within his own coalition party, particularly with uneasy back benchers who were elected for the first time to office last year on the claim that a Fraser Government would restore the economy, reduce inflation and not create unemployment. And, says the Wall Street Journal, both Mr Fraser and his Treasurer, Mr Lynch, face a possible loss of credibility over the timing and the size of the devaluation. The Journal says that both have repeatedly denied reports that Australia was to devalue and they had both called such reports irresponsible. The Journal also says Mr Fraser now faces the fact that many people, remembering what he promised to achieve at last year’s election, will see his move to devalue by such a large amount as an admission that his Government has failed to deliver what it promised- sound, economic management.

Thus AM today. In the space of a year the Government has destroyed two economic strategies. It has destroyed Labor’s strategy and it has now destroyed its own. There is little use now in lamenting the other options that were open to it. We know that as late as last week it still had the option of further overseas borrowing to avert the catastrophe of last Sunday evening. The trouble is that this Government, through its malice and hysteria last year, created a mythology about overseas borrowing which blinded it to the proper and rational alternative to the disastrous action it has now taken. Very little now remains to this bankrupt and bewildered Administration. The least it can do is take action to stem the enormous flow of foreign speculative capital that its actions will attract to this country. Eventually it must return to economic policies that will benefit the whole community. Its obsessive concern for sectional interests and pressure groups must end. The Australian people have had enough of a Government which favours wealthy minorities, trades off one section of the community against others and makes the vast majority of Australians pay for the windfalls and favoured treatment it gives to the few. We are now learning the full extent of the Liberals’ dishonesty and ruthlessness of a year ago. We are learning it the hard way. It is a lesson the Australian people will take to heart when next they choose the party to form a Government in this House and in the Australian Parliament. As an amendment, I move:


-Is the amendment seconded?


-Yes, I second the amendment which expresses want of confidence in the Fraser Government. This Government deserves grave censure because of its appalling economic performance. I speak now and do not reserve my right to speak later because, following past performances, the Liberal and National Country Parties will arrogantly downgrade the debate in this Parliament and allow only 2 speakers from this side. In spite of the grave nature of a want of confidence motion -not a step which the Labor Opposition takes lightly- we found on the only other occasion of such a censure debate in the past year that this was the tactic used. In a similar vein of arrogance, about which the Australian people have a right to know, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) often walks out of this chamber when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is speaking. The Prime Minister did this on the last Thursday this Parliament was sitting when the Leader of the Opposition was replying to the Prime Minister’s statement about the dismantling and dismembering of the Treasury. In a similar arrogant vein we find junior Ministers put up to answer urgency motions and to reply in discussions of matters of public importance. We witnessed such arrogance today when notice of a censure motion was not accepted by the Government. This is the first time, as far as I am aware, for many years that such arrogance has been displayed in this Parliament.

The Conservatives have followed their performances of a year ago of disregarding conventions, of grabbing power by any means, with a disregard and a downgrading of Parliament. The Opposition will use every means to resist this. It is because I am speaking now and not after the Prime Minister that I have asked the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) to use the 30 minutes available rather than for me to use that 30 minutes. I throw the cry from honourable members opposite back in their faces. I repeat that I asked the honourable member for Oxley to do this so that there would be at least 3 Opposition speakers in this debate.

The Australian people will not be denied the opportunity today of hearing more in this Parliament about the disastrous economic performance of the men who, in their own estimation, were born to rule. I repeat that at least there will now be 3 Opposition speakers unless, unprecedentedly, the motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that the honourable member for Oxley should have 30 minutes to speak is not adhered to. The Government stands condemned for this massive IVA per cent devaluation. By any test and on any standard it has failed- and failed abysmally. Just 12 months after it usurped power on the pretext that it could handle the economy better than the Labor Government could, its economic policy has fallen into complete disarray. Both the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Prime Minister have destroyed their own credibility and that of their Government. We witness already a call from their own back bench for the Treasurer’s resignation. The Government has now admitted defeat of its economic strategy in a move which has been appallingly handled. There is confusion as to why the decision was made. On the same day- almost in the same breath- on the one hand the Treasurer says that the move was forced upon the Government and on the other hand the Prime Minister contends that it was a measure designed to stimulate the manufacturing sector and save the mining and rural sectors from an unreasonable burden in the fight against inflation.

The Government was not forced to devalue. It is an incompetent decision taken by a government after a year of incompetent economic management. The free market system which it champions with unabashed zeal has judged its policies and found them wanting. The recent capital outflow has, if nothing else, been a massive vote of no confidence in the Government’s ability to manage the economy. In this context, the Treasurer’s announcement of devaluation is the Government’s recognition that the general thrust of its economic policy has failed miserably. And failed the conservatives’ economic policy certainly has. The plethora of economic statistics revealing sluggish consumer demand and stagnant production are there for all to see. Even the Treasurer has admitted that consumer spending is flat. The statement and the assertions he has made to the Parliament today are dishonest, to say the least. They were not supported by any statistics.

If there was insufficient data before that the general tack of the Government’s economic policy had failed, last week’s investment figures should have provided conclusive evidence. Seasonally adjusted new capital expenditure by private businesses in Australia in the September quarter was 6 per cent lower than in the June quarter. Investment in the September quarter of this year was only 5 per cent higher than in the September quarter of 1975. These are the people who grabbed power on to the excuse that they could manage the economy better. Allowing for inflation, this must mean that private sector investment was about 8 per cent lower in the first 3 months of this financial year compared with the first three months of the last financial year. These figures confirm the estimates of business expectations announced in recent months. They were announced last week when this House was not sitting. They provide further confirmation of the seriousness of Australia’s recession after a year of this conservative Government. Only on rare occasions has investment been a leading factor in stimulating economic recovery. This is clearly what the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were stupidly advocating when they spoke in their election campaign speeches of the need for an investment-led recovery strategy. That concept also lies in tatters as we in the Opposition saw earlier this year that it would.

The Liberal and National Country Parties apparently expected investment to increase autonomously in a vacuum. This was their hope and it was completely naive. The encouragement promised and given to potential investors through the excessively generous 40 per cent investment allowance and the deferment of quarterly company tax payments are clearly ineffective in the absence of increasing overall effective demand. The Australian Labor Party has said correctly all along that what we need and must achieve is a consumer-led recovery. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer apparently felt that simply the existence of a LiberalNational Country Party Government in power would be sufficient to increase business confidence and so facilitate growing investment. I repeat that this was quite naive. Businessmen have more good sense and do their sums more carefully. They know that unless effective demand increases, growing investment will simply lead to growth of idle capacity. The motivation to invest does not exist unless economic recovery gets under way.

The Government has repudiated use of its major weapon of fiscal policy for stimulating recovery. It has deliberately sustained the recession by reducing Government outlays. I have said before but I must repeat again that Government outlays are actually being reduced. In the package announced at the time of the massive devaluation, we were told that we must suffer more of the same wrong policies. Excluding family allowances, which are largely offset by higher taxation, Government outlays are likely to fall by at least 8 per cent in real terms in 1976-77 compared with the previous financial year. This estimate takes no account of the results of the further review of expenditure announced by the Treasurer on Sunday. That is, the Government is deliberately, as a matter of policy, sustaining Australia’s worst recession since the war by reducing Government demand.

One of the longer term consequences of this policy is seen in the investment figures to which I have drawn attention. A low level of investment now delays not only economic recovery but also the growth of the industrial capacity and, therefore, the longer term rate of economic growth. This is one of the causes of the loss of confidence at home which has spilt over into a loss of confidence abroad which has had such grave consequences and which has led to this devaluation. Investment is crucial to economic growth. A low level of investment over the last 9 months since the Liberal-National Country Party policies began to bite means that increases in the capacity and efficiency of Australian industry have been retarded. The Government apparently thought that by destroying parts of the public services, gaps could be created which could be filled by the private sector. We said that this was wrong. We said it all along. Now it is seen to be wrong. The economy is a dynamic system and not a box. If one part of that system acts as a brake, this tends to bring the rest of the system to a standstill or at least makes it very much more difficult for the rest of the economy to keep going.

Throughout the last few months it has been progressively the previous Labor Government, the unions, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and last night the Government’s Public Service advisers which have apparently been the excuse and have been made the scapegoats for Liberal-National Country Party failures. I must draw attention again to the Prime Minister’s speech in Adelaide which I consider to be despicable. He used the Public Service advisers as his excuse for this massive devaluation and massive alteration to Government policies. It is incredible that the Treasurer expects us to believe that it was the decision of the Arbitration Commission to grant a 2.2 per cent full indexation rise at its last hearing that tipped the scales and forced devaluation. The Budget Papers themselves were framed on the assumption that wages would rise by 12 per cent in the fiscal year 1976-77. A rise of 2.2 per cent in the September quarter was not incompatible with that forecast. I assert that this absurd criticism of the Commission was retribution for the thoroughly justified criticism of the Government’s economic policies it made when handing down its last decision. But it is part of the threats which conservatives are developing against the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and of which all Australians should be aware.

I turn to a consideration of the massive devaluation itself. It is perfectly reasonable for a government to deny that it intends to devalue. But, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, this Government has taken that tactic to an absurd extreme. The Prime Minister, in an address to the Stanford Research Institute on 15 November, stated that external policy was being used ‘to create an environment where businesses can plan ahead ‘. He added:

If reserves cannot be used without causing concern they are of little use.

He also stated that Government borrowing should be taken as a sign of strength’. The business sector that believed the Prime Minister and planned accordingly has now learnt the lesson that all believers in constitutional conventions learnt last year. This man cannot be trusted. The cry of ‘we will not devalue ‘ must now have a very similar ring to that of ‘we will not refuse Supply’. The confidence of the community has been shattered. The credibility of this Government in Australia’s capital market is nil. This loss of respect is gravely harmful for our future prospects. For instance, this will affect our opportunities for raising loans. We have from Cabinet leaks the information that the Prime Minister has been the main proponent of devaluation. Obviously, his ideological predilections have led him to reject the advice of his public servants. I draw attention again- I wish I had more time to quote this material in length- to some of the comments made by the Prime Minister in his speech in Adelaide last night.

The Government has subjected many Australians to hardship in the cause of its antiinflation policies, from which it consistently said it would not be shifted. Any advantages which might have flowed from that hardship have been callously sacrificed. Up to 5 per cent will be added to the rate of inflation by this decision. The actual increase will depend upon the extent of the success that the Government has in depressing living standards of wage earners by preventing them from recouping devaluationinduced price rises. This is a miserable policy. In essence, it is squeezing the wage and salary earners and the small and medium sized businesses of this country for the benefit of the large mining companies. As I said when I first was given the news of this devaluation, all ordinary Australians have a right to be angry at the decision. I experienced that anger in the Sydney capital market yesterday. Certainly there will be nothing but further hardships for the beef, dairy and fruit industries as a result of increasing costs in those industries, without any hope of increasing the benefits as a result of revaluation. To deal with that farming sector very quickly, I point out that those are the sections of primary industry which are most hurt by the recession that Australia is suffering at present.

This package, which inevitably goes with devaluation, is an horrendous one. Interest rates will now rise. The money supply will be squeezed. Such a credit squeeze hurts the medium and small businesses in particular and not the blue chip concerns. Wage and salary earners take a cut in their standards of living, as I have already said. In other words, the ordinary man in the street will be the loser. Now, not only will he pay higher prices for imported goods but also he will pay more for his housing loan. Those who expected to borrow to purchase homes will find that the supply of credit has been cut off. The ordinary Australian is to be sacrificed to those speculators who will make millions out of this devaluation decision. The Government has spoken glibly of the benefits which will flow from increased foreign investment. The Treasurer mentioned $7,000m, yet there has been no announcement as to how this flow will be controlled. The Treasurer resisted such an announcement today. Mr Speaker, Sunday’s package spells disaster for our country. The Government’s anti-inflation strategy is in tatters. We have more of the same wrong policies- cutting Government spending, confronting the unions, creating industrial disharmony, further credit squeezes and higher interest rates- continuing to be perpetrated. There is a grave loss of confidence in our Public Service. There are very few of our citizens who stand to gain more than they will lose out of this devaluation.

Prime Minister · Wannon · LP

- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) was at pains to point out that he had asked to speak for 20 minutes, and 20 minutes alone. He then went on to say that the economy is not a box. We are not surprised that he asked to speak for 20 minutes only. Mr Speaker, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke he had forgotten many of the things which he had done. He quite clearly had forgotten the statement that he made on 25 September 1974 on the devaluation of the Australian dollar. At that time, he emphasised that: the depreciation will give a fillip to many domestic industries. Export industries such as rural and mining industries, and manufacturing exporters will benefit particularly as will those sectors of industry experiencing undue pressure from import competition.

The Leader of the Opposition stands condemned by his own earlier statements. He also indicated that there would be no gain to the sugar industry in relation to these matters. The gain estimated by officials in 1976-77 is $25m and in the next 3 years it is estimated to be as much as $53m a year. Those facts again show that the honourable gentleman is exceedingly careless of his facts.

The honourable gentleman sought to recall some history in relation to some of these matters. I think it is worth noting the circumstances which at an earlier time led up to the events of last year. A note was published in a recent book. It has not been denied. It is of such substance and importance that I imagine, therefore, that it was correct. That note was directed to the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), on 10 December 1974. It is signed ‘J. O. Stone’. In that note he drew attention to certain legal and technical aspects of proposed raisings overseas about which Treasury had not been consulted. He said:

Standard borrowing procedures for the Australian Government involve before any commitment is given, establishing:

identification of principal (through channels of our choosing);

availability of funds must be proven;

cost of funds to borrower must be competitive;

documentation must satisfy us and AttorneysGeneral; and

v) offer must satisfy the Loan Council.

What grounds are there for neglecting these fundamental safeguards?

In their absence, how can there be certainty that the proposition is genuine or can be consummated satisfactorily?

Would not a decision to proceed on the basis of presently available information expose the Government to grave risk of charges of imprudence?

What a gentle word that was. The note continues:

How can Loan Council aspects be resolved until the precise nature of the arrangement is settled?

Next comes the most critical paragraph of all:

Even if the borrowing can be arranged to avoid Loan Council procedures, funds could not be on-lent to the authorities without Loan Council approval.

That was signed by ‘J. O. Stone’ and was dated 10 December 1974. An honourable Treasurer was sacked the next day. He obviously used that note by taking it to the then Prime Minister. There is no responsible parliamentary term which will adequately describe what that Prime Minister and his Government were then doing. It is so false for that former Prime Minister to talk of responsibility and to come in here today with piety in his eyes and a gentleness in the use of his tongue. Whenever there is an opportunity for the Australian people to cast a vote they will have to look only at the present Leader of the Opposition to know where they will cast their vote on a ballot paper.

The honourable gentleman spoke of a deep sense of national responsibility. Does he remember that it was he who was illegally going to by-pass this Parliament and to compel the trading banks to finance his Government and his illicit and illegal moves, by robbing the people of their savings in those banks? He said that he was approaching economic matters in a spirit of goodwill. But he has not learnt anything. He advocates that we should spend more- spend more, that is, of other people’s money. But he does not say where that money will come from or how that expenditure will be paid for. He praised the proposals of the Tasmanian Premier and of Mr Wran. But the Whitlam plan involved $ 1,000m in expenditure. The Wran plan involves expenditure of $2,000m. Has the Labor Party learnt nothing at all? Do these people not know that we cannot spend our way out of this kind of problem?

What the Leader of the Opposition has done and said on this occasion surely are a sign of desperation. Much worse than that and more tragic for the people of Australia is the fact that his proposals are a sign of having learnt nothing at all from the sad tragedy of all the errors of his Government. We think of the 3 Treasurers he went through, one after another, very quickly, as he sought to blame them for his problems. He sacked a Treasurer for upholding propriety in the affairs of this country.

Members of the Opposition and some of yesterday’s men who aspire to sit among them have criticised the decision to devalue. Their statements are as hollow as their attempts to manage the economy were disastrous. They, more than any other group, bear responsibility for the condition of the economy. The Leader of the Opposition, whose numerous attempts to raise money from Arab money lenders, which continued after 20 May despite his deepest protestations- mysterious Iraqis at breakfast in strange places- are well known to all of us, has seen fit to enter once again the field of international finance. His comments will persuade all of us who know the intimacy of his involvement in international affairs and the acuteness of his judgment in this area. There is no man in this Parliament who has done more damage to the lives of Australians than the Leader of the Opposition, by his sheer incompetence in economic affairs.

His was the Government which performed the almost unbelievable trick of stoking one of the worst rates of inflation in the Western worldand domestically caused, not internationally caused. His was the Government which boosted unemployment by almost 200 000 in one year. What a great government! What concern, what passion for the disadvantaged did that show? He was the man who sacked Frank Crean to make way for the disastrous loans search- who sacked honesty out of his Government. His was the Government which ignored the most authoritative warning from one of the top officials of the Treasury in this matter. His was the Government which sought to rob the people ‘s savings because the Parliament denied Supply, using the proper constitutional powers of the Parliament. His was the Government that defied centuries old tradition by seeking to govern without Parliament’s approval for money. That is the first massive step towards the establishment of a dictatorship. That is why the people rejected him and will leave him rejected. His was the Government which made a virtue of massively increasing wage costs for Australian industry.

For a few short moments in government last year he recognised the impact of wages on inflation. In January last year he stated:

Wage claims in the past 12 months have so greatly reduced the profitability of employers that they have ceased to employ . . . Every excessive increase in income for one man takes the job of another.

What has happened to this short lived apostle of restraint and common sense? To protect his political flanks he has now aligned himself irrevocably with the left wing extremists of the Labor Party and the trade unions. He has refused to accept a responsible national role. He has aligned himself with those who seek to undermine recovery by excessive wage claims and by political strikes. He has learnt nothing about economics. In October he proposed a 5-point plan which would add $1 billion to the deficit. He inspired the Premier of New South Wales to add nearly $2 billion to the deficit. The Labor Party still clings to the discredited policies that produced Australia’s unemployment and inflation. Even blind Freddie and his dog know that the Leader of the Opposition, his supporters and others have played an equally destructive role.

That self-fulfilling prophet, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), has also participated in these irresponsibilities. He is well known for his sense of responsibility and his great commitment to the national interest. I hope I do him no harm. He has always shown a deep and continuing public interest in the exchange rate. The further he is moved from the Treasury, the greater his interest has become. During the election campaign last year he made the statement that devaluation would occur if the Liberal-National Country Party Government were returned. This fuelled speculation against the dollar. After all, he was the immediate past Treasurer of Australia. In the Christmas and new year speculation following the election, Australia lost in excess of $600m in reserves. He was joined on 9 February by the shadowy shadow Treasurer who tried to provoke another devaluation scare. The honourable member for Oxley decided to wait until 7 December to announce before an audience of undergraduates at Melbourne University that Australia would have to devalue by 1 5 per cent. The audience might be regarded as a particularly appropriate one, except that I have no doubt that undergraduates would have demonstrated a greater sense of responsibility and a greater regard for Australia’s national interests than the honourable member for Oxley, a former Treasurer in the Australian Parliament.

The honourable member for Oxley ‘s grossly irresponsible statements were widely reported. They were noted overseas. They led directly to a weakening of reserves. He is a man devoid of a sense of national responsibility in this matter, a member of a Party which has done immense damage to Australia in recent years. The Opposition’s other leading spokesman on economic matters, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has persistently pursued questions in Parliament about the exchange rate and the loss of reserves. On 11 November, showing the same sense of national responsibility that distinguished Labor in office, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition described Australia’s position as disastrous.

I should mention in passing Mr Hawke ‘s response to the devaluation decision. I do this because Mr Hawke ‘s support for the Opposition leadership is second to none and is much to be admired, although his support for the Leader of the Opposition is perhaps exceeded by that of Dr Cairns or Clyde Cameron. In 1974 Mr Hawke welcomed the Labor Party’s decision to devalue because it went some of the way towards giving protection to industry. In 1976 he criticised the Government’s decision and states that the trade unions would demand greater wage increases.

Different circumstances; different statements. He thus seeks to perpetuate the situation of excessive wage demands, which undermine Australia ‘s international competitiveness, to unemployment and to inflation. The Labor Party should be proud of Mr Hawke ‘s loyalty. Perhaps the Labor Party would even reconsider its decisions and offer him a seat. Whose will it be? The unemployed, the vast majority of union members who recognise the grievous damage his actions are having on Australia’s economic recovery may justifiably ask whether Mr Hawke can continue to wear the 2 hats which he seeks. Is he really concerned for the unemployed, or is he concerned only about another job for himself?

This devaluation shows that rising internal costs have eroded our competitive position in the world. It is a warning of a weakness in our national economy which will take a total national effort to correct. Throughout this year we have acted to maintain a balance between the 4 arms of national economic policy- budgetary, monetary, external and wages policies. When we came to office we were faced with an over-valued currency which placed great burdens on particular groups in the community- manufacturers, primary industry and import competing industries. A case could have been made for devaluation at that time. We did not act because it was essential that other arms of policy be brought to bear or focus on inflation. We maintained the exchange rate and tightened other arms of policy. We pursued stringent budgetary, monetary and wages policies. The Government cut spending, moved to control the growth of the money supply and argued strenuously for restraint. The Government has always recognised the dangers inherent in the declining competitive position of Australian industry. Recent events have placed too heavy a pressure on the external arm of policy. The Arbitration Commission’s decision to pass the full CPI increase for the September quarter into wages further exaggerated Australia’s internal costs. The maintenance of unrealistic wage levels has placed Australia’s import and export competing industries at risk. It has also delayed the emergence of employment opportunities. It has not been sufficiently recognised that continuing to run an over-valued exchange rate has been unfair to employees and those seeking work, because the capacity of industry to provide jobs has been inhibited.

Uncertainty about the exchange rate resulting from the decline in Australia’s competitiveness has been impeding the implementation of new investment proposals. It has resulted in a continuing decline in Australia’s international reserves. In the last 12 months, despite substantial overseas borrowing by the Government, international reserves fell by $1,1 00m. The loss of reserves accelerated in the last few months-$269m in October and $260m to the 26th of this month. The prospect of an unacceptable outflow of capital in December and early January was imminent. Last Thursday the Government’s official advisers jointly presented 2 options to handle this situation. They were further international borrowings of around $ 1,000m, going into hock to the International Monetary Fund, or devaluation.

Mr Innes:

– For which one did the advisers opt?


-Does anyone in this Parliament suggest that they would opt for a borrowing of $ 1,000m? I could understand the Opposition doing it. It was prepared to borrow $4,000m from Khemlani. But so far as this Government and these Parties are concerned, there was only one responsible choice, faced with those options. Devaluation was the only responsible option open to the Government.

The Government has consistently argued that wage restraint is an essential element in economic recovery. At the present time one man’s wage increase is purchased at the cost of his workmate’s job- shades of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. Wage increases in this context are counter-productive. They fuel inflation, increase unemployment and reduce spending. Look what happened under our predecessors. In 1974, between the March and December quarters, average earnings increased by 24 per cent- in real terms by 10 per cent. But what happened? Consumption went up by less than 1 per cent and inflation went up by 13 per cent. The wage increases accelerated inflation, accelerating inflation increased consumer uncertainty, consumers spent less and unemployment rose.

It is only common sense that the country cannot continue to pay higher and higher wages that greatly exceed productivity increases without this leading to higher inflation and increased unemployment. There is no doubt that the Arbitration Commission’s decision has worsened the chances of economic recovery. There is great doubt that it will affect the industrial relations situation. I find it an odd circumstance to pay people not to strike when strikes ought not to have occurred in the first place, and that in a sense results from the kind of choice that was made. The threats of a number of union leaders to cause further disruption have been taken to depict the view of the majority of trade union members, and admitted economic common sense has been set to one side. But what does this say for Australia? Those in leading positions in every sphere of life, in every institution, should apply what they know to be common sense and not pander to the extremist statements of a vocal minority who are actively seeking to undermine economic recovery for their own partisan purposes. We simply cannot maintain a situation in which the rate of increases in Australia’s wages outstrips that of its major trading partners. What is needed here is an opportunity to test the great common sense of the overwhelming majority of Australian people in these matters. People in positions of authority ought to have some faith in that, and they should not merely listen to their sometime leaders who do not depict the views of the majority.

Over the last 6 years wages in Australia’s manufacturing industry increased by 130 per cent compared with 53 per cent in the United States of America and 70 per cent in West Germany. Is it any wonder that manufacturing industry is in difficulty? It is only common sense that Australia is harmed by the level of industrial disputation frequently motivated by purely political considerations. Again the figures of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that in 1975 Australia had the world’s third worst record in industrial disputes. This was a year in which Labor was in office. This year, if Medibank stoppages are excluded, the record is better, but industrial disputes are still far too numerous.

Mr Young:

– Why do you exclude Medibank?


-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Port Adelaide continues to interject. He is also out of his place. I would ask him to return to his place and not to interject.


-There is sometimes advantage in honourable gentlemen being able to speak out of their places because it allows others to understand what they are. The vast majority of union members do, I believe, recognise the irresponsibility of the minority of extremist union bosses. Some of these men are quite explicitly seeking to destroy our social and economic system. Others are attempting to squeeze the last drop of advantage to themselves, regardless of the consequences for the economy as a whole. These men have no difficulty in mouthing the words of social responsibility while they systematically drive more and more of their fellow unionists into unemployment. What kind of social responsibility is that?

