30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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 IAC and Green reports.
We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way at all.
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 Dobie and Mr Charles Jones.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5, 903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the live years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman, Mr Drummond and Mr Wallis.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for the funding of rural local roads and urban local roads in New SouthWales for the triennium 1 977- 1 980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony and Mr Fitzpatrick.
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:
Television is the single most influential medium for the dissemination of information and for the recording and development of our national identity and culture;
Children are the most important section of the viewing public in that they are most likely to be affected by the impact of television;
Australian children, on average, spend more time watching television than in school;
And believing that:
The basic problem behind the lack of programmes designed for children is the fundamental divergence of aims between those primarily interested in the welfare of children and the commercial interests of television licensees and their shareholders.
The creation of an establishment to initiate, research, promote, co-ordinate, fund and produce material for children’s consumption through the medium of television, as recommended by Australian Children’s Television Action Committee in its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts 1973; the Australian Broadcasting Control Boards Advisory Committee Report 1974 and the Television Industry Co-ordinating Committee 1975, as a positive step towards providing better quality television for Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Staley and Mr Donald Cameron.
Department of the Northern Territory: Radio System
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens employed in the Electrical Power Industry in Darwin, Northern Territory.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
Petitions 22 February 1977 REPRESENTATIVES 255
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Adermann.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens and residents from overseas are concerned for the safety of Malaysian student leader Mr Hishamuddin Rais.
Mr Hishamuddin Rais, the past Secretary General of the University of Malaya Students Union is currently in Australia seeking political asylum.
We your petitioners pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Recognise that Mr Hishamuddin Rais was persecuted by the Malaysian Government for his activities as a student leader, because he supported the struggle of the peasants and workers for just working and living conditions.
Considers Mr Hishamuddin Rais’ case favourably and grant him political asylum in the spirit of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights which states that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
Understands that the belated pressing of these charges as a deliberate attempt to incriminate Hishamuddin Rais before the law so as to jeopardise his case for political asylum. Hence, we demand that these fabricated charges be withdrawn in order that Hishamuddin ‘s case for political asylum not be prejudiced.
Acknowledges that the case of Mr Hishamuddin Rais is a particular instance of political pressure brought to bear upon overseas students in Australia as a result of the collusion between the Australian Government and foreign regimes.
And recognises that political surveillance and political intervention by foreign and Australian agents is a direct threat on the life and liberty of overseas students.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Clyde Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled.
We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government;
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fitzpatrick.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
-Mr Speaker, I give notice that at the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the House notes:
That the recent fighting in Lebanon has caused great hardship and suffering to large numbers of persons and great distress to their relatives in Australia.
That the Government has adopted a humane policy in allowing entry to Australia of a wide category of persons affected by the fighting.
That many such persons lost all their property and were forced to wait unexpectedly long periods particularly in Cyprus and were required to pay heavy accommodation and other costs.
That many such persons were assisted by Australian relatives who had expended their savings or raised large sums of money at high interest rates.
That many Lebanese persons who arrived in Australia are living in destitute circumstances and many of their Australian relations have been seriously financially prejudiced. 256 REPRESENTATIVES 22 February 1977 Petitions
That the Australian Government has embarked upon an aid program to assist persons in Lebanon.
This House therefore resolves:
That any such aid program include financial assistance to Lebanese persons in Australia living in destitute circumstances and to Australian residents who suffered financial hardship in bringing relatives to Australia.
-I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That this House should consider an appropriate resolution expressing its profound regret at the death of the Archbishop of Uganda.
The motion will be seconded by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom).
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I ask: Is it true that, following a decision by Mr Commissioner Clarkson of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 24 August 1976, the Minister met with the managing directors of the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd, General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and Chrysler Australia Ltd to ascertain whether they intended to appeal, and did they reply in the negative? Did he unsuccessfully attempt -
-Order! The honourable member for Burke will resume his seat for a moment. The Minister could not hear the question. I ask the honourable gentleman to recommence his question. I see that the SerjeantatArms has left the chamber to investigate the source of the noise that could be heard in the chamber. I now call upon the honourable member for Burke to ask his question.
-I ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: Is it true that, following a decision by Mr Commissioner Clarkson of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 24 August 1976, the Minister met with the managing directors of the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd, General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and Chrysler Australia Ltd to ascertain whether they intended to appeal, and did they reply in the negative? Did he unsuccessfully attempt to enlist their support for a Government appeal against the decision of Mr Commissioner Clarkson?
– Following Commissioner Clarkson ‘s decision I asked the general managers of the motor vehicle manufacturers mentioned to come to see me. As I remember it, one element of Commissioner Clarkson ‘s decision related to extension of relief time. As there was some uncertainty at that stage I wanted clarification whether this could be interpreted as going to the question of standard hours of work, which of course can be determined by a Full Bench of the Commission only. I wanted to seek clarification with the companies as to what the situation might be. Following the discussions to which the honourable gentleman has referred I decided- because to some extent the question had been decided in a previous decision- that the decision of Commissioner Clarkson did not go to the question of standard hours of work, and that was the end of the matter.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerns the tragic death of Archbishop Luwum of Uganda, a man who was widely known and highly respected by many Australians. I ask: Did the Government make representations to the Ugandan authorities about the Archbishop’s safety? Is the Government satisfied with the explanations provided by the Ugandan authorities about the Archbishop’s death? Does the Archbishop’s death suggest that a wider campaign of terror is being waged and that basic human rights are being denied all Ugandans? Is the Minister in a position now to announce what further action, if any, the Government proposes to take on this matter?
-If I took down the questions accurately, the brief replies would be: Yes, no, yes, yes. In other words, last week I indicated that the Government made representations to the Ugandan authorities about the Archbishop’s safety and welfare, shortly after his arrest. Four days after the tragic death of Archbishop Luwum and 2 Ugandan cabinet ministers the Ugandan authorities still have not been able to offer any convincing explanation of the facts surrounding the incident. On the contrary, from reports coming out of Uganda, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Archbishop’s death and that of the 2 cabinet ministers was deliberate murder. The Uganda regime, whose suppression of the exercise of basic human rights and civil liberties is well documented, cannot avoid responsibility for that.
We must remember, of course, that the Archbishop and the ministers are only a few of evidently a great many Ugandans who have lost their lives in recent years. Indeed the situation in Uganda has gained prominence in Australia and in other countries by the Archbishop’s tragic death. I believe our sympathy must extend equally to all Ugandans and their families, from whatever walk of life and whatever religion or faith, who have suffered unjust and arbitrary punishment. Tragic events of this kind, as I said last week, are all too common around the world today. They result inevitably from situations in which people are denied the exercise of basic human rights and freedom of expression. In Uganda, as in other places where violations occur, the Government urges the speediest possible restoration of these basic rights. Obviously, the main sufferers in the tragic course of events in Uganda are the Ugandan people. To the extent that these events- I would like to add thisinfluence perceptions of developments elsewhere in Africa by obscuring the advances that many African states are making in economic and in social areas all of Africa stands to lose and objective discussion and assessment of other situations become more difficult.
In response to the final question asked by the honourable member for Hotham, the Government will make known direct to the Ugandan Government the depth of concern being expressed in Australia about this incident and about persistent reports of the killing of Ugandan citizens since the present Government there came to power.
-I address a question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. As Australia will become increasingly dependent on imported oil, and in the absence of an agency to monitor prices and a complete assessment of transfer price mechanism, I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that the consumers throughout this country will be taken to the cleaners by international oil companies? Will the failure of this Government to act quickly in these 2 areas leave the door wide open for a massive rip-off? I ask 2 further questions: Will the Minister take immediate steps to allocate sufficient funds to enable the Royal Commission on Petroleum to report upon the large volume of evidence it has amassed on transfer prices? Finally, will the Minister establish an agency as recommended in the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum to structure a just, effective and efficient price mechanism?
– The honourable member, as is his wont on occasions, used some very colourful language about people being taken to the cleaners. The petrol consuming public of New South Wales are being taken to the cleaners at the present time through the existence in that State of black bans by the Transport Workers Union on the delivery of discount petrol to discount sites. There is some legislation before this Parliament which might have some consequence in that regard and I will be very interested to see whether the honourable member for Hawker votes in favour of that legislation. I will be very interested to see what attitude the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions publicly takes to that legislation, given the professed concern of the Party he leads for legislation to ensure effective competition. This is a situation were the President of the ACTU does not wear 2 hats- he wears 3 hats, because his organisation has a commercial interest in the methods and the practices of marketing petroleum not only in Victoria but also in New South Wales. The fact is that ACTU-Solo Enterprises is itself a victim of that very same black ban. So one will await with some interest the attitude that the Opposition takes and more specifically the attitude that the President of the ACTU takes on this legislation.
The honourable member knows, as indeed do other honourable members on this side of the House who have taken a very deep interest in the problems of petroleum marketing, that I have over the last 4 weeks had lengthy discussion with representatives of re-seller organisations throughout Australia and with representatives of every major oil company throughout Australia, and that on Friday I will be meeting representatives of ACTU-Solo Enterprises. This Government has a deep commitment towards a marketing policy which will provide the Australian consumers with petrol at the lowest possible price. The petroleum industry is a very complicated mechanism. An understanding of the nature of the petroleum industry and the policies which are required to bring about the cheapest possible delivery of petrol to the Australian consumers are not assisted by extravagant rhetoric of the type indulged in by the honourable member.
-Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to Press comment concerning the appointment of the Honourable Gordon Freeth as Australia’s High Commissioner to London? Does the Prime Minister draw a distinction between so-called political appointments to ambassadorial posts and the appointment of Division officers of the Public Service?
– The honourable gentleman makes a very real and proper distinction in the basis of his question. Firstly, let me say that the Honourable Gordon Freeth is singularly well chosen for this particular post. He has been not only a Minister of the Crown in a number of portfolios, including Minister for Foreign Affairs, but also he has served with great distinction in Japan as Ambassador. With that record behind him, he is certainly well equipped to handle the task of High Commissioner in London. I would no more object to the appointment of Lance Barnard as Ambassador to Sweden than should any honourable gentleman raise an objection to the appointment of the Honourable Gordon Freeth as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. It should be noted that there is a very real distinction between that kind of appointment and the appointment of a private secretary as permanent head of a department, especially a policy advising department. That is a position which carries with it, under the old rules, permanency in the Public Service. In those circumstances it was possible for somebody to appoint to the Public Service in the highest policy advising areas, people with a deep political and philosophical commitment which would destroy the apolitical nature of the Public Service. As honourable gentlemen would know, the Government has introduced legislation designed to make that impossible in order to preserve the apolitical nature of the Public Service, but at the same time to make it possible for someone outside the Public Service to be properly appointed to a position on a contract basis for a particular period. Under those circumstances a succeeding government would not be bound to continue that person in office. I believe that blends in a system which maintains the apolitical nature of the Public Service but at the same time makes it possible to attract outside expertise to the highest positions in the Public Service, if a particular government so wishes. I think there are some people who want to keep all jobs in the world for themselves. There is a staff association which indicates that there should be a closed shop arrangement in relation to ambassadors and high commissioners, a contention which I will not accept for one moment, especially in relation to the United Kingdom and the United States where there is particular advantage in having somebody with a political background and a close knowledge of the politics and politicians in his own country. The staff association not only wants these positions to be made closed shop arrangements; it apparently also wants secretarial positions to be a closed shop arrangement. I emphasise that this is a Public Service, departmental and Board decision in which I do not think any Minister has been involved.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does the Treasurer agree that the level of demand today is lower than that necessary to clear all economic output at a satisfactory profit? If he cannot disapprove this, will he at least provide funds to re-employ people who have lost their jobs and to assist those poorer people who have suffered most severely From inflation?
– The Government rejects completely any suggestion that additional stimulus is required to the economy at the present time and rejects also any suggestion that the economy has, in fact, failed to pick up. The fact is that there was a significant improvement in economic performance, particularly in real growth, during the course of last year. The real growth non-farm product increased by over 7 per cent between the December quarter 1975 and the September quarter 1976 in comparison with the decline of 4
Eer cent that took place during the 7 quarters leading to the end of 1975. There is, of course, further evidence of additional growth in demand since the September quarter. I have mentioned to the honourable member the very marked upturn in business profitability which means that the corporate -
-The figures are there for all to see. That marked upturn means that the corporate sector is now in a better position further to increase its level of investment spending. I also remind the honourable gentleman of the statement made by his leader that Labor would achieve a 6 per cent to 7 per cent growth rate during its period in office. The fact is that the GDP increased by an annual average rate of 5.3 per cent in the 10 year period up to 1972. One can compare that with the appalling record of growth during the period that the honourable gentleman and his colleagues were in office. I can inform the House that the Budget forecast of a 4 per cent non-farm GDP will in fact be exceeded. We expect, subject to the normal qualifications in forecasting, that the figure will be closer to 5 per cent in this financial year.
-Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government has made any decisions to alleviate the communications problems experienced by the people of the Torres Strait?
-When I visited the Torres Strait some time ago, 3 aspects of communications were raised with me by the chairman. They had been raised previously, I think, with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and they have since been put under study by the Government. The first of those aspects, with which the Government has decided to proceed forthwith, is to establish a translator so that normal Australian Broadcasting Commission services can be available freely and properly to Australians in the Torres Strait Islands. The second aspect, which is more complex and more difficult, is to link the Torres Strait Islands with the normal telecommunications network around Australia so that the people in the Torres Strait can ring up, as other people can ring up and have secure communications with other parts of Australia. That matter is still under study by the Postal and Telecommunications Department and by the Minister. It is a matter which the Government would want to process in a reasonable way.
The third matter concerns reasonable transportation, especially for those islands- I refer in particular to Darnley Island- whose geographic position will make it very difficult to establish an air strip economically. This was highlighted by a circumstance of a child dying some day or two ago and the fact that from Darnley Island one has to go by boat over to one or two of the other islands before taking an aircraft to hospital. We have been looking at various alternative ways of overcoming that problem, especially for Darnley Island as it is the largest island in that category. We have not yet reached a satisfactory conclusion to that part of the examination, but that also is proceeding. My colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is on his way to the Torres Strait Islands for further discussions with the chairman. He will be relating to the chairman the current position and he will be indicating the Commonwealth’s concern.
-I ask the Treasurer: Would it be possible for companies purchasing plant or equipment, and thus attracting the investment allowance, then to send that plant and equipment overseas or off-shore in order to set up their industries there? Is he aware that that practice is being carried out? Has he taken steps to see that it is prevented so that Australian taxpayers’ money is not used to set up industries off-shore?
-I appreciate the point which the honourable gentleman has raised and I recognise the responsibility with which he has posed that question. I will check the facts of the matter with e Commissioner of Taxation and see what steps can be taken. I will provide the honourable gentleman with an answer in writing.
– Is the Minister for Overseas Trade aware of the continual decline in the price of sugar on world markets? What impact is that having on the Queensland sugar industry? What are he and his Department doing to help overcome this situation?
– It is true that there has been a serious decline in the price of sugar during the past 12 months. It has dropped from about £Stg160 a tonne to £Stg125 a tonne at the present time. This is causing a great deal of concern to growers in Queensland and in northern New South Wales, as well as to the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. It has the added effect of putting pressure on our long term sugar agreements, particularly those with Japan and Malaysia. Although these are privately negotiated contracts between the industry and commercial interests in those countries, the Government adopts the attitude that it should facilitate ongoing procedures to see that those contracts are maintained and the price held. However, in the world context there is concern. A meeting in Geneva is being planned under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development for the purpose of creating a new international sugar agreement. Australia will be represented at this meeting. I hope that I shall be able to go there to present the case on behalf of Australia. We support international agreements. The previous one negotiated in 1968 was very successful in reviving stable prices. It helped the Australian industry considerably.
-I ask the Minster for Defence: Is it a fact that the Government is preparing to re-introduce compulsory military service, both for men and for women? Have some of the necessary papers already been printed?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is no.
– I ask the Treasurer: What do the figures released today for the consumer price index show to be the underlying trend in inflation?
– Multiply it by four, Phil.
– I shall not do what the honourable member for Oxley did, that is, to multiply it by two. As the honourable gentleman who interjected ought to be aware, that that was done is very much on the record. I welcome a question from this side of the House. The absence of questions concerning the consumer price index figures for the December quarter from the Opposition is rather surprising. The figures which were released at 12 noon today show that the marked downward trend in inflation during 1976 has been consolidating. The Opposition had difficulty in attending to these matters during its period in office.
I am prepared to say to the honourable gentleman opposite that on any basis of assessment this is the case: First of all, after adjustment for the effects of changes made to Medibank, the consumer price index increased by 2.8 per cent during the December quarter, compared with 6.3 per cent for the December quarter of 1975. Secondly, after adjustment for the Medibank changes, the index increased at a rate of 10.8 per cent during the 12 months to the end of 1976, compared with an increase under the former Administration of 16.7 per cent over the 12 months to December 1975. Thirdly, if one seeks further evidence- I do not mind comparisons on any basis that the Opposition cares to bring forwardif one adjusts for government taxes and charges and for the effects of Medibank, the index rose at an annual rate of 10.2 per cent over the last half of 1976, compared with a rise of 14.3 per cent over the last half of the previous year. In short, on any accepted basis for comparison, the figures for the 12 months to the end of the December quarter or for the 6 months to the end of the December quarter expressed at an annual rate indicate that the underlying rate of inflation in this country is now significantly less than it was 12 months ago.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about the consumer price index. The right honourable gentleman may remember that last May the honourable member for Prospect asked him whether the introduction of a specific Medibank levy would, under the methods used by the Bureau of Statistics, add over 3 per cent to the consumer price index and that he, himself, replied that ‘the honourable member would be well advised to wait a day or two before he comes to firm conclusions’. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he will now concede, after 9 months, that the question put to him then was in fact modest, the Medibank levy being responsible for more than a 3 per cent increase, namely, a 3.2 per cent increase in the CPI?
– My advice to the honourable member for Prospect- to wait a day or two before he came to firm conclusions- was right. The Medibank aspect of the CPI is 3.2 per cent. That more properly represents the total cost of Medibank. The subtraction made from the CPI in the honourable gentleman’s time was one which still left many hidden aspects, such as subsidies for beds and other matters of that kind, coming out of taxation revenue. The position was therefore hidden. This method at least enables all Australians to understand the cost of health care and how fraudulent the claim is that health care can ever be free.
I emphasise the point that my colleague, the Treasurer, made a moment ago. The increase in the all-groups index, excluding hospital and medical services, in the December quarter that has just passed is 2.8 per cent. On the revised basket which the Statistician on his own initiative and in his own responsibility has drawn up, the rise in the December quarter of 1975, the last quarter for which the honourable member was responsible, was 6.3 per cent. On that basis there has been a very substantial reduction over the course of the year in the underlying rate of inflation. I have not the slightest doubt that the honourable gentleman was seeking to confuse this kind of situation and seeking to suggest that there is something in the Medibank element that continues on and on. It is the element of the CPI, excluding Medibank, which will relate the underlying level of inflation. This element is, at present, less than half the underlying rate when the honourable gentleman left office.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the election result in Western Australia? Does this result have any relevance to the Federal scene?