The Government’s intends to maintain- and to step up- its strong opposition to wage and salary increases which cannot be justified by economic conditions, and to the disruptive activities of a few irresponsible and extremist union leaders given too much support by the Opposition, where the Opposition should at least seem to have some degree of responsibility. I believe that in taking these stands we have the support of the Australian people and of the great bulk of rank and file trade unionists, We would be shown to have the support of rank and file trade unionists if they were only given the opportunity freely to express their views and not have their decisions pre-empted as their decisions were preempted by the Premier of New South Wales and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in respect of shipbuilding a few days ago. They did not want the blokes in Newcastle to have a fair opportunity to judge that industrial relations contract.

Our secret ballot legislation has given reasonable rank and file unionists, who in our view are in the overwhelming majority, the means by which they can exact responsible action from their union officials. The union movement and the Australian Labor Party share with other Australians a responsibility to advance Australia’s economic recovery, not wilfully or carelessly to undermine it. This devaluation can be a major help in moving Australia further along the road to economic recovery, provided its effects are not eroded.

The competitive position of manufacturing industry competing with imported goods will be strengthened, and the benefits of this will flow on to all those dependent on a vigorous manufacturing industry, including many of those now unemployed. The disastrously depressed farming sector, the gravity of whose position is often underestimated, will obtain an improved position in world markets. Investment projects which have been deferred can now get under way with their job and income creating potential. Mining and exporting industries generally, which make such an important contribution to Australia’s prosperity, will now have their position considerably strengthened.

The prosperity of these sectors is vital to us all and the flow of benefits will spur recovery provided that they are not frittered away. These effects, however, will not be long sustained if appropriate action is not taken with respect to other arms of economic policy- budgetary, monetary and wages policy. Appropriate balance between the various arms of policy- budgetary, monetary, external and wages policy- has been maintained by what we have done. They must be kept in balance by each section of the community accepting its fair responsibility in the fight against inflation. The fight against inflation is a battle to which everyone must expect to make a contribution. It cannot be won if the burdens are distributed inequitably across the community or only amongst a few groups. Equally, it will not be won if there is not an end to the selfish pursuit of advantage by different groups in the community. The fight we are involved in now is not a fight for one group, one section of the Australian community; it is nothing less than a fight for Australia’s future in which every Australian must be involved. Let us have a commitment by every Australian to make a personal contribution to getting Australia back to full economic health.

Australia has a government committed to a strong private sector as the foundation of a decent life for all Australians. Business must be prepared to commit resources to the future of this country, knowing that it will get full and equitable consideration in Government policy. Trade union members must be prepared to see that their officials act responsibly and reflect the broad recognition of the need for restraint in wage and salary demands. Every Australian can make a contribution by a personal commitment to make Australia a country of which each one of us can be proud. Unless there is such a commitment, we will watch a country with enormous potential waste itself in the destructive pursuit of personal and sectional advantage.

On the night of the Federal election last year, on 13 December, I said that we were determined to be a Government for all Australians. Our economic policy that we are pursuing reflects that determination. Now is the time for all of us to work together to build the kind of Australia we all want this country to be.


-The acknowledgments from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)- less than friendly at times, I suspect- about my alleged role in recent economic decisions leave me with the feeling that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer see me as some sort of Uri Geller of Australian economic affairs- a person with such powerful influence that I can bend the mind not only of the nation but also of a substantial part of the world. Modesty proposes that I disavow this but courtesy prevents me from doing so. All that has really come out from what has been said by both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer is that blind Freddie and his dog are much brighter in economic matters than the Treasurer is. Perhaps the Treasurer needs an economic seeing-eye dog.

I put one thing right on the record. Both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, no doubt as a well known tactic, have misrepresented comments which I made in the course of a television debate with the Treasurer during the last election campaign. The comments I made were in relation to a possible devaluation. They followed a question from the interviewer. I have obtained the record from the Parliamentary Library Current Information Section. Mrs Sluyters’ services are eminently efficient, comprehensive and reliable. The record states:

Mr Hayden: I’m reluctant to talk about these things normally. There is no reason for any devaluation at all of the Australian currency. The balance of payments are strong, our currency is very strong.

That is a direct quote. It is somewhat different from the version which has been given in a freehand style by both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. I suggest that, if those 2 prominent public figures wish to quote what people have said, they do so with some sense of integrity. In their role it is generally assumed by the public that, no matter who fulfils those high public offices, any public comments will be made with a firm commitment to integrity and that honesty will not be assaulted in the course of making those comments.

The devaluation decision was a confession of failure by the Government. The confession was reaffirmed today by both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. In fairness I must say of the Prime Minister’s speech that it was extremely interesting, even if totally irrelevant to the issue before the Parliament. The Government’s economic policy is shattered. In the course of the shattering, public confidence has been destroyed. The Government is numbed by confusion, the public is gripped by uncertainty. The fact is that the Government does not know where to go next. It has made a most significant decision under conditions which are vastly different from those which applied the last time on which a devaluation was made by this country. The Government has made a decision about devaluation in circumstances which are much more difficult to administer than was the case in 1 974. So, not only is it quite inappropriate for the Government to try to draw some analogy with the situation in 1974 and accordingly somehow to try to bolster its flagging confidence but also it is gravely wrong. For anyone who understands simple economic principles it is simply disturbing. The reason is that it suggests very strongly that the Government does not know what it is about. The evidence in the House today is that the Treasurer does not know what he is about. He genuinely needs an economic seeing-eye dog to help him through the maze which he has run into through his own foolishness and imperception in relation to economic matters.

Today, in the course of question time, the Treasurer was asked a question by me, flowing from a statement he made last Sunday night about devaluation. Specifically, in the question, he was asked about future wages policy. We then had the unsettling evidence that the Treasurer could not answer the question. He had no idea at all, even in the most general terms, of what sort of wages policy might apply in the future. The Government does not know what it will do. It has made a most significant decision which, to be effective, will require wide ranging follow-up action of most important policy implications. The Government is unable to give the faintest indication to the Parliament and the nation of what might follow. I think we ought to recognise one other important thing too before I move on to some of the more significant points in this debate. The Government is now in the driving seat of the economy. It has been in office for 12 months. This decision on devaluation is a radical departure from anything that was going on before. The Government has scrubbed the board clean. It can no longer say, as it may try to do in the New Year, that the difficulties confronted by the nation arise from what happened before it came into office. Devaluation makes those proposals, which were being put before devaluation for a more effective handling of the economy by people in the Parliament and outside the Parliament, no longer relevant. Devaluation creates a whole new set of circumstances. Accordingly, new policies have to be devised by the Government.

Devaluation became inevitable on the Prime Minister’s conversion to that policy. Its certainty was guaranteed by a Cabinet leak. We heard today from the Treasurer a suggestion that the alternative to devaluation at this point was a $ 1,000m overseas borrowing. But I suggest that if it had not been for that Cabinet leak and if there had been a firmer and understanding statement about possible action by the Government on overseas reserves, it may have been possible to have discouraged the flight from capital which became a panic after the leak appeared in the newspapers indicating the Prime Minister’s conversion to devaluation. I substantiate that suggestion by pointing out that our holdings of gold are valued at much less than the market rate. In fact, the value is about only one-third of the market rate. Valuing our gold holdings at the market rate would have added $500m to our overseas reserves. This could have been done by one stroke of the pen quite justifiably, not by any falsification of the books. If the Government had, additionally, announced that there was still another $500m of International Monetary Fund unconditional drawing rights available to the Government- making a total of $ 1,000m- and if the Government had done that some time ago in the firmest terms it just may have been possible to stave off the problem which has arisen. But the Government’s economic policies were strung up- lynched as it were- by that leak from the Cabinet which identified the conversion of all of the Cabinet except for the Treasurer, the strong man, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, the 2 people who held out.

I cite the Age newspaper on this matter to draw out the contrast between the characters which is displayed as a result of the leak. The article, which was in the Age of 10 November, was written by Kenneth Davidson, and it states:

It emerged at the meeting that a majority of the Cabinetincluding the Prime Minister - are soft on devaluation . . .

According to inside reports, much of the time was spent on the devaluation option. Mr Fraser and the rest of Cabinet, with the exception of Mr Lynch and Senator Cotton, were drawn to the subject like moths to the light.

What contempt for his Cabinet colleagues dripped from the person who leaked that report to Mr Davidson. That person showed contempt for the majority of his colleagues in the Cabinet. The Treasurer emerges as the tough man. The Prime Minister emerges as a towering mountain of jelly. Blind Freddie and his dog were not responsible for this devaluation or for any run on the Australian currency. I put another proposition to the House. If it is simple matter of blind Freddie and his dog having this enormously powerful, persuasive effect on the economy, does anyone believe for a second that if blind Freddie and his dog went out into the public square and stated that our currency was undervalued and that there ought to be a revaluation, then tomorrow morning there would be a massive flood of money into this country from overseas? Of course he does not.

It was not only blind Freddie and his dog who were pointing out the weakness in the Australian currency. The London Economist did this on several occasions. It is one of the most influential financial journals in the Western world. Sir

Leslie Melville, an eminent economist formerly of the Reserve Bank of Australia and formerly Chairman of the Grants Commission, has pointed this out. The Australian Department of Overseas Trade was responsible on at least 3 occasions in some way or another for a leak to various journalists indicating that it was writing minutes to the Government through its Minister, warning of the inevitability of devaluation. Syntec, the economic intelligence journal, on one occasion referred to the possibility of a devaluation.

Then of course we come to the most eminent economist in the Australian Parliament, as he is always the first to acknowledge- I understand that he is the only one to do so- a former Treasurer and former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon). In July the Melbourne Herald, amongst many newspapers that covered the story, referring to a forum at Wagga quoted the right honourable member as having said that Australia was pricing itself out of export markets and that the Government must consider devaluation as an instrument of policy to right the position. Quite frankly, I do not want to take the credit all by myself for being the most influential person in the Australian community when an expression of opinion is put forward on the issue of exchange rate values. After all we do have it on the most reliable authority- himself- that the right honourable member for Lowe is the most eminent and influential economist that this Parliament has seen.

The Arbitration Commission also warned about this. So too did the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who said in this Parliament on 21 September

Australian wage costs- which arise from a combination of wage rates and industrial practices- are so far out of line with overseas wage costs that the gap cannot be bridged without some change in the terms of overseas trade. The best and fairest way to make this change is by a devaluation of the Australian dollar, and the sooner we face up to this devaluation the better.

That was said by a former Minister of a former Liberal government- a man not without influence. A whole range of people had been barking this advice, which was too obvious for anyone to deny, for a long time. I repeat: The leaking of the conversion of the Prime Minister to the policy of devaluation was probably the most damaging influence in forcing a flight, which became a panic, on Australian currency.

I want to make one other point too in relation to assertions that I somehow commended a devaluation. I was very careful with the choice of my words. I said that a devaluation was inevitable. Saying something is inevitable is not saying that it is commendable or desirable. It is like saying to someone who drinks three or four bottles of whisky a day that it is inevitable that he will suffer cirrhosis of the liver and eventually die. When the result predicted comes about, that does not make one happy, and in predicting the inevitability of the result one is not commending the sort of result to the sufferer. So I want to make it clear, as I made it clear to the people at the Melbourne University in September and as I have done before on many occasions, that the longer the Government deferred a decision on our weakening exchange rate, the greater the adjustment would have to be and, accordingly, the fewer would be the options available to government to administer the economy. Furthermore, the greater would be the difficulties in trying to administer the economy. I pointed out- I have said this on many occasions- that if we had been in Government any adjustments necessary would have been made much earlier. Accordingly they would have been smaller and certainly if there had been any dislocative effect as a result of them it would have been quite minor. That is quite different from the situation which will flow from this decision. There will be major disruptive influences fed into the Australian economy by this very high rate of devaluation which was announced on Sunday.

Before I move to some of the disruptive effects of that decision let me remind honourable members for the record, because the Government seems singularly unable to give details to bolster the argument which it puts forward, that our reserves have been deteriorating throughout this calendar year. The first point I want to make to answer a proposition put by the Treasurer, who said that in 1972-73 our reserves were the equivalent of 13 months of our import bill, that that merely exposes once again that he is guided in his understanding of economic policy by a piggy bank mentality. The fact is that a very high level of overseas reserves, accumulating at a rapid rate, was a symptom of a very serious underlying problem in the Australian economy. Reserves accumulating rapidly as they were in 1972-73 are an indication of the rate at which additional money is being pumped into the Australian economy. A rapid injection of money, as occurred in 1972-73, has highly inflationary effects-with a lag certainly, but nonetheless highly inflationary effects- and thereby lies the genesis for much of what has happened in the Australian economy subsequently. The very high and rapid rate at which our overseas reserves were accumulating was evidence of the undervaluation of our currency on the foreign exchange market.

When we went out of office, to use the words of the Treasurer, we had about 4.4 months’ import bill equivalent in reserves. That is a thoroughly reasonable level of reserves. Now let us look at the situation since this Government came to office. The Reserve Bank’s holdings of gold and foreign exchange at December 1975, according to the monthly average report, was $2,752m. By October 1976 it had come down to $2,26 lm. But that is not the full story. In the last 4 months there has been a series of borrowings by the Australian Government from overseas totalling $950m. If we look at the period of June and July and make allowances for borrowings which took place then, we find that there was a run-off of $600m from our overseas reserves. Accordingly the problem of a weak, over-valued currency has been with us for most of this year, and the deterioration in the strength of our currency has been most marked in recent months and has been particularly significant in June and July. I repeat that the crunch came when the unprincipled member of the Cabinet leaked to the newspapers that everyone in the Cabinet except the Treasurer and Senator Cotton were converted to the case for devaluation. The collapse has probably been even greater, since the latest figures which I have been able to obtain from the Reserve Bank show that at 10 November our reserves had fallen to $2, 122m. I presume they are much lower than that now, but allowing for borrowings that means reserves fell to less than 2 months import bill equivalent.

This devaluation has lifted the lid on a Pandora’s box of economic blight for this country. First, it will lead to a fresh and substantial burst of inflation. If one looks at the submission of the Australian Government to the Arbitration Commission in the national wage case and if one looks at the tables appended to that submission one finds that for the course of this year, if there is full indexation of wages, there will be a consumer price index increase of about 13 per cent. One finds that if there is only two-thirds indexation there will be a consumer price index increase of 11.5 per cent. However, one also finds- it ought to go on the record- that there has been some deceit on the part of the Government in the budget submissions it made to the Australian public and especially to this Parliament. In its statements attached to the Budget it suggested that by the end of this year inflation would be down to single digit figures. If one looks at exhibit M09, as it is called, attached to the submission to the Arbitration Commission one finds that that could happen only if the Government were successful in having indexation at the rate of only 30 per cent, which is a completely unbelievable proposition. I suggest that that statistic compiled by Treasury, submitted officially by the Government with other statistics in that submissionI am looking forward to a discussion of them in this Parliament in the course of the next fortnight- indicates that there has been some deception practised on the Australian Parliament in the way in which the economic forecasts were presented in the last Budget.

But let me move back to the point I was wanting to make. We will probably have an anticipated rate of inflation of 13 per cent this year. The most sanguine estimate would be 11.5 per cent. Some econometric work has been done by quite authoritive economists in this country which suggests that a 10 per cent devaluation will result in a Vh per cent increase in the consumer price index in the first quarter after the devaluation. That suggests that in the first full quarter there will be an addition of something like 2’/2 per cent to the consumer price index as the first round effect, the immediate effect, of this devaluation. If we allow for that and allow for the second round and subsequent effects of this devaluation- they will multiply quite horrendously through the economy- we will be staring at an inflation rate of between 17 per cent and 18 per cent for this year. That has quite disturbing implications for the Australian economy, for business, for labour and for this country. Let me quote from the Government’s submission to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in a situation where it is apprehending, rather sanguinely, inflation of between 1 Vh per cent to 13 per cent, a much better outlook than the one we have now. It said:

The Commonwealth remains committed to the position it took in its August submission. On that occasion it was argued that the only viable solution to the problems inherent in a decline in Australia’s competitive position, vis-a-vis its major trading partners, is a reduction of inflation rates.

It said that the only viable solution is a reduction in inflation rates. That cannot be emphasised often enough because there cannot be any solution, there cannot be anything but bleakness and a great deal of gloom and pessimism in the outlook for calendar year 1977 and into 1978 as a result of this decision which clearly will result in a significant upsurge in inflation in the Australian economy. On the Government’s own testimony we are in trouble. It will lead to wage turmoil and we have no less an authority on that than the Treasurer. I quoted him today at question time as saying that ‘the Government would be doing everything in its power to ensure that any identifiable effects of the devaluation decision upon the consumer price index did not flow on into wages either through national wage hearings or more generally. ‘

That is an eminently provocative statement for him to make and I suggest with complete sincerity that in the national interest the Government had better move out into the public forum and explain, at least generally and in some understandable way, what it has in mind. Is it some sort of wage freeze? Is it some sort of disbanding of the functions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? Will it really resort to the abolition of minimum wage rates, as has been suggested by one of those inspired leaks that plague the Government ranks. Does the Government want some sort of peasant standard for the Australian community with the base wage concept destroyed? How far will these people go in their extremist philosophical approach to economic policy? How much suffering are they prepared to inflict on the Australian community? This reminds me that yesterday I was talking to a lady who was a little stunned like most of the community by the devaluation and its implications and she said to me: ‘Mr Fraser told me before the last election that if I voted Labor I would be voting for more unemployment, more inflation, more business failures and a worsening of the recession’. She added: ‘He was right, you know. I voted Labor and we are getting more unemployment, more inflation, more business failures and a worsening of the recession’.

The wage turmoil will be not only among blue collar workers but also white collar workers- the middle class. The latter have been the people who have been bearing most of the sacrifice on the incomes front, but there is a limit to how much they are prepared to bear. There will be a limit to how much they are prepared to bear when they realise what a significant hike in interest rates is going to flow from this decision. Does anyone believe that the Government can keep interest rates down to or within one or two per cent above what they are now if inflation is to go to 17 per cent or 18 per cent before the end of this year? How are people expected to meet their housing mortgage repayments from crippled wage packets with those repayments spiralling upwards? How will business maintain its cash flow if business activity weakens further because consumer demand weakens as a result of the unemployment which will flow from this decision and as a result of the increase in the savings ratio which must inevitably flow from this decision and its attendant effects of higher inflation? If we accept the general principle put by the Treasury that the high savings ratio we have been seeing in recent times-I frankly think it is a debatable proposition but it is the Government’s view- is a direct and exclusive result of the level of inflation, it follows that if we are to have a significantly higher rate of inflation and one that comes about rapidly our savings ratio will be much higher than we have been used to at any stage in recent years. If that is so, that is if the Treasury’s proposition stands up, I am afraid that we are in for a very bad outlook in economic management. Consumption will stall as savings rise.

Devaluation has some initial benefits to a small sector of the economy- for example, the rural export sector- but the benefits of that small sector will be quickly swamped as will be the general economy by the cost explosion which will follow unless, and I put this caveat assuming it to be understood, there are appropriate follow-up policy decisions. Let us not believe for one minute that the most disadvantaged sections of the rural economy stand to gain much, if anything, from this decision. The beef industry will not. It will not get into the European markets any more freely because the common agricultural policy will make sure of that. It is politics and not market forces which limits us there. American and Japanese quotas are established by political decisions and not market forces and have no relationship at all with prices. Let us not talk about the possibility of selling more meat to Russia or to any communist bloc countries as a result of this devaluation because everyone in this House should know that we heavily subsidise the price of beef we sell to these countries and are selling it at less than cost price. The dairying industry will not benefit from this decision nor will the fruit industry.

Let me move quickly to another aspect that seems to have been attended to quite inadequately by commentators. I refer to the protection effect which follows devaluation. The average level of protection in Australia is about 26 per cent. The result of this devaluation will lift it to about 48 per cent. For areas such as sections of the textile industry that have about 35 per cent protection we will effectively take the protection rate to nearly 59 per cent. What does this mean? It means clearly that mothers will be paying a lot more for the clothing of their children and others in the household. Shoes will be more expensive. The things that people already find expensive enough will be a lot more expensive. Resources which are used in these protected industries will become more expensive, and I do not exempt from this labour resources because employers will find it easier to respond to wage pressures because of the way in which the protection effect increases following devaluation.

The Treasurer seems to see some saving grace in capital inflow which might flow from devaluation. That is sheer nonsense. If any substantial capital inflow comes into this country in a short period it will have an enormously destabilising effect on the economy. A rapid inrush of foreign capital will add to the money supply and goodness only knows the Government has more than enough trouble trying to get the rate of increase in money supply down to the target of about 10 per cent stated in the Budget. I do not believe it can do it. In any case, the latest figures I have extracted show M3, for whatever M3 is worth among all the other Ms which are available in the money supply, increasing by 16 per cent for the November quarter. M3 is the figure that the Treasurer quoted when he suggested that the target was 10 per cent. The Government cannot get down to it and if there is a substantial inflow of foreign capital the problems of inflationary management arising from monetary policy will be enormously aggravated.

It increasingly looks as though a large section of the community will have to bear the burden of sacrifice and disadvantage as a result of this decision, especially if there is to be substantial capital inflow. Has anyone really had a close look at the likely effects of the so-called dirty float that the Government now proposes? Given these symptoms I have been indicating to the House of a rapid increase to a high level of inflation, of the push in interest rates and of the problems on the wages front where indexation it seems is about to be totally disbanded and the whole concept that we have historically adhered to on wage fixing arrangements jettisoned and other symptoms, one discovers that there will be a very volatile inflationary force loose in the Australian economy. In that situation, if we have a dirty floating currency we may well see further devaluation effects in 1977. The economy was already heading for a tough 1977 with record high unemployment, tougher business conditions and prolonged and deeper recession, but this decision compounds that bleak outlook. Unemployment is unlikely to go below 5 per cent at any stage in the next calendar year and it may well plateau at nearly 6 per cent with higher levels for several months of the year. It is a grim outlook for school leavers. It is a grim outlook for the workforce and for those who have been unemployed, particularly those who have been unemployed for too long. It is a grim outlook for business and a particularly grim outlook for the nation. Australia was asked to turn on the lights by the Liberals and it has discovered that it turned the lights on for a horror show.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Mr William McMahon:

-I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He correctly quoted a statement by me which was reported in the Melbourne Herald of 15 July, but the report went further. It read:

Mr McMahon said Australia was pricing itself out of export markets and the Government must consider a devaluation as an instrument of policy to right the position.

But he said devaluation could not be considered until the Government knew where wages were going.

No action was possible until wages in Australia were comparable with those in its major trading partners- or at least moving in that direction.

Mr McMahon said recent wage increases had been at a rate which were impossible for primary industry to sustain.

He quoted comparative Australian and American wage increases- in December 197 1 the average Australian earned $80 a week and this had risen to $158 in 1975. This compared with the U.S. figures of $113 in 1971 and $135 last year.

What the honourable gentleman said was a total misrepresentation. If he had any decency he would apologise.

Mr Hayden:

- Mr Deputy Speaker, I would be very happy to apologise. If the honourable member says that the record should be as he says I accept that. I quoted from the Melbourne Herald. I will show it to him. A person of such eminence and stature as a political economist deserves to be reported correctly. It is much more helpful for the Opposition.

Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development · Bass · LP

I would like to make a personal explanation.


-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?


-Yes, in reports in several newspapers this morning which have just come to my notice on a matter of housing and devaluation outlined in a Press statement which I issued. The most misleading statement was contained in the Brisbane Courier-Mail which claimed that the Government was planning a credit squeeze and a cut back in housing. It is absurd to suggest this. The interpretation made of the Press statement in the newspapers is quite without foundation. The Government is seeking to ensure that the housing industry operates at its maximum level of efficiency. The succinct parts of the Press statement were that major sections of the construction industry would benefit from the devaluation and that any effects on the cost and availability of housing finance would be only marginal. I also contrasted the dwelling commencement figures achieved in the September quarter, which were extraordinarily high by any standard, with those recommended by an independent advisory body, the Indicative Planning Council.

Mr Hurford:

– I rise to a point of order. This is not a personal explanation. It is an explanation relating to Government policy. The newspapers have quite rightly taken the Treasurer’s statement to mean that interest rates will increase.


-Order! There is no point of order. The Minister is showing where newspaper reports are incorrect in relation to the Press statement he issued.

Mr Bryant:

– Speaking to that ruling, surely a personal explanation allows a Minister actually to correct words contained in the statement but not to embark upon argument to explain where the statement was wrong or where the Minister was right, if that is feasible.


-Order! The honourable member for Wills has been in this House long enough to know that on occasions honourable members and Ministers have claimed to have been misrepresented by statements in newspapers. They have pointed out where reports in the newspapers have misinterpreted their statements. It is on that point that I think the Minister is making the personal explanation at the moment. He is claiming that the newspaper has misrepresented his statement. I call the Minister.


– Let me make the point clear. I am not talking about a Press statement of the Treasurer as the honourable member for Adelaide would imply; I am talking about a statement that I made. The Press reports are misleading and incorrect. The Government and I are confident that the housing industry will maintain a satisfactory level of activity in 1976-77.

Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

– The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has brought down a statement this afternoon in the House to explain to honourable members and to the public the circumstances surrounding the weekend decision to change the value of the Australian dollar relative to overseas currencies. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who has just spoken, seemed to find 3 areas in that statement and in the Government ‘s action of which he was critical. First there was a suggestion that in some way devaluation is a result of some newspaper speculation and an alleged leak out of a Cabinet meeting in regard to changes in interest rates and in monetary policy which were announced some weeks ago.