– In passing I have been aware of certain events in Western Australia over the last weekend. On Sunday evening I had discussions with Sir Charles Court whom, I think, the great majority of members of this House would wish to congratulate most heartily on his magnificent victory. The result will make quite certain that the development of Western Australia, whose economy is now starting to take off, will proceed in a proper and vigorous fashion under the leadership of Sir Charles. Whatever might have appeared from time to time, the Commonwealth will be looking forward to working in co-operation with Sir Charles Court in the resolution of many of the problems that are in front of Australia both in the economic field and in other matters of organisation concerning the implementation of our federalism policy.
I believe that the policies in Western Australia that led to the return of the Government are basically State policies. I believe that in State elections people to a very large extent make judgments on the basis of State results, although I know from time to time that politicians sometimes seek to claim, when the result goes a certain way, that the election was fought on Federal or other issues. Basically I think the people of Australia can distinguish between a State election and a Federal election. They know that the results to a significant extent are related to different matters. I would think this has basically been the case in Western Australia. Certainly Sir Charles Court’s own record would amply have justified his return with the increased majority that has in fact occurred. Again this is something that must give great satisfaction to everyone from Western Australia because they now know that their State will be safe for a while longer.
-Is it the intention of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to answer a question which I placed on the notice paper on 2 December last year? I remind the honourable gentleman that question No. 1688 refers to the practice of telephone tapping and calls for an investigation. Can the Minister say whether this question has gained great import recently, and whether he will answer it or let it dissolve with the Parliament at the end of the week?
-I will have another look today at the question on notice and I will ascertain whether it is possible to give the honourable member an answer before the end of this week. It would be improper for me to comment on the substance of the question until I give him a written answer.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to his statement to the Melbourne State College on 2 1 February, yesterday, in which he said that because of rising labour costs employers were tending to use machines rather than people in the productive process, and if tariff protection were reduced this trend would worsen. Does not the Prime Minister realise that replacing manual labour with machines has been a continuing process since Adam started farming and Eve started spinning? Does the Prime Minister want us to go back to farming with horses rather than tractors because by so doing we would employ more labour? Should we not use hand looms instead of power looms, for the same reason, or wheelbarrows instead of trucks? Does not the main hope for increasing our standard of living rest on increasing productivity? Is not the replacement of men by machines an integral and important pan of this process?
-The honourable gentleman is nothing if not persistent in the pursuit of his approach in these matters. I do not think that even the constituents in his electorate would really recommend returning to wheelbarrows instead of trucks or to horses instead of tractors, although they might have less of a spare parts problem if they did. The honourable gentleman forgets that within a society the rate of change is of the utmost importance. If the rate of change in economic matters, or in other matters which are of fundamental concern, proceeds too fast there will be grave disruptions which society will not be able to accommodate without grievous harm to significant groups of people. What has happened is that the natural processes of moving from wheelbarrows to trucks, about which the honourable gentleman spoke in his normally eloquent way, were given a tremendous boost in the 3 Labor years, not only by tariff reductions but more particularly by other policies that promoted the vast inflation and, at the same time, by policies that promoted enormous increases in wages.
Under these circumstances it was obviously much more difficult for Australian industry to compete and to maintain its position. Firms that sent about one-third of their products to the United States market now do not send anything to the United States market as a result of these changes. I refer also to firms that went off-shore and that were encouraged to go off-shore during the time that the present Opposition was in government, exporting Australian jobs to countries overseas in the circumstances that prevailed 2 or 3 years ago. The pace of change was much too fast. If that pace of change had been allowed to continue at the rate at which it did as a result of these forces working through the Australian economic community, quite plainly there would have been grave disruption, and it would have been very difficult indeed to provide jobs for Australians who wanted to work. So it is a question, where change is inevitable, of the change being accommodated in a way that is sensible and realistic. The honourable gentleman pointed out some areas in which change was inevitable.
I would like to make one or two other points about this general question of protection and free trade. Whilst everyone claims not to be of the extreme position on one side or the othereveryone claims to be in a reasonable position saying that he wants reasonable protection for reasonable industries- the only difference comes over the definition of the word ‘reasonable’ in each case. In that area people differ very greatly.
Australia is at the end of long transport routes and comparisons are sometimes made with countries like Sweden that have been able to concentrate in certain areas. But people forget that whilst the populations of Australia and Sweden are not dissimilar, Sweden is close to the large and affluent markets of Western Europe and has minimum transport costs. That country therefore is in a vastly different position to a country like Australia which is not close to any other market except with very significant transport costs.
In these circumstances it is inevitable that if Australian industries, with the size market that we have, are to compete, there has to be a proper level of protection. In a situation such as the one which has resulted from the inflationary policies of our predecessors many Australian industries are in difficulty and the question of restructuring industry is all the more a difficult question. If most industries are prosperous and we find that we wish to restructure an industry, because its rate of protection is too high, there will be jobs for people in that industry to go to. But in a situation where most of industry has an excess capacity and a decision is made to restructure industry, we are restructuring people into the dole queues. That is not going to be the policy of this Government.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the decision by the Carter Administration to charge the cost to all those attending the recent inauguration ceremonies and the Prime Minister’s often expressed view that there is no such thing as a free meal, will he arrange that all those attending Government functions for Her Majesty the Queen are charged for them, or does he feel that free meals are out only for those with incomes below $20,000 a year?
-There has been a traditional approach to some of these things. As honourable gentlemen know, there will be a reception for Her Majesty and some other people will be coming to Canberra for particular occasions. Some decisions in relation to those matters, I think in relation to the Order of Australia, were made by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not believe that those arrangements ought to be upset.
– The Queen is coming on our invitation.
– Yes- on our invitation. I do not believe that the arrangements ought to be upset in relation to people on the first Order of Australia list who are coming here. The Leader of the Opposition has confirmed my recollection that those decisions were made in his time in office. The Queen as Queen of Australia is coming to Australia on our invitation by our wish. I am quite certain that all Australia will give her the best reception she has ever had in this country and probably a better reception than she has ever had in any country.
– I rise to order. My point of order is that the Prime Minister has not only refused to answer the question but also he has put into the mouth of the questioner words and suggestions that he did not make.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– I would just like to make a slight addition to my answer. It was the Leader of the Opposition who made the decision and advised Government House that members of the first Order of Australia should have their fares paid to Canberra.
– I am talking about parliamentarians and yourself. You talk about not having a free meal. You are going to get a free meal.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will remain silent.
– I do not believe that the traditional arrangements in these matters ought to be upset.
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Resources. In respect of the Fraser Island sand mining activities terminated by the Federal Government decision based on environmental considerations, will the Minister state the conditions to which the export licences were subject? Further, will the relevant documents be tabled?
-I do not have on hand the answer to the question, but I will have my Department look at it to see whether I can give the honourable member a suitable reply.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Is it a fact that a day or so before the appointment of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal was announced the Treasurer stayed or met with the Chairman and Managing Director of Consolidated Press Holdings Ltd and Channel 9 at Surfers Paradise? If so, did the Treasurer and the Chairman- Managing Director discuss the forthcoming appointment of a chairman of the Tribunal?
– As much as I welcome the opportunity occasionally to visit Surfers Paradise I have no recollection of being in Surfers Paradise immediately before that appointment was made.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to recent events in Uganda. Does the Government intend to express its concern about President Amin’s regime to the United Nations Human Rights Commission? In the Government’s view, should Uganda still be regarded as a member of the British Commonwealth in good standing? If not, will the Government seek the views of other member nations with a view to dissociating themselves from the present regime in Uganda either at or before the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting?
-Both last week and this afternoon in an earlier answer I expressed concern and outlined the action we are taking. I indicated just what the Government both felt and would do about the atrocities allegedly committed by the regime of President Amin. The honourable member’s first question concerned an application to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. We are of course not a member of that Commission, but it is open to us to put forward views to the Commission and I will consider that, bearing in mind however that we have expressed and will be expressing to the Government of Uganda itself our disapproval of what we understand to have transpired. We would be prepared to express such views elsewhere. The second question concerned membership of the British Commonwealth. I think the honourable member asked whether Uganda was a member of the Commonwealth in good standing. It is certainly a member of the Commonwealth. Its standing must be obvious from the number of expressions of international concern which have been forthcoming.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Health. He will recall that recent Press statements have alleged that pathologists’ incomes have more than doubled in a year because of kick-back payments to general practitioners which encouraged these doctors to overutilise pathology services at public expense. I ask the Minister: As these allegations are of a very serious nature and seem to involve millions of dollars of public funds, will he assure the House that the final report of the working party examining pathology services, due I trunk in December last, will be tabled in this House? Can he also assure the House that the second annual report of Medibank due to be tabled shortly will contain relevant information about doctors’ incomes so that the Parliament and the public can assess the truth of these allegations?
– The honourable member will recall that in April of last year the Government set up a working party under Dr Sax to inquire into some of the quite unsatisfactory practices in the pathology area. These practices have been going on for some years but certainly accelerated under the Medibank system. Dr Sax headed the committee consisting of representatives from the Royal College of Pathologists in Australia and the Society of Pathologists in Private Practice, plus a representative from the New South Wales Health Commission and representatives from the Department of Health. That committee made 2 short-term recommendations to the Government, the first being to amend the schedule of fees for benefits to become effective as from 1 October. The Government acted to implement that recommendation, and the new schedule of fees now applies. The committee also recommended that the Government should implement an approved provider scheme. Legislation will be introduced in this session so that this system will apply as from 1 July this year. So, I can give the honourable member the assurance that legislation will be introduced to overcome another problem that has become evident.
Also we are waiting on a further report from the pathology working party on the longer-term measures that the Government should consider to overcome the problem, and I will give consideration to the honourable gentleman s request in respect of the tabling of that report. After question time I will be tabling the report of the Health Insurance Commission for the last financial year. If there is any other information that the honourable gentleman may require about doctors’ incomes on average and so oh, I hope to be in a position to provide that in the not too distant future.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report of the Interdepartmental Working Party on Interpreters and Translators.
– For the information of honourable members I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on the following subjects:
Soaps and Detergents, Etc.
Commercial Motor Vehicles, Parts and Accessories: Interim Report on Short Term Assistance.
Electric Motors, Generators and Rotary Converters.
Watt Hour Meters- (Developing Country Preferences).
For the information of honourable members, I present the text of a letter by the Minister for Education relating to the role and composition of the Schools Commission, together with a statement by the Minister relating to that letter.
Pursuant to section 32 of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act 1973, 1 present the annual report of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission for 1975-76.
Pursuant to section 42 of the Health Insurance Commission Act 1973, I present the annual report of the Health Insurance Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the monthly reports of the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for July, August and September 1976. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of these papers have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and the Parliamentary Library. I ask for leave of the House to make a very short statement in relation to these matters.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-With reference to report for September, in view of representations made to me I referred these representations to the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) for advice. I have now received legal advising which I will discuss further with the Attorney-General and with the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund Committee in Darwin next Monday. Pending finalisation of these matters amounts provided for the Mayor’s Trust Fund Community Centre, Darwin, and the Darwin and District Spastic Paralysis Association have, on my instruction, been redeposited in the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund Account. When these matters have been clarified, so that the House might be fully aware of a final disposition of this particular fund, I will, as early as possible, bring a further statement to the Parliament.
-Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I raise with the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) only one query on his statement. I understand that the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund Committee has been wound up by its own resolution. I ask the Minister what is the status of his statement if that is true.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has my indulgence to respond.
Mr ADERMANN (Fisher-Minister for the Northern Territory)-The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) says that there is no legal impediment in the matter and that the Committee is functional.
by leave- The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have agreed that the arrangements under which the Construction Agency of the Australian Department of Construction has been operating in Papua New Guinea should be terminated and the Agency withdrawn. The 2 governments have decided on this course of action because of the increased capacity of the Papua New Guinea works authorities and the somewhat reduced size of the current Papua New Guinea works program. The Construction Agency, which replaced the Department of Construction’s regional organisation at the end of 1975, originally had a staff of approximately 200 comprising expatriate Australians and Papua New Guinea nationals. The withdrawal of staff eligible to return to positions within the Public Service within Australia has been going on for some months, and is expected to be complete early in March 1977. In the main, these staff have taken up positions with the Department of Construction. Satisfactory arrangements have also been made for the Papua New Guinea nationals to be employed with the Papua New Guinea Public Service, or in the private sector.
The staff of the Agency deserve tribute for the work they have done in Papua New Guinea. They have been involved in many aspects of infrastructure development in Papua New Guinea including the provision of transport facilities, water supplies, communication networks and power stations. Many projects such as the Nadzab airport development, the Ramu hydroelectric scheme and the Bank of Papua New Guinea building come to mind. The staff of the Agency have also undertaken a substantial training role in Papua New Guinea.
The facilities of the Department of Construction will continue to be available on request to the Government of Papua New Guinea on terms which may be agreed between the 2 Governments from time to time.
-Mr Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation. When the voting on the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Bill 1976 took place last Thursday night, you will remember, the division bells were not rung but the doors were locked. I was unable to obtain entrance to the chamber and my vote in favour of the Bill was not recorded. Would it be possible for my vote to be so recorded?
-Mr Speaker, I would like to make a personal explanation, too.
-Is it relevant to the same point?
– Yes. I was outside the locked door with the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). Neither of us was able to get into the chamber. It was not our fault. I just want that recorded, too.
– I note the points made by the honourable member for Wakefield and the honourable member for Hindmarsh but I would just draw attention to one fundamental point. The honourable member for Wakefield said that he was not in the chamber when the voting occurred. The fact is that the voting occurred before that event. The Bill was carried on the voices and the probability is, although I have no direct recollection, that the honourable member for Wakefield and the honourable member for Hindmarsh were actually in the chamber and voted when the Bill was carried on the voices. The next step in the procedure was to record that there was an absolute majority. So the locking of the doors was for the purpose of enabling those persons appointed to record the names to do so without interference from people moving in and out of the chamber. As to whether or not an honourable member voted would be a question of whether he was in the chamber when the Bill was carried on the voices.
-Those explanations from the 2 honourable members leads me to report to the House that following the failure of the lights last Thursday night I caused investigations to be made, along with the President of the Senate, by the Secretary of the Joint House Committee, by the Serjeant-at-Arms and by the Usher of the Black Rod. I have had a report from them as to the reason for the failure but I think it is put more succinctly in a paragraph in a letter from the
Chairman of the A.C.T. Electricity Authority to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) which he has passed on to me. It reads:
Supply was lost when a 66 000-volt surge diverter at the Authority’s Kingston zone substation exploded due to an internal fault and in shattering caused heavy fragments to damage the porcelain bushings of the power transformer which serves the parliamentary triangle.
I inform the House that it has been reported to me that members and senators were able to make their way from the chamber, and visitors in the galleries were able to be shown out with the assistance of torches possessed by the police and by attendants. As for the future, there was no emergency lighting simply because there are three entries of power into Parliament House and it was not thought likely that there could be such a shut-down of power. In fact, as we now know, not only could there be, but also there was. Therefore, it is our intention to continue investigating a method whereby there can be illumination of a lower variety but at least sufficient for people to make an exit in the event of fire, explosion or anything of that kind. That is now being examined and in due course I will report to the chamber the conclusions that the President of the Senate and I have reached.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order concerning the matter which I brought to your attention last Thursday evening and which is reported on page 247 of Hansard. I refer to the fact that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) mentioned on page 246 of Hansard that you had not called for a dissentient voice. When the lighting system was corrected and the bells were rung, I was under the clear impression that the bells rang for 5 minutes. I interpreted this to be for re-assembly of the House, not the 2 minutes for which the bells would ring for a division. The time for which the bells rang is not recorded in Hansard, but following the remarks of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) I think that there was some confusion when the bells rang for the re-assembly. If the bells rang for more than the period associated with a division, I feel that Hansard should record that fact. Mr Speaker, could you ascertain the period for which the bells rang and have that recorded in Hansard!
-The bells rang for 5 minutes for the purpose of assembly of the House. The honourable member will recall that we had been in the act of recording the names of all persons in favour of the legislation when the lights went out. When we re-assembled I indicated to the House in these terms:
I inform the House that I propose to ring the bells again. When the power failed we were at the point where the Bill had passed the third reading but for the purposes of recording an absolute majority it was necessary to ring the bells for 2 minutes. I am in the hands of the House. I think it would be appropriate to ring the bells for the 2 minutes, but if the House does not want that to happen I am prepared to forgo it.
I interpreted the mood of the House as not wishing to be held up again. It was not necessary. It was only for the purpose of recording an absolute majority and, therefore, in my interpretation of the mood of the House, I did not call for the bells to be rung for 2 minutes for a second time.
- Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, that was the point that I was trying to make the other evening. Those people who were without the chamber and who heard the bells ring for 5 minutes did not have an opportunity to enter the chamber because the House so resolved. I can understand that you, as Speaker -
-What is the honourable gentleman’s point?
- Mr Speaker, I want it recorded in Hansard that the bells did ring for 5 minutes and that people who may have had a dissentient voice were not given the opportunity to express it because those present in the House resolved that the doors be locked and the bells not be rung. That ought to be recorded.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The procedures of the House provide that when the vote is taken on the motion for the third reading a person who dissents from the motion shall vote with the noes, and if he is the only dissenting person he will ask for his name to be recorded. No such person took either of those steps. The subsequent actions are only for a matter of record to ensure that there are 65 ayes. It is not a count of noes.
– The honourable member for Corio is absolutely correct.
– I have received messages from the Senate returning the following Bills without amendment:
Defence Amendment Bill 1976.
Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Amendment Bill 1976.
-I wish to make a short statement to the House concerning the price of Hansard. Honourable members will be aware that since the price of the weekly Hansard was raised to $63.10 in January 1975, the number of subscribers has fallen substantially. This has
This recommendation was approved by the President and myself, and because Government funds were needed it was referred to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) for concurrence. That has now been received. The Australian Government Publishing Service will be offering the new subscription rate from today and those people who have subscribed at the old rate will receive a rebate on application. The new single copy price will be 50c at the Australian Government Publishing Service bookshops in capital cities.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The actions of the Fraser Government which have increased the cost of living.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their placesMr HURFORD (Adelaide) (3.23)-The 6 per cent December quarter increase in the consumer price index is a disastrous result and is an appalling indictment of the economic management of our country by the Fraser Government. It is an appalling sign of the economic mismanagement suffered by the Australian people over the past year under this Liberal-National Country Party Government. In short, the position is this: We have a government which has, by its own admission, focused its attention on inflation. It has
To add insult to injury it is not outside forces, for the most part, which have caused this increase. It is the Government’s own actions and decisions which have caused so much of the latest increase in the cost of living in Australia. After 14 months of Liberal-National Country Party rule inflation is higher than it was a year ago. Unemployment is higher than it was a year ago. As I have said already, it is now at a record high level. Above all else, economic activity in our country is stagnant. In anyone’s terms, Australia is demonstrably in worse shape now than when this Government came to power. The reason for this is quite simple. This Government has failed. I repeat: It has failed miserably in obtaining its own objectives.
The much vaunted claim of skill as economic managers of these people who were bom to rule has proved to be as empty as their election promises on so many issues. This Government must take full responsibility for inflation and unemployment being worse now than when it came to office. To such a large extent they have been conscious decisions which have worsened the situation. Unlike what happened during Labor’s 3 years in office, there has been no dramatic international slump in the last 12 months, no outside motivated massive rises in import prices to add to inflationary pressures. Most, if not all, of the deterioration which has occurred in the economy has been undeniably the responsibility of the Government.
In 1976 the Government took a number of decisions which ensured that inflation is now worse than it was 12 months ago and that the outlook for 1977 is much worse than it should have been. Two of the decisions were, of course, those relating to health insurance arrangements and devaluation. Changes to the health insurance arrangements were made predominantly on ideological rather than on economic grounds. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), undeterred by an election promise to maintain Medibank, let his obsession with dismantling Labor’s programs run away with him. The consequent changes to health insurance costs have added 3.2 per cent to the consumer price index and have meant that for the last 6 months of 1976 prices have risen at an annual rate of 16.4 per cent, compared with a rise of 12.8 per 268 REPRESENTATIVES 22 February 1977 Cost of Living in Australia cent for the last 6 months of the Labor Government’s term of office. I repeat that the rise in the December quarter CPI is the highest since the Korean war. A government which forever features the virtues of breaking inflationary expectations has knowingly given them their biggest boost in recent history.
As if the changes to Medibank were not bad enough in giving these inflationary expectations a boost, the Government in November excelled itself by its decision to devalue. Devaluation was not forced on the Government. True, its inept decisions on company tax payments facilitated speculation against the dollar, but it was only the Prime Minister’s quaint idea about income redistribution and his illogical fear of further borrowing which prompted the final decision about devaluation, I believe in the face of advice given by the Treasury and probably by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). Devaluation will mean a substantial spurt to inflation. The adverse effect is not even included in the disastrous 6 per cent figure which has been announced today, as we are told by the Statistician in the commentary accompanying the announcement. Devaluation will mean a reversal in the underlying downward trend.
In many of his statements the Treasurer has spoken of a slowing down in this underlying rate of inflation in recent times. I know that that will be the main point that the Treasurer tries to make today in his reply to me. I am glad to see him in the chamber being prepared at last to debate matters such as this, having on so many occasions previously got away with reading dreary Treasury statements instead of debating these matters properly as provided for in the forms of this House. I am glad to see the Treasurer here. I hope that he will now follow it up by taking up my challenge to debate these matters with him in the media. He has had very many opportunities to do so, but he has managed to sidestep those opportunities. I issue to him the challenge to debate these matters with me not only in this House today but also in the media, such as on the television program This Day Tonight or any of the other programs which have invited us both to attend.
As I was saying, the Treasurer has said in his statements that there was this underlying trend for a lower inflation rate. We welcome that trend, but I have to point out to him that it is not good enough for him to drag out the Medibank figures and pretend that all is well. The trend towards lower inflation was evident when his Government took office. One has only to look at the results for the March quarter to realise that. Is anybody going to pretend that this Government’s taking office in December had any effect on the March quarter results. Of course, it did not. The trend towards lower inflation was present when the Government took office. There has been a marked, abrupt alteration to that trend because of the policies of the Government.
I have said that that trend towards lower inflation figures occurred under Labor as well as under the present Government. International forces have played a significant part in that trend, of course. With import prices rising more slowly than the price of domestically produced goods, these import prices acted as a restraining influence on price indices. Now, because of devaluation, that has come to an end; that has been sabotaged. I give just one example: In the price index of materials used in manufacturing industry, prices of imported goods have risen at a substantially slower rate than the price of domestically produced goods in all but one 12-month period since December 1975. Devaluation will alter this. Import prices will no longer mean a restraining influence because of the Government’s disastrous decision to devalue. The underlying rate of inflation will be pushed upwards. In other words, not only have we this 6 per cent position to withstand but also we have to withstand these trends in relation to increased import prices being brought about by devaluation. I ask the Treasurer to apply his mind to that aspect also when he is replying to me.
It is ludicrous of the Treasurer to speak glibly of ‘once for all ‘ statistical effects of the changes in health insurance arrangements, or of quarantining price rises from devaluation. I will bet that he tries to do that again in this debate today. Knowing the source of a change in the price level does nothing to overcome its existence. The only way in which these decisions will not mean an increase in the inflation rate in the calendar year 1977 over that of 1976 will be if wage and salary earners are forced to accept a substantial drop in living standards. That appears to be the Government ‘s aim. Already millions have suffered a reduction in their standard of living, if only because of the time lag between the 6 per cent increase that we have all to withstand for the previous quarter and a recompense being received for that 6 per cent by means of an increase in wages. The time lag itself has caused a reduction in the standard of living, leaving aside the policies which will now be perpetrated on the wage and salary earners of this country in national wage cases.
In addition, I must repeat that even the Treasurer surely must admit that inflation expectations will be increased by this disastrous result. His Government has argued at great length for the necessity of breaking such expectations. Yet it surely must now be seen as consciously giving the expectations their biggest boost in living memory- by the Medibank decision, by the devaluation decision, by the decision not to reduce indirect taxes which I have advocated as being a proper decision to take at this time. The Liberal-National Country parties argued that activity would only increase as inflation was seen to be going down. They must now accept that there will be no increase m activity in the foreseeable future because of the rate of inflation induced by them and their policies.
I have mentioned action taken by the Government which has worsened the economic problems which have occurred particularly through inflation. To Medibank and devaluation we must add the forcing of the States to increase their charges. The Statistician has included in his statement a reference to that matter. These conservatives who govern us and who want to dismantle the public sector are doing so only at the national level. The State governments realise that people will not put up with too much in the way of reduced services. So the States have been forced to the greatest extent possible to fill the gaps which have been created by this national Government, and that means picking up the tabs and picking up the payments. That means that State government charges have increased enormously. That is another factor in the cost of living increase. It is another way in which this Government, by its actions, has caused an increase in the rate of inflation. I refer the House to the Age of 30 December. Maybe I will have time to return to it later. The article to which I wish to draw attention is headed ‘How Costs went up in ‘76 ‘, and it reads:
Victorians paid more this year for everything from houses to haircuts.
Up went rates, gas, electricity, food, rail fares-even the cost of an ambulance to hospital. Car prices rocketed.
So it goes on. So many of those price increases listed m that article are, of course, State government charges. The increases in State government charges have been forced on those State governments because of the activities, the actions and the policies of the national Government. What of the Government’s other policies-policies which, unlike the ones mentioned previously, are at least claimed by this Government to be aimed at controlling inflation? I refer to restrictive monetary policies and cuts in government spending, which have been the cornerstone of the Government’s so-called attack on inflation- its unsuccessful attack on inflation.
I shall deal first of all with cuts in government spending. I suppose it is reasonable to assume that any government that incorrectly diagnoses the causes of a problem will get the cures wrong. This Government has so convinced itself incorrectly about the effects of public spending that it has painted itself into a corner. It has begun to believe that cuts in government spending can be equated with cuts in inflation rates. Of course, when demand pressures are causing inflationand government demand is a significant part of that total demand- cuts in government spending, like cuts in anybody else’s spending, will lower aggregate demand and hence lower inflationary pressures. But does anybody pretend that in Australia today we have problems with excess demand? The only sure thing that will follow cuts in government spending in an economic recession such as the one we have now is a rise in unemployment. This brings us to the simple crux of the Government’s policy: Record high levels of unemployment are being used as the Government’s main anti-inflationary weapon.
A restrictive monetary policy is very much like cuts in expenditure. Cutting the money supply does not automatically mean cutting inflation. Restrictions in the growth of the money supply below the long term equilibrium level are just as likely to reduce output and add to unemployment as they are to check rates of price increases. In this area too, any success the Government has in checking inflation will be at the cost of higher unemployment. The basic difference between the Government and the Opposition on matters of short term economic management can be seen in our respective attitudes towards unemployment. The Opposition regards the present official high level of unemployment, understated as it is in the statistics, as totally intolerable. We believe that something must be done about it and that action can be taken to alleviate unemployment and at the same time lower the rate of inflation. But even if we look at the Government’s focusing on inflation, the figures today show that its policies are disastrous and that the success of those policies is non-existent.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The speech just given to the House by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr
Hurford) reflects again the Opposition’s total inability to come forward with a workable economic analysis and its continuing program of seeking to talk down the Australian economy. Today’s motion is nothing other than complete humbug. Under the last 10 years of the previous Liberal-Country Party Administration the annual rate of inflation averaged 3.4 per centwell below the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average. As a result of the policies of the Labor Government, our opponents in this House, the annual rate of inflation rose to a peak of 17.6 per cent in the March quarter of 1975- well above the OECD average. Our predecessors left office with the annual rate of inflation running at 14 per cent, or at 16.7 per cent after adjustment for the changes made to Medibank. Just 12 months later the same political party that was responsible for the inflation spiral is moving a motion in condemnation of the present Government- a government that has brought the underlying annual rate of inflation down from 16.7 per cent at the end of 1975 to 10.8 per cent after 12 months in office.
Whether this Opposition likes it or not, very substantial progress in winding down the rate of inflation was made during 1976 by the present Government. In the first 3 quarters of 1 976 the consumer price index rose by 3 per cent, 2.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent, compared with average quarterly increases, after making allowance for Medibank changes, of about 4 per cent in 1974 and 1975- the last 2 years of the Labor Government’s term. In the first 3 quarters of 1976 the deflator for the major components of gross national expenditure rose by 4 per cent, 2.7 per cent and 2.2 per cent, compared with an average quarterly rise of over 4 per cent in the 2 preceding years-again, the last 2 years in office of our predecessors. When the national accounts for the December quarter become available next month the gains made in the fight against inflation during 1976 can be expected to be reflected again. This is because inherent in the construction of these implicit deflators is the plain fact that the community must always pay, in one way or another, for its health care. Health services did not suddenly become free on 1 July 1975; nor did they suddenly become more costly to the community on account of the changes effected on 1 October 1976.
The moderation in inflation during 1976 has not only shown up in the consumer price index and in the gross national expenditure deflator, but it has also been reinforced by other price indexes. In this connection I refer to the price indexes for materials used in and produced by manufacturing industry and to the price indexes for materials used in building, both dwelling and non-dwelling. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a table setting down movements in the various indicators to which I have just referred.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I turn now to the figures for the December quarter consumer price index released this morning by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. As I said in my Press statement issued at midday today, the December quarter CPI reflects the considerable progress made by this Government in winding down the rate of inflation during 1976. When the once and for all effects of the changed arrangements for health insurance are taken out of the index the figure for the quarter amounts to 2.8 per cent. The equivalent figure for the 1975 December quarter was 6.3 per cent. On any test, the underlying rate of inflation was lower at the end of 1976 than it was when we came to office. Excluding the effects of changes made to Medibank by both the present Government and the past Government, the increase in the CPI in the year to the most recent December quarter was 10.8 per cent, as against 16.7 per cent in the year to the December quarter 1975. The figure of 16.7 per cent includes, of course, the first round price impact in the December quarter 1975 of the Hayden increases in indirect taxes and charges. Even if allowance is made for these increases in taxes and charges, the underlying increase in the index in the year to the December quarter 1975 was 15.1 per cent. The corresponding increase in the year to the December quarter 1976 was not 15.1 per cent; it was, in fact, 1 1 per cent.
To take another basis of comparison, in a comparison of the increase in the index over 6-month periods, expressed as an annual rate, the same improvement is evident. The consumer price index, after adjustment for government taxes and charges and for the effects of Medibank, rose at an annual rate of 10.2 per cent over the last half of 1976, compared with a rise of 14.3 per cent over the last half of the previous year. In other words, in the second half of 1976 inflation was running at an annual rate some 4 percentage points or more lower than in the second half of 1975. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting down movements in the consumer price index on the basis to which I have just referred.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– If the food component of the index is excluded, the figures indicate that in the second half of 1976 inflation was running at an annual rate almost 6 percentage points lower than it was in the second half of 1975. In short, on any accepted basis for comparison- whether one takes the December quarter alone, the 12 months to the December quarter, or the 6 months to the December quarter expressed as an annual rate- the underlying rate of inflation is significantly less now than it was 12 months ago. These are the facts; they cannot be challenged by the Opposition Party. Because the Opposition has seen fit to dispute the analysis I have given I mention what the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the former Treasurer, had to say on the subject last year. As the then Treasurer he drew attention to the ‘largely once only effects’ contained in the December quarter 1975 index in the following terms:
A large proportion of the CPI increase has been due to effects of increased charges by State and Australian governments’ instrumentalities and increases in duties and charges by those governments.
The honourable gentleman went on to say:
These will be largely once only effects and, provided sensible restraint is used in economic management in the course of the calendar year, there is no reason why the CPI should not come down substantially for succeeding quarters.
This is not the present administration speaking; these are the words used by the honourable member for Oxley who is obviously very embarrassed to be reminded of what he said at the time. With that comment in mind the honourable member for Oxley is in no position now to cavil at the once only effects of the present Government’s Medibank changes. The honourable member for Oxley also argued, in relation to the December quarter 1975 index, that not too much emphasis could be put on a single quarter and that it had to be averaged with the preceding quarter for purposes of economic analysis. I do not want to embarrass the honourable gentleman unduly. But in a low profile way I quote what the honourable gentleman said then about the position of averaging. He said:
You ought to put that CPI figure together with the September quarter CPI figure and average them … I think you have got to put those two things together and to take the average for purposes of judging the economic effects.
This is the then Treasurer telling the Australian nation at large the sort of basis that he believed was reasonable for purposes of economic analysis. If one accepted the Hayden formula- which this Government does not- and excluded once again the effects of changes made to Medibank by the present and the past Governments, the average quarterly increase in the consumer price index during the last 6 months of 1975 was 4.6 per cent. For the equivalent period of 1976 the figure was 2.5 per cent or almost half the rate of increase during the same period in 1975. The honourable gentleman- I say this to him in a very pleasant way- is hoist on his own petard. Remembering those comments made by the honourable gentleman will not provide the type of support which obviously he requires in the Australian Labor Party in relation to his challenge for the Deputy’s position which will come up in the months ahead.
I have referred today to 4 different methods of comparison, including the one used by my predecessor, the honourable member for Oxley. On every valid statistical basis it can be seen that the underlying rate of inflation is lower now than it was a year ago. It does the Opposition no credit whatever to seek to distort the picture with a series of half truths and inaccuracies. I recall that when the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam)- I would like to give him a serve, if I may, but only in passing- commented on the 5.6 per cent increase in the index for the December quarter of 1975 he’ said that the December 1975 quarter index ‘reflected moves toward economic recovery sparked by the August 1975 Hayden Budget’. The Leader of the Opposition might well ask himself why the Opposition now claims that the latest CPI does not reflect recovery whereas the one a year ago did. I also draw attention- it is embarrassing to do this to the Opposition but one must put these matters on the record in a pleasant way- to what the
Leader of the Opposition had to say about health costs. He said:
The December quarter figures also show a very substantial decrease in the cost of health services as a direct result of the Medibank program introduced by my Government.
The honourable gentleman said that at the end of the December quarter in 1975. It is, of course, completely fatuous to assert that the cost of health services declined simply because the bill was transferred to the taxpayer. It is equally fatuous for the Opposition to be claiming in the House today that the latest index reflects an increase in the cost of health services.
Finally, in looking at what members of the Labor Party have had to say, I remind the House that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions had very little to say about the December 1975 index, apart from calling for its full flow-on through wages. No doubt that gentleman, who a year ago was an apologist for the Labor Party’s economic errors, will now be at the forefront of assertive criticism. Not only has the Opposition wrongly assessed the rate of inflation- simply to extract the maximum possible political capital- but also has it failed to come forward, once again, with a rational economic program. The Labor Party has been in Opposition now for more than 12 months. That time has been wasted. It has not learned from the mistakes that it made when in government.
The Opposition’s so-called alternative amounts to a scrappy 2 page Press release. It has been condemned by the honourable member for Adelaide who, together with the honourable member for Oxley, apparently speaks for the Opposition in this House on economic matters. I quote what the honourable member for Adelaide had to say about the Labor Party’s alternative program -
-Come off it.
– The honourable member is embarrassed, but he put these words on the record:
The danger in Labor’s approach is the possibility of intensified pressure of demand leading to further prolonging of inflation.
The Opposition’s policy completely omits a reference to wages. It completely turns its back on two of the four arms of economic policy. In relation to monetary policy it believes that monetary growth should now underwrite the rate of inflation rather than restrain it. As I have said on previous occasions this amounts to nothing more than a lurch back into the policy errors of the past. To give the lie briefly and decisively to the program which the Australian Labor Party would foist on the Australian community I quote again the words of the British Prime Minister, Mr Callaghan:
We used to think that you could just spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists and that insofar as it ever did exist, it worked by injecting inflation into the economy.
But that statement encapsuled the very precise description of that which the Labor Party puts forward. The Government decisively rejects the matter of public importance proposed for discussion by the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Treasurer’s time has expired.
-The rhetoric of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) is as relevant and as helpful as the shuffle of deck chairs on the Titanic as it went down. His reassurances are as fortifying as the presence of a mortician beside a sick patent’s bed. Before he arrived here, there was a commonplace saying: There are statistics, statistics and then there are damned lies. Since his arrival as Treasurer we now say: There are statistics, statistics and then there is Phil Lynch. He quoted some statistics today in a rather cultivated way to try to bolster his case. He said that when we were in office statistics of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on inflation for member countries showed a serious situation. He could have added that those statistics showed a serious situation in inflation, unemployment and general economic conditions for all industrialised countries, not just this one. But now the situation has changed somewhat. Many of the countries are winning in the battle against inflation. Our major trading partners are. But we are missing out.
The Treasurer did not point out that the latest OECD statistics on consumer prices show for the 12 months to November 1976 that Australia is sixteenth out of the 24 countries recorded. That means that relatively we are doing poorly in the fight against inflation. He said that when we went out of office OECD statistics showed a 14 per cent annual rate of inflation. He could have added that those same statistics for the 12 months to November 1976 show a 13.9 per cent rate of inflation, an improvement of 0. 1 per cent, garnered at the cost of excessively high unemployment rates, which are worsening, together with a bog-down in industry generally and grim economic conditions. He also observed that I said, when Treasurer in 1975, that if certain proposals were followed in ensuing months in 1 975 inflation would go down. The implications for the proposition then stated- and they still stand -were that the economy would improve. The present problems would have been avoided if the Government had pursued the strategy laid down in the 1 975 Budget. The important point is that some 18 months later the rate of inflation is higher.