Looking at the whole atmosphere of leaks, it is quite interesting to compare the total propriety of this move and the impropriety on the occasion of the 1974 devaluation. Do honourable members recall the circumstances? The former Government’s decision to devalue was taken at around 10 p.m. on Tuesday 24 September. The announcement was timed for 6 a.m. on Wednesday 25 September when financial markets would be closed, but if we check the record we find the Melbourne Sun reported the devaluation, including the figure of 12 per cent, and that the story in question was put together at around 1 1 o’clock on 24 September, one hour after the decision was taken. Subsequently, at around 1.30 a.m. on 25 September, Reuters reported the story in the Melbourne Sun. The Reuters news report was made public around 4.30 p.m. on 24 September in London, before the public announcement. This led to immediate trading action on the London market during the final part of the day’s trading and before the announcement was made. Not only was there a distinct leak of information in circumstances which should have led to the resignation of yet another of Labor’s Treasurers- of course Labor nearly ran out of men to fill that portfolio- but also the leak led to circumstances in which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), as Prime Minister, refused to answer questions in the Parliament on the matter and refused, of course, to initiate any investigation whatsoever. So much for the comparison in terms of leaks. I think the honourable member for Oxley needs to start with a comparison of the propriety of his own Government’s behaviour on the occasion of the 1974 devaluation and the present circumstances.

The second substance of the comments made by the honourable member for Oxley related to an allegation that the inflation rate would be somewhere around 1 7 per cent or 1 8 per cent this year. He spoke of ‘horrendous accumulations’. This allegation compares in no way to the reality of what we have achieved in economic measures since we have been in government. Indeed the last quarter’s consumer price index figures indicate that this Government significantly has been able to contain some of the undue pace of escalation of inflation. In case it is thought that the whole question of inflation being unduly induced by this devaluation is unreal, let me refer to the September 1976 economic newsletter by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd. It is interesting because it relates specifically to the comment of the honourable member for Oxley and in my mind rebuts it completely. Mr Shrapnel says:

The main argument used against devaluation is that it will encourage inflation. Inflation must be cured before tackling the problem of unemployment. These unsupported assertions are stated as dogma, as if they were beyond dispute.

I think Mr Shrapnel must have heard the honourable member for Oxley and perhaps even the Leader of the Opposition, for neither of them were inclined to see the reality behind their allegations on the inflation question. Mr Shrapnel continued:

We would like to present some alternative ideas. First we see no economic reason why inflation and unemployment cannot be brought down together. Since Australia already has a firm monetary and fiscal policy the only other important pre-condition for reducing inflation is a firm wage policy whereas the pre-condition for reducing unemployment is simply to improve business profits which could be improved by devaluation quite apart from any contribution made by wage restraint. Secondly, the benefits of a devaluation will not be frittered away in a relatively short time unless we have a weak wage policy. If we do have a weak wage policy we have achieved no permanent solution to the problem of inflation even if we do not devalue because after a delayed agonising recovery the same problems will emerge as soon as activity starts moving briskly again.

I raise that point because it is most important, in my view, that people look at the question of the extent to which costs will rise after devaluation in a proper perspective. There is no reason, if the total package of measures announced by the Treasurer is implemented, for undue inflation. There are a number of areas in which we are aware that costs will rise. It is certainly not true nor is it, in my view, economically sound for a person who is a former Treasurer of Australia to suggest that we will have an inflation rate of about 17 or 18 per cent. Indeed, none of the statistics, arithmetic or economics can justify that claim.

The next assertion made by the honourable member for Oxley was that unemployment will not be below 5 per cent in the next period. One of the purposes of this measure is to try to encourage employment through the stimulation of local manufacturing industry as a result of inventories being run down and as a result of people trying to buy goods that are now in store that are largely imported before prices go up on subsequently imported goods on which, of course, the prices will rise. Manufacturing industry generally is producing only to 60 per cent or 70 per cent of capacity. While it is producing at that level there is a real ability to increase the volume of production without adding to costs. I would strongly contest any suggestion that in those circumstances Australian manufacturers, first of all cannot increase their volume of production and increase their capacity to produce without adding to the cost of individual items. Indeed, if they can produce to about 90 per cent or even 100 per cent of capacity they could do so for the same cost as that on which they are now producing to 60 per cent or 70 per cent capacity. Therefore, every reason exists for them to be able to contain cost increases. Of course, the result of that is again to stimulate the domestic employment situation and, I believe, to rebut that allegation of the honourable member for Oxley that unemployment will not be below 5 per cent.

I really want to talk predominantly about the background behind this decision and the circumstances that I think need to be looked at in relation to why devaluation has become necessary. There is no use people saying that of course the Treasurer, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) have said that the Government would not devalue but have now gone against that statement. It is the responsibility of a government and of the senior ministers of a government to preserve the value of their currency to the very maximum. It must be for the Treasurer to deny any suggestion of change of currency value in order to avoid the disastrous speculative consequences which the Labor Government generated by its own irresponsible actions. A proper government behaving in a proper way does not engender speculation in the manner that the Labor Government did at the time of its devaluation in 1974. So much for the suggestion that the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister should not have done as they did and asserted that the Australian currency would be held firm.

The circumstances of the productive group of industries in Australia has deteriorated progressively. A number of assertions have been made about the relative level of profitability amongst wage earners and amongst those in the service industries in comparison to those in the productive industries. In particular, as far as the rural sector is concerned, it is interesting to compare the net farm income as a return for capital invested, management and labour, with the adult male average earnings. I should like to refer to 3 particular years. In 1 966-67, net farm income, on the basis to which I have just referred, was $6,395, representing $122.98 a week. The adult male average earnings a week was $61.90. So, in 1966-67, $61.90 was the average weekly earnings compared to $ 1 22.98 for net farm income. That has taken not only labour into account but also capital invested and management. In 1971-72 under a Liberal-National Country Party Government the relationship had changed a little but not as significantly as after the Labor Government came into office. In 1971-72 net farm income was $5,982, $1 15.04 a week, compared to $93 for the adult male average earnings. In 1 976-77 as a result of the change in the structure induced largely by the implementation of the Coombs report and by the refabrication of the whole of the structure of the Australian economy during the Labor days, engendered by the transfer of resources to the public sector and engendered by the transfer of resources beyond the ability of the productive sector to afford to other sectors of the economy, the projected net farm income has fallen to a figure of $6,545; the per week returns are $125.87 whilst the average weekly earnings are $184.70.

Of course, to that figure must be added the 2.2 per cent wage indexation decision handed down by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which worsens the whole position of the rural sector. Equally, it can be said of the mining sector of production and of the manufacturing sector involved in exports. Indeed, one of the principal concerns of the Government has been the large number of Australian manufacturing companies which progressively have moved off shorewhich have sought to transfer their Australian operations to areas in which labour costs are less than they are in Australia. Many companies have been able to make greater profits by importing goods and serving as importers, as wholesalers and as retailers instead of as manufacturers in Australia. Relative wage costs have destroyed significantly the competitiveness of Australian exports and in this connection it is interesting to compare United States average weekly earnings and Australian average weekly earnings. Production from the rural sector of the economy was such that unless some serious action had been taken such as was announced by the Government, the rural sector itself was unlikely to continue to survive. Only last week, according to the Financial Review, the journal issued by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd to which I referred earlier stated:

For our part, we do believe that the Australian dollar is over-valued by about 17 per cent and consider that the Government should take more note of the positive stimulation that a devaluation would give to local manufacturing industry and to the rural sector and be less worried about the effect of increased import prices.

It was in that context that the Government took its decision. It was a decision in which not only the Country Party but also the Liberal Party took a part. It was a decision taken jointly by the members of the Government. It was taken in the light of the economic facts and the decline in reserves in the relative ratio of the reserves to imports and of the degree to which money was flowing out of Australia. It was taken after advice received from the financial advisers to the Government on the alternatives of a borrowing of $ 1,000m or a devaluation. In those circumstances, I am quite convinced that not only was it the right decision to make but it was the essential thing to do.

On final point to which I should like briefly to refer is the benefit which devaluation will bring to the Australian community. In the rural sector of the economy the change in statistics is such that during the course of this financial year it is assessed that there will be an improvement of about $150m across the whole breadth of the rural sector. The honourable member for Oxley and the Leader of the Opposition have suggested that in some way there will be no benefit to the rural sector. That is utter nonsense. Every one of the rural industries- the dairy industry, the horticultural industry, the sugar industry, the wool industry and the beef industry- will benefit and that benefit will more than off-set the costs. The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion. It is an amendment which suggests that the Government in some way should be censured because of its economic program. What arrant nonsense that assertion is. Indeed, the whole of the restructuring- this devaluation plus the monetary and fiscal measures that accompany it- will ensure that not only will inflation be contained but also there will be a proper redistribution of wealth within the Australian society which will help in the revival of the rural industry, the stimulation of the mining industry and the encouragement of employment within the manufacturing industry which will be very much to the betterment of the Australian community. I move:

The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)

AYES: 81

NOES: 33

Majority……. 48



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Whitlam’s amendment) stand part of the question.

The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock )

AYES: 81

NOES: 32

Majority……. 49



Question so resolved in the affimative.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

page 2973


Melbourne Ports

-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?


– Yes. I wish to correct a misstatement made by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party and Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I think this correction should be recorded. In his speech the Treasurer made reference to the devaluation on 24 September 1974, when I was Treasurer. He claimed that there had been leaks of information which led to substantial transactions. That claim was repeated by the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party. The claim is not correct. The present Deputy Leader of the National Country Party asked me a question in this House the day after the devaluation. In my answer I gave a full explanation and indicated that I had investigated the rumours and found that they were false. I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party and the Treasurer have their own records from which they can see that the claim is entirely unsubstantiated. I resent it.

Sitting suspended from 6.11 to 8 p.m.

page 2973


Motion (by Mr Hunt) proposed:

That leave of absence for one month be given to the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) on the ground of ill health.


– I wish the right honourable gentleman a very quick return to his duties. When he comes back and when he deals with sickness and other benefits I hope he remembers the generosity of the House. I hope he starts to apply those benefits to all Australians instead of trying to chisel them out of the benefits.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 2973


Minister for Aboriginal Affairs · Stirling · LP

– I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. A limited number of copies of the report are available from the Bills and Papers Office. Several copies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.

Ordered that the report be printed.


-I ask for leave to make a short statement in respect of the report.


- (Mr Ian Robinson)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


-In June and July this year I had the honour to lead a delegation from this Parliament to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. The Delegation was drawn from both Houses of the Parliament and from both Government and Opposition parties. The members of that Delegation were Senator G. D. Mcintosh, Senator S. J. Collard, Mr L. K. Johnson, the honourable member for Burke, and Mr P. C. Millar, the honourable member for Wide Bay, and myself accompanied by my Senior Private Secretary, Mr R. W. McHenry, who was Secretary to the Delegation. The visit lasted from 23 June to 15 July. I was required to return to Canberra on government business on 13 July, and my colleague Senator Mcintosh assumed the leadership of the delegation for the remainder of the visit.

The delegation was both a fact finding and a goodwill mission. Its purpose was threefold: to observe the political, social, economic and cultural circumstances of these countries and to develop a greater awareness of their implications; to see how aid from Australia was being used, to make contact with the people involved in aid projects and to study ways in which Australian aid can be most effective; to further goodwill and friendly relationships with our neighbours and particularly with parliamentary colleagues in the South-East Asian region. We believe that our report will show that the mission achieved its aim. It is in 2 parts. The first deals with topics of regional significance such as Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), regional economic development and within this context Australian assistance by way of investment and aid and regional and national aspirations. The second records for the Parliament the collective observations of the delegation in the individual countries visited.

Throughout the visit we were received with every kindness and courtesy, and on your behalf I have expressed this Parliament’s thanks to the parliaments and governments of the host countries and to the various authorities, community organisations and commercial interests involved with our visit. I would also like to express our thanks to those who were responsible for the organisation of the visit; to the Heads of Australian missions and their staffs in the countries visited; to officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra and to the Legislative

Research Section of the Parliamentary Library which provided us with a very comprehensive brief. Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues of the delegation for their ready cooperation and willing support at all times.

page 2974


Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.

page 2974


Assent to the following Bills reported:

Christmas Island Agreement Bill 1976.

Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Bill 1976.

States Grants (Universities) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.

States Grants (Advanced Education) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.

States Grants (Universities Assistance) Bill 1976.

States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Bill 1 976.

States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Bill 1976.

States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.

States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill 1 976.

States Grants (Schools) Amendment Bill 1 976.

States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill 1976.

Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill 1976.

Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1 976.

Airports (Surface Traffic) Amendment Bill 1976.

Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability ) Amendment Bill 1 976.

Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill 1976.

Defences Forces Retirement Benefits Fund (Distribution of Surplus to Pensioners) Bill 1976.

page 2974


Second Reading

Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

– I move:

The main purpose of this Bill is to increase the rates and amounts of compensation payable under the Seamen’s Compensation Act to seamen and their dependants. The Bill will ensure that the monetary rates payable under the Act are kept in line with those contained in the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1976. I should mention, however, that the proposed amendments will not involve any cost to the Commonwealth Government as payments under the Seamen’s Compensation Act are the responsibility of the shipowners.

Increased Compensation

Under clause 7 of the Bill the weekly compensation for total incapacity for work is to be increased from $57 to $80 for a seaman without dependants. The additional weekly supplement for the dependent wife will be increased from $ 1 5 to $2 1 and for each dependent child from $7 to $10. The ceiling which applies in certain circumstances in relation to the weekly payment for partial incapacity is to be increased from $57 to $80. In addition to the increases in weekly incapacity payments, the Bill provides for the lump sum death benefit, to which the lump sum benefits for specified injuries and maximum compensation are related, to be increased from $20,000 to $25,000. The weekly payment in respect of each dependent child of a deceased seaman will be increased from $7 to $10 and the maximum payable in respect of funeral costs will be increased from $450 to $650.

Other Amendments

Clause 3 removes the limit of $1,000 on the amount of compensation payable in respect of medical and ambulance services. This limit currently applies unless, in the opinion of the Minister, the exceptional circumstances of any case warrant payment of an amount in excess of $1,000. The same limit also applied in relation to Commonwealth Government employees but it was dispensed with in 1971 because the practical effect of the limit was to constitute a point of review and never a ceiling on the amounts paid. Similar considerations apply so far as the Seamen’s Compensation Act is concerned and this is the reason for this amendment.

Clause 6 of the Bill removes a restrictive provision contained in sub-section 10A(2) of the Act. The existing provision prevents a seaman, or his dependants in the case of his death, from proceeding against the employer to recover damages unless the proceedings are commenced within 12 months of the date of receipt of the first payment of compensation. The effect of this amendment will be that the ordinary time limits relating to actions for damages will apply. This has been the practice in relation to Commonwealth Government employees since 1971, and the Government considers that seamen should be placed in the same position.

Clause 7, in addition to providing for some of the increases in benefits already mentioned, also includes provisions relating to the weekly payments in respect of dependent children in both death and incapacity cases. Under these amendments such payments will be made in respect of children aged between 16 and 21 years who are full time students not ordinarily in employment. This will bring the Seamen’s Compensation Act into line with the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act and the workers’ compensation legislation of the States. The opportunity has also been taken to make some minor amendments of a formal or technical nature in keeping with current drafting practice. These amendments make no changes of substance.

Application of Amendments

The amending legislation is intended to come into operation on 1 September 1976. The Bill follows past practice in providing for the increased weekly payments to apply from that date, notwithstanding that the payments relate to an injury sustained or disease contracted before that date. Likewise, the increased lump sum payments for death and specified injuries will also apply from 1 September 1976 in all cases where the death occurs or the final degree of injury becomes assessable after that date, even though the death or the specified injury may have resulted from an injury sustained or disease contracted before that date. Increases in other benefits will apply in a similar manner. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.

page 2975


Second Reading

Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The main purpose of this Bill is to provide for increases in benefits payable under the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act which provides workers ‘ compensation for employees of the Commonwealth Government and its statutory authorities. This legislation was last amended for this purpose during the 1974 Budget session of the Parliament. Since then there have been significant increases in the cost of living and in the benefits payable under the workers’ compensation legislation of most of the States. It is therefore necessary and, indeed, only fair that the benefits under the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act should again be increased.

Compensation for Total Incapacity

Employees who have been injured since 2 November 1972 are entitled to receive weekly compensation payments equal to their normal full sick pay rate during the first 26 weeks of total incapacity for work. For long term cases where total incapacity has exceeded 26 weeks, the compensation is based on fixed weekly rates that are specified in the Act. Under the Bill, the fixed weekly rate for a totally incapacitated employee without dependants will increase from $57 to $80. The additional weekly supplement for a dependent spouse will increase from $15 to $21 and the weekly supplement for each dependent child will increase from $7 to $ 10.

Compensation for Partial Incapacity

A similar increase, from $57 to $80 a week, will also apply to the ceiling which operates in relation to the compensation payable for partial incapacity for work.

Compensation for Death

The Bill also provides for increases in the amounts of compensation payable where an injury results in the death of an employee. The basic lump sum payable to dependants will increase from $20,000 to $25,000. The weekly amount payable in respect of each dependent child of a deceased employee will increase from $7 to $10 and the minimum total amount payable for each child will increase from $700 to $1,000. The maximum amount payable in respect of funeral expenses will increase from $450 to $650.

Compensation for Specified Losses

The lump sums payable under the Act for specified losses will also increase. The maximum lump sum payment for such a loss will increase from $20,000 to $25,000 and the lump sums for the less serious losses will increase in the same proportion. For example, payments for severe and permanent facial disfigurement will increase from $10,000 to $12,500 and compensation for loss of the sense of taste or smell will increase from $2,000 to $2,500.

Other Increases

The maximum amount payable for alterations to buildings or vehicles, or repair or replacement of certain aids and appliances, will go up from $500 to $700.

Provision of Vocational Training

The amendment in clause 5 of the Bill is consequential upon a 1974 amendment to the Social Services Act and requires a detailed explanation. Under section 38 ( I) of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act, the Commissioner for Compensation is empowered to arrange with the Director-General of Social

Security for compensation cases to undertake rehabilitation vocational training using the rehabilitation service of the Department of Social Security. It is desirable that both compensation and social service beneficiaries undergoing this training be dealt with on a similar basis.

In 1974, section 135D of the Social Services Act was amended to provide a training allowance for social service beneficiaries that equals the weighted average weekly minimum wage appropriate to the person’s age. It took the place of the rehabilitation allowance and a smaller training allowance that were payable before 1974. This opportunity is being taken to amend the Compensation Act to take account of the 1 974 amendment to section 135D of the Social Services Act. Because compensation cases undergoing training continue to receive compensation benefits, the amendment provides that the training allowance is an amount (if any), by which the person’s normal weekly compensation benefit is less than the weighted average minimum wage appropriate to his age. This will mean that no person receiving compensation payments and undergoing rehabilitation vocational training, will receive less than the person receiving social services benefits undergoing similar training. Both will receive at least the weighted average weekly minimum wage appropriate to their age.

It should be noted that no training allowance is payable where a person undergoing vocational training is receiving a compensation payment equal to or in excess of the weighted average weekly minimum wage. For both compensation and social service beneficiaries undergoing training, a living away from home allowance is also payable where appropriate. It is an amount determined by the Director-General of Social Security that does not exceed 25 per cent of the weighted average weekly minimum wage appropriate to the person’s age.

Other Amendments

The opportunity has also been taken to make some other amendments of a relatively minor nature. The first of these, in clause 3 of the Bill, is consequential upon the new form of citation proposed in the Acts Citation Act 1976. The amendment in clause 4 will clarify a provision regarding costs that was inserted in the Act in 1974. The amendment in clause 6 is consequential upon a change in other legislation referred to in the principal Act. The remaining amendments to the principal Act are set out in clause 8 and schedule 2 and are of a formal or technical nature. They are in keeping with current drafting practice and make no changes of substance.

Application of Amendments

The Bill provides that the amendments will come into operation on 1 September 1976. The Bill contains the usual provisions for the increased weekly payments to apply from that date, notwithstanding that the payments relate to an injury sustained before that date. The increased lump sum payments for death and specified losses will also apply from 1 September 1976 in all cases where the death occurs or the loss is suffered after that date, even though the death or the loss may have resulted from an injury sustained before that date. Increases in other benefits will apply in a similar manner.

Cost of Increased Benefits

The total cost of the increased benefits authorised by the Bill is estimated to be $ 1.77m in a full year. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.

page 2977


The CLERK- Notification has been received from the Leader of the Opposition that he desires to withdraw the want of confidence motion notice of which he gave earlier this day.

page 2977


Second Reading

Minister for Health · Gwydir · NCP/NP

– I move:

The main purpose of this Bill is to make some necessary amendments to the United States Naval Communication Station Civilian Employees) Act as a consequence of the change in citation of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act, provided under clause 3 of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1 976. The Act is a companion piece of legislation which automatically extends the terms of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act to civilians employed by the United States Navy at the naval communication station at North West Cape. This Bill will ensure that the increased rates of compensation being introduced under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Amendment Bill 1976 will be payable under the Act. I should mention, however, that the flow-on of increases in compensation to these employees will not result in any cost to the Commonwealth Government because, under arrangements with the United States Government, payments made under the Act are reimbursed by that Government.

The amendments contained in clauses 3 to 7 of the Bill are of a formal nature and make no changes of substance. The amending legislation is intended to come into operation on 1 September 1976. 1 commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.

page 2977



Ministerial Statement

Debate resumed from 1 1 November on the following paper presented by Mr Newman:

Uranium Exports- Ministerial Statement, 1 1 November 1976 - and on motion by Mr Viner:

That the House take note of the paper.

Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development · Bass · LP

May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this matter? Before the debate is resumed on this order of the day I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this matter and the next order of the day as they are associated with the same subject. 1 suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both orders of the day to be discussed in this debate.


- (Mr Ian Robinson)- Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both matters? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.

Mr E G Whitlam:
Leader of the Opposition · WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– Nothing demonstrates more tragically the inadequacy of the Fraser Government’s response to the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry than its obvious determination to evade and misrepresent the findings of the inquiry. By any standards the Fox report is a document of momentous significance. It deals in measured terms with great and contentious issues, with fundamental questions of human safety and survival; with matters, literally, of life and death. It has been framed with the utmost care after months of exhaustive inquiry. My Government appointed the inquiry because we wanted the most thorough and informed advice on matters of immense importance to the future of our country and to the future of humanity. I pay tribute in this House to the painstaking work of Mr Justice Fox and his fellow commissioners and congratulate them on the studious, temperate and, in its essence, profoundly humane report which they have given the Australian people. We look forward to their second report. It will complete their work and should give the Parliament and the Australian people a comprehensive insight into the uranium question and the grave issues it raises.

It remains true that even with the first report in our hands, politicians can no more speak with certitude or finality on these issues than the com.missoners themselves have been able to do. The great public debate on uranium, which the commissioners recommend and which democracy and commonsense demand, is only now beginning. It must continue. It must continue after the second report is received. The first Fox report is concerned with two paramount issues- one largely technical, one largely political- which scientists, governments and ordinary people must confront. The Fox report is not mainly about mining; it is mainly about the disposal of radioactive waste and the prevention of nuclear proliferation. As politicians we cannot speak as experts on scientific questions, but we can and must speak, with clarity and conviction, on the ethical and social implications at the heart of the decisions we make. It is for that reason that I commend the emphasis in the Fox report on human safety and survival, and endorse its recommendations for limiting nuclear proliferation and strengthening safeguards in the handling of nuclear material.

Except in the most perfunctory terms the Government has said nothing on these issues. It has closed its eyes to the real message of the Fox report. One might have hoped that this debate, with all its grave and complex issues, would be conducted in a non-political atmosphere. Idealists always hope for such debates but it is in the nature of politics that they rarely happen. The Fox report presents us with inescapable choices. We can act upon the spirit and intentions of the report or we can ignore them. We can face its challenge honestly or we can obscure it and dodge it. We may disagree with certain conclusions or dispute a particular emphasis, but if we take the report seriously there is one thing we cannot do: We cannot remain inactive and inert. The Fox report demands a response; it enjoins action. It does not allow us to be passive. I say on behalf of my colleagues that a Labor government will take whatever action is needed to implement the spirit and intention of the Fox report. It is already clear that the present Government will not.

I began by saying that the Government had evaded and misrepresented the inquiry’s findings. I shall document that charge because it reveals clearly not only the dishonesty of the Fraser Government but also its narrow, essentially selfish perception of Australia’s responsibilities. The Ranger report contains 16 substantive findings and recommendations. On 28 October, the day it was issued, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) made a Press statement in which he singled out for emphasis only two of those findings. Anyone reading his statement without seeing the report would have interpreted the report as a firm endorsement of mining. That is how the share market and the industry preferred to view it and it is what the Government encouraged them to believe. The Minister mentioned the first finding of the commission, namely, that the hazards of mining and milling uranium, if properly regulated and controlled, are: ‘Not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines’. This he described as: ‘The first and major recommendation’. There was no justification for calling it the major’ recommendation; it was not in fact a recommendation at all. Then he mentioned the second finding, again misleadingly characterised as a ‘recommendation’, that the hazards involved in the operation of nuclear power reactors, if properly regulated and controlled, are: Not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium ‘.