Somewhere along the line, very early in the piece, the Treasurer lost me, as he lost most people who were listening to him, I am sure, with the multitude of figures which he quoted- the careful adjustment of statistics to bolster a flagging case. Let us state some honest, blunt, statistical facts supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. When we went out of office, the rate of inflation for the December quarter of 1 975 , on an annual basis, was 14 per cent. On an annual basis, for the December quarter of 1976, it was 14.4 per cent. One might quibble that 0.4 per cent is not much of a movement, but the fact is that in 12 months of government, contrary to the promises which were made to the Australian public, there has not been any perceptible improvement in the rate of inflation; on the contrary there has been decernable worsening. The Treasurer can conjure as much as he likes with the inflation figures, but the fact is that the consumer price index figures are used in this country as the relevant measure of inflation, not the careful and self-interested calculations he has been using in such a bewildering way in this House today, last week and last year. The figures supplied by the Statistician for the consumer price index are the basis upon which wage claims, for instance, will be made in the national wage case. That is why they are particularly significant. The evidence is that when we went out of office the rate of inflation was coming down. With determined incompetence, the Treasurer and his colleagues have managed to reverse that trend and to lift the rate of inflation.
There has been some special pleading by the Treasurer, some misrepresentation, about the costs of Medibank and how they should or should not be treated in the consumer price index figures. Let me put some analagous propositions to honourable members and to anyone else who is listening, to explode completely the fictitiousness of that case. Does anyone suggest for a minute that because imported clothing will be more expensive as a result of devaluation, which it will- that is an effect of devaluation- and because devaluation flows from a government decision, those cost increases should not go into the consumer price index? Does anyone suggest seriously, for a second, that if there is a reduction in public transport charges as a result of a decision by State governments, that reduction should not be reflected in a downward adjustment in the compilation of the consumer price index figures? Of course not. If it were to be so, this Government could not take any credit for such an action, and to do so would be a completely misleading use of the consumer price index as a measure in the economy of price movements. That is the important point. It would be distorting to use that index. The fact is that the Treasurer has been quite dishonest in his presentation of the case to this Parliament.
In economics there are various laws. There is Saye’s law; there is Gresham’s law. Now we have Lynch ‘s law. Let me tell the House what Lynch ‘s law means in simple terms. It means that the annual rate of inflation now is 24 per cent. Let no one from the Government side quibble with that. I do not think much of the argument, but it has the substantial support of no one other than the Treasurer. Lynch ‘s law was established in the Opposition days of the coalition partners. In each quarter for 3 years the present Treasurer would, after multiplying by four the quarterly figure for the consumer price index movement, say that that was the annual rate. According to the Treasurer’s own system of calculationLynch ‘s law- the rate of inflation is 24 per cent.
– That is four times six.
-That is four times six, as the honourable member for Adelaide points outthe simple proposition put by the Treasurer in the past and I am sure he still clings to it as tenaciously now as he did thoughtlessly then. The fact is that the anti-inflation policies of the Government are in tatters. The Government has been completely and consistently unsuccessful on every occasion that it has sought to project the likely inflation rates in the economy for this financial year. What is that evidence of? It is evidence of the simple fact that the Government cannot calculate the likely effects which could flow from economic decisions of the Government. The Government is responsible for the presentation of these things, not the Public Service. The Government has the final right to decide their appearance publicly and, accordingly, accepts the responsibility.
Let me take honourable members over some of the history of these projections. At Budget time we were assured that the rate of inflation by the end of this financial year would be down to a single digit figure. No one believes that now. That is, it was to be less than 10 per cent. At the national wage hearing in November by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Government produced projections of the calculated effects on wages and inflation of alternative award wage adjustments, and produced projections which clearly showed, firstly, the impossibility of the Government achieving a single digit rate of inflation level for this financial year, but more importantly, that the Government, in its moments of candour and honesty, which are mostly private moments, we all know, expected an inflation rate of something well over 12 per cent and probably over 13 per cent. That was in the submission to the Arbitration Commission in November. We now have more recently, as a result of devaluation, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics rather cautiously predicting the rate of inflation for the financial year at something like 15 per cent. The latest statistic on inflation movements, the December quarter CPI of 6 per cent, shows very simply that all those calculations fall by the wayside with the dramatic increase in the level of inflation. A substantially higher increase must be recalculated upwards again because the submission to the national wage and wage indexation hearing in November 1976 was based upon a projection of a 4.6 per cent inflation increase per the CPI for the December quarter. It is now 6 per cent. I predict confidently but quite unhappily, because so many good people in this community will suffer- so many good people are friends of mine, if I want to personalise it, and that is not unimportant in influencing people’s attitude- inflation will be of the order of 17 per cent to 18 per cent by the end of this financial year. It is nonsense to talk about the once-only effect of Medibank charges. There will be second and third round effects. There will be the effects of the devaluation which have yet to feed into the economy.
The Government has been disastrous in its economic policies and in the handling of the country’s affairs.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was at some pains to repeat that the consumer price index rise of 6 per cent was the effect of inflation in this country. He was at pains to say that it is the traditional measure of inflation. He did not really make much of a case about the once-only effects of Medibank but rather emphasised that the rise in the CPI was 6 per cent. I draw to his attention one or two statements which I hope he will accept as his own. In referring to the December quarter 1975 index he said:
A large proportion of the CPI increase has been due to effects of increased charges by State and Australian Government instrumentalities and increases in duties and charges by those governments. These will be largely once only effects and, provided sensible restraint is used in economic management in the course of the calendar year, there is no reason why the CPI should not come down substantially for succeeding quarters.
Today he told us the reverse. He also argued in relation to December 1975 that not too much emphasis should be put on a single quarter and that it had to be averaged with the preceding quarter for purposes of economic analysis.
– That is Hayden ‘s law.
– That is Hayden ‘s law. This is his statement:
You ought to put that CPI figure together with the September quarter CPI figure and average them … I think you have got to put those 2 things together and to take the average for purposes of judging the economic effect.
He said that the Government’s economic policy is in tatters. I put it to the House that when the honourable member for Oxley was Treasurer, the third Labor Treasurer, he tried to get his Government to point in the direction of the policies implemented in a much stronger way and more firmly by this Government. He tried to reduce government spending; he tried to reduce the deficit; he tried to put some restraint on wages. He also tried to tighten the money supply. Now that those policies are being pursued with some vigour he says they have failed. I think we on this side of the House have several times acknowledged that he made an attempt in 1975 to do something. Some of us would think he may have got further if he had not had so much opposition in his own Party and Cabinet.
The truth of the matter is that the Medibank proportion of the CPI figures is a once only expense. This component is a charge at the moment of $2,000m which the. Government has to pay. Of course, Australia is not being given free health care. There is no such thing as free health care. What the Government did was to transfer the cost from general revenue into a specific levy. The general impact of this move has been felt this year. Everybody who looks at this matter carefully and sensibly should know that the CPI figure must be discounted by that amount. When this is done the CPI rise is brought down to a smaller percentage.
There has been a great deal of talk about statistics. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has tabled an accurate table. I suggest that honourable members have a look at it. I do not intend to add more statistics because I suspect that this whole debate could be bogged down in a competition about inflation rates. Can there really be any doubt that the inflation level is dropping? Can there really be any doubt that when Labor became the Government it inherited a relatively low inflation rate and that the Labor Government got the March 1976 quarter inflation rate to the dizzy height of 1 7.6 per cent?
If honourable members opposite doubt the Australian Statistician, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) appears to do, let them look at the figures of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which show that there has been a downward trend in inflation since that March quarter of 1976. The policies of the present Government have effected some of that. They are policies that to a very large degree are an extension of policies introduced by the honourable member for Oxley when he was the last Labor Treasurer.
Medibank is responsible for more than half of the CPI increase. But the important thing is this: The ingredient of 3.2 per cent for Medibank has nothing to do with the inflationary pressures in the Australian economy today. The CPI is a measure of inflation or price rises. Although the CPI is our major indicator of inflation and the most important index we have we should not just blindly accept it each quarter as an index and never ask what is in it. The Medibank component has nothing to do with the inflationary pressures in the Australian economy today.
Before I leave this subject I would like to say that health care can never be free. It did not become free on 1 July 1975 when the Labor Government introduced its scheme. It is not free now. With the Medibank levy we have the chance to see what health care is really costing us. That is why it has been identified; that is why it has been made separate. We can now see what the cost is and we can judge whether we are prepared to pay that much in the future. I do not think there is any doubt that the cost of health care will grow much faster in the future and that as a result resources will be taken away, from other major areas such as education and welfare where they would otherwise be used.
The importance of inflation really can hardly be overstated. However, I want to make the point that increased inflation in recent years in Australia has led to more unemployment. This is a very important aspect of the effect of inflation. We were reminded of this recently in a famous speech that the Leader of the Opposition made to the Australian Young Labor Conference in Adelaide on 25 January 1975. I would like to make some short quotations from that speech. The Leader of the Opposition said:
The other thing that I wanted to say in this connection is the cause of unemployment now. And it is, frankly, the excessive wage increases.
Later on he said:
I don’t say that the inflation at the time that we came in or even in 1973 was due- let alone primarily due- to wage increases and claims.
In other words, it was not due to the previous Government.
But it is indubitably primarily and almost solely due to wage increases and claims today.
He was speaking in January 197S. He went on to mention things that we could not blame as a cause of inflation. He concluded by saying:
The principal contributor in inflation now is the wage claims. And this has brought about the unemployment . . .
Of course, those claims and wage rises which so many people think are chasing prices rises are the primary cause of the rise in the CPI. There.fore people who are genuinely concerned about the CPI rise must be concerned about unemployment. The record in this respect is clear. When the Labor Government took over in December 1972, 139 000 people were unemployed; when it left office the number was 328 000. This rise took place during a period of enormous expansion in government expenditure. I put that to the House because it gives the lie to those who say that the way to get out of this situation is to spend more and more. This may be the answer in some circumstances but it is certainly not the answer in our present circumstance. The present Leader of the Opposition also claimed at the beginning of last year that the 5.6 per cent increase in the index for the December quarter 1975 reflected moves towards economic recovery sparked by the August 1975 Hayden Budget. Now presumably he will explain why the December quarter of 1975 reflected recovery and the December quarter of 1 976 did not.
I conclude by saying that this Government has identified the major economic problems in the Australian economy. It has taken strong measures to combat them. The previous Government, after the tremendous spending of 1973 and 1974 and after leaving the economy awash in liquidity, had opportunities to take these measures years ago. That is what the United States of America, Japan, West Germany and one or two other countries did. That is why the level of unemployment in those countries is lower. That is why their inflation rate is lower. That is why their equivalent to the CPI is lower. That is why their interest rates are lower. They took these measures; they took them 2 years earlier.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The matter of public importance brought forward by my colleague the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) states:
The actions of the Fraser Government which have increased the cost of living.
The only fault that I can find with that wording is that it should have said: ‘have increased and are still increasing the cost of living’. Most of the debate has centred on what I might colourfully describe as that archaeological exhibit- the December consumer price index. After all, the December CPI, which was only published today, 22 February 1977, reflects for the most part the prices of items at about the middle of November. In some cases it reflects the price of motor vehicle components as far back ago as October 1976. All that the December issue of the index does is to carbon date the changes that have already taken place.
There has been some intriguing dissection of the figures to take out what is supposed to be a once and for all effect. It is suggested that once we have done that the underlying trend shows a decline in the rate of inflation. In fact the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) went so far as to say that the Medibank component of the CPI had nothing to do with the inflationary pressures in the Australian economy today. I would suggest to him that what the Medibank levy does is to make the majority of people less able to meet the consequences of inflationary pressures because they now pay a levy in the face of an inflationary situation. I had questions thrust at me not much more than a couple of years ago and I would say that 12 per cent inflation was better than 14 per cent but not as good as 10 per cent. But any of those figures are unsatisfactory.
This Government is in office virtually because it painted the economic picture so gloomily and attributed the whole of its consequences to the Labor Government’s 3 years in office. The Fraser Government has been in office for fairly close to half its term now. The fateful 11 November 1975 was the date it came to power, and it is now 22 February 1977. How much longer is it to lay the blame for what is happening now upon what happened under Labor? I suggest it is time to look a little more systematically at the situation. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch), to his consolation, may believe that the underlying trend in inflation is a downward trend. It seems to me very hard to say that 2.9 per cent is very much better than 3.2 per cent or that 2.5 per cent is much better than 2.7 per cent. The Government can score those points if it likes, but if for the purposes of argument the Medibank component is separated, the underlying trend is defined by a figure of above 10 per cent. I think one of the great boasts was to bring it to less than double digits.
-By June this year.
-By June this year. The purpose of this matter of public importance is to suggest what the Fraser Government has done and, I add, is still doing will not bring this figure down. As I have suggested already, there is a lot in the pipeline for the March quarter. In fact, mostly the March quarter figure is determined now because we have passed the middle of the period, which is 14 or 15 February. So the March quarter figure will show prices now. Would anyone suggest that prices have fallen between the middle of November and the middle of February? I suggest the contrary.
This is the point I want to make: If there is an overall decline in the rate of inflation I suggest the reason is the indexation of wages. What did the Treasurer say here the other evening when he delivered a famous economic homily? He said that the Government would go into the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and argue that indexation should cease- not that wages should be adjusted for the full CPI increase but that they ought not to be adjusted at all. If this is supposed to gird the workers to cope with inflatio.1 that has already taken place, again it mystifies me.
There has been no mention yet of the action taken after 15 November to devalue the Australian currency. Surely no one on the Government side would argue that devaluing the currency will reduce prices in Australia. What has it already done to the price of the motor car, the price of which for the purposes of the CPI was the price in October or November? What happens to all the producer goods that are to be imported? A very large component of Australia ‘s imports is still producer goods. Are they to be cheaper? Will they not be dearer because of the effects of inflation? What about the redistributive effects of increased incomes in one section on exports. The tendency will be to pass the increases round the rest of the economy in the only way possible; that is, in higher wages.
I suggest that it is time we got away from scoring the points to which I have referred. We have this ominous day when we publish the quarterly consumer price index figures, which are by then out of date, as I have suggested. Why are we not smart enough in this country to have monthly figures? If we had them maybe it would bore us to death to go through this agony every month instead of only every 3 months, but it might help to focus out minds on the real issue. We have one monthly figure-the figure for food. According to the new index, food is now a smaller component than before. The food component is now 2 1 per cent. If my memory serves me correctly it used to be something like 27 per cent. Now only nearly as big in the determination of the CPI is an item called ‘transportation’. Food is 21.026 per cent and transportation is 18.453 per cent. I doubt whether there are many sections of the Australian community, particularly those on minimum wages- the minimum wage at the moment is about $135- whose food component is as little as 27 or 28 per cent. In other words, perhaps the index is false as far as they are concerned and it underestimates the true impact of inflation in the community.
I submit that rather than the Government trying to justify what it has done it is time it began to accept some responsibility as custodian of the economy as we find it in February 1977, not as it was or as the Government claims it was prior to the beginning of 1973. There are problems to be solved. I believe they are structural. I do not believe that the Government has yet grappled with these problems; nor, if I may say so with respect, did the previous Government. But if we do not begin soon it will be at our own peril.
-The matter of public importance brought forward by the Opposition today is, strictly speaking, a non-event. It was raised by the Australian Labor Party, but that Party has never had more than 5 members in the chamber during the course of the debate. At the moment two are present. It gives some indication of just how seriously Opposition members take what they call a matter of public importance. It is very difficult to expect the Government to take it any more seriously. The Opposition thinks that it is expected to draw attention to what obviously the headlines in the media tomorrow will refer to as a 6 per cent rise in the consumer price index. I think it is worth recalling at this stage a remark that was made in the Australian Financial Review this morning by Mr P. P. McGuinness, who is not noted for being sympathetic to the Government’s policy. In his opening paragraph he said:
The expected increase of 6 per cent in the Consumer Price Index for December, 1976 quarter, to be announced today ought not to be directly compared with the increases of 2.2 per cent and 2.5 per cent in the September and June quarters.
This is a fact which has not been sufficiently recognised in the discussion so far of the expected rise in the CPI.
I think this is the error which has been made by the Opposition in this debate today. It has fallen into the trap of trying to compare incomparable statistics. Most of the debate has centred around trying to establish a common ground on both sides of the House about just what statistics ought to be looked at and what ought not. What is noticeable about the debate is the half-hearted nature with which the Opposition has approached the subject. The lead speaker for the Opposition, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), could hardly make his IS minutes. He did not come into the chamber for question time this morning. He was outside, no doubt working on what was to be a devastating attack on the Government. He came into the chamber and made a paltry effort which, as I said earlier, hardly lasted his full time. The last 5 minutes of his address were not even on the subject.
That is an indication of just how seriously the Opposition takes the subject which it has chosen to bring before the House this afternoon. It appears to us in Government to be an exercise in posturing, with the honourable member for Adelaide, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), and the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) jockeying for the position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition when it comes up for election in the next few months. All that those honourable members are trying to do is to settle positions within their own Party. No economic argument has been presented here today. Honourable members opposite have not taken seriously the matter which they raised as a matter of public importance.
They raised 2 basic arguments. The first related to the effects on the consumer price index of the Government’s decisions in relation to Medibank. Honourable members opposite also raised the question of devaluation. The paucity of the Opposition’s arguments has been amply demonstrated in the House this afternoon by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and by the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland). There can be no doubt about that. When looking at the effects of Medibank on the consumer price index, one must look at the situation in 1975 and 1976. If the consumer price index is adjusted to take account of the effects of Medibank, one can see that the rate of increase in 1975 was 16 per cent and in 1976 it is 10.8 per cent. That is the only valid comparison that can be made based on the figures that have been presented to the House. I am not impressed by the ditherings of the Opposition in trying to find some method of presenting the figures to the Parliament in such a way as to support its case. There is no case to support. The fact is that the rate of inflation has fallen significantly, from 16.7 per cent to 10.8 per cent, in the 2 calendar years at which we are looking. That is evidence of the effect of the Government’s management of the economy. The devaluation argument cannot be sustained. At this point in time with the figures that are available, it is not realistic to try to project the effect of devaluation on the consumer price index. The argument that the decisions made by this Governmentthe Opposition pointed to only 2 decisions, those relating to Medibank and devaluationhave had the effect of increasing the cost of living, as shown by the consumer price index, just does not stand up. The Opposition cannot project, nor can the Government project, what the effects of devaluation will be. We will have to wait to see what the effects will be. The proposition put by honourable members opposite about Medibank is not correct, because once the consumer price index is adjusted to take into account the effects of Medibank, on both the Government’s figures and the Opposition’s figures there is a significant reduction in the rate of inflation.