To present these 2 tentative and cautious statements as a summary of the whole report- to present findings deliberately couched in negative terms as positive and major recommendationswas a distortion of the report and an affront to the commissioners. Yet this was how the Australian people were acquainted with the report’s contents. There was no mention by the Minister of the crucial third finding, that ‘the nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war’. There was no mention of the need for the regulation and control of mining mentioned in the fourth finding. There was no acknowledgement of the dangers and hazards identified by the Commission. In ignoring the true spirit of the report, in leaving the clear impression that the future of rnining was all that mattered, the Government has misled the Australian people. The commissioners themselves are plainly anxious at the way the Government was treating them. On 9 November the political correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald reported:

Mr Justice Fox and his two fellow commissioners are known to be concerned that their report on the Ranger inquiry is being widely interpreted as the go-ahead for the mining and export of uranium, subject to strict control. They have let the Federal Government know privately that they regard this as a serious misinterpretation of their report . . As far as the commissioners are concerned the third finding- that the nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear warcontains their major recommendation: that the questions involved are of such importance that they should be resolved by Parliament.

Mr Chipp:

– How many are in the Parliament now?

Mr E G Whitlam:

-The next 2 speakers on our side at least. I do not know whether the honourable gentleman is being allowed by his masters to speak.

The Australian Financial Review reported this morning:

Justice Fox and the two commissioners from the Ranger environmental inquiry have attacked the Government over its interpretaton of the Fox Report. In a recent letter to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Newman, the Fox commissioners have claimed their first two findings do not amount to recommendations . . . The Government has used these findings to justify honouring existing contracts . . . The Fox commissioners are further concerned that the Government has used the report to support its stated policy for uranium development.

In spite of these facts the Government is still presenting the Fox report as a green light for the mining industry. Its 200-odd pages of closely argued text, its cautious and restrained conclusions, have been swept aside. When the Minister tabled the report he asserted that ‘the principal findings and recommendations of the inquiry . . . relate to the development and export of Australia’s uranium resources’. That was simply not true. The recommendations and findings are overwhelmingly concerned with the hazards of nuclear development. It is not the sort of report which can be answered with sweeping, airy references to the ‘need for the fullest and most effective safeguards’. The report says precisely what these safeguards should be and what we should do about them. The Government must tell the Austraiian people exactly what it proposes to do about them at home and abroad.

I make it clear that the next Labor Government will not feel bound to honour any future contracts entered into by the present Government. Let there be no misunderstanding about the attitude of my Party now or in the future. As a Government we inherited substantial contracts from our predecessors. One-third of the contracts were actually approved after the writs were issued for the elections of December 1972. It is one thing to honour contracts we inherited; we shall be under no obligation, in view of the questionable actions of our predecessors and their misrepresentation now of the Fox report, to honour such contracts in future. My colleagues and I are convinced that, in view of the Fox commission’s findings, no new mining development should be permitted unless a future Labor Government is satisfied that the hazards have been eliminated and satisfactory methods of waste disposal have been developed.

It is now clear that the equivocation and duplicity in the Minister’s Press statement on 28 October and his ministerial statement on 11 November were intended to reassure the rnining industry and soften the public for the go-ahead for new contracts. The Government has deliberately given the impression that the Fox report is encouraging mining. It is not. Nobody should be under any illusions that mining will be permitted under a future Labor Government. Nor should the mining companies be encouraged to believe that because they are in business under one government, they can expect any future government to guarantee their existence. The least the present Government can do is ensure that all the safety procedures recommended in the Fox report apply to the filling of existing contracts. It must observe the recommendation that no decisions be taken on future mining in the Northern Territory until the second report is received. It must give no further approval to mining anywhere in Australia until the safeguards proposed in the report are implemented at home and abroad.

There is one inexcapable conclusion to be drawn from any fair reading of the Fox report. It is not just that Australia must observe existing international safety procedures- that goes without saying- but that Australia must take some further international action to strengthen those procedures. Repeatedly the Fox report harks back to the importance of the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It recognises that Australia is well placed, perhaps uniquely placed, to do something to strengthen the safeguards in the treaty. To shirk that responsibility, that supreme obligation, would in my view be a course of criminal negligence when we consider the solemn facts in this report and the dire tone of its conclusions. Time and again the commissioners return to the theme that Australia cannot idly accept existing safeguards; time and again they point the way to an international initiative by the Australian Government. On page 1 78 of their report they say:

We . . . suggest that, whether or not Australia supplies uranium, it endeavours to have some internationally acceptable system established for the disposal of high-level wastes and international supervision of what is done.

And on page 171 of their report they spell out precisely why Australia has a special place in the international nuclear community. They say:

Australia occupies a very special position in the nuclear scene. It is represented on the Board of Governors of the IAEE, and was represented at the NPT Review Conference held last year. It is possessed of relatively large uranium reserves which by now have attracted world-wide attention . . . It has a nuclear research establishment and a small nuclear industry of its own . . . These features may combine, perhaps with others also, to put Australia in a favourable position to take initiatives, or at least to support them.

It is plain that the Government is treating all this urgent and deeply serious advice with the usual Liberal mixture of sloth and complacency. On the need for stronger international safeguards the Minister had this to say:

The Government believes that a strong national safeguards policy for uranium exports should be complemented, at the international level, by Australia’s continuing to contribute actively to constructive multilateral efforts. In this context the Government welcomes any international initiatives for strengthening the international non-proliferation regime.

In other words, this Government will do nothing. It will sit back and wait for someone else to take action. Can anyone imagine a more supine response to an international problem from a Government uniquely placed to take an initiative? Such an initiative would fully accord with the attitudes of other responsible Western governments and with every signatory to the NPT. Australia must respond to that challenge. The Fox report has shown us the way. It points the way to a steady, patient, difficult, but none the less urgent course for Australia, one that could well diminish the hazards of the nuclear age, and in time perhaps draw humanity back from the edge of nuclear destruction.


-My perception may be keener than that of most people but the soundings that I perceive emanating from the Fox report are all in tune with the establishment of a uranium export industry, subject only to adequate safeguards. Let there be no mistake, the Government is committed to this latter all important pre-requisite. Australia is a great and proud nation, blessed in many ways, particularly in its wealth of mineral resources, the rewards from which are the property of the people who go to make up this nation. Sadly, there are people in the ranks of the Australian Labor Party Opposition who would strangle this financial birthright and so the well being of all Australians. I believe that few issues of greater significance for this nation, and indeed the world, have faced this Parliament. Much debate has raged on the uranium question. Unfortunately much of it has been ill-informed and emotionally illogical. We must accept, because of the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, that people are naturally apprehensive about widespread nuclear developments. However, these fears have been unnecessarily inflamed by emotionalism on the part of certain environmental groups and fanned by irresponsible utterances of Labor politicians. Substantial progress and change often produce hysterical reactions. The scare tactics being used by those committed to stopping the development of an Australian uranium industry have already been seen through and rejected by the American public in a recent series of referendums. I note that the Fox report comments that a number of wildly exaggerated claims about the risk of nuclear power were made by witnesses. I hope we do not get a repeat of that in this Parliament.

Placing this question of uranium development in a global context, the first point I make to the House is that the world has no short term alternative to the use of uranium as an energy source. We must accept the fact that oil can be viewed only as a short term energy provider. Natural gas has similar limitations. Additionally, this energy source should be seen as almost exclusively the long term source of raw material for the petrochemical and related industries. It is often suggested that coal could be used as a practical alternative to uranium in meeting the world ‘s energy needs for the rest of this century. However, this would be physically impossible, and coalfired power stations are a major source of atmospheric pollution already. For example, the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the United States of America has estimated that at least 50 per cent of pollutants in the air capable of causing biological damage result from the burning of fossil fuels for electric power generation. The Fox report indicates similarly that the operation of fossil fuel stations is more of a health hazard than the operation of nuclear reactors.

While arguments in favour of solar energy are attractive, the plain fact of the matter is that this energy source is not capable of commercially meeting the energy crisis which is looming large as the world’s oil sources dry up. Solar energy may be a solution to the energy problems of future generations but certainly not to our own or our children’s. The first thing we must face in this debate is that uranium and the development of nuclear energy represent the only solution to the world ‘s immediate energy problems.

Turning to some substantive questions about the nuclear industry, the first recommendation of the Fox report indicates that the mining and milling of uranium in Australia is a safe process. In informed debates there is agreement, on both sides of the nuclear power issue, that uranium mining carried out under today’s tight regulations is neither an environmental problem nor a health hazard. People are prone to forget that uranium mining was carried out in Australia from 1954 to 1971 successfully and safely. It could hardly be argued that any new radical dangers have developed since then. All Australians can rest content that their own Federal Department of Health, after consultation with federal and State government departments, trade unions, trades and labour councils, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and mining companies, has developed the world’s most stringent code to govern the mining and milling of our uranium.

The second recommendation of the report gives a similar green light to the operation of nuclear power reactors. It is in this area that much of the attack on nuclear energy is astray. Many people honestly believe that nuclear reactors can explode in the same way as a nuclear bomb. Such a theory is nonsense and I refer the House to the Rasmussen report which is the most authoritative study on reactor accident risks. As a result of this report this risk can now be compared to other technological and natural hazards with which society must deal and will always be confronted. That study came up with a quantitative evaluation based on the simultaneous operation of 100 nuclear reactors. A person living near one of these plants would face an average probability of being fatally injured in a nuclear accident of one in five billion per year. His chance of fatality from an automobile accident is one in 4000 while from drowning it is one in 30 000, from air travel it is one in 100 000 and from lightning it is one in 2 million. Among a society of 1 5 million people residing around these sites some 9000 deaths and nearly 600 000 injuries would be expected each year from car accidents, falls, fires and other causes. By comparison less than one fatality and less than one injury would be expected annually from a nuclear accident. One should also appreciate that nuclear reactor usage is no longer at an experimental stage.

I stress that there is no necessity for Australia to have nuclear reactors now or in the immediate future. We can continue to generate electricity by conventional means to meet our own energy requirements adequately. This may well be the key and, if so, the arguments against the mining and milling of this precious commodity, the rewards from which belong to all Australians, would of necessity vanish like a dream. The question of the disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors has also been enveloped in ill-informed hoo haa. Basically 2 separate questions are involved and one is the short term disposal of nuclear wastes. A solution already is at hand for this. Wastes will be stored in massive concrete casks which can withstand all natural phenomena such as earthquakes and floods as well as man-made forces such as fire, sabotage and aeroplane crashes. The important point to remember is that the world should not be stampeded into a rash decision on the question of long term disposal.

I turn now to the question of the benefit to Australians of a uranium export industry. This industry is capable of satisfying by 1985, 20 per cent at least of the world market and could be expected to earn for the good of this nation in the vicinity of $3,000m per year at projected prices. By comparison, the wool industry currently earns about $800m while our total mineral exports currently earn about $2,500m. The Fox report at page 83 indicated that foreign exchange earned by uranium exports would rise to a maximum of about 5 per cent of total export earnings by the early 1990s.

Mr Uren:

– It is 0.5 per cent.


– I will be getting around to the honourable member in a minute. It must also be noted that uranium prices will slide as time goes by. This will occur particularly as a result of the introduction of fast breeder reactors. This point also is made in the report at page 63. Nowhere is the dithering more evident than amongst honourable members opposite. We have seen a series of conflicting public attitudes expressed by them which leaves me, and I am sure the people of Australia and others in the Parliament, thoroughly confused about who speaks with authority on their behalf or who can make a statement which will not be contradicted or rolled by some other faction in the Labor Party. All I can say is that this nation is lucky those honourable members are now in Opposition. If they were in Government Australia’s uranium would grow steadily worthless while they argued with one another. If we continue to dither we could well be sitting on a worthless rather than a valuable commodity.

Australia with a large share of the world’s uranium reserves must also look to its international responsibilities. The peoples of the world, poor and wealthy, want more and more power to improve standards of living and Australia has a moral obligation to contribute to that improvement by the supply of uranium. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to bear that in mind next time he pontificates on the morality of the uranium issue. In a speech to the Australian Railways Union on 26 June this year he said:

If the companies and the present Government want to take it out of the ground and out of Australia then they must be prevented from doing so.

Such a statement is an appalling condemnation of this gentleman. The only authority which has a mandate to make policy on the export of uranium is the democratically elected Parliament. No union has the right to defy the decisions made by the Government on this issue. It is interesting to contrast that statement with the attitude taken by the American trade union leader, George Meany, who recently said:

Because of the efforts of the labour movement progress in America will not be strangled due to unwise and obsessive restraints on development of safe nuclear energy.

The attempt by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to incite union blackmail on this issue is both serious and sinister. Perhaps this so-called great proponent of the ‘fair go for all Australians’ does not want an industry which will provide employment for 10 000 Australians by 1985 and produce a wages bill alone which will make available some $2m to be fed back into the economy every week. Denying the world access to Australia’s uranium reserves will not help to alleviate this most serious problem. Page 70 of the Fox report states:

Clearly, the development of nuclear power in the rest of the world can continue whether or not Australian uranium is made available.

It is not essential to have nuclear power stations to produce a nuclear weapons capability. All nations have access to uranium ores from the ever-growing milling industry or from sea water. Separation processes can be used to acquire weapons material from these sources. Of course it is common sense that any country hell bent on building a nuclear bomb would hardly be deterred by having to obtain uranium at a high price from sources other than Australia. Finally I refer to my own maiden speech in this House on 4 March this year. I said:

I think it is important that we develop uranium markets as soon as possible. Let there be no mistake, the world wants Australia’s uranium and it is prepared to pay vast amounts for it.

Since that time interest in the uranium issue has certainly been increased, but nothing has occurred to change my firm conviction on this issue.

Let us then proceed with the development of a full- scale uranium export industry from which all Australians of this great nation can benefit.


-Time does not permit me to answer the spurious arguments of the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney). I state quite clearly that I do not consider this exchange in the Parliament as in any way constituting a public debate of the issues examined and still being examined by the Fox Commission. I will not subscribe to the view being put by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the Ranger inquiry itself constitutes a full examination by the people of the uranium and nuclear industry issue. If the Government is trying to suggest that this now is a national parliamentary debate on the Ranger inquiry and this now is reflecting the views being expressed in the community it is very much mistaken. The Minister knows perfectly well that he has not consulted the general community at all. The Fox Commission has not even completed its work. We have had only the first of its reports to hand.

This limited debate, with a few members of this House speaking for 15 minutes each, is a farce and a sham. Public debate is debate by the people, and it takes time. The idea of consulting with the people may be a bit strange for this Government, but it can be done. The Austrian Government recently commenced a nationwide discussion of the nuclear issue. Its program seems to take particular care not to waive the debate according to pre-determined government intentions. A significant and growing proportion of the Australian population wants time and the debate. My Party has joined with many concerned groups in the community- trade unions, Aboriginal people, church groups, women’s groups, environmentalists and groups of citizens concerned with the preservation of democractic rights- in condemning the haste of the Government in making its 11 November statement, its disregard of the final recommendation of the Fox report and its general stance on the issue of uranium mining development. The people have a mandate for their debate and their right to be consulted on the final recommendations of the Fox report. I also draw attention to page 6 of the Fox report which states:

Ultimately many of the questions are social and ethical ones. We agree strongly with the view that the final decision should rest with the ordinary man and not be regarded as the preserve of any group of experts however distinguished.

The Fox Commissioners clearly state on page 181 that because of the arguments put to them they cannot draw a firm conclusion one way or the other between placing a moratorium on the decision to go ahead with mining or to proceed with carefully planned development of the industry. The Commissioners have handed the matter over to the people, but this Government has intervened. This Government, by its actions and its statement made ironically on 1 1 November of this year, has tried to ignore both the Fox report and the people ‘s rights.

The Government has taken a major decision to export over 16 000 tonnes of Australia’s uranium from sources that are insufficient to meet export contracts involved. Implicit in this decision is that new uranium mines must be opened; that uranium mining development will go ahead. The Government’s 11 November statement completely casts aside the social and ethical questions involved with the Government’s typical contempt for such considerations. It only pays lip service to matters of safeguard requirements, the control of Australia’s uranium exports after they leave the shores and, most importantly, nuclear weapons proliferation. Guidance offered by the Fox Commission on all these matters has been cynically and dangerously cast aside. In continuing to press the Government for sufficient time and a true public debate I recognise the extent of the desire by certain elements in the conservative parties for fullscale mining development. This Government has only ever paid lip service to the Ranger inquiry. It made public statements about not doing anything before the outcome of the inquiry was known but privately it has gone ahead encouraging mining companies to enter into long term contracts for supplying uranium, including the supply to such dangerous regimes as the government of Iran. Members of this Government have gone themselves and sent their bureaucrats to solicit foreign investment for uranium mining projects.

Earlier this year the Government provided a special guarantee of an Australia and New Zealand Bank loan that it arranged for Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. It guaranteed that Australia’s uranium would be exported to the United Kingdom to replace in kind uranium borrowed by MKU. If the Fox findings were truly to provide a basis for the decisions on mining and export of uranium how in heaven’s name can the Government have proceeded in this manner? The Fox report at page 83 shows clearly that the large capital investors are the only ones who will benefit substantially from uranium mining development. The drive for profit is the only motivation of the uranium producers’ forum in

Australia. Commitment to a narrow ideological position has drawn this conservative Government and key elements of the bureaucracy into support for and advancement of these interests. Their empty statements on safeguards, controls and concerns about nuclear war do nothing to mask their basic concerns with advancing the interests of uranium mining companies, regardless of the social and environmental costs that ordinary Australians may have to pay.

The only really surprising thing about the Government’s statement of 1 1 November is the haste with which it made its decision. It is clear that time is the enemy of the Government and the pro-uranium lobby. The longer the Australian people have to consider the issue and the more it is talked about, the more concerned people become; the longer the Government delays, the more opposition it will face. So the Government has acted quickly. It has acted while it still has a manageable opposition in Australia. It has acted now to crush the union bans on uranium exports as part of its overall attack on the unions. The Government recognises that once exports are flowing and business gets under way, it will be extremely difficult for an alternative government or the people themselves to extract Australia from this so-called commitment. On reflection, it is easy to understand why the Government is in such a hurry. I can see clear reasons for the Government’s deciding to proceed by giving the go-ahead to immediate exports. Firstly, meeting contracts from Australian sources right now is a ploy to break the union bans. The Government clearly recognises that the union bans are the only way mining and export can be held up until the Australian people examine the real issues. That is why the bans have to be removed one way or another. Secondly, the decision has been taken in this way because of the disastrous financial position of Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. While the delay of exports has added to the company’s financial difficulties, mismanagement, especially in cost estimates, has been the overwhelming factor.

Now the Australian people are being denied any say in this important issue so that the Government can get MKU off the hook. The major interest in MKU is Conzinc Rio-Tinto of Australia Ltd which, in turn, is a subsidiary of the giant Rio-Tinto Zinc of the United Kingdom. Rio-Tinto Zinc controls 1 5 per cent of the known uranium deposits of the western world and it completely monopolises the uranium deposits of South Africa. This Government’s priorities are strange, to say the least. The newspapers tell us that some Government backbenchers see uranium mining development as the source of the much hoped for economic recovery. Certainly, a 17.5 per cent devaluation will do much to draw in foreign investment into new mining projects. If the Government’s backbenchers look closely at the mining lobby’s claim of vast economic benefits to Australia from uranium mining development, they will see that the claims are empty. The Fox report again provides the evidence. At page 83, it states: . . contribution to net national income and employment opportunities would be relatively small.

Optimal development of all Australia’s uranium, it states:

  1. . would probably result in an increase of about 0.1 per cent of national income in 1980-81, rising to about 0.S per cent in 1990-91.

Therefore it would decline. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) was only 4.5 per cent out. Anti-trust actions in the United States court by Westinghouse threatens the price base upon which even that modest economic benefit is based. I am sure that at least some Government backbenchers, like members of the Australian Labor Party, are concerned about the present and prospective unemployment situation in Australia and about the serious problems of Australia’s manufacturing industry. Uranium mining offers not even a partial solution to the unemployment situation. The Fox report says that the employment benefits of Ranger are limited. After a 2-year construction phase, 250 men will be required to produce 3000 tonnes of uranium per annum.

The new mining development is highly capital intensive. The supposed sequential development of the uranium mines means that the total workforce will remain small. The mining lobby says that the indirect employment benefits are much greater. Given the remote location of the proposed mines, that is highly questionable. Mining machinery will not be made in Australia. It will be imported. On the other hand, the indirect employment cost will be great. This is because of the adverse impact of mining sector development on the rural and manufacturing sectors of the economy. I ask honourable members of the Country Party to take heed of this. Mining requires vast amounts of capital. In part, this capital is redirected from investment in other sectors of the economy, particularly from manufacturing industry. One only had to look at the recent investment decisions of companies such as the Bank of New South Wales, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd to see the vast rechannelling that is taking place in their investments.

Meanwhile, the steel plants of BHP deteriorate and the new, more labour intensive manufacturing ventures are denied investment funds.

In setting this course for a massive structural change in the Australian economy, of which uranium mining development is a major part, this Government has acted contrary to the best interests of the working population and the large number of small and medium size industrial enterprises in our country. This Government seems intent on committing Australia to a supplier role in the western world’s nuclear energy industry. It has signed up this and future governments, this and future generations, for a role that the people have not had time to consider and almost certainly will not want. Growing numbers of people oppose the Government’s action. The parliamentary Labor Party has given notice that it will not be bound by new contracts approved by this Government. Trade unions have stated that they will prevent the resumption of uranium exports until public discussion has taken place and the people decide on the issue.

Mr Baillieu:

– How long will that take?


– The Government should recognise the legitimate demands and rights of the people. The honourable member for La Trobe asks: ‘How long will that take?’ The time that it will take is not important. Whether it takes 1 or 2 years; the fact is that the debate should take place. The people should have a basic understanding of the major decisions that the Government is making. The Government is making decisions which not only will affect the involvement of the whole of mankind but which also will have major consequences for the whole structure of employment in Australia in decades ahead.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I should like to move an amendment to the motion before the House. I believe that I have been given the opportunity to do so by the fact that the Opposition has not moved an amendment to the motion. I move:

If this means voting against the Government and against my Party, so be it. I mention in passing that it will be the first time in 1 6 years in this Parliament that I have done so. I say this after having read the Fox report thoroughly on at least 4 occasions. The question posed to me is: Should Australia mine and mill its uranium deposits? I believe that this is the most important subject discussed in this Parliament since the Vietnam war.

Mr Justice Fox says that it is one of the most important things discussed by this Parliament. As I speak, Mr Deputy Speaker, Mr Speaker is not in the Chair, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is not in the House, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is not in the House, Cabinet is meeting, only 2 Ministers are in the House and since this debate began on something which I believe is the most important subject since the Vietnam war the attendance of members of Parliament in the chamber has ranged from eleven to nineteen. Indeed, there are only 5 representatives of the Press in the Press Gallery at this time. Not for the first time, my judgment of what is an important issue facing Australia is wrong. I should have thought that uranium is a very special metal. It contains fissile atoms. It is used or misused in 3 main ways. Firstly, it is used to produce heat to generate electricity; secondly, it is used in the field of medical therapy; and thirdly, it is used to produce nuclear bombs.

I begin by quoting one of the principal findings of the Fox report. Its starkness and clarity of language need no embellishment. On page 185 under the heading ‘Findings and Recommendations ‘, the report states:

The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war.

Before examining future risks the report reminds us on page 25 of the current situation. Nineteen countries now have nuclear power stations. Another 7 countries have power reactors under construction and another 6 countries have them on order. The discussion tonight then is about the future. The question is: Is it safe, is it prudent and is it responsible for this Parliament, such as it is assembled now, to respond to the challenge given directly in the Fox report by agreeing to allow Australia’s uranium to be used at this stage to add to the world’s nuclear proliferation?

Let me make it perfectly clear that I am not saying that uranium should never be mined or that nations of the world should never use nuclear energy. What I am saying is that this time man’s knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of the proper regulation and control of the production of uranium and the hideous dangers inherent in its use or misuse is such that we as a Parliament should follow the advice of such expert commissions as the Fox inquiry in Australia and the Flowers Royal Commission in the United Kingdom. After reading the findings contained in those reports, the answer is that we should wait. The very last words contained in the Fox report state its oft repeated plea that no decision should be taken until a reasonable time has elapsed. This leads us to ask: What is a reasonable time? A heavy suggestion for a 2 year delay is contained at pages 1 80 and 1 8 1 of the report.

I must say that I find it almost incredible that the Government took only 14 days from the issue of the Fox report to decide that it would honour existing contracts totalling 9000 tonnes from Mary Kathleen. My dismay at that announcement was deepened by the pathetic decision of the Labor Party 6 days later which was almost identical to the decision of the Government. The magnitude of the problem that this Parliament is now discussing cannot be compared to the possible pollution that can be produced by a Newport power station or the possible environmental destruction of a Fraser Island. I say quite deliberately, after having tried to choose words that are not tainted by melodrama or exaggeration, that the problem being discussed tonight could have some bearing on the future of this planet and on the survival of life on it. These are strong words but, I believe, words which can be justified by the evidence before us.

There have been very few, if any, previous occasions in my time in this Parliament when it could be said that a debate in this isolated, relatively non-influential, obscure national Parliament of Australia could have an effect on the rest of the world. But tonight it is true. Firstly, Australia has 25 per cent of the world’s known reserves of uranium. That is significant in itself. What is even more important is that Australia has 70 per cent of the western world’s uncommitted reserves. Therefore, in terms of quantity alone, a decision of this Parliament is important to the world’s future course in using or not using nuclear energy as opposed to other forms of energy. But our importance goes even further than that. Any nation that wants to buy uranium, enrich it, use it or sell it must indulge in a massive capital outlay.