The question of devaluation has to be looked at in the future. The predictions that are being made by the Opposition about devaluation need to be better than the sorts of predictions the Opposition has been making in the last few months about the rate of unemployment that we were to see in January. The Opposition was talking about a figure of 500 000. Mr Hawke was talking about a figure of 500 000. The Opposition had been throwing the figures around for months but when the figures came out the number was nothing like that prediction. Now Mr Hawke and other Labor Party supporters are talking about 700 000 unemployed.
– That was Mr Dolan.
-I thank the honourable member. The predictions which have been made are wild in the extreme. A former Treasurer, a person from whom one expects some responsibility in economic matters, spoke this afternoon about the inflation rate rising to about 1 7 per cent or 1 8 per cent by June this year. The Opposition needs to be destructive; that is its only weapon. The tragedy is that this Opposition cannot even be destructive successfully. The arguments that were put this afternoon do not hold water, in anybody’s language. They have not demonstrated anything satisfactorily. I venture to suggest that the best thing honourable members opposite can do about this subject is to put their tails between their legs and forget about it.
The honourable member for Adelaide cannot get anything right. In the last couple of weeks we have seen a running argument in the Australian between the honourable member and others as to the interpretation of Dr Gregory’s theories. It is pretty obvious to anybody who has been following that debate that the honourable member for Adelaide has not been able to grasp that subject. From my observations of the honourable member for Adelaide over the last 12 months since he has been leading for the Opposition on economic matters I believe that he has not been able to grasp much as all. The situation is that the Government has grasped the nettle in economic policy. It has recognised and drawn attention to the problems that existed when the Government changed in November 1975. It has not been afraid to come forward with the policies that this nation needs to bring it back on to the road to economic recovery.
For their part, honourable members opposite have not said or done anything constructive in the last 12 months. In the Christmas break, when they finally decided that something should be said so that people would recognise that the Labor Opposition had something to say on the economy, they produced their disastrous statement which was nothing more than a rehash of the mixture before, perpetrated on the Australian economy by 3 successive Labor Treasurers and now being advocated by Labor’s fourth economic spokesman in as many years. The Government rejects entirely the matter of public importance that has been raised today. We on this side take the view that it is irresponsible of the Opposition to raise it. In raising matters of public importance the Opposition has a responsibility to put up some sort of argument and to create some sort of debate. But today nothing of substance at all came from the lips of the Opposition’s spokesmen. As I described it at the beginning of my address, it was a non-event. It was a half hearted approach by the Opposition. It was something which Opposition members believed they ought to do, otherwise they would probably have their knuckles rapped. It was a half hearted attack. The Opposition offered nothing, and the Government has put the Opposition completely and securely in its place.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 8 December 1976, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Prior to the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) leading for the Opposition, I seek leave of the House to make a short statement on the manner in which the Government wishes to handle the debate on this legislation.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-This Bill was introduced by the Government prior to the Christmas recess with the express purpose of exposing it both to members of this House and to interested sections of the community for scrutiny and comment. It was recognised at that time that legislation as complex as this ought to be handled in that manner and it would be necessary, quite apart from any considerations of policy, for some drafting changes to be made. A large number of submissions have been received from sections of the community interested in this legislation, and I understand that various members of this House have views on the drafting of the legislation and the manner in which it should be handled. I inform the House that it will be the Government’s intention to have a proper second reading debate on the Bill as it now stands but not to take a vote on the second reading. As honourable members are aware, when the Parliament is prorogued the Bill will lapse. The Government will then reintroduce the legislation, incorporating into it such changes as it will make, consequent upon the submissions it has received from the community and also taking into account views which have been expressed by members of this Parliament during the debate. I hope the House will see this as being a proper method of handling legislation of this nature. I hope, as the Government does, that this procedure will facilitate a meaningful second reading debate on this legislation, recognising its complexity.
-The Opposition welcomes the opportunity to discuss the Trade Practices Act as it now stands and the suggested amendments in the Bill now before the House. However, it may have been better- I put this to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard)- if we had had the discussion surrounding the Swanson Committee report because I believe that may have been more helpful in the drafting of the legislation than the procedure which was followed. I make those points in relation to the comments by the Minister as to the way in which this legislation will be handled. As it is, of course, the Opposition finds itself brought into a debate on what is commonly called dead legislation. We are not aware of what further changes the Government proposes to make from its own side or from the submissions that it may have received over the Christmas recess, let alone the extent to which it may be prepared to listen to the legitimate arguments put by Opposition speakers. Let me say that on the matters now raised by the Minister- and this is the first indication we have had from the Government as to the way it intends to handle suggestions or submissions that have been put to it since this Bill was introduced- it may well be a very positive step for the Government to make the Opposition aware of the type of suggestions it is looking at in the form of amendments rather than the Opposition having to wait until the legislation is introduced because, as the Minister said in his second reading speech- and as most people have said when speaking on the subject of trade practicesit is indeed very complex legislation. I believe it would be in the interests of the Parliament, seeing that we do not have legislative committees, if we had some forewarning of the way in which the Government intends to proceed with legislation.
Let me say that the Labor Party has no reason to apologise for the trade practices legislation that it introduced during its term of office. It gave the average Australian citizen protection which he had been missing since Federation in the fields covered by the present Act. May I just say in very general terms that the present Government in our opinion has a very warped view on what action is going to activate the economy because whether we talk about the Prices Justification Tribunal or the Trade Practices Commission the Government somehow sees the relevant Acts rather as a monkey riding on the back of business and that all that is required is for someone to shift the monkey and business, and subsequently the economy, will again blossom
A sick economy cannot be boosted by hastily drafted legislation which sets out to draw the teeth of the Trade Practices Commission, thus reducing competition and acting against the very spirit of the Act. On this question let me just read from the last annual report of the Trade Practices Commission itself. I think it is very important for us to understand the process that we may be going through at the moment in terms of the relationship between what views the Government may have had prior to coming to office in 1975 and its promises specifically to business about what it would do with the trade practices legislation, the setting up of the Swanson Committee, its terms of reference and its relationship with the Government’s intent and what the Commission had to say in its last annual report. There seem to me to be grey areas of great contradiction between the operations of the Commission, the way it sees its role, the work it was doing, the impact it was having and the role that is seen for it by the Government and the way in which the Swanson Committee itself was set up. On page 2 of the annual report of the Commission it says:
With the Act having brought, in its short life of a year and three-quarters, all the activity reported in last year’s report and this one, there could be some tendency to think of the Act in immediate terms, when the truth is that the Act is essentially long-term legislation.
I think it very important for members of the Parliament and for the Parties in this Parliament to recognise and to accept that first proposition of the Commission itself, otherwise we are going to find ourselves continually harassed by people who are affected by the Trade Practices Act. They will be putting up submissions that we ought to have amending legislation every week that the Parliament sits. If we accept- and we on this side of the House do- that the Act is long term, then I think that the Government may be guilty of hurrying things along in order to overcome some of the economic problems it is now facing, and I want to touch on that later on in view of the terms of reference that were set down for the Swanson Committee in regard to the way in which that Committee may have tried to assist the Government to overcome the Government’s problems with the economy.
I want to touch also on the very essence and spirit of the Act because I think it is important for everybody to get into perspective the reason why the Labor Government enforced the powers of this Parliament under the section of the Constitution which is the basis for trade practices legislation. The very essence and the very spirit of the Trade Practices Act is the competition. There may be those who argue- and according to the Swanson Committee report a lot of people would argue- that it is not achieving that at all but I doubt very much the credibility of those people who put forward that view to the Committee and who may argue that way in the Parliament. These are not the results we have seen- and which are available for everybody to see- since the commencement of the operations of the Commission.
Let me quote again from the annual report in relation to what the Commission sees as its role:
As competition is so central to the Act, is may be useful to quote what the Trade Practices Tribunal had to say, when discussing competition in general terms in its only decision so far on the merits of an authorisation case taken to it on review from the Commission (the Barnes Milling merger case, see Chapter 3): ‘Competition may be valued for many reasons as serving economic, social and political goals. But in identifying the existence of competition in particlar industries or markets, we must focus upon its economic role as a device for controlling the disposition of society’s resources. Thus we think of competition as a mechanism for discovery of market information and for enforcement of business decisions in the light of this information. It is a mechanism, first, for firms discovering the kinds of goods and services the community wants and the manner in which these may be supplied in the cheapest possible way. Prices and profits are the signals which register the play of these forces of demand and supply. At the same time, competition is a mechanism of enforcement: firms disregard these signals at their peril, being fully aware that there are other firms, either currently in existence or as yet unborn, which would be only too willing to encroach upon their market share and ultimately supplant them.
So I believe that if we are fiddling with the role of the Commission to enhance competition within our community then the Government should come out and say so. If it is trying to enforce the role of competition and in so doing using the Commission then all it is doing is enforcing what we sought to be the role of the Commission when the legislation was first introduced. This is not something that is peculiar just to Australia. The United States Attorney-General’s National Committee to Study the Anti-trust Laws- and this has been incorporated, I would have thought quite consciously, by the Commission in its annual report- had this to say:
The basic characteristic of effective competition in the economic sense is that no one seller, and no group of sellers acting in concert, has the power to choose its level of profits by giving less and charging more.
So these sorts of sentiments that have been expressed both in this report and in the United States are sentiments which the Labor Party endorses wholeheartedly. Let me get back to my criticism of the Government in its desire perhaps to try to patch up a sick economy by diluting the powers or the role of the Commission. A sick economy is absolutely no excuse for such decision making. The second point I wish to make is .that tearing the Trade Practices Act into another arm of harsh industrial law will invite turmoil into industry. Obviously these sections which have been incorporated into the amending legislation have triggered off a great deal more comment within the Labor movement than most other sections- in fact, any other section. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) as the Opposition spokesman on these matters will be going into detail on what he sees to be perhaps the constitutional right of the Government to do so and the practical nonsense of the Government trying to use the Trade Practices Act to solve these problems.
All the warning signs on this question are there. They have come from the Opposition, from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and from business people who have stopped to think about the ramifications of such a clumsy attempt at union bashing. Of course, there will be honourable members opposite who will charge that the Labor Party is forced to support the trade union movement come hell or high water. I assure the House that it is not so. Nor is it true to say that unions support the Australian Labor Party on all occasions or endorse all its policy pronouncements. Each has its own identity. Each makes its own decisions.
– You do at pre-selection time.
– We certainly do not shirk our responsibilities. What is true is that the Labor Opposition and the Australian trade union movement have joined together to condemn this clumsy attempt to widen the scope to industrial relations. The second string to the Government’s bow is its attempt to camouflage its incompetence in handling the economy and to blame the trade unions for everything that goes wrong. It is both a snide and, in the long term, a divisive manoeuvre which will set groups within our community on a senseless collision course. It is the opinion of the Opposition that there is no justification for writing into the Trade Practices Act provisions which, by their very nature, will cause more problems than they solve. I sincerely hope that the Government will see the legitimacy of our case at the conclusion of this debate. As I said earlier, this legislation springs directly from the Swanson Committee report handed to the Government on 20 August 1976. In what was almost a totally unique situation, the most vehement criticism of the report came from the Trade Practices Commission itself. In a document released on 21 September 1976, the Trade Practices Commission made public its own view on the effects of the Committee’s recommendations. I refer to the views of the Trade Practices Commission as reported by Richard Ackland in the Australian Financial Review of that date. He quotes at length from the views of the Trade Practices Commission itself. He says:
In a prepared study of the Trade Practices Act review committee’s report, the commission also argues that the recommendations could effectively destroy much of the work it has done on ridding industries of illegal exclusive dealing arrangements.
Some of the commission’s most difficult and important cases have arisen in the exclusive dealing area, namely the petroleum and brewing industries, and with the building societies’ tied insurance schemes.
The commission says that the committee’s proposed new registration procedure for exclusive dealing could destroy much of its attempts to get a workable level of competition in these and other industries.
The Commission went on to say:
The Swanson report, in expressing sympathy for the small family business that wants to be taken over, says nothing of the interest of the rival small business which will be confronted with a merged and much larger rival and perhaps be isolated in the market.
I think there is much more to be said on the question of mergers and I intend to touch on this subject at length later in the debate to point out that I think that the Government is making an enormous mistake in focusing all the attention on the target company which may be below the $3m threshold level which has been set, and in completely ignoring the level of the company that may be the takeover company itself. I think in those respects quite legitimate arguments have been raised. The Opposition applauds the very constructive and public spirited manner in which the Commission let its views be known and rejects completely the suggestion made by opponents of the Commission that it was not entitled to make its views public. Criticisms were made of the Trade Practices Commission following publication of its outspokenness, and the Opposition rejects those views that would suppress the views of the Trade Practices Commission. The Opposition realises, of course, that the Government has not included all the recommendations of the Swanson Committee, but as the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) referred in his second reading speech to further legislation and further discussion, the Opposition has no alternative but to recognise the dominance of the Swanson mentality over Government legislation in this area.
I wish to turn now to some of the terms of reference and the very sketchy way in which I believe the Committee dealt with some of these questions and perhaps the loaded way in which the terms of reference were set. I do not wish to refer to them all but I want to refer to some of them. Term of reference 1(b) states: whether the Act is causing unintended difficulties or unnecessary costs to the Australian public, including Australian business.
In the final clause in its summary, the Committee had the following to say:
Finally we should note our belief that many but not all of the costs to which we have been referred have been costs of a ‘once only’ nature- usually legal and professional costsassociated with the process of becoming familiar with the legislation and ordering affairs to fit with its rules. These costs will, of course, tend to fall, the longer the Act is in operation and more fully understood.
The point here, if ore relates that back to what the Trade Practices Commission said about the long term nature of this operation, is of course, that, there may be immediate complaint about the companies adjusting to authorities like the Trade Practices Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal or the Industries Assistance Commission. But surely no one argues seriously that there is no need for their existence. It is an impossible task to set up an authority like the Trade Practices Commission and expect that the nature of its operation will be as cheap- if we want to use that term- or that the costs will be as little in its immediate term of operation as they will be in the years hence. I think that the Government asking companies to come forward and complain about the cost of going to the Trade Practices Commission was really only inviting a red herring of criticism of the Trade Practices Commission itself, a view which we on this side of the House would, of course, reject.
The second term of reference to which I want to pay some attention is 1 (C), which states: whether in the current economic circumstances of Australia the operation of any part of the Act inhibits, or is likely to inhibit, economic recovery contrary to the economic objectives of the Government.
What responsibility do any of these authorities have for the running of the economy of this country? Their task covered by their charter concerns what they are to do by the law and within the law. To say to them: ‘Are you inhibiting or are you likely to inhibit economic recovery ‘ seems to me to be going well outside the competence of the members of the Committee to give advice to the Government that perhaps the Trade Practices Commission was in some way slowing down economic recovery in this country. I cannot see the legitimacy of giving the Committee a term of reference regarding the general economic question. The reason I raise this point is not because the Committee itself, in its final analysis, accepted that it was inhibiting economic recovery. As I have said, I do not think it was competent to make that judgment. The Committee made the same judgment by saying that it did not think it was so competent. All I am saying is that in making terms of reference such as this, the Government was quite consciously drawing unnecessary criticism of the operations of the Trade Practices Commission. Anybody who went to that Committee and put forward a case that it was in fact inhibiting economic recovery had that case rejected. I would like to hear the Minister perhaps substantiate the reason that was put in the terms of reference and whether, in fact, some of these things did not tend to camouflage the real work of the Committee.
It is also important to understand, first of all, that we on this side of the House have a quite different point of view from that of the Government as to the operations of the Trade Practices Commission and under whose responsibility it should lie. It is well known, of course, that under the Labor Government the Trade Practices Commission was part of the Attorney-General’s Department. As we have said in this Parliament, that is where it would be returned under future Labor governments, because these sorts of fields, when placed in business, are not part of business or supplemented by business; they are dominated by business. The Committee was dominated by business. Its views are dominated by business. But the trade practices operations are not necessarily set up to look after business; they are set up to see that business operates in the competitive spirit which is in the best interests of the Australian consumer. So I think that in some of these things the relationship between the Committee and its views and those of the Department and the Government are quite different from the views that may be held on this side of the House. The Committee’s third term of reference reads:
The Committee is asked to report on the effect of the Act on small businesses and to assess whether small business could and should be awarded special treatment by the Act.
The charge has been made in respect of the Committee, both by the Trade Practices Commission and by small business people- I understand that the Minister has already received delegations of small business people- that many small business groups did not go before the Swanson Committee to argue against the existence of clauses. They were quite happy with the way in which they were operating. But, to their dismay, because they did not appear and because those who did appear apparently held a different point of view, and because the Committee felt it was operating within its charter, they found that a section with which they were vitally interested was not just amended but in fact was repealed. I think the Government is going to have to look seriously at this question of the operations of the Act as they affect small businesses. I understand that my colleague the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) will be speaking on the question of price discrimination later in the debate. The real teeth of the present Act lies in section 4, and obviously it is attracting most of our attention in this debate. It certainly attracts a great deal- the vast majority- of criticism that is made of the operations of the Trade Practices Commission.
The other speakers from this side of the House will raise different questions. We have tried to avoid repeating arguments or treading on each other’s ground so that the Minister does get from this debate what he claims the Government is seeking. In the time remaining to me I want to deal with the question of mergers because I think it is important that we put up our arguments against what the Government in this Bill has accepted as being logic. But we hope, between now and the proroguing of the Parliament and the introduction of a new Bill, it will accept that that has been a very bad suggestion. I want to refer to what the Trade Practices Commission said about the structure of industry and what it had to say about mergers in its last annual report:
There has been criticism of the significance of structure in the Commission’s work. It is put in 2 ways. First it is said that the Commission denies clearance to mergers because it pays too much attention to structure and not enough to conduct and performance. Then it is said that the Commission impedes the work of the Industries Assistance Commission towards scale economy that can only come from increasing the concentration in an industry. The Commission rejects both criticisms.
Incidentally, I failed to locate any detailed criticism that the IAC may have made about the operations of the Trade Practices Commission, and I think it would be a legitimate exercise of the Government, if there is a clash between these 2 bodies and their roles, not merely to present us with a case to say that there is a clash between the roles of these 2 authorities but rather to present us with evidence and not straight off the top of the head suggestions that perhaps that is the case. The Commission went on to say:
The second criticism was rejected in last year’s report, but is still raised. The fact is that the Commission does not stand in the way of scale economy that is being encouraged by the IAC. Indeed scale economy is of prime importance whether or not the IAC has been concerned in the matter. The approach for both is by way of reducing restrictions on competition to the minimum necessary- in one case through the application of the Trade Practices Act to domestic competition and in the other by the application of tariff policy to import competition.