The cost of producing electricity from nuclear power is now only marginally cheaper, if at all cheaper, than the production of electricity from fossil fuels. If Australia withheld, even temporarily, its reserves, world prices of uranium would escalate and influence nations to opt for cheaper sources of power. As the Fox report mentions, a more intensive search would be undertaken to harness the safest and cleanest source of energysolar power. Secondly, for a nation to involve itself in the high capital cost of building enrichment plants or nuclear reactors, it would need a source of supply from a country such as Australia because of Australia’s stable political background. It would not contemplate establishing an industry where the source of its raw materials came from a banana republic or a country with an uncertain political future. Therefore, what we do with our uranium could have and probably will have a direct effect on the course of the world ‘s nuclear proliferation.

I want to emphasise this point because there are many people who might agree with the clear dangers and reservations expressed by Mr Justice Fox and by the Flowers Royal Commission but who say resignedly: ‘What is the use? If we do not sell our uranium someone else will sell theirs. ‘ This argument cannot be sustained by the known facts and logical assumptions. I now list some of the dangers, risks and future possibilities of nuclear proliferation as documented not by me but by the Fox report. With regard to the dangers of radiation, the report states at pages 108 and 109:

Apart from rapidly fatal effects (within days) of high doses the major consequences of radiation are cancer, which may occur some years after the individual has been exposed and gene mutations which may occur in subsequent generations.

At page 109, referring to waste products, the report states:

Tailings contain radio-active materials which will remain harmful for over 100 000 years.

When referring to the danger of serious accidents, the report states on the same page:

The conclusion with regard to thermal reactors is that there is a very small but finite probability of a serious accident with release of highly dangerous radio-active material. The numerous accidents involving faulty function that have occurred in nuclear power stations, together with serious accidents known to have occurred in military installations, give no grounds for complacency.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard 2 pages supplied by the Defence, Science and Technology Group of the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library concerning the dangers of nuclear accidents.


-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows:

page 2986


At 12.20 p.m. on 22 March 1975, a fire started in the cable room of the 2200 megawatt Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama. The fire was caused by electricians testing for leaks with a candle. It was believed by management that the urethane sheet foam used to seal leaks was fireproof. It was subsequently believed that C02 and dry chemicals rather than water were appropriate for extinguishing the fire. Both conclusions were wrong.

Beginning at 12.55 p.m. on the same day, the electrical supply was lost both to control and power normal and emergency equipment on one of the reactors. The normal coolant system was lost, the low and high pressure emergency core-cooling system was lost, the reactor core spray system was lost, and the reactor core isolation cooling system was lost. As a result, the level of cooling water above the hot reactor core dropped down to 48 inches from the normal 200 inches. At one stage, only a single surviving pump staved off a disastrous melt down. At last a makeshift arrangement with another pump not even part of the safety system brought the reactor under control. It was not until 4.10 a.m. on 23 March that final shutdown was possible.

The second reactor was shut down much earlier, but it had lost two-thirds of its emergency core-cooling capability early in the incident. An external pump was found necessary. The fire was at least extinguished with water around 6.20 p.m. on the 22nd. Many emergency procedures were found defective or were disobeyed during the critical 24 hours.

B. Acts of Sabotage Against Nuclear Plant

There are at least five examples of successful attacks on nuclear power stations.

  1. . August 1 97 1 : An intruder wounded a night watchman at the incomplete Vermont Yankee U.S. power station.
  2. November 1971: Arson causing US$5- 10m of damage at the Indian Point No. 2 (U.S.) reactor.
  3. Early 1975: An incomplete reactor at Fessenheim, France, bombed by terrorists. Equipment ready for assembly inside the reactor badly damaged.
  4. Mid- 1 975: Guerillas took temporary possession of an incomplete reactor in Argentina. No damage reported.
  5. August 1975: The demonstration reactor operating at Brennilis, France, was lightly damaged by terrorist bombing.

    1. Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Status within the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The PLO has been granted observer status within the IAEA, dating from the 1976 General Conference of the latter organisation.

  1. Plutonium in High-Level Radioactive Waste

Some 0.5 per cent of the weight of high-level reactor waste is made up of plutonium-239, a powerful alpha-particle emitter with a half-life of 24 400 years. Although the exact toxicity of plutonium in human beings is not known with any certainty, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) sets 0.64ug and 0.26ug respectively for radiation workers as the maximum allowed burden for whole body and lungs. There is almost certainly a degree of safety built into these limits but the exact margin is unknown. At any rate, plutonium-239 must be regarded as an extremely potent carcinogen when placed on the skin or ingested. In soluble form, plutonium irradiates bone marrow to cause leukaemia. Insoluble atmospheric plutonium particles can cause lung cancer. 30 November 1976

Defence, Science and Technology Group Legislative

Research Service


-I thank the House. The report states that high level wastes, as distinct from lower level wastes, will remain radio-active for several hundreds of thousands of years. On page 148, the Fox report states:

We conclude that nuclear material should be supplied to a state only on the basis that its entire nuclear industry is subject to back-up safeguards that cannot be terminated by unilateral withdrawal.

Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) assure this House that those kinds of safeguards are realistic? But is there any such thing as back-up safeguards? The Fox report goes on to say at page 149:

There is widespread disinclination amongst states to accept regular inspections.

With regard to safeguards from international terrorism, the report makes this devastating remark:

An attempt by even a small, well trained and armed group to take over a nuclear installation could have a good chance of success.

The Fox report states, using double negatives, that there is no reason to stop mining provided it is properly regulated and controlled. Before any responsible government proceeds with the mining and milling of uranium it must, I suggest, after the warnings and constraints of the Fox Commission completely satisfy the conditions of proper regulations and control, particularly in the light of the following sentences contained on page 152 of the report: . . The Commission does not feel confident that nuclear facilities would currently withstand determined assaults by terrorist organisations.

I remind the House that the Flowers Commission in the United Kingdom reached almost identical conclusions. If this sentence is read literally and acted upon sincerely it means that no uranium, if we are genuine about this matter, could be or should be sold under the present conditions. The Fox report says:

There is widespread disinclination among states to accept regular inspections . . .

Another threat was sabotage of nuclear plants causing destruction, a radiation hazard to surrounding populations and costly disruption of power systems … an event which has already occurred in Argentina.

Sir, I conclude on this note: Frankly, I have not been impressed by many of the arguments put forward by the pro-nuclear lobby. One of these is that nuclear energy will help the developing nations. The Fox report at page 56 clearly illustrates that nuclear energy will not help developing nations to any significant degree because it needs large power stations and large investments which developing nations do not have.

Sir Philip Baxter says that Australia’s most obvious customers are Japan, West Germany and the United States of America. I pause by respectfully asking the House to contemplate the military track record of at least two of that select trio of nations or, for that matter, the whole trio. Sir Philip Baxter says of the pro-nuclear lobby: Let us sell to those nations, knowing that the safeguards in such a sale are, according to Fox, an illusion. Sir Philip Baxter goes on: Let us sell to Japan, let us also reprocess nuclear fuel from other countries. I quote Sir Philip direct:

Over the next 10-15 years the world could become a lawless place with the United States alliance breaking down and conflict between Russia and America with China being dragged in.

It is quite possible that Australia might find itself enemies with Japan. We could only defend ourselves with the most sophisticated weapons possible, of which nuclear bombs should be an option.

What a perfect catch 22. Sir Philip Baxter says: Let us sell uranium to Japan; let it make nuclear bombs; therefore, because we might be enemies with Japan one day, we must also make nuclear bombs to protect ourselves from Japan. Sir, the communists will support the banning of uranium. They will do this for devious reasons. They will ask Australia not to mine uranium, while preserving a thunderous silence about Russia and China doing it. What I plead tonight is that this will not be a politically polarised debate but that this debate might be considered by the people of Australia with its true implications understood.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Bryant:

– Yes. I second the amendment. I reserve my right to speak at a later hour.


-Mr Deputy Speaker, this debate encompasses the contents of two documents, the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and the Ministerial statement by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) in respect to the supply of Australian uranium under existing international contracts. In fact the debate should only be upon the first report of the Ranger Inquiry but in its indecent haste the Government, within days of the presentation of this report, made a statement of policy indicating its intention to supply uranium under the existing contracts. The report of the Ranger Environmental Inquiry or the Fox Report, as it is known, is a document of international significance. One could not but be impressed by the mass of technical detail in the report and the assessment of evidence and the clear picture it provides of the international nuclear industry. The report deals carefully with the questions of nuclear proliferation, waste disposal, human safety and associated matters.

However, one must feel disappointed with the manner in which the Fox Commission has discharged its obligations to the Parliament in the terms of its findings and recommendations. In this regard the report is ambiguous and uncertain and the import of its findings and recommendations is repeatedly countered by hard opinion and conclusions written into the body of the report. I feel I am able to say that the Fox Commission has let the nation down by not providing hard recommendations to the Parliament, to the Government and to the country. Of course recommendations do not have to be accepted but it is preferable that they be made, particularly by people who, at large public expense- something like $2m in this instance- have been immersed in the complexities of the nuclear question and have had the advantage of taking evidence under oath. Nobody else in public life will have the benefits of this exposure to such a complex question. That is why I believe it is unacceptable for the Commission to say, in its recommendations and findings, that certain matters should be determined by the Parliament.

Of course, they will be determined by the Parliament. At least they must be determined by a Government. But what the Parliament sought was some firm recommendations to consider. For instance, why could there not have been firm recommendations on uranium supply in relation to existing contracts. This aspect is alluded to in the body of the report, yet nothing appears in the recommendations. I notice that in today’s Press it is reported that Mr Justice Fox has written to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) complaining of the Government’s misinterpretation of the Commission’s recommendations and findings. It said amongst other things that what have been taken to be recommendations were in fact only findings. I recognise the Commissioners’ concerntheir concern as to the Government’s glib interpretation of a complex document. But why did the Commission not distinguish recommendations from findings. The Commission must have realised in presenting a highly political document like this to a government, particularly a government with the present Government’s predilections, that the Government would attempt where possible, for its own selfish reasons, to drive a horse and cart through the conclusions listed. It is to no avail for the Commission now to cry over this misinterpretation of its report. It should have had enough sense to make its findings, conclusions and recommendations clear, firm and unequivocal. If the commissioners could not find agreement amongst themselves, they should have introduced a majority and a minority report so that there were arguments and conclusions backing firm recommendations. At least then a clear choice would be available. It is to be hoped that in their second report the Commissioners have learned their lesson and that they write recommendations firmly.

Now let me deal with the Government’s goodwill or lack of it. The Government, I believe, made a decision a long time ago to mine and export Australian uranium on a large scale basis. The Ranger report talks of possible export tonnages of 15 000 tons a year in 1985 and up to 30 000 tons a year by 1990-1992. This is what the debate is all about- whether Australia moves into wholesale uranium exports or not. Of course the Government and the Prime Minister are now saying that further decisions as to exports will not be made until the presentation of the second report of the Ranger Commission, that is, the report pertaining to the Northern Territory. But this is only window dressing. In making his statement on existing contracts, the Minister failed to mention that the supply of uranium currently available in Australia from mining and stockpiles fails to meet the totality of the existing contracts. This has not been dealt with in the Minister’s statement for the simple reason that the Government intends to go ahead with new mining developments in Australia to meet the shortfall under the existing contracts and to meet new contract commitments.

While the Prime Minister at question time today said that he will wait upon the presentation of the second report and preaches a wait and see policy, in fact, unless I am badly mistaken, he and his Government are determined to press ahead with large scale uranium mining in Australia. The Prime Minister’s crude attempt to jam the Opposition into a premature debate on the uranium issue last Tuesday week by his announcement the previous Thursday of the Government’s decision on the existing contracts failed when the Opposition took the challenge and determined an attitude to that particular question. Honourable members will be aware now that the Opposition has determined that in government it would prohibit the export of uranium from new uranium mines for an indefinite period and indicated that it will not honour any new contracts that were signed by the Fraser Government or any other future conservative government. The Opposition would have enjoyed and should have enjoyed the luxury of some time to consider and determine its attitude to this vital question, to consider the Fox report in the light of public attitudes towards it and the question of the nuclear industry. It has been denied this consideration by a crude Prime Minister who believes he can crash his way through everyone and everything to secure his purpose. If I am correct and the Government presses ahead with new uranium mining in Australia, it will do so in disregard of the notice of caution articulated in the Fox report.

On the broader front of the nuclear debate in Australia, the big danger is that the debate could get bogged down in the relatively minor matter concerning exports under the existing contracts. Let me deal for a moment with this aspect. At present the only mine operating in Australia is the Mary Kathleen mine in Queensland. It has a life of about seven to eight years remaining. Its productive capacity is an effective 800 tons per year. Its remaining reserves amount to 1.8 per cent of Australia’s total proven reserves of 350 000 short tons. If the Government’s policy is to meet the existing contracts to Japan, the United States and West Germany, which amount to 1 1 757 short tons, supplied from the remaining ore body at Mary Kathleen and from the Atomic Energy Commission stockpile, it will amount to a policy to export 2.8 per cent of Australia’s total reserves under the existing contracts.

The Opposition does not demur from this course, but that is hardly what is at issue. The issue is, as I said earlier, whether Australia should get plugged into the international nuclear industry by allowings its large uncommitted reserves to buttress the expansion of that industry. I believe, and the Opposition believes, that at this moment, given what the Fox Commission reveals about the hazards associated with the nuclear industry and given some of the firm statements which were made in the report urging caution and delay, Australia should not, at this stage, commit itself to promote the expansion of the nuclear industry.

Let me quote some relevant extracts from the body of the report. First I shall quote from paragraph 7 of the findings and recommendations on page 185. The House should take cognisance of these statements. 1 quote:

Policy respecting Australian uranium exports, for the time being at least, should be based on a full recognition of the hazards, dangers and problems of and associated with the production of nuclear energy, and should therefore seek to limit or restrict expansion of that production.

From page 181:

We recognise the importance of these factors, (that is, the impact of development upon prices) and would not contemplate suggesting that a delay be considered if we were not convinced that the hazards associated with the nuclear industry are of overriding national and international significance.

Take the extract from section 3 of the principal findings and recommendations on page 185.

The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry. Complete evaluation of the extent of the risk and assessment of what course should be followed to reduce it involve matters of national security and international relations which are beyond the ambit of the inquiry.

Obviously from statements of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development at the time of the delivery of the Fox report and on the occasion of the statement in the House of Representatives pertaining to existing contracts, the Government does not take the Fox Commission’s warnings seriously. He referred to item 1 of the findings and recommendations as ‘the first major recommendation of the report’. Clearly this is not the case. His subsequent statement indicates that he believes, and the Government believes, that it is the case. His original statement and his subsequent statement have been interpreted by the mining industry and by the investing public as a clear endorsement by the Government of uranium mining. The Australian stock exchange responded to the Government’s statement and the media broadly interpreted the Commission’s report and the subsequent ministerial statement as a green light for uranium mining in Australia.

The Government has engaged and is engaging in a massive deception, and the Fraser Island decision in respect of the dishonouring of contracts following the environmental report is but a throw-away to the environmentalists in Australia to gain some ground for the Government to move rapidly into the development of uranium resources. At this point in time the Government has made no acknowledgment of the dangers and hazards associated with nuclear power mentioned by the Commission throughout the body of its report. In turning its back upon the true spirit of the report the Government is misleading the Australian people and setting Australia on a course that it may later regret.

Let it be made perfectly clear that the Opposition does not support the establishment of new uranium mining capacity in Australia until the nuclear industry has put its house in order. A future Labor government will not be bound by decisions taken by the Fraser Government or any other conservative government, in relation to uranium. In the meantime, as an Opposition and as a future government, the Labor Party will seek to improve the proliferation safeguards applying to the international nuclear industry. It will also closely monitor developments in waste disposal technology, the absence of which is now militating against the development of the nuclear industry for electricity generation throughout the world.

Whether Australia supplies uranium to the world or not it should not abrogate its responsibilities in developing new energy technology. Australians are in a very fortunate position. In electricity generation terms we are abundantly rich in energy resources, particularly brown and black coal; so rich that it is difficult to envisage in the medium term the need to develop nuclear power as a source of electricity generation in this country. However, energy supply is becoming a critical global problem. Australia must not shirk its responsibilities and must be at the forefront in research into new energy forms.

In conclusion, I urge the Government to take heed of the Fox Commission’s call for a full public debate before a decision is taken in respect of the establishment of new uranium mines and not to commit Australia to a role in the expansion of nuclear power which its citizens and their children may regret. In all decency, the Government must wait until the issues are thrashed out in the public forums before any substantial decisions are made.


-Today we are faced with one of the most difficult decisions ever to be made by the Parliament, because upon this decision will rest the welfare of millions of people. Indeed, the welfare and standard of living of a vast majority of the people on earth could rest upon this decision. But the fact that this decision is difficult does not mean that we should flinch from making it- quite the contrary. We should make a firm, well thought-out decision as early as possible so that everybody may know it, understand it and understand the rationale behind it. I state that we should mine and sell uranium. We have heard a lot about the dangers of mining and processing uranium. We have been inundated with alarmist calls about the dangers of using uranium for the generation of power. We have been subjected to the most frightening stories about the storage of nuclear waste. I know there are some dangers but if stringent safeguards are implemented the dangers will be minimised. The scaremongering forebodings are not substantiated by facts.

The truth is that the mining of the relatively low grade deposits of uranium in Australia, principally by open pit mining methods, by safety conscious people is no more dangerous than any other mining operation and is far less injurious to health than the underground mining of many other minerals. In fact there exists adequate medical evidence which strongly links underground mining in poor conditions to all sorts of respiratory diseases and skin complaints. This has nothing to do with uranium. Because of the specific care which will be exercised in mining uranium and because it appears that the known deposits will be mined by open pit mining methods, the incidence of mining illness will be considerably less than in the mining of other materials. The method of concentration to produce a salable yellow cake are not unlike any other mineral chemical leaching process and are certainly no more dangerous. The amount of radiation in the mining and concentration stages is negligible, but the benefits to Australia and Australians are immense.

A study paper prepared by the brilliant Mr William Wright and Mr John Silver of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has stated that the immediate setting up of a uranium industry, with the aid of scientists, could result in earnings of $3,000m a year by 1985. The paper, published in the Commission’s monthly digest, Atomic Energy, says that such an industry could directly employ 3500 people with another 3000 in indirect projects. It would need an investment of $ 1,750m over the next 9 years, most of which would be spent in Australia and would provide employment and growth. Those figures would be even greater today. The paper was prepared with the full knowledge of Mr Wright and Mr Silver. In the report the director of the unit claims that by the mid or late 1 980s uranium could be one of Australia’s most important mineral exports in terms of overseas earnings and could be earning considerably more than the wheat or wool industries. By 1985 the industry could provide employment for 8000 to 10 000 people. The report argues against withholding Australia’s resources from development, saying that our influence on the international market is not great enough to affect the Western world. Australia has about 19 per cent of the West’s reasonably assured lowgrade low-cost resources of uranium. Although it makes little difference to the rest of the world if Australia exports its uranium, it could deny Australia real benefits in foreign currency earnings, employment and national development if we do not do so. The alternative policy of development of resources would make it financially beneficial to install plants immediately for the conversion of yellowcake into enriched uranium.

The use of uranium in nuclear reactors is the safest method of generating power at a reasonable cost. It is far safer than the generation of power from coal. Almost daily people are dying from the effects of coal-fired power stations, but no one is getting emotional over coal. That is to say nothing of the dangers and deaths that are occurring in the actual mining of coal as well as its processing to the point where it can be used for power generation. The long term dangers from coal-fired power stations continually spewing out large amounts of CO are diluting the earth’s atmosphere to the extent that radiation from the sun ‘s rays is a real threat to life on earth. The dangers from uranium-fuelled reactors is minimal. I quote no less an eminent authority than Professor Titterton. He quotes figures that show that after 20 years’ generation of nuclear power there have been no deaths from any accidents in nuclear power plants, including nuclear powered ships. He compares that with deaths resulting from various causes such as deaths resulting from motor car accidents, being struck by lightning and so on. But the deaths resulting from nuclear reactor plants are less than one in 300 million. Professional critics of nuclear power imply that a core meltdown would release fission products and produce a catastrophic accident. This is not true. Such accidents require a failure of the coolant circuit of the reactor followed by an immediate failure of the emergency core coolant arrangements. Even then the melted core would have to burn its way through the pressure vessel and then through a 10 foot concrete shield into the reactor hull. This is designed to be radioactively tight and it would be about 30 hours after the accident before any radioactivity escaped to the outside world, giving ample time for evacuation of nearby populations- human and animal. What would actually eventuate depends mainly on 3 factors, namely, how much radioactivity is actually released to the environment; the weather conditions outside- wind directions, rain, snow, etc.; and the number of people in the path of radiation.

A very significant table that I have illustrates that the number of likely fatalities from a core melt down would be minimal indeed. The fatalities would be less than one; injuries would be less than one; latent fatalities would be less than one; thyroid nodules would be about four; genetic defects would be less than one; and property damage outside the immediate plant area would be approximately $100,000. These figures and data have implications for the safety of nuclear powered ships entering harbours. Reactors are shut down after arrival until departure so the danger is zero. The information which I have goes on to illustrate the safety aspects of using uranium.

It is significant that the main opponents of the mining of uranium in Australia and its export are being mobilised and financed by sources and people who are communist-inspired and some of those sit opposite in this House. This emotional and misleading opposition is not by accident. It is designed to put fear into the hearts of men and women who do not fully understand the facts. Those responsible play on people’s fears but the motives are designed to interfere with our way of life. We live in a democratic system but it is our way of life that these people are hell bent to destroy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), who spoke tonight, even advocated taking the decision-making away from the elected Parliament and placing it outside in the hands of some unnamed and unknown group. He would have rule by fear and ignorance without reference to this Parliament.

If we do not mine and sell our uranium do honourable members think that this decision will have any effect on the world ‘s generation of nuclear power? This is not likely. If uranium cannot be gained from this source it can always be obtained from sea water. It we do not mine and export uranium for the world market subject to the most stringent conditions possible the users will get their supplies elsewhere. We are not the only country in the world that has uranium. We do not have the only uranium deposits that can be mined viably. We will only penalise the Australian people and Australia as a country if we do not utilise this immense wealth and our immense resources of uranium.

There has already been at least 2 years’ public debate on this matter and it is now time for the elected Parliament to make its decision. I would like to quote one part of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry Report which the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) was not game to quote. The honourable member quoted from paragraph 3 on page 185 of the report. However, he did not quote fully what the Commissioner said, namely:

We suggest that the questions involved are of such importance that they be resolved by Parliament.

It is easy to quote these things out of context, but they ought to be quoted fully. I also quote what the Commissioners had to say on page 1 76. They stated:

It was not contended that, if properly regulated and controlled, hazards associated only with the mining and milling of uranium were of such a magnitude that those operations should not be allowed. These may nevertheless be quite natural concern that there may be a risk to health from releases of radioactivity in the course of those activities or after they have ceased. The topic has been dealt with in detail in Chapter 10. We are quite satisfied that, if properly regulated and controlled according to known standards, those operations do not constitute any health hazard which is greater in degree than those commonly accepted in everyday industrial activities.

Therefore a lot of nonsense is being spoken about uranium at the present time. Under the heading ‘Radioactive wastes’ the Commissioners stated:

The matter of wastes involves some different considerations. Low-level and intermediate-level wastes are being disposed of in ways that seem to us to be reasonably satisfactory from the point of view of people in the countries concerned, and constitute no problem likely to affect Australia.

These are the sorts of recommendations and facts that the Fox inquiry has seen fit to put into its report. On page 179 under the heading ‘Permanent refusal to supply’ the Commissioners stated:

We mentioned earlier an argument that Australia should permanently refuse to supply uranium, or should at least postpone supply, with a view to persuading other countries, by our example, from entering upon or further developing nuclear power production. Although the argument probably finds its strongest support from considerations of proliferation, it can be supported by reference to all the hazards and problems of the industry.

A total renunciation of intention to supply designed to bring an end to all nuclear power industries or all further development of them would in our view be likely to fail totally in its purpose. If the purpose were simply to draw international attention to the dangers of and associated with the industry, that purpose might be achieved, but it is most unlikely that any worthwhile action would result. On the other hand there are positive reasons against adopting such a course. Apart from financial considerations, which are not to be neglected, there are considerations to which we referred when dealing with the topic of proliferation. A total refusal to supply would place Australia in clear breach of Article IV of the NPT and could adversely affect its relation to countries which are parties to the NPT. These matters might not have been of any concern at all had we not advanced our preparations for uranium mining to the stage they have now reached, so that our readiness and ability to supply within a few years are now obvious. We are of the view that total renunciation of intention to supply is undesirable.

I also make a small quote from page 180. The Commissioners stated:

On the evidence available to us no country with an expressed intention to buy Australian uranium will in the meantime be dependent on Australia, in the sense that supplies at reasonable cost could not be obtained elsewhere.