It seems to me that that is a very legitimate case put forward by the Trade Practices Commission. It says in no uncertain terms that it does not believe it is interfering with or presenting itself as any sort of hurdle to the operations of the IAC. It seems to me that the charter of both authorities work towards the one objective, although along different roads, and that there is no need for there to be any great clash. But let us have a further look at this matter because the Government, in its terms of reference, put forward the very neat suggestion that perhaps the Committee should have a look at a threshold, without stipulating what it ought to be. Nevertheless, it was not an original committee idea. The Government suggested the idea to the Committee. The Committee must have been terribly enthusiastic about it because it seems to me that it could not have taken the suggestion much further without roping in the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and a few of the other major companies by establishing such a very high criterion and by ignoring the operations of the companies that may be involved in the takeover. In its report the Committee, in a very scanty way and, I must say, in a not very well argued way, suggests the reason why it accepted a threshold test. The Committee ‘s report states:
Most submissions expressly or impliedly regarded the continuation of merger provisions as necessary but sought substantial changes in the law and its operation. Others sought the abolition of this pan of the law altogether.
I remind honourable members that the Trade Practices Commission said in its criticism that if you abolish a section altogether you might as well close down the Trade Practices Commission. Nevertheless, there were those people who went along with the Committee and argued for the abolition of this part of the Act. The Committee went on to say:
The first question which we consider is the need for any merger control as pan of the Trade Practices Act.
In our view, there are 2 main reasons for including merger provisions in any competition policy law:
merger provisions are necessary to prevent the possibility of achieving, by merger, anti-competitive results prohibited elsewhere in the same law;
merger provisions ensure that the control of significant capital assets in the community does not change hands in circumstances that disregard any anti-competitive effects of the change.
It seems to me- I have said this previously- that the Committee was trying to determine what constitutes a small business. I disregard completely the very shallow proposal that this sort of thing allows a small businessman to sell out so that he and his family can live without worry for the rest of their days. I am talking of a small business as being one which has a turnover of less than $3m. How the Committee or the Government could ignore completely the company which was doing the taking over is completely beyond me. How they could ignore the anticompetitive factors which would be part of that takeover is also beyond me, because there could be many cases- there were many prior to the introduction of this legislation- of small businesses being taken over in circumstances where a certain element of competition was eradicated from the community. No doubt by setting this threshold the same thing can apply. If the Government were sincere about the threshold test it would also apply the threshold test to the company doing the taking over. Let us have a look at the turnover of such a company, and let us have a look at where it operates and at what impact its having an additional company added to its list will have on the community. I think those things also are important.
In order to see what the Trade Practices Commission had to say about these things, let me quote from its very brief review of the Swanson Committee report:
There may be real doubts whether a threshold system can be satisfactorily grafted on to the Act at all, given its approach of stating principles of general application and its emphasis on competition that the Committee more than once endorses . . .
The very presence of a statutory threshold is likely to affect market conduct. For example, merger activity could be stimulated at the expense of competitive activity. There might be encouragement of mergers in some cases as a legitimate alternative to arrangements that might contravene sections 45 or 47. There could be moves to take over small but fast growing companies that are offering increasing competition, but have not yet reached the threshold. Large companies complain from time to time about the competition small companies provide whether it be because of lower overheads, specialisation, or simply because they are more directly managed. Even in manufacturing industry, small companies can have surprising importance. In some industries the disappearance of only a few small companies would leave the large companies in total control.
Elsewhere in its criticism the Trade Practices Commission states that to take this work away from the Commission- to disregard the impact upon small companies- would take away a certain specialist element within the Commission that is able to understand industry totally. I ask the Minister to consider the suggestions that will be made by following Opposition speakers.
-The Trade Practices Act, which was introduced by the Labor Government, is vague and uncertain. New legislation, however, must contain safeguards for small business, safeguards for vital capital investment and safeguards against the possible extension of Government monopoly. For example, I believe that it is time the monopoly of one bank- the Commonwealth Bank- in post offices and schools through exclusive savings account agencies was ended. There are many other such cases. The amending legislation is a first step in a determined effort by the present Government to restructure the existing legislation which was introduced by the Labor Government and which, as I said, is vague and uncertain. In a number of aspects it is too restrictive, not appropriate to the Australian market place, and really unsatisfactory. It has resulted in a great deal of unwarranted time and expense by business. It has impeded the investment of new capital and therefore, in part, the recovery of the economy during the past year.
The proposed amendments should be commended as a means of removing or lessening some of the detrimental aspects of the legislation. There has been general acceptance of and support for the current proposals. Since the amending legislation was first tabled, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), as he indicated earlier, has received a number of submissions recommending further desirable amendments. The proposed procedures are commendable. As indicated by the Minister, the Bill will be re-introduced with sections redrafted to take into account many of the suggestions that have been made. I believe that this is a complete answer to the doubts expressed by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young).
I wish to debate a number of matters which I believe are important in considering the amending Bill. I deal firstly with exclusive dealing and normal requirements contracts. The amending Bill adheres to the suggestion of the Swanson Committee in providing that from section 47 sub-section (2) of the Act the following words be deleted: . . . or subject to a contract arrangement or understanding.
In the words of the Swanson Committee, this recommendation was designed ‘to word the application of the sub-section to an ordinary commercial requirements contract’. But I believe that the omission of the words will not achieve the effect intended. If normal commercial requirements contracts are to be excluded, it is logical that to put the issue beyond doubt a specific exclusion should be included in the section. For example, a new sub-section to section 47 may read as follows:
Secondly, capital intensive industries are of crucial importance. Australian manufacturers in capital intensive industries have submitted that they should have the ability, without fear of interference from the Trade Practices Commission, to make long term or continuing loyalty arrangements with their customers so that the viability of large scale investment will not be inhibited. Unless such arrangements are permitted under the amending Act there will remain a standing discouragement to major new investments which Australia so badly needs. I suggest that the appropriate amendment could be implemented best by way of the inclusion of a further exception in section 5 1 of the Act. This could be done by the addition of a new subsection, possibly sub-section (4). I have no doubt that in the Committee stages of the debate on this Bill and, of course, in the redrafting some appropriate wording in this regard will be considered.
The supporting argument for this addition is that the Act should permit an Australian manufacturer in a capital intensive industry to make such loyalty arrangements with its customers as are reasonably required to assure the viability of the manufacturer. To this end the manufacturer and its customer should be permitted to make long term or continuing arrangements, freely negotiated between the parties, which will permit the manufacturer to reward a customer who commits himself to buy from the manufacturer a substantial proportion or quantity of the customer’s requirements and/or commits himself to buying Australian made goods. I am sure the honourable member for Port Adelaide would have a particular interest in that. Further, the manufacturer and its customer should be permitted to make long term or continuing agreements which will assure for the customers a sustained and reliable source of supply at reasonable prices and to minimise the damage of spasmodic surges of imports which are usual in capital intensive industries. Capital intensive industries are those which relative to sales turnover have high capital investment in manufacturing assets or have a high capital servicing charge for depreciation, interest and the like relative to labour costs, or which have scale factors- economies of scale.
To be profitable a capital intensive industry must operate at a level near to full capacity, which is one reason why loyalty arrangements with customers are vitally essential and, incidentally, why selling at marginal costs on export markets is a usual practice world wide. In the small Australian market the economic size of a manufacturer’s plant or an increment in capacity needs to be relatively larger vis-a-vis the markets than their counterparts in competitive countries, such as the United States of America or countries in Europe. Economic size is dependent upon scale factor, which causes capital costs and operating costs per unit of output to fall as plant capacity increases. To compete in a world market Australian manufacturers must install units of plant that are as large as feasible in relatively small Australian market circumstances. Thus, often in Australia there is room for only one or very few companies to make the same product if the industry is to be economic, whereas in Europe and in the United States there could be, say, five or ten different companies in the same industry because the total market is so much greater. We have seen this in the dilemma of the motor industry.
Where scale factor applies, for example, in the manufacture of chemicals, paper, steel or petroleum, the minimum plant or plant increment can involve capital expenditures ranging from, say, $40m to $200m or more. To justify an expenditure of this magnitude it is necessary, or often vital, for the manufacturer to have reasonable security in the home market, which in turn provides a base on which to develop exports. To this end a manufacturer should be able to reward by way of preferential pricing contracts or otherwise, those customers which give continuing preference to the Australian manufacturer. This can be done by offering price discounts for a substantial proportion or quantity of the consumers’ requirements. Such an arrangement is mutually beneficial in that it provides the manufacturer with the base load essential for efficient and economic operation and provides the customers with a secure source of local supply at a more consistent price.
Australian companies in capital intensive industries will refrain or hesitate from making large investments unless they are able to make with customers supply arrangements which will give a reasonable assurance of a continuing base ad demand. Similarly, major investments in some service industries will be prejudiced unless there is reasonable expectation of a sufficient and continuing base load demand. Service industries in this category include transport and handling operations which require special vehicles or large loading devices. We know the dilemma of the transport industry in respect of cost factors at the present time. The type of supply arrangements I refer to are preferable in Australia to the alternatives of vertical integration, which is practised in large markets such as the United States of America or Europe, or quantity discounts designed to tie the bigger users to the supplier as these discounts usually go beyond those justifiable by cost savings.
These alternatives are disadvantageous to small businesses in that they favour big users to the detriment of small ones and impede the entry of small new businesses. The honourable member for Port Adelaide made some reference to this but I am not too sure that he really understood what he put to the House. The Act should be amended so that companies are permitted to enter into mutually acceptable long-term or continuing supply arrangements with their customers which reward such customers for loyalty and for consistency of purchase from Australian sources.
The third matter, the ‘benefit to the public’ criteria, should be taken into account- and of course has been taken into account- by the Trade Practices Commission when determining what is a benefit to the public in relation to proposed sub-sections 90 (6) and 90 (7) of the amending legislation. Matters such as this are not qualified in any way and are solely at the discretion of the Commission. The setting of criteria which the Commission is required to take into account would result in decisions by the Commission being more objective and consistent and less haphazard. The criteria should be broad and not necessarily exhaustive and should not limit in any way the generality of the expression ‘benefit to the public’. These criteria should be similar to those which were previously in section 50 of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act and could be inserted as a new sub-section if the Government reviews this aspect. I have no doubt that it will be looking closely at it. This would ensure that important aspects to be considered could not be overlooked or ignored by the Commission. The addition of a new sub-section to section 90 could solve this problem.
Let me deal with some of the aspects of such a new sub-section. Such a new sub-section could make provisions in respect of:
At present that is a very vital matter.
Of course there are many other vital sections. I refer to the international intergovernment agreements. They need a great deal of scrutiny. 1 am sure that the Government intends to do that before the Bill is re-introduced.
The fifth matter concerns conference with and assistance by the Commission. This leads to some very doubtful considerations, if one studies the present provisions, inasmuch as there is not an adequate opportunity for the persons negotiating with the Commission to put constructive details or to answer to the Commission. In other words, it is a little too much one way under the present provisions. It is a matter of how this can be opened up without turning it into something akin to the over-done approach we find in other areas. I am referring of course to the Industries Assistance Commission and the off-shoots of other instrumentalities.
– You will wake Bert Kelly up if you keep saying that.
-Well, I think the matter involves what is practical, what can be done to best serve the objectives of enterprise in this country, the prudent use of capital, the efficient use of labour and, in particular, an effective result in the interests of the consumer. That is what the Government is dealing with and what it expressly proposes to do.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide has said that he is a little disappointed to see some trend towards a better opportunity for free enterprise to operate in a free enterprise area. I think that he is inclined to make references that deal fairly specifically with the control mechanisms that are in the philosophy of his Party. These control mechanisms can undoubtedly lead to all sorts of difficulties for industry and the more so in this sophisticated day and age when there is not the freedom of movement on the economic front that there might have been a few years ago. I have had raised with me other aspects relating to the effect of the proposals in clause 49. 1 have not had an opportunity of looking closely at this matter but from what has been put to me it appears that it tends to do the very reverse perhaps to what was intended. The cost to the consumer can be forced Up because of the requirements that are discovered as a consequence of the effects of clause 49. 1 hope that the matter will be looked at very carefully indeed.
This is a most important measure. There is no question of the Government’s bona fides. The Government has introduced the Bill and allowed it to lay on the table for a number of months. It now gives this opportunity for a lengthy debate. The Parliament will be prorogued. The Bill will later be re-introduced. There has been scarcely a precedent for a situation where such careful and detailed thought can be given to legislation. Yet it was suggested by the honourable member for Port Adelaide that the legislation was not receiving the kind of treatment that perhaps it should. The Government has said clearly that it accepts the recommendations of the review committee that price discrimination and other matters need to be given a proper scrutiny. To do that, we need to provide the mechanism. In fact the review committee stated that the previous law had unsatisfactory provisions. I do not know what the Opposition’s proposals are. It certainly has not advanced any thus far in this debate. Some passing references were made. So far nothing substantial has been mooted. Later speakers may make some proposals. I am sure that the redrafted Bill will take into account matters that are mentioned in this debate and matters that have been submitted to the Government from all sections of industry and from all those who are vitally concerned with this measure. Undoubtedly there will be further consideration of the legislation. I have no doubt that in the Committee stage there will be an opportunity for some of the details that can be touched upon only in this debate to be examined further and for effective deliberation to be made upon them.
– The Opposition welcomes the opportunity to debate this measure. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said, we find it odd that it comes before us for discussion in the form of a Bill on which debate is to be adjourned at the second reading stage without a vote on it and which, after the Parliament is prorogued and the new session commences, will be re-introduced with amendments, some perhaps suggested by members of this House and of course some suggested by persons outside the House. The whole atmosphere in which the Government has reviewed trade practices legislation has been less than satisfactory, very much as a result of the campaign rhetoric in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) indulged in 1975. Both of them and other senior members of the present Government were at great pains to paint the Trade Practices Commission as one of the new octopuses of government set up by the Labor Government to strangle business and free enterprise. Since that time the responsibilities of office have moderated their views, and they have had to seek to move away from that extravagant rhetoric of the campaign trail. Nonetheless, the performance in office exhibits, I believe, a good deal of that prejudice which was spread in 1975. It is important that we look at the whole ambience of the review of trade practices, as the honourable member for Port Adelaide suggested. Where was the great public call for the review of this legislation? How many pieces of legislation do honourable members genuinely believe call for a major overhaul within 18 months of their passage and of their coming into operation?
There are many provisions in this legislation which are welcome. Most of them are very small. The major provisions are ones that I believe are altogether too premature or ones that ought not to be enacted.
The attitude of the Government towards the Trade Practices Commission has been disgraceful. The Commission has been consistently starved of staff and funds. Its opportunity to go out into the market place and find out what is happening has been circumscribed as a result of government activities. The argument which I can anticipate the Minister putting now is that the Commission has not been disadvantaged any more than any other department. To compare a fledgling statutory commission with the wellestablished department of State is, I believe, not to compare like with like. Plainly a new commission, to get itself established and to start its legislation working depends upon the support of the Government in terms of staff and finance. That has not been forthcoming.
The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) said that the Opposition in this debate had not put forward any positive propositions. Let me say that we will be proposing several. I believe the honourable member for Port Adelaide made at least several substantial suggestions about the merger provisions of the Trade Practices Act. For my part, I want to put very plainly that the Opposition opposes completely the repeal of section 49 of the Trade Practices Act. Before I get to that, I would like to look at several other provisions. It is worth repeating what Attorney-General Murphy put very well, I believe, in 1974, when he had the carriage of this matter in the Senate, about the reason section 49 was introduced into this legislation. He said:
The provision aims to prevent unscrupulous suppliers from attempting to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors by discriminating among buyers and to prevent unscruplous buyers from using their economic power to exact discriminatory prices from suppliers to the disadvantage of less powerful buyers.
I think that everybody in this chamber would subscribe to that objective. The honourable member for Cowper, who spoke in such glowing terms about the value of free enterprise, would no doubt subscribe to it. We cannot look at simple predatory pricing, which will be covered by the monopolisation provisions to some extent. It is essential that we look, in the Australian context, in which we have such an oligopolistic market structure, at price discrimination.
During this debate we will no doubt receive many learned treatises about foreign Acts, particularly in the United States and in Britain. One of the Acts about which we will hear a lot is the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 in the United States. I think it is important, when we do that, that we look at when that legislation was enactednamely, 1936- and for how long, over 40 years, it has been a subject of continuing debate in the United States. There is, I believe, a general acceptance that it has been useful in the area of price discrimination in the United States, but it certainly took, at the least, 25 to 30 years for that to come about. In looking at that time frame we have to look at the difficulties caused by an intervening war and at the post-war period when it was not relied on and when it was not a matter of great litigation, but I believe the essential justification for legislation on price discrimination remains as valid today as it was in the United States 40 years ago.
– It is not justified.
-The honourable member for Higgins has interjected to say that it is not justified. He belongs to a political Party which in 1974 opposed every provision in the Trade Practices Bill, not simply that provision which ended up as section 49. Section 49 is a difficult section. If one looks at the guidelines published, at material emanating from the Trade Practices Commission, one will see that the section certainly has caused the Commission a great deal of trouble. I have no doubt that it has also caused all firms a great deal of difficulty in interpretation and in applying it to their market situation. Of course it has, but so have so many other sections of the Trade Practices Act. The Act set out to create new rules for the conduct of business in Australia, rules which were designed to ensure healthier competition in the market place throughout the country. After a very limited period, since this provision came into force only in February 1975, I believe that for the Government to have made up its mind as recently as last year that it would repeal the section is altogether too premature.
Let us look at the basis upon which the Government has decided to repeal section 49 which deals with price discrimination. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said*.
That prohibition has worked to inhibit price flexibility, and has not encouraged competition.
I think there is no evidence that it has inhibited price flexibility. I do not believe that the Swanson Committee provides any evidence. There is the alternative argument. It may not be able to be established at this point that it has encouraged price flexibility. For the Minister to say that it has not encouraged competition is nonsense. If one looks at any standard text on trade practices in Australia one will see that no cases have been decided on this section. How can we know whether it is working? The compass which the section seeks to cover is rather limited. These are the only reasons which the Minister gave for the Government’s decision. The next reason which the Minister gave, I believe, is less than completely stated. The Minister said:
In fact the review committee stated that this law has actually been used as a pretext to abolish discounts and effectively raise prices.
That is not what the Swanson Committee said. I have my arguments with members of that Committee, but I believe that in general the document which they have produced is a useful discussion document for looking at this difficult area of competition law. Undoubtedly the weakest chapter is chapter 7. I want to look now at the question about which the Minister talked, the pretext of abolishing discounts. This is what the Swanson Committee said in paragraph 7. 12: . . . when section 49 came into effect, some suppliers, either through ignorance or desire to do so, took the law to mean that they were required to charge similar prices to all customers or at least to competing customers. This led to price rigidity, which was the subject of comment by a number of submissions, and the reduction in or abolition of many discounts which in turn resulted in overall price increases.