It is nonsense to think that any action which we in Australia might take in the mining and export of uranium will have any significant effect on the world’s nuclear power generating stations. It is quite clear to me that the people who have been stirring up emotions over this issue during the last two or three years- this debate has gone on for at least two or three years- and who advocate another two or three years of debate are speaking absolute nonsense. To do so is to be weak. It is to put back the day when the elected Parliament of Australia must make a decision. The decision must be made by the Parliament. It should not be made by people outside this House who have only part of the knowledge which we, as a total Parliament, are able to muster. The forces which are advocating this course of action are working against our democratic way of life in Australia. They would like to see the destruction of our very government. Fortunately, most of the people advocating this action will not be in power in Australia in the foreseeable future. I ask honourable members to think about a situation when the Australian Labor Party comes to power. Members of the Labor Party have said that a Labor government will not honour any agreement already made by the LiberalNational Country Party Government. That is absolute nonsense because the Labor Party is not likely to be in office to affect a decision taken by this Government, anyway.


– I deplore the Government’s attitude and tactics in relation to this important national and international issue. I say at once that in the matter of energy there are no soft options. It is an easy solution to take a popular position with certain pressure groups. One crucial factor which governments and politicians throughout the world have been forced to grapple with over this past decade is the stark reality that it is energy which dictates policies. Decisions are being hammered out not because they are compatible with the dogma of socialism or capitalism but because of sheer necessity and the realisation that there is a correlation between energy and the standard of living. A diminution of the one inevitably leads to a diminution of the other. With fossil fuels we have built up a civilisation and a technology which gives us food supplies, transportation, clothes and medicines. All these are based on the availability of fossil fuels.

Let us be clear about the choices open to us in this debate on uranium. It is not a question of whether to mine uranium. It is a question of whether we have energy, a civilisation or, for many nations, a depressed standard of living. World energy consumption over the next 26 years and the sources of energy available to meet this need are critical questions in deciding the future of nuclear power. The Fox report points out that continued use of fossil fuels- coal, oil and natural gas- may influence the world’s climate. The report states:

The effect of CO², and dust which is a direct environmental consequence of fossil fuel combustion, should be debited against those energy sources.

Some scientists have predicted that a glasshouse effect which may result from this form of pollution would be disastrous for the future of the world. We will have squandered on energy an invaluable source of raw materials, namely, coal and petrochemicals which should, if we are responsible, be kept for the production of drugs, plastics, fertilisers and durable materials which can be made only from these petrochemical raw materials. The changeover to uranium power will make it possible to extend the lifetime of fossil fuels and reserve these for uses for which they are unique. The report concludes that world resources of oil and natural gas may be depleted substantially by the end of this century and that renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, may not be of great significance in the next decade. That is a Fox committee recommendation.

In Australia we are lucky. We have available great reserves of coal and supplies of natural gas so that at the present we have no need for nuclear energy ourselves. Regrettably, other countries are not so fortunately placed. The post-war energy policies of many nations were structured upon cheap imported oil and gas. The 1973 Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil price hike had a devastating economic impact. It forced a complete reappraisal of policies. Firstly, the situation exposed the vulnerability of many nations. Secondly, nations could again be subject to boycott. Any government would be extremely naive to assume that this will not happen again. I include this Government or any government. I say to people who ought to ponder on this matter that if Australia had been forced to face an embargo or cut-off at the end of 1973, as many other nations were, we could have faced, within 3 months, an unemployment figure of between 250 000 and 500 000. I ask honourable members to remember that 30 per cent of imported crude oil is heavy crude oil which is our employment base. We should ponder this situation. Thirdly, the world is faced with the certainty of a price hike in December this year by OPEC. I make the prognostication that if OPEC increases its oil price by between 12.5 per cent and 15 per cent we can say goodbye to any increase in the standard of living throughout the Western world. We should reflect on that.

I ask: What has led to an escalation in nuclear power? That is a constructive question. Let us look at Japan. It imports 99.6 per cent of its crude oil. Its long term energy demand projections, despite efforts to diversify, show that it will continue to rely on imported crude oil. Japan’s energy problem is a race against time. In fact, it is being forced to develop nuclear power. Its current share of nuclear power, compared with total electricity power, is 7 per cent. By 1985 it will be forced to increase that figure to 26 per cent. Italy has very little oil or gas. Its hydro-electricity situation is fully realised. Its economy was shattered in 1973. In 1974 its deficit had doubled, and 75 per cent of the deficit was caused because of the cost of imported crude oil. At the moment Italy is committed to 3 per cent nuclear power. It hopes to reach 40 per cent. This situation is supported by most parties in Italy.

Spain is in exactly the same position. It has a commitment to 22 000 megawatts by 1988. If we look at West Germany we see that its commitment is 50 000 megawatts while the United Kingdom has a commitment of 15 000 megawatts. We find that the position is the same in the United States. In 3 years its importation of crude oil has increased from 29 per cent to 44 per cent and that figure will increase to 50 per cent this year. Despite what the recently elected President may say, he may well need to increase nuclear capacity to at least 9 per cent. Russia is a country which has often been cited in this House. Some people will have to make some odd class positions on this matter. Russia is credited with selfsufficiency in hydro-carbons. It has half the Saudi Arabian reserves of oil and double the United States’ reserves. However, its policy is to conserve oil and gas for industrial feedstock and petrochemicals. It will develop nuclear power and coal and hydropower. The reason is that Russian oil output is falling. From 1976 to 1980 Russia will remain East Europe’s main oil supplier. The rate of increase will not be as high as it was between 1971 and 1975. East Europe’s oil will have to come from the Middle East or from Africa.

Honourable members may have noted in the newspaper recently that Algeria and Iran have cut off any further exports of gas. That is important for the American market and for many other markets. Iran has reserves for 30 years if the supply is escalated. If it husbanded well it has reserves for 50 years. Any country which is relying on a long term supply as far as Iran is concerned ought to start thinking. In Russia at the moment current nuclear power supplies 1 per cent of the total electric power. It is estimated that by the end of this century that amount will rise from 6 million kilowatts to 100 million kilowatts. Canada is facing the same dilemma and, equally, so is France. I tum to a question which has been raised. I think we should examine the Fox report on the matter. It appears that the Fox Committee report envisages competition between coal and nuclear power in meeting world energy needs as though one type of power or the other could meet world demands. In other words, new coal fired stations rather than increased nuclear capacity could be built to cope with the increased demand for electricity, at least until other sources of energy are fully developed. However, it does not investigate in depth the problems associated with such a course of action. It devotes only 3 pages to the environmental hazards of non-nuclear energy resources and concludes that the environmental hazards of fossil fuel use are severe, particularly in the case of coal. It does not consider in depth the economic or political problems in opting for coal. We ought to look at that aspect.

Chapter 9 investigates the benefits and costs of exporting and not exporting Australian uranium. It goes so far as to advocate: . . exports of steaming coal by Australia could minimise any fuel shortage which would otherwise arise if other countries decide to reduce their reliance on nuclear power below present expectations.

The concept of Australia becoming the quarry of the world is thus promoted by the report. Such a policy is not only unlikely to be acceptable to the people of Australia but also ought to have been investigated by the commissioners as it has many pitfalls. Hydrocarbons have important uses besides electrical energy generation. The uses for hydrocarbons are of such importance that governments are obliged to reserve large quantities of these materials. Australia should not be an exception. Also the report overlooks the problems in making coal the sole electrical energy generation source. Coal is not so universal that a country-by-country breakdown of resources does not reveal significant differences. France has about 10 times less usable coal than Britain, Britain has 10 times less than West Germany and West Germany has 20 times less than the United States. Not surprisingly, much of the good black coal on or near the surface has already been exploited, so the remaining reserves are often deep underground or unproven.

Now let us look at the cost of coal as a raw material. At one extreme is the Australian situation, where power stations’ internal cost of Victorian brown coal is between $1 and $2 per tonne. The cost of New South Wales black coal is about $6 to $9 per tonne. The price per tonne f.o.b. of New South Wales coal for Japanese power stations rises to $25 to $35. Since Europe is at the other end of the price scale, the good fields of Germany, Britain and France average US$50 per tonne. Production costs in the poorer fields of Europe are roughly twice as high. Australians need to consider the ramifications of a policy of steaming coal exports replacing uranium exports. Whereas by 1985 Australia will easily be able to export 15 000 tonnes of uranium oxide a year, the equivalent in black steaming coal amounts to approximately 200 million tonnes a year. We ought to remember that in 1976 exports of steaming black coal will amount to 3.5 million tonnes.

Australia is already suffering from the environmental effects of a fossil-powered economy. It is ironic that the development of coal loading facilities, coal dumps and so on is resisted strenuously by conservationists throughout the country, yet such an infrastructure must become commonplace in a world relying completely on coal for electricity generation. The point was put rather lucidly by the Chairman of the Consolidated Edison Company of New York Inc. when I was there. He said:

I do not want to suggest that the U.S. is facing a choice between nuclear fuel and coal. If the U.S. is to achieve a capability for energy independence at any time during the remainder of this century we will require vastly increased contributions from both.

In my view we ought not hide ourselves in our little cocoons of fear of social change, of selfsatisfied ignorance, and evade our national and international responsibility. Our increase in consumption is outstripping population. Our productivity in the supply of energy is lagging behind our burgeoning growth in energy demand, and improvements in efficiency are becoming more fractional and more costly.

I say to the trade union movement- there are some regrettably who take almost a Luddite attitude towards this matter- that the Australian trade union movement has a very constructive role to play. Many miners throughout the world have suffered because of inadequate and inappropriate health standards in mining operations. Trade unions have a role to play. They can play it effectively, efficiently and successfully. Another point I want to make concerns the conservation movement. I do not think that fission power is anything more than an interim source of energy. I hope that solar energy, and I trust that fusion energy, will be able to meet the world ‘s demands by the end of this century. One thing that uranium can give us is a source of income so that we can put money into those areas if we want to replace fission power by the end of this century.


– I entered the chamber during the latter part of the address of the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi). If I interpret his remarks correctly, I commend him for some of the views that he expressed. I think that his attitude is shared by honourable members on both sides of the House. A particular aspect of this argument is stimulated not by conservationists generally but by a small group which will stimulate argument whenever the security or stability of this country is at stake. Let me refer as an example to Dr Camilleri. The last time we heard of this gentleman he was tearing around the Northern Territory. He knew well that what he was agitating for was almost an accomplished fact. He did not care which party was in government; he levelled his unfounded criticism at the government of the day. He levelled unfounded criticism at the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) when he was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. This man was tearing around the country saying that the Government was doing absolutely nothing about the health and welfare of Aboriginal children. He is adopting the same attitude in the alleged dispute about whether we should export uranium.

Mr Martyr:

– He is a nit-wit.


– In addition to this nit-wit we find the churches buying into the argument. I include my own church. Morality is supposed to be the business of the churches; but not the morality of whether we should export uranium ore. Let the churches take a close look at the State of South Australia to see some of the licence abroad there. Why do the churches not comment on this? Some of the archbishops and other people around the country should look after their own business and stay out of such affairs as this. Last night on Monday Conference an interesting comment was made about Dr Camilleri. An argument was described as garbage. One speaker said to him: ‘I think that you are an absolute expert on garbage.’ That could apply also some of these churchmen.

Let us look at the huge wealth of uranium ore that exists in this country. Australia has precisely 30 per cent of the known deposits of uranium ore in the world today. In the Northern Territory at Ranger 1 there are 100 700 tonnes of reserves; at Jabiluka, which is owned by Pancontinental Mining Ltd, there are 104 325 tonnes of reserves; at Nabarlek, which is a comparatively small deposit, there are 9100 tonnes; at Koongara there are 15 422 tonnes. Then we come to the prize State of the CommonwealthQueensland. At Mary Kathleen there are 7000 tonnes of reserves. I will have a little more to say about Mary Kathleen in a moment because it is right on my doorstep. It is one of the gems of the great Kennedy electorate. We have many gems. At Yeelirrie in Western Australia, which is owned by the Western Mining Corporation Ltd, there are 46 266 tonnes of reserves. We find that South Australia, which has some uranium ore apart from its activated philosophies, has 15 875 tonnes. All these represent about 30 per cent of the known uranium deposits in the world. We are not exporting or treating one ounce, but 70 per cent of the deposits are being treated elsewhere. Hence we should not go along with this unconvincing sentimentalist humbug about this product falling into the hands of terrorists who will wipe out half the world ‘s population because they already have 70 per cent of the world’s known deposits that they can work on and would not have a great deal of difficulty in getting some of those deposits if they wanted to drop little atom bombs here, there and everywhere to blow up half the world ‘s population. This is garbage, which seems to be the ‘in’ word when we talk about the arguments of the alleged conservationists. Where do we find these conservationists? They are everywhere, like a germ on the community. The most difficult problem we have -

Mr Martyr:

– Is conservationists.


– It is the ratbag fringe of conservationists. I am a conservationist; I want to conserve things too. There are 300 000 conservationists in Australia so a lot of politicians shimmy and shake when they think of the conservationists’ vote, but what they do not understand is that about 75 per cent of those 300 000 would not touch this lunatic fringe, would not come into contact with them. As to the other 75 per cent, your votes are safe because they will vote responsibly and well. So I say to those who shimmy and shake about the conservationist lobby: Forget it, because it is not an issue.

However, there is an issue that is of importance, and I come back to the Mary Kathleen mine. I have had considerable experience with the union movement and there are at least 6 unions involved in the Mary Kathleen operations. They are fully united in their resolve not to be adversely affected by the decisions made by the Trades Hall in Brisbane, by those gentlemen who enjoy the luxury of safe and comfortable jobs from which they foment union strikes from time to time. I am not a union basher and I can never be accused of being one. I do not know whether these men went out on strike last Thursday, but it struck me that if those Trades Hall officials went to Mary Kathleen they would be well advised not to waste money on a return ticket because their chances of getting out of Mary Kathleen alive would be very remote. The 6 unions involved there have said that if those officials attempted to get on the lease they would block the highway. They have some pretty good rifles and shot guns and can use them on those persons who are coming here to try to deprive them of their livelihood to suit the extreme views of the ratbag element of conservationists’. So here is a practical example of what decent thinking unionists can do and how they can become united. I will be up there on Thursday taking with me a gentleman who is not very well known to all of you. He is a fellow named Joh Bielke.Pettersen. Honourable members may say that maybe we also will not get off the lease alive.

The fact is that 70 per cent of the world’s uranium ore is being worked and is providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of nonAustralians. We have a group of people resisting with every bit of the organisational power they have- and strangely they have sufficient funds to permit them to do this- the mining of an ore which can provide jobs. It has been calculated coolly and logically that directly and indirectly 10 000 people would go into employment as soon as these major lease began to operate. Regrettably one or two people are killed each year in mining accidents in my city of Mount Isa, but these are the hazards of the mining occupation. Every miner, whether he works underground, in an open cut, or whatever is his occupation, has a hazardous and dangerous job. I do not have to make speeches to win votes- I do pretty well in the mining areas- but every one of those men should be highly paid, paid in keeping with the dangerous occupation they follow. I stress the question: What is our major consideration? Should we be guided by the theories of the ratbag element of the conservation movement and keep these men out of work? Never.

Honourable members have talked about the safeguards mentioned in the Fox report. With all due respect to Mr Justice Fox, we never required that inquiry to be aware of the safeguards that must be applied in the mining and export of uranium ore. Ask any common worker, any unionist, any executive in the mining companies, anyone in the community involved, even the smallest child, and he can tell you that the safeguards required for the mining of uranium are well known and that we did not require a costly report to bring them to our notice. It is rather strange that the same group of people will always be active, will always come forward and will always get dramatically interested and demonstrate when anything which provides security for this country or something which is of major concern to our security is being argued. They are always there. A great many of them are nothing but traitors. They are traitors to our country and traitors to the work force in this nation and to every thing we hold dear. So I hope, and there is not much argument in the House, that we will support the export of uranium ore with the safeguards- I will not say ‘as suggested by the Fox report’ although they were suggested by itwhich are so obvious to everyone associated with the industry.


-Unlike previous speakers in this debate I make no claim to expertise on this subject. Nonetheless, my views, probably as a reflection of the views of many people in the community, may be of some interest. I ought to point out first of all that in common with many people in the community I once felt and expressed the view that we should mine and export uranium. It is a view I fairly firmly held until I read the Fox report. I am not greatly concerned in the longer term about the problems of waste disposal and the other problems which arise and are associated with the peaceful use of nuclear energy. I believe that on balance they will prove to be no greater than the problems generally facing heavy industry. I realise that they seem difficult to solve at this point but I believe that technology has the capacity to conquer those problems.

If nuclear weapons were not associated inextricably with the production of nuclear power I would have no worry, but nuclear weapons are inextricably associated with the production of nuclear power and I find myself quite uneasy about proposals to mine and export uranium and about the use of uranium energy in the world. I find that the view which I earner held I can no longer confidently assert. In common with the view of my Party, and it is a view I argued in my Party room, I believe that we have as a matter of honour an obligation to discharge our commitments to existing contracts because we have firmly given our undertakings in the past. However, I believe that no new mines should be opened and to the extent that there is any shortfall between our contractual obligations and the capacity of existing mines to meet those contractual obligations other arrangements ought to be made. I also believe that if in government the Labor Party is satisfied that the hazards associated with nuclear power can be eliminated and satisfactory methods of waste disposal developed the question of uranium mining could be reconsidered in the context of full public debate. It was necessary for me to say those things first.

My uneasiness focuses on three or four main issues. First of all it is clear that nuclear byproducts can be stolen and misused. Secondly, it is equally clear that a diversion of nuclear byproducts can occur and that the most adequate monitoring systems can fail to observe that diversion. Furthermore the diverted products can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. Thirdly, I am concerned that the international treaties, contrary to what I understood as a layman, are seriously defective. Fourthly, but not important by itself, the economic benefits to the community seem to be extremely limited. The last factor is important only in the context that it rebuts many of the rather exaggerated assertions about the Eldorado that uranium is supposed to represent for Australia.

Let me start with the first proposition that I put- the capacity to thieve and misuse nuclear by-products. I will quote from page 152 of the report. I will quote quite frequently. I repeat that I speak as a layman and I believe I speak as many people will in the community who are not persuaded by the extreme positions adopted either by the anti-nuclear lobby in the community or the pro-mining lobby in the community- people who nevertheless when presented with rational argument can feel concerned about the implications. Page 152 of the report states: the Commission does not feel confident that nuclear facilities would currently withstand determined assaults by terrorist organisations, lt seems doubtful whether, as the number of facilities increases, it will be possible to provide sufficient defences to render every installation safe against attack by even small numbers of well-armed, trained men.

It might be argued that in Australia’s case we will mine and mill for export uranium but will do not much more than that. Accordingly this limits the opportunity for this sort of theft of nuclear by-products. But I put what I believe is an even more powerful case to the House. I refer to the moral obligation we have. We are part of the world order. We are locked into that and should not retreat from it. Let me draw an analogy. On occasions this country has grown and processed opium poppy. We could produce morphine and heroin and release them onto the world market if we wished indifferent as to the consequences or the sources which they reached. But we do not do that because we have a very proper moral commitment about what might happen if that were done. Accordingly we adhere tenaciously to international commitments on that score.

I move now to the worry I have about the possible diversion of nuclear by-products for the manufacture of weapons. In this case I quote from pages 116 and 117 of the report which read:

This makes reactor grade plutonium a less satisfactory material for bombs so far as a nation wishing to develop a nuclear arsenal is concerned, but it may be quite adequate for terrorist purposes . . . Such a weapon could also be of strategic significance in areas of the world without sophisticated nuclear armaments.

So a real problem is potentially involved in our association with commercial sales of uranium. In a few seconds when I talk about the weaknesses of the international treaties I think that the justification for that concern will become apparent. The report makes it clear that the international treaties are seriously defective. They can all be abrogated by unilateral action. For instance, the non-proliferation treaty can be abrogated by unilateral action after 3 months expiration of the declaration that a signatory intends to abrogate the treaty. The International Atomic Energy Agency can similarly be abrogated after 6 months. I suggest that we ought to take the opportunity to ensure that no unilateral withdrawal can take place from these sorts of international treaties, that there are adequate safeguards to ensure that countries once signing them are bound to that commitment and that there is sufficient supervision to guarantee that diversion of the by-products cannot take place. On that score I refer to page 1 34 which states: it might be possible for a country using such a process change to hide repeated diversions of small amounts of plutonium. Such an approach to diversion could only be attempted by a government having a high degree of technical competence at its command, because of the difficulty of introducing new technology into a reprocessing plant.

Page 135 of the report shows that the Commission has been told that a nuclear bomb could be made within 10 days. I must say that that sent a tremor of fear through me. The report states:

The Commission has been told that a nuclear bomb could be made within ten days of acquiring the nuclear material. It is concluded that a country with a large reprocessing industry could make many nuclear weapons before being formally detected by accountancy procedures.

Furthermore it states:

The Agency acknowledges that, should sensitive equipment (enrichment facilities or reprocessing plant) be supplied more widely, as is proposed in relation to Brazil and Pakistan, the potential for diversion, particularly if full fuel cycle safeguards are not being applied, will be increased.

In those circumstances I think any reasonable person is justified in expressing caution about our commitment to anything that smacks of wholesale mining and export of uranium. I repeat that we are committed to honouring contracts which have already been entered into. I have indicated the limitations which we place on that. I believe they are very proper limitations. My commitment to that policy is one that is not easily made. It is made solely because it is a matter of discharging an undertaking of honour. But I do not want to see us go beyond that. I sincerely trust that the debate in this community will proceed with some restraint. I happen to believe that most people, regardless of which position they take in the debate, do so with honest intent. I remind honourable members how, as a result of reading this report, my own position has changed. The position I held before was one honestly and honourably undertaken on the basis of the information that I had been able to search out. My position has changed in the face of what I regard as more profound and worrying information which is submitted by this report.

Let me quote some of the conclusions which are adumbrated at page 147. The particular section of the report is headed: Weaknesses of the NPT and of the Safeguards System. I think that honourable members could well meditate on this before rushing off and suggesting, as did the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) that people are disloyal or wanting in patriotism for feeling uneasy about proposals for the wholesale extraction and export of uranium. The relevant part reads:

The main limitations and weaknesses of the present safeguards arrangements can be summarised as follows: the failure of many states to become parties to the NPT -

That is the non-proliferation treaty- the inability of safeguards to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology from nuclear power production to the acquisition of nuclear weapons competence; the fact that many nuclear facilities are covered by no safeguards; the existence of a number of loopholes in safeguards agreements regarding their application to peaceful nuclear explosions, to materials intended for non-explosive military uses, and to the retransfer of materials to a third state; the absence, in practice, of safeguards for source materials; the practical problems of maintaining effective checks on nuclear inventories; the ease with which states can withdraw from the NPT and from most non-NPT safeguards agreements; deficiencies in accounting and warning procedures; and the absence of reliable sanctions to deter diversion of safeguarded material.

The Commission recognises that these defects, taken together, are so serious that existing safeguards may provide only an illusion of protection.

In relation to the so-called social and economic benefits of uranium mining the report makes it clear that no more than 250 people would be employed at any time in a mining project. It goes on to point out that in the case of the Ranger project over the period 1976-77 to 1989-90 the return in real current terms will be no more than $197m and that uranium exports will add no more than 4 per cent to the national income. So while there is substantial return to the investors in this field the contribution to the nation is relatively small. I suggest that we ought to use that commitment we make to existing contracts as part of our role in international affairs to exert to the extent that we can influence internationally to get much more effective safeguards than we have so far. I am concerned that countries like Japan and Sweden which are highly industrialised and do not have their own fuel reserves need adequate fuel reserves. There are serious problems in providing that. Japan currently provides 4 per cent of her fuel production from nuclear power. The figure will rise to 8 per cent by 1980 and about 20 per cent by the turn of the century. I recognise our obligations but we also have concurrent obligations about the morality of what we are doing. We need to have safeguards for future generations.

Debate interrupted.

page 2998


Political Parties and the Media- Education-Vehicles for Australian Representatives Overseas- Resignation of Queensland Police Commissioner- Australian Embassy in Paris

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 I propose the question:

That the House do now adjourn.

Port Adelaide

– I rise tonight to place on the Hansard record a very disturbing development which has come to the notice of people throughout Australia in the past week. I am referring to the confirmed authenticity of a letter that passed between the Federal President of the Liberal Party, R. J. Southey, and the then Prime Minister of Australia, the right honourable member for Lowe, Mr William McMahon. I raise the question because the letter seems to reflect the mentality of the Liberal Party and its relationship with and its interpretation of the role of the Press and other media in Australia. I think it is an opportune time to reflect on what Mr Southey had to say in his letter, in view of the attacks that have been made on the trade unions involved in working for the media and the attacks that are now being undertaken by this Government on the Australian Broadcasting Commission-thc only link in the media throughout Australia that it cannot conclusively control. I should like to relate to the House the letter written by Mr Southey, the Federal President of the Liberal Party, prior to the 1972 general election to the then Prime Minister. It stated:

But may I direct attention to two or three things which at the moment seem to be particularly important?

The first is the attitude of the Press. I want to say that, after mature reflection, I do not believe that the individual journalists are going to improve. People like Allan Barnes are coldly determined to destroy us, and I do not think that, however well we perform, they are going to alter their tune very much. The Age is having a very destructive effect in Victoria, and is much more bilious than most of the other Australian newspapers which I see. Unless the Editor of the Age can be persuaded to alter the tune, their attitude will be increasingly serious. I am unable to find out how the Age really works internally. Are you? Am I correct in assuming that Graham Perkin really calls the tune, and that Ranald Macdonald is little more than the creature of Perkin? What influence has Warwick Fairfax? I wish I could be of some help to you here, but frankly I am a babe in that sort of jungle, and all I am really sure of is that whoever the real enemy ls in the Age, and I think it is probably Perkin, he must be brought into line or circumvented.

I am much less concerned about the Herald and the Sun, for the Herald is reasonably trustworthy, whilst Oakes of the Sun is less damaging than Barnes. I know that Henry Bolte has very strong links with the Herald, and I wonder whether you have spoken to Henry about this, or whether I ought to do so myself. In straightening out the Press, it is much more important that this should be done thoroughly, than that it Should be done in a hurry.

If ever there was a sick letter written in Australia, this is it. The mentality of the members of the Liberal and National Country Parties is demonstrated in their not being able to have a proper relationship with the Press. They stand in this House day after day and year after year defending what they call the freedom of the Press yet freedom of the Press turns out to be Press that can be stood over by the Liberal Party- Press that will only reflect the views and attitudes of the Liberal Party. When members of the Liberal Party cannot deal with the people involved they have to be, as Mr Southey says, circumvented. Their attitude is that they have to talk to the proprietors. We saw a classic example of this in 1975 when we saw the role that Rupert Murdoch played in supporting the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser. Again in 1972, as evidenced by Mr Southey ‘s letter to Mr McMahon, he was going to circumvent the late Mr Graham Perkin as editor of the Age to try to see whether the Age could be brought into line- whatever it meant by bringing the Age into line. It only adds to the suspicion from this side of the House about what is going on in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

What is the role of the Government in relation to the ABC? There can be no doubt that the attitude of the Liberal Party is that all the media in Australia must bow to the whims of the Liberal

Party; the media in Australia must only reflect the wishes and whims of the Liberal Party. That is exactly what is happening with the ABC. The thousands of people who assembled throughout Australia yesterday and today realised exactly what the Government is up to because they have seen demonstrated to them in this letter between the President of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Prime Minister of Australia what the Liberal Party really interpret as freedom of the Press. That same mentality exists today. That same relationship between the Liberal Party and the proprietors of the Press of Australia is still maintained. No more letters may come to our attention because the Liberal Party may have learned its lesson. But there can be no doubt that the relationship which existed prior to 1 972 will continue to be maintained.


-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Monaro · Eden

– The Australian people are becoming increasingly perturbed about some aspects of our education system. The Australian Council for Educational Research publication, entitled Literacy and Numeracy in Australian Schools, points to an alarming rate of deterioration in the literacy and numeracy of our school children. Just a few examples of their findings will suffice to highlight the problem: Children who were required to write a simple narrative describing in words a picture sequence they viewed produced a 59 per cent failure rate; 9 per cent of children could not correctly add 9 and 6; 13 per cent could not subtract 9 from 17; and 27 per cent could not divide 56 by 7.

Not surprisingly, concerned parents and interested educationalists are seeking explanations for this predicament. Part of the problem may be found, I suspect, in the degree of educational indoctrination in some teacher training colleges. The tutors of student teachers while playing down the instruction of basic teaching methods such as reading and basic numeracy, spend a questionable amount of time in teaching student teachers in repetitious courses in educational theory and philosophy, with instant courses in psychology and sociology. I am not setting myself up as an expert but I do not think I can be blamed for questioning this. The courses are not practical except for the small part of the course involved in the school situation. On the occasions when permitted to enter the schools, students often are encouraged to entertain the children in their care rather than actually to teach. That word ‘entertain’ is an esoteric term used by critics. That part of the student’s experience amounts to a simple child minding exercise. Understandably, student teachers are frustrated under these conditions. They desperately want to learn how to teach but they are powerless to change the content and structure of their courses. Therefore, they become disappointed and apathetic.

After completion of their courses new teachers realise that they are often ill prepared for the school situation and that their time at the college was only party effective. They must begin to relearn educational techniques and methods afresh. That is, I admit, a situation in common with some other courses. The difference is that in those courses there is always a grounding in first principles. Many teachers get out of the profession as soon as possible. The annual resignation rate has recently been as high as 30 per cent to 40 per cent. The end result unfortunately is that we are not keeping enough teachers implacably committed to the reduction of illiteracy in graduates of schools. Furthermore, another factor- confrontation- has found its way into education. Within some universities, colleges and schools, students are encouraged mostly through the study of social science subjects, to be critical of the workings of society. This is not a bad thing in itself, if pursued with a degree of genuine questioning. But there is often little thought given by those responsible to the consequences of this instruction on the minds of the impressionable students.

Australians, unfortunately are becoming accustomed to more confrontation within our society, often in the form of violent demonstrations. What they are not generally aware of is that participation by students in some demonstrations is not limited only to university and college students. In the Australian Capital Territory, at least, students of an alternative school are actively encouraged to participate in demonstrations during school time. An example of this occurred on 1 7 August outside this very building. The point is that such demonstrations are frequently manipulated by dubious political organisations seeking to disrupt society. Innocent-minded students, who are for the most part under the impression that they are participating in a worthwhile cause, remain ignorant of the fact that they are being used. The real pity is that they themselves might become the victims of the strife others have sown.

I have presented some of the perturbing facts with regard to education in Australia at the moment. There are more and more parents who are concerned about the direction of education, about the fact that some of the basic skills which we in Australia for many years have taken for granted as part of the education system are not being taught and that some of the other factors to which I have referred tonight are being stressed to the detriment of the welfare of the students of Australia.

Mr Keith Johnson:

-Mr Deputy Speaker, I had no intention of rising to speak in this debate this evening. I came in to try to be informed by the debate in this House but I am sadly disappointed with the speech of the honourable member for Eden- Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) who has just spoken. It seems to me that he has the idea that in the education system in this country people blindly and meekly accept those things which are put to them. As was stated by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) this thinking is in line with Liberal Party philosophy. If you do not agree with the philosophy of that Party, you receive a brand and all sorts of names are hung upon you. If that does not work, the eminent President of that Party writes letters to the Press and to a Prime Minister urging that the Press be brought into line.

I always thought, in my own limited way, that the purpose of education was to make people question those things which are about them and not to accept blindly things that are put to them. When they do that, when they raise questions about what is happening around them and do not blindly accept what is happening, members like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro stand up in this House and say that there is something wrong with the education system. If there is anything wrong with the education system, it is that not enough emphasis is given to the questioning of things that go on around people. There is not enough encouragement given to people to question things that are happening, to question the motives of those who are doing those things and to question what is happening all around us all the time. The honourable member spoke about the amount of money spent on education and claimed it was being wasted. I put it to him that a far greater amount of money is spent on the education of a pupil in the private schools such as Geelong Grammar and Melbourne Grammar than there is on any workers’ child who has to attend a school that is run by the State. Is the honourable member saying that, because that large amount of money is spent per pupil in those schools, they turn out dunderheads?

Mr Antony Whitlam:

– They do over there.

Mr Keith Johnson:

-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is a product of one of those schools and I might have to eat my words. However, it seems to me that by and large he would support that sort of system. I, in turn, support the system where every child in this country, irrespective of the station in life of his parents and the depth of his parents’ pockets, has the right to a proper education. The teachers in this country should not be regimented by people such as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and those who support his attitude to prevent their students from becoming involved in demonstrations. I remind the honourable member that if it had not been for demonstrations around this world in the decade that led up to 1970, the world would still be involved in the holocaust that was Vietnam. It was the people coming onto the streets in the United States of America, in Britain and other countries around the world and questioning the right of those who had been elected to government to take decisions and the morality of those decisions that forced governments as powerful as the Government of the United States to withdraw its troops from Vietnam.

If this sort of result is to be brought about by demonstrations, then I support demonstrations wholeheartedly. School students ought to be taught to demonstrate against things that they consider to be immoral, unjust and improper. To suggest to this House and to the people of this country that teachers ought to say to children: You have no right to question these things; as your teacher my word is law’ is to place a teacher in the position of a person who rules a totalitarian country.

Mr Sainsbury:

– I did not say that.

Mr Keith Johnson:

-I did not suggest that the honourable member said this but if he wants to take the bait, it is entirely up to him. All that I said was that it was improper to suggest these things. If that bothers his conscience, let him take the bait. I want to dissociate myself and I am sure all of my colleagues and comrades who sit with me on this side of the House -

Mr Sullivan:

- His comrades!

Mr Keith Johnson:

-I remind the honourable member for Riverina that next time he attends the Returned Services League he will find somebody there who will call him a comrade. I want to dissociate myself and my colleagues from the remarks made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. I do not believe that what he has put to the House tonight is the proper situation of education in this country.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I want to draw to the attention of the House a very unsatisfactory situation with regard to the supply of cars to our Ambassadors and Heads of Missions overseas. In answer to my question No. 76, the Minister for Administrative Services said that it was the policy of his Department to supply overseas posts with Australian vehicles ‘where the price, including freight, location and suitability of the vehicle, availability of spare parts and effective after-sales service make it reasonable for such a vehicle to be supplied ‘.

That sounds fine, but does it work? I accept that there are cost problems in supplying Australian cars to countries with left-hand drive cars. These cost problems can be overcome and I will take this matter up on a later occasion. I would like to tackle some more flagrant problems first. I admit also that there are foreign cars more expensive, more luxurious and more mechanically advanced than is any Australian car. Yet an Australian car such as the Statesman Caprice is fully adequate for any ambassador. I have the answer to my question No. 1429 showing details of the cars supplied to Australian Ambassadors and Heads of Missions during the 6 months ending 30 June this year. There were 13 such cars. All but three were foreign made cars. The honourable exceptions were in Jakarta, where a Holden is in use; in Karachi where a Holden is also in use and in Kuala Lumpur where a Ford is in use.

I applaud these choices although I point out that a Ford, is for these special purposes, a less suitable choice than a Holden because it is not readily identifiable as Australian. It is the duty of an Australian ambassador to use publicly Australian products where possible. We are a major industrial nation, one of the few with an indigenous motor car industry. If our ambassadors reject our products, how can we expect our overseas customers to have confidence in these products? Could one imagine a French ambassador, for instance, doing such a thing?

If the Minister’s guidelines were, in fact, followed there would be no problem but it does not work that way. Ambassadors in practice have a major say in what car is supplied to them. Although there are exceptions, too many of them prefer to swank around in Rolls Royces or Mercedes Benz instead of a perfectly adequate Australian car such as the Statesman Caprice. They have added to their cultural cringe a weird sort of industrial cringe. Let us look at some of these examples. A Mercedes Benz was supplied for our Head of Mission in Johannesburg, South Africa. Why was this done? We export cars to South Africa and our Head of Mission should certainly use one. A Mercedes Benz was provided for the Head of Mission in Hong Kong. There are many Australian cars in Hong Kong. Why does our representative not drive one himself? In Dublin, Ireland, the American Ambassador drives an Australian built Statesman Caprice. Yet our Ambassador drives a German built Mercedes Benz. What country is he supposed to be representing?

This situation is simply not good enough. The Minister’s guidelines have been flagrantly flouted. To assist him in imposing these guidelines on our Ambassadors and Heads of Mission, I hereby give notice that in the estimates debates next year I shall move for a reduction in the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services by the value of any non-Australian cars supplied during 1976-77 to our ambassadors overseas, except in cases where the supply of an Australian car was clearly impracticable. I hope for wide support for such a motion from both sides of the House.


-Mr Deputy Speaker, the matter I raise tonight has caused me some degree of mental concern over the past few weeks. I would like to think that all honourable members of this national Parliament would believe that the backbone, the richness, the integrity and the honesty of any government depends first and foremost on the integrity of its police force. I have known the former Queensland Police Commissioner, Mr Whitrod, for 35 years.

Mr Armitage:

– He is a most honourable man.


– He is a most honourable man. I served with him in the New South Wales Criminal Investigation Branch when he carried out exchange duty there during the war years from 1943 to 1945. He is a dedicated police officer. He is a scrupulously honest man. He went to Queensland, after serving as Police Commissioner in Papua New Guinea, to serve the Queensland Police Force, the Queensland people and the Queensland Government. He went to Queensland to clean up the evilness which existed in the Queensland Police Force at that time and which continued for many years after he took over.

Mr Baillieu:

– They would not give you that job.


-He failed because of a lack of government support. The honourable member can make humour out of something that seriously affects the Queensland people. You are not worthy of being a member here.


-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that he should continue his remarks without answering interjections and that he should restrain himself in the remainder of his speech.


– And, with respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, you restrain the interjectors.


-I will do that for the honourable member for Hunter.


– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Mr Whitrod as Police Commissioner was a man of integrity and complete honesty. He tried to reform the Queensland Police Force and bring it to a degree of efficiency comparable with the South Australian Police Force, which is one of the cleanest police forces in Australia. I am in a position to know because I regularly conferred with members of the police forces of the different States of the Commonwealth before I was elected to this Parliament.

Mr Whitrod was determined to clean up the Queensland Police Force. He has failed in his objective to serve the Queensland people by developing Queensland’s Police Force to a level of efficiency of which the Queensland people would have been proud. He failed as a result of interference by the Queensland Premier who frustrated Mr Whitrod ‘s endeavours. On the Cedar Bay incident, Mr Whitrod wanted to charge a number of police officers departmentally because of the aggressive attitude they adopted in the course of their investigation. He was frustrated by the Queensland Government in his endeavours to carry out the proper duties of a commissioner of police. He wanted to charge a senior police officer for excessive use of a baton against a woman in the course of a demonstration. Departmental charges were frustrated by the Queensland Government. In utter disgust, Mr Whitrod has resigned from the Queensland Police Force. The only people who will suffer to any great extent following his resignation are the people of Queensland as a whole. I served on exchange duty in the Queensland CIB in 1945-46. 1 was able to detect things there, such as men on the same salary as I was being able to spend twice as much as I would spend on recreation. My attention was aroused; I saw that something was radically wrong with the Queensland Police Force, even as far back as the end of the war years. It is very difficult -

Mr Sullivan:

– That is when you started the SP book.


– I hear that voice. I remember that voice. I am sure that I chased that voice out of a Sydney toilet late one night.


– Let me say this: I hope that the people of Queensland will stick loyally behind Mr Whitrod and bring about the downfall of the Queensland Premier who has interfered unduly with the administration of one of the most honest police commissioners that Australia has ever had.


– I draw the attention of the House to a palace in Paris or, as it is referred to in common parlance, the Australian Embassy in France. The site of the new embassy and apartments is Quais Bronly

The purchase of the land and the construction of the chancellery and the apartment block were the brainchild of the previous Labor Government when it went on one of its customary and now legendary spending extravaganzas which, allied to other financial excesses, almost bankrupted Australia. The construction cost of the chancellery and the apartment block, again authorised by the previous Labor Government, is set at a staggering and bewildering $ 1 8.4m. The contract was let in May 1975. The architect of the palace was none other than that well known Australian architect, Harry Seidler, a friend, confidant and associate of the hierarchy of the then Government. My inquiries confirm that the architect’s fees are in excess of 11 per cent of this astronomical figure, which is equivalent to over $2.5m. Because of Seidler’s agreement with the Labor Government- an agreement which I understand was signed, sealed and delivered- the present Government will be forced to pay this exhorbitant fee from the already depleted taxpayers’ funds straight into Seidler’s pocket.

The chancellery consists of 2 basements for car-parking, a lower ground floor, a ground floor for reception and seven other floors. The Labor Government saw fit that the Embassy abroad should lack no home comforts. In this regard, the apartment block provides 2 basements for parking and includes a swimming-pool, a squashcourt, an auditorium and a library. It rises to 9 floors containing 32 magnificent suites. The total floor area of both offices and apartments is approximately 30 000 square metres. One could be forgiven for firmly believing that this Australian Taj Mahal was earmarked to be used by Labor Ministers, their entourage, fellowtravellers and hangers-on, if honourable members like to call them that, as their haven of luxury on the Continent. No doubt it was designed to keep them in a style to which they were never accustomed.

Mr Baume:

– Was the architect Ms Evatt ‘s husband?


-That is spot on. This in one further horrifying example of the despicable waste of taxpayers’ money which the people of Australia will never quite forget. How hollow it now sounds when the Labor Opposition accuses this Government of cutting back on expenditure when spending sprees such as I have just mentioned were the order of the day for the previous Administration whose callous regard for the excesses of expenditure will haunt Opposition members for many a long day.


-We have just listened to one of the rather regular epistles that we hear from the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney). He hands them out to the Press; on some nights he does not get to make a speech. When one hears honourable members opposite talking about the manner in which Australian diplomats abroad are housed- this is the second time tonight that we have heard a similar attack- one wonders whether the present Government is intending to cut back or to cut out diplomatic representation in the countries that have been mentioned. It was a government of the same political colour as the present Government which established those embassies. One wonders also whether the trouble has been taken to consider what the alternative costs are. In at least one country in respect of which similar criticisms were made of our Embassy- I refer to Thailand which I visited last year; India is relevant in this respect also- Australia had set up an establishment as a result of which the whole of its diplomatic corps were housed in the one area. The French undertaking appears to be a similar project which, I would think, would be extraordinarily expensive in Paris, as it would be expensive in Melbourne or Sydney. Indeed, 12 months ago it would have been expensive in Canberra.

When people make accusations of extravagance, I think they have the duty to put forward the alternative costs of housing Australian diplomats in what are major overseas posts of some importance to this country. If the Government does not believe that these overseas posts are of importance, I think it ought to say so and indicate that it is withdrawing sections or substantial sections of the numbers of people who are posted to these areas. This would include officers not only from the Department of Foreign Affairs but also officials from the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs among other Australian officials posted overseas for the purpose of pursuing the interests of Australia in those countries. In Paris, Department of the Treasury officials would probably be involved also. It is cheap political gimmickry for an honourable member to stand up here and to talk about excesses in providing accommodation for Australians who are posted overseas if that honourable member is not prepared to say what the alternatives are and what the costs of those alternatives are. It is my opinion, although I have not had the opportunity to study the matter, that it would be far more expensive and be of less value to Australia in the shorter term not to spend the money for this purpose.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. IS p.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 11 p.m.

page 3005


The following answers to questions upon notice

Estimated Cost Savings on Air Travel on Government Account (Question No. 853)

Mr Hayden:

asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice:

What was the expected saving in a full 12 month period from the decision that people travelling on government account would travel economy class on domestic airlines.

Mr Street:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Departments are not aware of the figure the former Government had in mind as the expected savings and I am therefore unable to answer the honourable member’s question.

Imports of Cheese (Question No. 1089)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:

  1. What steps are being taken by the Department of Industry and Commerce to assist cheese manufacturers to obtain protection from the allegedly unfair cheese imports from New Zealand and from a number of other countries.
  2. What role does the Department of Industry and Commerce or the Minister have in any decision on cheese imports (a) from New Zealand, (b) from other countries with the Temporary Assistance Authority or the Industries Assistance Commission or (c) from all countries with regard to dumping.
Mr Howard:

-The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. and (2) The Department of Industry and Commerce has received representations from some manufacturers requesting increased tariff protection against imports of Edam and Gouda cheese.

The Department is seeking the views of the industry on whether there is support for the representations received. If this support is forthcoming the industry will be contacted to obtain data necessary to determine whether a prima facie case exists for reference to either the Industries Assistance Commission or Temporary Assistance Authority.

The Department will submit to me a report on the outcome of its inquiries and a decision then will be made on whether a reference should be sent on the question of additional assistance for the industry.

In response to references received the Industries Assistance Commission or the Temporary Assistance Authority reports on the question of whether additional assistance should be accorded against imports from all sources, including New Zealand. Decisions are then taken by the Government in the light of recommendations made in these reports, taking into account Australia’s international commitments including those under the NAFTA.

Responsibility for the administration of the anti-dumping legislation rests with the Minister for Business and Consumer were circulated:

Affairs. The Department of Business and Consumer Affairs is currently investigating a request for anti-dumping action against imports of Edam and Gouda cheese from New Zealand.

Development of Uranium Deposits at Alligator River (Question No. 1156)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) With reference to the statement appearing on page 59 of the Bureau of Transport Economies’ report on the provision of general cargo facilities at Port Darwin, that it seems certain that uranium deposits known to exist in the Alligator River region of the Northern Territory, about 300 kilometres east of Darwin, will be developed in the foreseeable future and that initially, at least, raw materials for processing this ore will have to be imported through Darwin, what is the basis for this statement.
  2. ) Did the statement express the attitude of the Government at the time the report was prepared.
  3. Has he had discussions with the Minister for the Northern Territory on the implementation of the report’s recommendations; if so, what was the result.
Mr Nixon:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The Bureau of Transport Economics’ report referred to was published in October 1975 and was the result of a study arranged by the Minister for Transport in the previous Government. The statement at page 59 is a comment expressed by the writers of that report.
  2. As the report was submitted in October 1975 during the period in office of the Labor Government, I am unable to comment.
  3. No.

Figures for Registered Unemployed from September 1975 (Question No. 1185)

Mr Les McMahon:

asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:

  1. How many (a) males and (b) females who were (i) qualified in a trade, (ii) apprentices, (iii) unskilled persons and (iv) professional people aged (A) 16 to 25 years, (B) 26 to 45 and (C) 46 years and over, were registered as unemployed for each month from September 1975.
  2. ) What was the proportion of persons in each category.
Mr Street:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) Commonwealth Employment Service Statistics are not collected in a form which allows information on the number of unemployed persons to be provided in the age groupings specified by the honourable member. The categories available permit data to be provided on the number of persons under 2 1 and the number of persons 2 1 years of age and over.

It is also not possible to identify qualified persons and apprentices. However, some data are available on persons registered for skilled employment. Of these, it should be realised that some adult applicants registered could be apprentices over the age of21, some junior applicants registered could be qualified tradesmen under the age of 21, while other junior applicants registered could be seeking an apprenticeship but not yet indentured.

In addition, not all unskilled persons can be identified from the statistics. The occupational categories listed include Unskilled Manual’ but there are also categories of ‘Rural’ and ‘Service Occupations’, both of which could include many unskilled jobs..

In like manner, the category ‘Professional and Semiprofessional ‘ cannot be taken to include only occupations for which professional qualifications are required as this category may include technician-type occupations.

Subject to the above, the following table shows the numbers of unemployed adult and junior males and adult and junior females registered for employment in Skilled, Unskilled Manual, Professional and Semi-professional occu- pations in Australia for each month from end-September 1 975 to end-October 1976.

The figures shown in the columns ‘per cent’ represent the proportion of total registered unemployed in the month concerned which the particular categories comprise:

Women in Work Force Responsible for Children under 5 Years of Age (Question No. 1215)

Mr Stewart:

asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:

  1. What (a) number and (b) percentage of women with children under 5 years of age are engaged in the work force.
  2. 2 ) How many children are under 5 years of age.
  3. What percentage of these children have mothers in the work force.
Mr Street:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) No data are available for women in the workforce with children under 5 years of age. However, information relating to women in the workforce with children aged 0-5 years, i.e. under 6 years of age, is available from a survey conducted by the then Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in May 1973.

This survey showed that at May 1 973:

  1. 277,200 women in the workforce were responsible for children under 6 years of age, and
  2. these women represented 27.1 per cent of women in the population who were responsible for children under 6 years of age. They also represented 14.7 per cent of the total female workforce.

It should be noted that, in classifying the persons surveyed in May 1973 as being responsible for children, responsibility was assigned, wherever possible, to a female- mother, stepmother, foster mother or female guardian. A male was classified as being responsible for a child only in cases where there was no such female. In consequence, in May 1973, there were only 4500 males in the workforce classified as being responsible for children under 6 years of age.

  1. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics population estimates for June 1 975 put the number of children aged 0-4 years, i.e. under 5 years at 1 262 448 and the number of children aged 5 years at 250 135 making a total of 1 512 583 children aged 0-5 years, i.e. under 6 years of age. The corresponding estimates for June 1973 were 1 277 280 and 238 824 respectively, making a total of I 516 104 children under 6 years of age.
  2. Statistics are not available for the numbers of children under 5 years of age who have mothers in the workforce. However, the May 1973 survey conducted by the then Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics revealed that 374 200 children aged 0-5 years, i.e. under 6 years of age, were the responsibility of persons in the workforce, representing 2 7.7 per cent of total children in that age group. The survey did not provide a breakdown to show separately the number of children who were the responsibility of females in the workforce, and the number who were the responsibility of males in the workforce.

Boyer Lectures (Question No. 1228)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:

  1. Who have delivered the Boyer Lectures since their inception.
  2. For which lectures has the management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as distinct from the program staff, sought to examine the texts before broadcast.
Mr Eric Robinson:

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

  1. 1961 Professor W. D. Borrie; 1962 Professor W. G. K. Duncan; 1963 Professor J. D. B. Miller; 1964 George Ivan Smith; 1965 Professor Sir John Eccles; 1966 Sir Macfarlane Burnet; 1967 Robin Boyd; 1968 Professor W. E. H. Stanner; 1969 Professor Zelman Cowen; 1970 Dr H. C. Coombs; 1971 Professor B. S. Hetzel; 1972 Professor Dexter Dunphy; 1973 Professor Keith Hancock; 1974 Hugh Stretton; 1975 The Hon. Justice Mitchell.
  2. ) Available records do not enable an answer to be given.

Third Party Insurance (Question No. 1301)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

Will he, in consultation with his State counterparts, investigate implementing a system of variable rating of third party insurance according to vehicle size and accident record and other matters which encourage occupant safety, as well as a system of funding third party insurance by a fuel tax either in whole or in pan as recommended by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety.