So far so good. That supports what the Minister said. The Swanson Committee also said:
Some of the discounts which were abolished or reduced at that time were substantial. Apart from that initial round of increases of price, the Committee is unable to determine what the net effect has been since that time of the operation of this section on the general level of prices.
Let us compare the 2 statements. The Minister, in justifying the Government’s decision to repeal section 49, said that this law had actually been used as a pretext to abolish discounts and effectively raise prices. The Swanson Committee, upon which the Minister purports to rely, says: … the Committee is unable to determine what the net effect has been since that time of operation of this section on the general level of prices.
So the Minister has not only argued it skimpily but also I believe he has been very very loose in dealing with the Committee’s report as a basis for his decision.
The House would also I believe do well to have regard when considering section 49 to the considered remarks of the Trade Practices Commission. The honourable member for Port Adelaide referred earlier to the comments that the Commission made in relation to the Swanson Committee’s report. It is true, as he says, that quite unusually people thought that everybody ought to be able to participate in this great debate on trade practices law except the experts themselves- except the Trade Practices Commission. Let us look at what the Trade Practices Commission had to say. The Commission states, I think perhaps rather better than the Minister did, what can be argued as the case against section 49. It was put like this: . . . that price discrimination brings price flexibility, and that price flexibility is at the very heart of competitive behaviour.
That is how the Commission thinks it can put the best face on the argument to repeal section 49. The Commission went on to concede that that is a powerful argument. But it says there is a contrary argument. It states:
Put shortly, it is that a law controlling price discrimination will have a long term influence on structural trends that will be pro-competitive by ensuring survival of small business interests that can continue to compete.
That long term trend is so important. This whole area of competition law with which we are dealing is not something in which we will see rapid changes in market place behaviour since the Trade Practices Act came into operation, both in 1974 and certain provisions such as that relating to price discrimination in 1975. What is important and what everyone on this side of the House says in relation to all Government measures relating to the economy is that, of course, we must look at the long term effect. That is what the Commission said in relation to price discrimination. From that we can see that the Commission is stating clearly that it regards any decision to repeal section 49 as being premature. I think we are indebted to the Commission for stating so plainly in these circumstances its attitude on that question.
In the past I have been, if anything, critical of the Commission for being somewhat timorous in putting forward proposals or, certainly in criticising the Government. Perhaps I can interpolate here that I think one of the more reprehensible actions of the Commission- I know that this is something in which I have the support of persons such as the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates)- is its decision to anticipate the passage by this Parliament of legislation proposed by the Government. I refer here to the proposed treatment of public hearings of authorisation applications. The Government proposes to do away with public hearings by the Commission. The Trade Practices Commission, it would appear, has gone along with the Government’s decision on the basis that it anticipates that the Parliament will agree with the Government. That is altogether too premature. Certain newspaper commentators have drawn attention to this. I am only surprised that the commentators in the Australian Financial Review overlook the fact that this is a continuing attitude of the Government towards supposedly independent statutory bodies. Last year when the Government amended the Prices Justification Act the same thing happened. The Government proposed certain new procedures in relation to the workings of the Prices Justification Tribunal and that Tribunal fell over on its back and said: ‘All right, we will anticipate the passage of those procedures by the Parliament and go along with them anyhow’. If we get a tribunal presided over by a judge to go along with the Government with that kind of reprehensible behaviour I do not suppose we can expect a higher standard of independence from a commission headed by a man who was a civil servant.
I revert to the question of section 49 and the way in which the Swanson Committee came to its very tentatively argued conclusion. The Trade Practices Commission refers particularly to the fact that it believes that in making its recommendations on the question of price discrimination the Swanson Committee very likely went beyond its term of reference. In doing that the Commission points to the fact that the Committee gave some weight to the fact that small business had made very few submissions in favour of the continuance of section 49 and that certain business firms which could be identified as being part of what one calls small business had in fact proposed that section 49 should be repealed. The Trade Practices Commission made the very good point- it is one worth repeating- that it may not fairly have been anticipated by small business that the Swanson Committee would be even having regard to this question. For the Committee then to place any reliance upon the fact that certain parties had not come up with submissions is very poor evidence indeed.
I want to come back to what the Swanson Committee says because its conclusion on this matter is nowhere near as firmly stated as the Minister would have us believe. At paragraph 7.20 which is headed ‘Conclusion’ the Committee states:
The Committee considers that in the Australian context the conduct of a large buyer who is endeavouring to secure price cutting in his favour, whether it be discriminatory or not, may be more pro-competitive than anti-competitive.
The Committee says ‘may’, and it is arguing on an empirical basis which is altogether inadequate. If the Minister when he accepted that recommendation of the Committee- that very tentatively stated recommendation by the Committee to abolish section 49- was in any doubt about the attitude of small business to section 49, I am sure that he has been left in none since. If he has been lobbied as effectively as members of the Opposition have by various small business groups, particularly by organisations of small independent retailers, he will know that there is now a very grave disquiet out there in the market place about the Government’s intentions in relation to the section. It is instructive to look at some of these approaches. I hold in my hand a submission from the Confectionery and Mixed Business Association of Australia. This organisation has provided to all honourable members- I know because I have a copy of what it sent to the Minister- a most tightly argued proposition that the very survival of small business, which I suggest is something about which we hear from the Government supporters quite often, is at stake, at least in respect of the retail sphere, if section 49 is abolished. I ask all honourable members to have some regard for the prospects of the survival of those sturdy independent yeomanry when they come to consider this matter and particularly when they consider it again next year. I ask them to have regard for the smaller man, the man in the corner store, the man who is not merely a manager but who owns his business, the man who puts his capital at risk. This is the sort of man whom honourable members opposite talk about all the time. Do not let us have any of this talk about Labor being anti-business. Labor introduced the Trade Practices Act in 1974 to promote competition in business and to ensure the survival of healthy competition in Australia.
I believe that there is no proposition, including the frivolous one in relation to union boycotts which the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) will deal with, that the Government has placed in this piece of legislation that is less deserving of the House’s support than the proposition to repeal section 49. To do so now is premature. It would mean that we would deprive ourselves of the opportunity to have expert surveillance of a significant part of market behaviour which can work through to the advantage of all consumers and to the advantage of Australian industry generally.
-At the outset I congratulate the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) for his approach to this legislation. I am terribly disappointed to hear the whingeing comments of the honourable members for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) that they do not have the opportunity to debate this issue properly because further amendments are not before the House. The Minister has been most responsible. He has encouraged debate, public interest and public submissions in this legislation. I would have thought that rather than being criticised the Minister ought to be congratulated for his approach. More thought should be given to legislation in this House. I would have thought honourable members opposite would agree with that.
One of the provisions in this Bill for the first time brings within the ambit of the trade practices legislation some of the restrictive practices of employees and trade unionists. Businesses will have redress against employees’ secondary boycotts similar to the redress they already have against boycotts by other companies. I applaud this move. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in his second reading speech said the Government is giving consideration to keeping this in the Bill when it becomes an Act. I support that stand. The people of Australia will applaud this move to have restrictive practices of unions come within the Trade Practices Act. I support it, as I do the proposal by the Government to institute and establish an industrial relations bureau. I believe that Australians are sick and tired of the restrictive practices of trade unions. I believe in trade unions and support their behaviour if it is responsible.
– I ask the honourable member to listen. I will quote to him a leading socialist, the editor of the New Statesman magazine in Britain. He pointed out, not me, that the union was an economic function of the capitalist system. I support that. It is true that unions grew up within the capitalist system, admittedly and properly, to counter abuses in the capitalist system as a defence mechanism, but they have gone far too far. I direct the attention of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) to some of Paul Johnson’s comments on unionism. He said:
The unions have refused to recognise the limits of their historical role.
What has happened is that unions have entered the field of endeavour for which parliamentarians should properly be responsible. They have gone beyond the cause of their existence. For the honourable member for Port Adelaide to say that the Government will confront the unions and that we are on a collision course and for the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to say last week that he would refer such matters as the measures in this Bill and the measures concerning the industrial relations bureau to the International Labour Organisation is a load of rubbish. I agree, as I imagine everybody else in this House agrees, with article 23 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. I support that. To say that this legislation is offensive to International Labour Organisation rules and conditions is mere humbug.
I am absolutely sure that I will be accused of union bashing. When honourable members on the Government side tell the truth about the excesses of the trade unionism they are accused of union bashing. When Sir John Egerton and Senator Harradine speak they are called scabs. Let us look at the truth of the matter. In relation to introducing secret ballots for the election of union officials, Sir John Egerton says that it is no good having a secret ballot because Mr
Halfpenny, on the one hand, makes sure that all union officials on his committees are his friends and they make sure that the shop stewards and people on the shop floor are his friends also. The people of Australia can listen to what Sir John Egerton says because they know what he says is true and they respect him for that.
Let us look at what the people of Australia think about the excesses of union activities. In January 1977 an Age poll showed that 65 per cent of voters thought trade unions should not involve themselves in issues other than members’ wages and conditions. A gallup poll in December 1976 showed that 80 per cent of Australians thought unions should not be entitled to strike or impose bans on political and social issues as distinct from industrial issues. That is what the gallup poll found that time and that is what the people think. For honourable members opposite to say that the people do not want the trade practices of the unions to be under control shows that they are the prisoners of the trade union movement- I will tell the House about that shortly.
The rule of law in this country has to be paramount. All of us are subject to the rules of law except the trade union movement. If I speed in my car on the way home I am subject to arrest and prosecution for speeding. In the area of industrial law- the honourable member for Burke knows this as well as anybody else- there has been anarchy because there are no sanctions that are enforced. I admit that the abuses of the private enterprise system have to be curtailed. The abuses can be on the one hand the abuses of management, of corporations and of industry, but society has to be protected against the abuses, on the other hand, of monopoly power as carried on by trade unions. It is our job in this Parliament to protect the public interest, to maintain that fine balance. That is what this legislation sets out to do. The rule of law must be paramount. Domination by either capital or labour cannot be permitted. In this legislation the Parliament is starting to protect the public interest. I was interested in what the honourable member for Port Adelaide said. He said the whole purpose of the Act was to protect the Australian consumer. All people are consumers whether they belong to trade unions or not. Members of the Australian public, as they are consumers, are sick and tired of being attacked by the excesses of the trade union movement. The arbitration system is under threat in this country because wage demands enforced by the strike weapon have fuelled the fires of inflation.
– You are still in the 1 7th century.
-I tell the honourable member for Burke and others, if they can be bothered listening to the truth, that the rapacious wage demands, admittedly aided and abetted by the perhaps iniquitous tax scale that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has promised to do something about when economic circumstances permit, have in fact fuelled the fires of inflation. I received criticism on this a second ago. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has admitted:
Excessive union wage demands have caused Australia’s unemployment and inflation crisis.
This Act must protect the consumer against the unlawful activities of business and the unlawful activities of unions. I have no doubt that excesses of union power have caused much of the current inflation. As Paul Johnson, the socialist author, points out, each union becomes an opponent of the other. As one union sees another union’s wage demands acceded to it makes claims and they further fuel the fire. I say to the honourable member for Burke- I ask him to agree with the truth of this- that, in Australia today, many employees are more in bondage than was the serf of mediaeval times because they are the prisoners of the union movement. They are the prisoners of the union officials. All those people who were tested in the gallup poll I mentioned would reflect the views of consumers who are also unionists. They are sick and tired of this bondage. They all do not want to go on strike every time they are asked. They all did not want to strike over the Medibank issue last year. Johnson also points out that the trade union movement is the enemy of the old, the sick and the physically handicapped- those least able to look after themselves. I remind honourable members opposite of that fact.
I would like to cite the renowned jurist Roscoe Pound, a former Dean of Harvard University. In his book Legal Immunities of Labour Unions he says:
Immunities, relieving particular persons or special classes or groups from the duties and liabilities appointed by law for their fellow men, have been regarded from of old as odious.
He points out:
The substantially general privileges and immunities of labor unions and their members and officials to commit wrongs to person and property, to interfere with the use of highways, to break contracts, to deprive individuals of the means of earning a livelihood, to control the activities of the individual workers and their local organisations by national organisations centrally and arbitrarily administered beyond the reach of state laws, and to misuse trust funds-things which no one else can do with impunity.
At this time I also cite a summary of the work of the economist Emerson Schmidt which is in these terms:
Labor unions have created special problems in the government sector. Here the union officials sit, in effect, on both sides of the bargaining table. In many cases they elect, or play a dominant role in electing, top officials in the executive branch-federal, state, and local-as well as in the legislative branch, who then support them in their demands on the public purse.
That comment applies to the United States of America, but the direct analogy applies in this country to the Australian Labor Party which is a prisoner and creature of the trade union movement and which can never get away from it. Occasionally when in government Labor tried, but the union movement put pressures on the leadership and it buckled. What happens here is that they sit on both sides of the fence.
At the weekend the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) adequately dealt with Mr Hawke’s complete conflict of interests as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the one hand and Federal President of the Australian Labor Party on the other. There is a conspiracy between the Labor Party and the trade union movement and they can never break away from that. Another eminent economist, Gottfried Harberler, in his book Economic Growth and Stability makes some interesting comments which are most relevant to this legislation. He says:
To begin with, labor unions have acquired over the years, de jure or de facto, numerous important immunities and privileges which go far beyond anything accorded to business or other private associations. … If unions and their leaders were held financially responsible for damages caused by breach of contracts, illegal strikes, intimidation and violence, considerable moderation in wage bargains could be expected.
This measure is a step towards bringing the excesses of the monopoly of union power under control. I believe that it in itself will help to control inflation because it will lead to moderation in wage demands. I believe that the union structure must properly reflect the wishes of employees rather than the wishes of the bureaucrats in the trade union movement and the union leaders. It must be in touch with what the people on the shop floor want. Today the people on the shop floor know that the trade union movement wields too much economic power. They know that it must be subject to the public interest.
Here in this legislation for the first time we are making the restrictive trade practices of the union movement subject to the same rules of law as those to which industry and business are subject. Why should the excesses of unionism not be subject to the rule of law and the public interest?
Why should they be exempt? This Government is tackling the issue. We have been threatened by the leader of the ACTU and by honourable members opposite that we will be reported to the International Labour Organisation and that there will be a direct confrontation. Any confrontation will be the work of those union officials who want to bring down the private enterprise system, because they must know as all Australians recognise that the vast majority of people in this country want responsible trade unions of course, but that the excesses of unionism must be rejected.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had shown how excessive monopoly behaviour of trade unions, like the excesses of monopoly power of the private sector of capital and business, must be subject to the trade practices legislation. Employees boycotts, outlawed in this Bill, have added to the costs in the private sector. They have been inflationary. I welcome the step taken in this legislation. It is proper. It establishes the rule of law. It protects the public interest and it attacks inflation. It protects consumers. Any confrontation by the union movement in respect of this or any other legislation will be of its doing and contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Australians.
I would like to turn to section 49 of the Actthe price discrimination section- which this legislation proposes to repeal. I was unimpressed by the arguments of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) who spoke for a long time but who- I say with great respectsaid very little. He did admit that to some extent predatory prices were covered elsewhere in the legislation. I believe that the effect of section 49 in the existing Act has been inflationary. It has kept prices up because once a manufacturer had sold to one customer and another customer came along and wanted to buy at a lower price he was unable to do so because of the provisions of this legislation. I accept that people have made submissions to the Government. One does not want to be dogmatic in this area. I suggest that the Minister should look at these submissions and then let us see whether other sections of the Act can be accommodated to meet the perhaps legitimate objections and aspirations of those who are affected.
The price discrimination provisions were put into this Act as a result of the Murphy legislation. I believe that this was done without any examination of its effects on the Australian economy. I believe the trade practices legislation has to reflect the nature and structure of the Australian economy and the repeal of section 49 has to be looked at in that light. We have to remember that we still have section 45 concerning contract arrangements or understandings affecting competition. We still have the monopolisation provisions and we have the exclusive dealing provisions. Listening to Opposition supporters speaking one would think that we seek to repeal the whole of the Act. What the Minister has done here has been to invite inquiry, debate, submissions, further debate here tonight, and further consideration of submissions after the debate. We will get trade practices legislation that hopefully reflects the state of the economy and the aspirations of consumers, and at the same time protects the public interest.
I would like to talk about the merger provisions because they were attacked by the honourable member for Grayndler in his speech tonight but I do not think enough study has been done on these. I believe that they have to be looked at in the light of the Australian economy. If one accepts what the honourable member for Grayndler said one assumes that increased competition in fact encourages lower prices. I am not sure that that is true. I believe that the policies of the Industries Assistance Commission in the past have in fact been to encourage concentration in industry to stop fragmentation so that the costs to the Australian consumer and the Australian economy can be lowered by long production runs.
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) because it is quite clear from his address to this House this evening that the subject on which he spent most of the time available to him- trade unions- is a subject of which he has abysmal ignorance. He clearly comes from the Establishment. He represents an area that does not support those who believe in trade unions, although there are, of course, people in his electorate who do not vote for him and they are the people who do support the trade unions; they probably comprise the intelligent sector of his electorate. Clearly, from what he told us this evening, he has no knowledge whatsoever as to how a trade union functions. Because he comes from the Establishment he can see things only in the hierarchical structure and it has not yet reached his mentality that the people who take the decisions relating to trade unions are the members. Trade unions are democratic organisations, not like the political party to which the honourable member belongs and not like the other functions with which he associates. There is no direction in trade union movements. The decision is taken by the members of the unions and this is why people do band together: They are not instructed to do things; they come together of their own volition. This is why they take the action they do take, not because the voice comes down from the top.
The honourable member quoted- to use his words, they are not mine-a noted socialist, Paul Johnson. Unfortunately I have not had the time to dig out the statements in which Paul Johnson has union bashed even harder than the honourable member did tonight. Yet the honourable member holds him up as a paragon of the trade union movement throughout the world. Why did the honourable member not quote George Meany and go on from there? He said trade unions were all right. I know what he means. He means the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, the Australian Society of Carpenters and Joiners and all of those unions that are nice and respectable and will not to anything to upset the Establishment.
I want to speak on the same subject in regard to the Bill but before I leave the remarks of the honourable member I think it ought to be said that he spoke about the field of endeavour being exceeded by unions and then he went on to mention the Medibank levy. I do wish that the honourable member would be completely honest with the people of Australia and tell them that in his view, although 2.5 per cent of their income is now taken out of their salaries, this is not affecting their living conditions. I fail to see the logic in his argument. If I were back on the job I would be leading the fight to stop people from levying 2.5 per cent of my pay when the previous Government did not find this to be necessary. Of course it affects my standard of living. Of course it affects my income. The honourable member conceded that unions had a legitimate right to defend the incomes of their members. Then he denies them the right to strike because their salaries are going to be levied to pay for Medibank. Why does he not be logical and honest with us? Why does he not be consistent?