Mr Nixon:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

At this stage I am not in a position to give a commitment in the terms sought. However, I shall raise the matter with my colleague the Minister for Social Security who has been having consultations with the States on a possible National Compensation Program.

Minister for National Resources: Visit to the United Kingdom (Question No. 1317)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) When and for what purposes did he last visit the United Kingdom.
  2. ) When and for what purposes did he visit Scotland.
  3. Did he avail himself of transport provided by Lord Vestey to or from Heathrow Airport.
  4. Did he have any discussion on any matter with Lord Vestey; if so, when, where, and on what subject matter.
  5. 5 ) How long did he spend with Lord Vestey at the latter ‘s expense in (a) Scotland and (b) elsewhere.
  6. What travelling expenses were paid for by Lord Vestey or his organisation.
  7. Will he provide details of each journey taken by him in the United Kingdom, indicating the time and date of the journeys and the cost of them.
  8. Will he also provide details of the places at which he stayed whilst in the United Kingdom indicating the cost of the accommodation and who paid for the accommodation.
Mr Anthony:
Deputy Prime Minister · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. I last visited the United Kingdom from 11 to 17 August of this year. The purpose of my visit was to discuss, with the Secretary of State for Trade, Mr Edward Dell, a number of matters of concern to Australia, but in particular the ways in which the EEC applies its common agricultural policy to the sometimes serious detriment of producers in other countries including, to a significant degree, Australian beef, dairy products and fruit producers.

In addition, I undertook a number of official public engagements. My visit to Britain also allowed me to inform myself of the latest developments in the fields of offshore gas production and uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel processing.

  1. I visited Scotland from the evening of Friday 13 August to the morning of Monday 16 August for a rest weekend.
  2. No. Mr Edmund Vestey, who is a personal friend of mine, provided transport for journeys from Norwich to Lochinver and Lochinver to Windscale.
  3. No.
  4. I did not spend any time with Lord Vestey. I spent a weekend at Lochinver as the guest of Mr Edmund Vestey.
  5. None.
  6. My journeys in the United Kingdom were as follows:

Costs are not available at present, but they are at the levels expected for a visit of this nature and will be paid by the

Commonwealth. Transport for the Norwich/Lochinver/ Windscale journeys will not be a cost to the Commonwealth.

  1. Details of accommodation in the United Kingdom are as follows:

Costs are not available at present but they are normal accommodation costs which will be paid by the Commonwealth, except for the period at Lochinver when I was the guest of Mr Vestey.

Minister for National Resources: Gifts Received in United Kingdom (Question No. 1318)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) What gins were received by him whilst in the United Kingdom.
  2. Where any of these gifts directly or indirectly from Lord Vestey; if so, which gifts, and what is their value.
Mr Anthony:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) I received no gifts whilst in the United Kingdom.

Letters of Authority Issued by Australian Embassy in South Africa: Rhodesians (Question No. 1326)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) How many letters of authority have been issued by the Australian Embassy in South Africa for persons wishing to enter Australia in each of the last 10 years.
  2. How many of these persons had their place of residence in Southern Rhodesia.
Mr Mackellar:
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs · WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Information dates from 1 968:
  1. Precise details are not available for all years. Most of the persons covered by these letters of authority had been resident in Southern Rhodesia, although not necessarily as the last place of residence.

Subsidy Paid to Connair (Question No. 1422)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Did Connair receive an additional subsidy in respect of the years 1974-75 and 1975-76.
  2. If so:

    1. what was the amount of the increases,
    2. what was the basis of compilation of the increases, and
    3. when were the increases approved by the Government.
  3. What subsidy has been provided for Connair in the 1976-77 Budget, and what was the basis of compilation of this amount.
Mr Nixon:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) During the 1975-76 financial year Connair received a retrospective payment of $50,000 in respect of its 1974-75 financial year. The total amount paid to Connair in the 1975-76 financial year, excluding the above amount, was $558,333.
  2. (a), (b) and (c) The retrospective payment of $50,000 in respect of the 1974-75 financial year was approved by the Government and paid in April 1976. There has been no retrospective increase to the payment made in the 1975-76 financial year.
  3. In the Budget papers there is an estimated total of $700,000 for all subsidised operators including Connair. The total figure was compiled during the financial processes of framing the Budget.

Loan Funds for Connair (Question No. 1423)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has an increase in loan funds been made available to Connair.
  2. If so,

    1. what is the amount of the additional loan funds
    2. what was the reason for the increase
    3. what are the terms of the additional loan.
Mr Nixon:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Yes, in the sense that the existing loan was reconstituted to its original figure.
  2. (a) $308,584.12 was the difference vide ( 1 ) above

    1. to provide interim financial assistance to the company to continue to operate its air services
    2. the rate of interest on the principal was set at 10.5 per cent, payable monthly with principal repayable in full on 30 September 1980.

Connair: Inquiry into Operation and Finances (Question No. 1424)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) In view of the large amount of public funds paid to Connair since 1961, will he initiate an inquiry into the operation and finances of the company.
  2. If so, will he ensure in the meantime that the employment of the company’s employees will be protected, and that air services will continue to be provided tor residents of the Northern Territory.
Mr Nixon:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) No, but the frequent subsidy investigations carried out by the Department in all cases where subsidy is paid will continue to be made and referred to the Minister for Transport.
  2. Not applicable.

South Australia and Territorial Air Services (Question No. 1426)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. Is South Australia and Territorial Air Services a licensed charter operator.
  2. Is the company permitted by his Department to operate a regular public transport service in South Australia and Northern Territory in competition with licensed regular public transport operators in contravention of Air Navigation Regulations.
Mr Nixon:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

Apprenticeship Courses: Rural and Construction Industries (Question No. 1443)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:

What progress has been achieved with the implementation of apprenticeship courses for the tractor, farm machinery, industrial, construction and earthmoving industries.

Mr Street:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The determination of apprenticeable trades is, of course, a matter for the State apprenticeship authorities. However, I am advised that relevant courses are already available in Queensland and Western Australia, and that in Victoria training can be provided through special modules or units within the general structure of courses for motor mechanics.

I understand that the apprenticeship authorities in these and other States are prepared to sympathetically consider proposals for introducing or improving apprenticeship courses in the areas concerned.

Committee to Examine Report of Royal Commission on Petroleum (Question No. 1505)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Which departments were members of the interdepartmental committee which was established to examine the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
  2. When was the committee appointed.
  3. What were its terms of reference.
  4. When did it report.
Mr Howard:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The interdepartmental committee which was established to examine the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum comprised the Departments of Business and Consumer Affairs (Chairman), Attorney-General ‘s, Capital Territory, Environment, Housing and Community Development, Industry and Commerce, National Resources, Northern Territory, Primary Industry, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Transport and the Treasury.
  2. 5 May 1976.
  3. 3 ) To advise on the Royal Commission ‘s report.
  4. 23 September 1976.

Reduction in Staff at Woomera (Question No. 1529)

Mr Wallis:

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) In view of the phasing down of operations of the Weapons Research Establishment at Woomera, what reduction in staff has taken place during the last 6 month period.
  2. Of the reductions that have taken place, how many are the result of (a) transfers to other Australian Government Departments and (b) resignations.
Mr Killen:
Minister for Defence · MORETON, QUEENSLAND · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) The reduction in staff at Woomera for the period 1 May to 3 1 October 1 976 totalled 8 1 .
  2. Of this total 32 were transferred or promoted to other Departments of the Public Service including other divisions in the Weapons Research Establishment, 44 resigned, 4 retired due to maximum age and 1 died.

Access, Ethnic and Community Radio Stations (Question No. 1538)

Dr Klugman:

asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has his attention been drawn to allegations that some so-called ‘access’, ‘ethnic’ and ‘community’ radio stations, especially in Melbourne, have made very provocative attacks on ethnic communities.
  2. Is it a fact that transcripts are impossible to obtain.
  3. Will he investigate and report on these allegations, especially in view of the support these stations receive from public funds.
Mr Eric Robinson:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. There have been allegations concerning attacks on ethnic communities being broadcast and some of the allegations have related to Melbourne. However, it is not clear which allegations are referred to and the question is not specific enough for a more detailed reply.

The Melbourne stations which have at one time or another been mentioned are 3EA, 3ZZ, and 3CR.

As the honourable member will be aware, 3EA is an ‘ethnic’ broadcasting station operated at present under the control of my Department; 3ZZ is an ‘access’ station operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission; 3CR is a ‘community’ station operated by the Community Radio Federation Ltd.

The Government believes that ethnic broadcasting should be a means of developing harmony and understanding between and within ethnic communities. Accordingly, in its decision of 9 September 1976 to place ethnic broadcasting on a permanent basis, it adopted a set of criteria for the new service which include the following; assist in promoting mutual understanding and harmony between and within ethnic groups and between ethnic groups and the English-speaking community; avoid political partisanship.

  1. I understand that none of the three stations previously mentioned automatically prepare transcripts of programs, but all three tape-record; their programs as they are broadcast. In response to specific requests I have, in the past, been able to furnish duplicate tapes of particular programs broadcast on 3EA. The ABC is able to do the same for 3ZZ The licensees of 3CR are under no obligation to supply tapes but may do so if requested.
  2. If the honourable member cares to provide details of the allegations to which he refers and the times, dates and stations concerned, they will certainly be investigated by the appropriate authority and he will be advised of the outcome.

Royal Australian Navy: Contracts for Supply of Rope (Question No. 1567)

Mr Scholes:

asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Have contracts for the supply of rope for the Royal Australian Navy been transferred from Australian manufacturers to sources in Taiwan.
  2. If so, what is the saving to the Navy arising from this change in supply sources.
  3. Are cost factors, such as the cost to the Treasury of payments in unemployment benefits to employees and their families who lose employment because of the loss of these contracts by the Australian manufacturers, taken into account.
Mr Killen:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) No contracts for the supply of rope for the Royal Australian Navy have been transferred from Australian manufacturers to sources in Taiwan.
  2. Whenever imported items are offered in competition to locally-produced items, cost comparisons are made on the basis of imported price plus the appropriate rate of duty and primage. The cost to the Treasury of unemployment benefits payable if contracts are lost to Australian manufacturers are not taken into account in cost comparisons.

However, as was announced by the Prime Minister on 1 October 1976, further measures have been introduced to give preference to items of local manufacture. When tenders for items valued at $13,000 or more are received from both local and overseas suppliers, a Committee of Ministers will consider whether purchase from Australian sources would assist a depressed industry or area within Australia, or enable the establishment, development or retention of industrial or technological capabilities required for reasons of national security or independence.

Meat Exports to Japan

Mr Howard:

– On 4 November 1976 Mr William McMahon asked the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade the following question, without notice:

I ask the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade whether he has yet been informed of the decision of the Japanese administration to suspend the import of Australian chilled beef under what is called the Touch I section of Japanese meat import controls. Is he aware that until yesterday the price of quality steers had fallen disastrously by over $40 a head and that yesterday at the Wodonga sales it fell from $132 to $70 a head, with naturally disastrous consequences for producers in this premium market? Will he discuss this matter with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ensure that strong representations are made to the Japanese Government to have the administration decision reversed?

The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

In my reply to the Right Honourable member on 4 November, I indicated that the Government had already made strong representations to the Japanese authorities about a reported suggestion that the Japanese Livestock Industry Promotion Corporation has deferred the importation of 2000 tonnes of chilled beef.

The position is that the Livestock Industry Promotion Corporation has advised Japanese importers that they may, subject to their commercial judgment, defer until January the importation of up to 40 per cent (2000 tonnes) of the 5000 tonnes of chilled beef scheduled for delivery in December. In normal circumstances, only about 15 per cent of any months scheduled imports are permitted to be held over for late delivery.

We have now been assured by Japanese officials that such action is not intended as a restraint of beef shipments to Japan, but represents in fact little more than an extension of permitted delivery times. The Japanese have stressed that the deferments are not compulsory but give Japanese traders the option of deferring part of their scheduled December shipments in line with their commercial judgments on price trends. Clearly, any deferments in delivery dates will need to be made in accordance with individual contracts and it will be for Australian exporters to decide whether they will agree to any such deferments under the terms of their contracts.

In these circumstances, I would hope that the fall in prices recorded at the Wodonga sales on 3 November will be shown to have been related to temporary uncertainty concerning Japanese intentions.

South Australia and Territorial Air Services (Question No. 1425)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has he or his Department received complaints from pilots employed by the South Australian and Territorial Air Services, or from pilots formerly employed by that Company, that they have been required to fly aircraft in excess of conditions laid down in Air Navigation Orders.
  2. If so, do these complaints relate to the exceeding of flight time and duty time limitations, as reported to Departmental officers by pilots whose services have been terminated by that Company for their refusal to breach the Air Navigation Orders and Air Navigation Regulations.
  3. What action have he and his Department taken in respect of the complaints received.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) There have been no complaints submitted by pilots employed, or formerly employed, by South Australian and

Territorial Air Services, but a complaint has recently been received from the Australian Federation of Air Pilots.

  1. The complaint does relate to the exceeding of flight time and duty time limitations, but no specific reports had been submitted to the Department prior to the receipt of the letter from the Federation.
  2. 3 ) A full-scale investigation in respect of the complaints is currently in progress.

Air Services in Northern Territory (Question No. 1427)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Will he expedite the interdepartmental inquiry into the future of air services in the Northern Territory.
  2. ) When is it expected the inquiry will by completed.
  3. 3 ) Will he table the report of the inquiry; if not, why not.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. To be determined.
  3. To be determined.

The Complete Book of A ustralian Birds (Question No. 1440)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:

What have been the date, nature and cost of the Australian Government’s assistance in the publication of The Complete Book of Australian Birds by the Readers Digest Association Pty Ltd.(Hansard, 12 March 1970, page 44 7).

Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

The Commonwealth Government has provided no such assistance. The Complete Book of Australian Birds was produced under arrangements negotiated between the Readers Digest Association Pty Ltd and the Trustees of the National Photographic Index of Birds. The latter is an independent scientific organisation which has been financially assisted by the present and the previous Governments.

Equine Babesiosis (Question No. 1449)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. How was the horse disease, equine babesiosis, introduced into Australia.
  2. What action has been taken to prevent any further entry of this disease.
Mr Hunt:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The causative organism Babesia equi was not known to have been present in Australia prior to confirmation on 8 October 1976 that a single horse had contracted the disease. It is therefore most likely that an infected imported horse introduced the organism to Australia. There is, however, no means of establishing the precise mode of entry or the approximate date of introduction.
  2. Horses may only be imported into Australia from the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand. Horses imported into Australia from the United Kingdom and Ireland now undergo pre-export testing with negative result for piroplasmosis (including B. equi), equine infectious anaemia and vesicular stomatitis. They are also vaccinated against equine influenza. Horses from New Zealand may be imported subject to a general health certificate and a prior period of residency in Australasia of 6 months.

Arbo Encephalitis (Question No. 1450)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

In order that articles such as that written by a Mr Jack Waterford in the Canberra Times of 2 1 October 1 976 are not repeated, will he instruct health authorities at Alice Springs that Murray Valley Encephalitis no longer exists, as it is now called Arbo Encephalitis.

Mr Hunt:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Yes. For the further information of the honourable member, I understand that the World Health Organisation has accepted ‘Australian Encephalitis’ as the preferred nomenclature in the Ninth Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, to come into effect internationally in 1979.

Skyways Airways Pty Ltd (Question No. 1454)

Mr O’Keefe:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Does Skyways Airways Pty Ltd operate air services in New South Wales to Quirindi, Gunnedah, Wee Waa, Condobolin, West Wyalong, and to Goondiwindi in Queensland.
  2. Has this airline used the parking, booking and seating accommodation of the TAA facilities at Mascot Terminal.
  3. Has TAA notified Skyways Airways Pty Ltd that it will terminate the use of these facilities on 7 November 1976.
  4. As Masling Airways and Advance Aviation are still allowed the use of TAA facilities, is this action by TAA unjust, unfair and discriminatory.
  5. Will he investigate this situation with a view to Skyways Airways being allowed to continue to use TAA facilities.
Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. Yes.
  4. and (5) TAA’s commercial arrangements of this nature are properly a matter for TAA to decide upon, but my Department is concerned at potential hazards to passengers and aircraft resulting from increasing congestion on the aircraft apron adjoining TAA’s passenger terminal at Sydney. The Department therefore supports the transfer of light aircraft operations to accommodation which is available elsewhere on the airport.

Unsatisfactory Practices of Motor Vehicle Insurers (Question No. 1459)

Mr Jacobi:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice:

  1. Has his attention been drawn to the unsatisfactory practices of some motor vehicle insurers which were highlighted in the Third Annual Report of the Consumer Affairs Bureau of the Australian Capital Territory.
  2. If so, will he publish the names of the insurance companies involved and will he release case studies of these dealings, so that the public can be protected from such unsavoury practices.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) My attention has been drawn to the report.
  2. This information is not available to me. The Insurance Act 1973 and the Insurance (Deposits) Act 1932 do not provide for the regulation of contractual relationships between an insurer and an insured or empower me to intervene in such matters.

However, the Attorney-General announced on 9 September 1976 that, in the light of representations made by the honourable member, he had asked the Law Reform Commission to carry out a wide-ranging inquiry into the laws dealing with insurance contracts.

Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health (Question No. 1474)

Mr Stewart:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has the task force into health, welfare and communitybased programs sought submissions from all amateur and professional sporting organisations on the role of the Australian Government in the development of sport from the base to the peak of the sporting pyramid.
  2. If so, which organisations have forwarded submissions.
  3. Do these organisations recommend a re-introduction, with a few minor alterations, of the sports development program initiated by the former Labor Government.
Mr Malcolm Fraser:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health sought submissions from persons or organisations willing to contribute to its work. Although the Task Force’s advertisement did not specifically seek submissions from amateur and professional sporting organisations, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development did, I am advised, draw the Task Force’s advertisement for submissions to the attention of national sporting organisations.
  2. The following sporting organisations made submissions to the Task Force:

All Australia Netball Association

Amateur Athletic Union of Australia

Associated Sporting Committee of W.A.

Australian Amateur Fencing Federation

Australian Baseball Council

Australian Bridge Federation

Australian Casting Association

Australian Cricket Board

Australian Hockey Association

Australian Little Athletics Union

Australian Rugby Football Union

Australian Schools Soccer Federation

Australian Soccer Federation

Australian Softball Federation

Australian Yachting Federation

Lawn Tennis Association of Australia

Model Aeronautical Association of Australia

National Football League of Australia

National Ice Skating Association of Australia

  1. Most of the organisations listed in (2) above did not refer to the Labor Government’s Sports Development Program.

Dioxins and Related Compounds (Question No. 1502)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) What action is being taken to safeguard Australians from the dangers of dioxins and related compounds.
  2. Where are these compounds in particular tetrachlorodioxin, manufactured or formulated in Australia.
  3. Is there any possibility of the Seveso tragedy occurring in Australia.
Mr Hunt:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Tetrachloro-diberizo-para-dioxin (TCDD) or Dioxin’ may be a trace contaminant in the herbicide 2,4,5-T. The National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended to the States that 2,4,5-T containing more than 0.1 ppm of TCDD should not be permitted for use as a herbicide in Australia and that there should be a maximum residue limit of 0.02 ppm of 2,4,5-T permitted in water.
  2. The Dioxins are not manufactured or formulated in Australia.
  3. No, the process used at Seveso is not carried out in Australia.

Menthol (Question No. 1509)

Mr Sainsbury:

asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Is it a fact that there is a single firm in Australia which synthesises menthol from dives oil.
  2. Has this company imported the vast proportion of its raw material requirements from South Africa and Swaziland at the same time as a 19 per cent tariff level exists on the finished product.
  3. Has this situation created great hardship for the eucalyptus dives industry in Australia.
  4. Will he consider moves to assist the industry against this situation which militates against the welfare of people employed in the eucalyptus industry in Australia.
Mr Sinclair:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) There is in fact a single company in Australia which synthesises menthol from suitable varieties of Eucalyptus dives oil.
  2. ) The company concerned purchases its oil requirements from Australian distillers. Its requirements are supplemented by imported oil only when necessary. It has not imported oil of this type during the past year.

Tariff rates applying to menthol are:

General tariff22½ per cent

Developing countries 10 percent

Preferential rate 15 percent

New Zealand: Free

  1. The situation has not created hardship for the Eucalyptus dives oil distilling industry in Australia.
  2. Under the circumstances no assistance to the industry is considered to be necessary.

Avocados (Question No. 1518)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Is he satisfied with quarantine procedures being applied to imported avocados from California, to ensure that they are free of all pests and diseases.
  2. Is there concern in the Australian industry that the introduction of such diseases would be catastrophic for the local industry.
Mr Hunt:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes. Avocado fruit from California may only come from certified sources and are inspected carefully on arrival and treated if necessary.
  2. I have received representations expressing concern about the possible introduction of diseases, but I am assured that present quarantine arrangements, which are strictly enforced, are designed to prevent entry of avocado fruit which could present a disease risk to the Australian industry.

Aboriginal Housing: Electoral Division of Grey (Question No. 1530)

Mr Wallis:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) How many houses were approved for construction or purchase by Aboriginal organisations in the Electoral Division of Grey in 1975-76.
  2. How many is it anticipated will be approved in 1976-77.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) In the financial year 1 975-76 a total of 87 houses were funded for construction or purchase for Aboriginals in the Electoral Division of Grey; 45 of these were funded through direct grants to Aboriginal associations, and the rest by Commonwealth grants to the South Australian Government.
  2. In the financial year 1976-77 it is expected that 27 houses will be funded by direct grants to Aboriginal organisations and approximately 15 by grants to the State- an approximate total of 42.

Cronulla Sutherland Railway Line (Question No. 1532)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

Has the State of New South Wales ever requested Federal financial assistance towards duplication of the Cronulla Sutherland railway line; if so, when were the requests made, and with what results.

Mr Nixon:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

I am not aware of any specific request.

National Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (Question No. 1542)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) In the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on a National Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme is the herd improvement aspect of greater immediate importance, and has it the greater likelihood of early implementation, than the herd health aspect.
  2. Will he request the committee or working party to investigate the possibility of an Australasian progeny test scheme to provide a better cow population, and also to investigate the use of the New Zealand Dairy Board computer service for herd recording and progeny testing either in the development of an Australian computer program or an Australasian program.
Mr Sinclair:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The Industries Assistance Commission’s report on a National Dairy Herd improvement Scheme included eight components and emphasised that each component was interrelated towards the overall benefits to be derived from the Scheme. The components are: genetic improvement herd recording herd management herd health programs veterinary diagnostic laboratory services mastitis monitoring centralised testing stations co-ordinated information operations

The priority afforded any one component will depend largely on the amount of finance made available, the extent of facilities already existing and the practical considerations ruling at the time of implementation.

  1. Yes.

Increase in Steel Prices (Question No. 1555)

Mr Garrick:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Did the last Prices Justification Tribunal decision to increase the price of BHP steel bring the total percentage increase in steel prices in the last 1 2 months to 25 per cent.
  2. 2 ) Does it also represent an increase of 90 per cent in the last 3 years.
  3. If so, is this increase in excess of twice the inflation rate.
  4. Can he say whether the increases will make workers, who are forced to accept plateau indexation, sceptical of the relative justice of the tribunals for labour and big business.
Mr Lynch:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Price rises for BHP steel were approved by the Prices Justification Tribunal in both October 1975 and October 1976. Taking both into account, price increases for BHP steel aggregated 25 per cent in this period.
  2. Including the price increases approved by the Tribunal in both October 1973 and October 1976, the relevant percentage increase in approvals for that period is 90 per cent.
  3. No.
  4. No; quite to the contrary, wages, salaries and supplements rose by 81 per cent in the three-year period to 1975-76, whereas gross operating surplus of companies rose by 26 per cent in the same period.

Regular Consultations with General Practitioners (Question No. 1561)

Mr Hodges:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Has any survey been held to ascertain how many Australians actually consult with their own doctor on a regular basis.
  2. If so, what are the figures.
  3. What comparative figures are available from overseas countries.
Mr Hunt:

-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) and (2) To my knowledge no overall survey covering both the regularity of contact with a general practitioner or the regularity of contact with a specific general practitioner has been undertaken. Surveys in limited and non-typical geographic areas have been carried out on patientpractitioner contact. These would not form a valid basis for information to the honourable member.
  2. 3 ) No studies of the type indicated are known to me.

Export of Grain Through Portland (Question No. 1566)

Mr Scholes:

asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:

What is the cost to producers of additional freight charges caused by the Victorian Government’s requirements that a fixed proportion of export grain be shipped through Portland instead of Geelong.

Mr Sinclair:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

There is a proposal of the Victorian Government to legislate to re-constitute the Victorian Grain Elevator’s Board to enable it to negotiate with the Portland Harbour Trust Commissioners for the takeover and control by the Grain Elevators’ Board of the bulk grain handling facilities at Portland.

In the event that such legislation is effected and the negotiations are successful, I am advised by the Australian Wheat Board that it is not expected that there will be any ‘cost to producers of additional freight charges’ by reason of exporting wheat through Portland (rather than Geelong as at present). It would be anticipated that such wheat would be drawn from that area adjacent to Portland, having a natural freight advantage.

As regards barley, the Australian Barley Board does not envisage any alteration to its normal marketing operations in relation to any exportable surplus of barley from Victoria.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.