This Bill for an Act relating to trade practices is introduced by the Government in a very curious way, and this has already been raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young).
-It has nothing to do with conditions of employment. That is specifically excluded under the Act.
-If the honourable member for Parramatta will restrain himself I will come to that point later and explain to himclearly, he has not read section 45 (d) eitherexactly what that section says. It is one to which I am objecting along with a number of others. In his second reading speech on 8 December 1976 the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) said:
In April this year the Government established a committee to review the Trade Practices Act. That committee reported last August and the report was immediately made public. This Bill implements certain recommendations - ‘ Certain recommendations ‘- of that committee. It is the intention of the Government that the Bill be exposed at this time to allow detailed examination of its provisions by all interested persons. We invite submissions on any aspect of the Bill.
In concluding his speech the Minister repeated his appeal when he said:
I emphasise that the Government does not intend to rush into amending this technical legislation without adequate consultation with and study by the community.
What an extraordinary way of doing things! One would have thought that the committee’s report was a document that deserved and needed public scrutiny. As the Minister concedes, the committee recommended on a number of matters which are not contained in the present Bill and which he did not mention in his speech. He did list some of these things as an example and tell us that they are still under consideration by the Government. If the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) is really seeking a consensus view, it would seem eminently more sensible to me to seek public discussion on the Committee’s report or for the Minister to make a statement and invite submissions on that so that the broad principles can be discussed. Otherwise we have a Bill which will be looked at and amended, which means that this Bill will be withdrawn and another one introduced. That seems to be a messy way of doing things. Because of the major surgery being performed oh the Trade Practices Act and the new areas intended to be embraced by the amended Act and the Government’s curious handling of the Bill, the dogs in my town are barking that the Government does not intend to pass or proclaim the Bill but is prepared to see it die in the prorogation of the Parliament. Time, of course, will tell whether the dogs in my town are smart. I think I have the smartest dogs in Australia living in my town.
If they are correct, what is the Government trying to do? I believe that the Government is using this Bill as a weapon and that it intends to let the Bill lie upon the table with the threat that if there is any disruption in any area at all, the
Government will pick up the weapon and use it. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) raised the question of unions being specifically excluded. I guess he is referring to clause 5 1 of the Bill. If he cares to read clause 45D he will find that it mentions only in the margin boycotts by employees. For the edification of the honourable member I would like to read that clause. I think it is important that it be read. The honourable member is a lawyer and therefore he should have some command of the Queen’s English and should be able to understand what it says. Perhaps if I read it slowly and go through it word by word he may be able to follow me and know better what I am talking about.
– Even he might.
-As the honourable member for Banks reminds me, even he might. Clause 45D is in these terms:
45d. An employee of a person (in this section referred to as the “employer ) shall not engage in conduct in concert with another person or other persons (whether or not the other person is also an employee, or the other persons are also employees, of the employer) for the purpose of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services *by the employer to a corporation if the hindering or preventing of the supply of those goods or services by the employer to the corporation would, or would be likely to, have a substantial adverse effect on the business of the corporation.
I repeat the point I made before. Nowhere in that clause are the words ‘boycott ‘or ‘secondary boycott’ used. Certainly there are exemptions in another part of the Bill. Perhaps the Minister can tell the House in his closing address what happens when truck drivers, for example, who are not engaged in any boycott but who are protecting their wages positions, refuse to move materials from one establishment to another. If the other establishment happens to be a corporation and the action of the transport workers causes severe detriment or has a substantially adverse effect on the business of the corporation, are they not embraced by the clause?
– What about the consumers?
-If they are taking an action within one establishment in support of their comrades and their colleagues in another establishment, are they not also causing substantial -
– What about the people in New South Wales?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) is listed as the next speaker. I suggest that he keeps his interjections and his comments until such time as he is making his speech.
-I hope that his speech is more sensible than his interjections. Any action taken within establishment A, if it is supplying goods or services to establishment B, even if that action is taken to protect the wages and working conditions of the people in establishment A, or is taken in support of their brothers and sisters working in establishment B, would seem to me, from the best advice that I could get, to be embraced by that clause. Where is the exemption? It is certainly not in that clause.
– I will explain it to you later.
-I hope that the Minister can do so because it is one clause that it causing great distress to the trade union movement at the moment because it is too wide, too embracing and, furthermore, is in the wrong Bill.
– Why is it in the wrong Bill?
-It is in the wrong Bill because this Bill has now been put down as an umbrella to scoop up trade union movements in an area where they were never meant to be scooped up. Australia is probably unique in the world for its legislation dealing with trade unions and industrial organisations. It has the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– Equality before the law.
-The honourable member says ‘equality before the law’. As a lawyer he will know that the law is equal to all. For example, rich men and poor men get arrested for sleeping under bridges. Rich men and poor men get arrested for begging in the streets, except that rich men never need to do those sorts of things. But the wording is specifically aimed at employees and, more especially, at their activities. I go back to the proposition which the honourable member for Parramatta called equality before the law. There is equality before the law in all areas but the honourable member has not taken the time and trouble to establish in his own mind the origin of the right of people to associate with one another to protect their own positions. This is the whole tenet on which the trade union movement was built and only in countries such as Australia, which has a totalitarian government, would one find such an action being taken to isolate an integral part of the fabric of our whole community- the trade union movement- and set it aside and say not that it will receive the same protection as everybody else but that it will receive special protection because it is engaged in special activities.
It is my belief that there are 2 aspects which are open to challenge. The Government seems to be drawing its powers from placitum (xx) section S 1 of the Constitution which states: . . . Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth . . .
There has been great legal argument on this matter. I am not a lawyer- thanks be to Him abovebut it is obvious to anybody that trade unions do not fall within that definition of corporations. If they do not fall within that definition of corporations which are the only corporations over which the Commonwealth has power to make laws, how will the Government embrace them? How will it convince people that an individualagain I refer to clause 4SD which mentions an employee, a singular person-or a singular person is a corporation? Is the Government relying on him injuring a corporation or is it saying in the Bill that it is all right for him to belt hell out of one man businesses but that he cannot get into a corporation? Is that what the Government is saying? An employee can never be recognised as a corporation and yet the Government is quite prepared to post a penalty of $50,000 a day for any action that he might take. The Government cannot identify his organisation- the trade union- as a corporation because it does not fit in with the definition contained in the Constitution yet it is quite prepared to hit the union for a bill of $50,000 a day. Apart from that, the Government is also ignoring the International Labour Organisation conventions which Australia has ratified which give to people the right to associate. If the Government is going to take that right away from people- the Government is making a very strong attack on that in this Bill- it will strike at the very basis of a free and democratic society. It will take the same sort of tack that a fellow named Hitler took in Germany in the mid- 1930s and it will destroy the trade union movement. If the people of Australia- I ignore the figures in the poll quoted by the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton)- allow the Government to do that, they must be prepared to accept the consequences. If any Government is prepared to attack the association of free people in a free country coming together for a legitimate purpose, it seems to me that the next step is not very far away from the situation I mentioned. It horrified me to think what the next step would be with people such as we have sitting on the other side of the chamber.
The use of language of the Minister rather escapes me, because in the margin of the Bill he uses the word ‘boycotts’ and in the second reading speech he uses the term ‘secondary boycotts’. We have always had a much simpler expression to describe these sorts of things; we have always called them black bans. Now we have another expression. What the Government proposes to do concerns the workers. Without them not much work will be done. You can manage as hard as you like but nothing will happen until somebody bares his back, bends his back and makes his brow sweat. The workers are the people who make things happen, not the managers. It is the workers who will make it happen. It is the managers who decide that, for the sake of greed, the workers will destroy a building or will build on land that would be better used by the community.
The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) blithely talks about community interests. What about the matter we are discussing here? Greedy governments- they are generally made up of greedy land developers- want to develop public open space for their own speculative profit. How does the Government propose to stop them? But a group of trade unionists comes along- they are the people who dig the trenches to put in the foundations, lay the bricks and put up the steel- and says: ‘We will not do it; we are acting in the public interest’. Because it is a corporation building which is involved the Government proposes to fine them for taking that action. But they are certainly acting in the public interest. Yet the Government wants to take punitive action against them. What those trade unionist s are doing is called a green ban, if honourable members opposite have not caught up with the colloquialism. That action is embraced by this secondary boycott provision.
Let honourable members opposite figure it out. They do not know how dangerous that clause is. They have never thought about it. All those actions are. taken in the public interest. Whether or not the honourable member for Higgins thinks such actions are taken in the public interest is not relevant. History will show that they are taken in the public interest. But for the Government’s short term gain honourable members opposite want to take punitive action against these people. Let me warn them against taking punitive action against the trade unions. For 23 years this country was governed by very conservative governments under a succession of very conservative Prime Ministers. During that time the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was changed. Every honourable member opposite will remember that. Penalties were provided for in that Act for bans and limitations. The same thing is occurring in this legislation. We are back to it again, except that this time the Government is trying to slip that provision into the Trade
Practices Act. Previous governments had such a provision in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We wrote it out when we were in government.
What did the present Government do then? It placed penalties against unions. When did it ever collect the money? When did it ever collect the fines? The only union that paid was the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia, and the only reason it paid was that it wanted to amalgamate with the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and it had to pay its fine to amalgamate. The Amalgamated Engineering Union owed the Government money. Did the Government collect that money? It is still owing. The Government did not have the courage to do it. If the Government did not have the courage to do it under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act how is it going to have the courage to do it under the Trade Practices Act? Why do we not have some honesty in this House? Why do not honourable members opposite tell us that all they are doing here is wagging a big stick. Nobody is quite sure whether they will be prepared to wield it. They are wagging it around their heads. It has happened before. They have had the opportunity. The Government had its penal clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act but it never did anything about them. Is the Government prepared to do something about it in this case? If it is, then I am frightened of it, and I think the people of Australia ought to be frightened of it.
There are many other provisions in this legislation. I just wanted to lay to rest this business that the unions must not stand above the law. They never have, they never did and they never will stand above the law. They are probably more law abiding than the people who sit on the other side of the House who used all sorts of extreme measures to get themselves on to those benches. Let me use another expression. I suppose that if a truck driver will not drive his truck down to another factory to deliver materials he is stopping supply. That has a familiar ring about it, has it not? So the Government intends to fine him $50,000 a day for stopping supply.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr SHIPTON (Higgins)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) who has just resumed his seat. He claimed that in my speech I talked about the Medibank levy and, I think, the effect of the consumer price index. I did no such thing. He stated that I was not completely honest. I resent that. I claim that I spoke the truth. He referred to the word ‘establishment’. I would say that he speaks on behalf of an establishment- that group of union officials who on occasions hold the Australian economy to ransom.
– It is always a pleasure to follow the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) because I find his remarks so stimulating. It is a pity that he has to distort and misrepresent the position that is explained in the clear words used in the legislation which is before us and to try to misrepresent to the Australian people the purpose of that legislation. It is a pity that he has to distort it by using comparative words like ‘Hitler’ and ‘honesty’ in relation to honourable members on this side of the house. I find that totally unworthy of him, as would every honourable member on this side of the House. There is no way that we will be labelled with those sorts of malicious charges. I resent it very much.
While we are looking at some of the matters he raised, let us look at the content of his speech. It is important that in an Act of Parliament which applies to most people in the community and which has in it quite harsh penalties- not penalties that we have imposed but penalties that were imposed by a government of the political persuasion of the honourable member for Burke -
– Yes, a government of the political persuasion of the honourable member for Burke, because it enacted this particular item of legislation. We are debating a Bill relating to an Act of Parliament which has an effect on corporations and individuals. That is the effect of the High Court decision of the other week; it has an effect upon individuals. If the honourable member is saying to us on this side of the House that there are other people in the Australian community to whom such legislation should not apply if they are in breach of that law- that is what he is saying to us, that there is one group of people to whom the law shall not apply but that it shall apply to all others with all the harshness and all the penalties that his Government saw fit to include in the legislation- and if that is what the honourable member refers to as honesty, then I think it is quite clear that all the honesty rests on this side of the House.
I refer the honourable member for Burke to section 51(2) of the Act which will read:
In determining whether a contravention of a provision of this Part other than section 45d or 48 - which refers to mergers- has been committed, regard shall not be had-
to any act done in relation to, or to any provision of a contract, arrangement or understanding to the extent that the provision relates to the remuneration, conditions of employment, hours of work or working conditions of employees.
There were 2 provisos mentioned there. One was section 48 which related to mergers, and I do not think that would affect those matters about which I have spoken, and the other was section 45d. I ask the honourable member, and I ask the Australian people, looking at the words- not read in total but looking at the specific operative words which are relevant in section 45D- to note that the action can be taken to deal with boycotts, to deal with a situation of employees who engage in conduct or in concert ‘for the purpose of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services by the employer to a corporation’. What is wrong with that? Does the honourable member think that employees should be in a position to hinder or prevent the supply of goods or services by an employer to a corporation? Does the honourable member believe that in all cases? I think that is where we differ quite substantially. I believe, as do all honourable members on this side of the House, that we went before the people in December 1 975 with that in our policy. I have heard some people in government in New South Wales where there is a one seat majority speak about mandates. Look at the size of that rump on the other side of this House. We will talk about mandates. The Australian people endorsed this Government and its policy proposals because they did not want those boycotts; they did not want that sort of malicious conduct from people like the honourable member for Burke, who spoke before me in this debate and who made it clear that the unions want to be able to hold other people to ransom, that they want to be able to deal in a harsh and unconscionable way with other people’s property and the rights of the individual.
While I am on this matter, let us look at the position of the people in New South Wales whom I represent- not the people in Victoria whom the honourable member represents who have not had imposed upon them as a result of a union boycott prices for petroleum products that are extortionate in the extreme. The people of Victoria are subsidised by the people of New South Wales. If honourable members want to know why New South Wales is going down the drain they should ask themselves what is the effect upon the people of New South Wales and the industries of New South Wales of additional petrol price increases which have been brought about by the trade union movement that honourable members opposite defend and represent. These increases have been brought about by the boycotts of the Transport Workers Union. Their attitude is totally unconscionable, totally dishonest and has brought about a situation for which we have a mandate to remedy- and we shall do so. I pledge myself to oppose any amendment to this sort of provision which, quite clearly, the Australian people have demanded.
I want to deal with the Bill in a broader way. I support the proposals in general as well. There has been some criticism of this legislation. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) made reference to some of these aspects in his speech. He wondered whether there was demand by the Australian people for an amendment -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Can we have a cessation of private debate?
-I do not know that I needed that assistance, but thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I shall endeavour to carry this matter further and to cover some of the very important aspects of this legislation which will assist the Australian people and will assist in the provision of jobs and creating certainty in manufacturing industry. Whether the honourable member for Port Adelaide wants to ignore it or not, very widespread concern was expressed about the legislation that applied previously in the Trade Practices Act. That matter was the subject of considerable public discussion. It was a matter of great debate during the previous general election. I believe, as do all honourable members on this side of the House, that we have a mandate- I use that term advisedly- to proceed with the introduction of legislation that will restore certainty and clarity to the present legislation. Such consideration was one of the principal tasks that we expected the Swanson Committee to perform. We wanted to ensure that manufacturing industry would be in a position to be able to proceed without being unduly hindered in its tasks by claims that can be brought, very often without adequate reason, before the Trade Practices Commission. We wanted to ensure, where we could, that where issues had to be decided the law was given clarity where it had not been clear to date. I do not think anybody would disagree with the sorts of concepts that people speak of as being a requirement for trade practices law. It is rather the way in which we seek to amend the legislation that is important. Trade practices law concerns a set of market practices, market behaviour, market power and the structure that endangers the competitive processes. The main goals of competitive policy are competitive prices, efficient methods of production and innovation. There are important objectives and I do not think anybody would disagree with them. But we have to look at the particular provisions in the Act and ask ourselves whether those provisions bring about that sort of situation.
We have discussed tonight in considerable detail the sections dealing with prices discrimination. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitiam) cast doubt upon some of the suggested amendments that were brought forward in the Swanson Committee report. I should like to commend to all honourable members the reading of section 7 of the Swanson Committee report, which deals with price discrimination. That particular section spells out in some detail the important considerations that affect this matter of certainty, the matter of jobs and also the important matter of manufacturing industry being able to be successful. The section dealing with price discrimination has been the subject of considerable discussion because of the involvement and the conflict of that section with the operations of the Prices Justification Tribunal. We have seen also that the practice of quantity discounts has been emasculated. We have seen that these provisions have worked to the detriment of consumers in the maintenance of prices at a higher level, which has discouraged volume sales. That has had an effect upon manufacturing industry. Whilst that section speaks about the lack of price flexibility, these provisions must be examined.
What we have seen happening in Australia has occurred frequently in the United States of America. If honourable members would care to look at an article by Mr Charles Filgate Giles appearing at page 555 of the Australian Law Journal of November 1976 they will see, under the heading ‘Price Discrimination- s. 49’, some more detailed reference to the United States experience, which has been very similar to our own. As yet not many cases have been brought here to decide what the section means. There is a great deal of uncertainty as to the intention of this Parliament arising from the language that has been used in the Act. In the United States a great deal of criticism has been levelled at the varying interpretations that courts have placed upon some of the terms used. That might not happen here, but it may. While that prospect of uncertainty exists, is it any wonder that the price discrimination clauses have not been effective?
The honourable member for Grayndler made reference also to the commentary by the Trade Practices Commission on the Swanson report. I went through the commentary and looked for the powerful arguments that he suggested would persuade me to another course. I looked at the commentary and found that it was couched in the same sorts of generalisations, with the same sorts of general statements, as it was criticising in the Swanson committee report. Regrettably, in this area we are not dealing with specifics- there is no finite data available upon which we can make our decisions. We are making them on the basis of judgments. But very important questions are involved. Indeed, it has become clear that there has been a maintenance of higher prices as a result of that particular provision. That is my view and that was the considered view of the Swanson Committee when it had before it the numerous representations that had been made to it.
While we are talking about representations, the honourable member for Grayndler suggested that he had received great volumes of representations from small retailers asking that this particular provision be maintained. It may well be that he has had representations passed on to him by the spokesman for this matter on the other side of the House. It may well be that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) has received some such representations. But I can say that in moving around my electorate- the large city of Parramatta- I have not had people coming up to me and saying: ‘Ruddock, you have to maintain those price discrimination clauses because to do otherwise would have a disastrous effect upon small business’. That sort of view is simply not abroad in the community.
There are some other matters with which I want to deal. I think I have dealt in some detail with selective boycotts. I want to cover two other aspects, the major one of which relates to the Minister’s statement on the applicability of this legislation to government. I remind honourable members of the statement by the Minister when he said that governments are becoming increasingly involved in commercial activities often in direct competition with private enterprise. It is anomalous that the Trade Practices Act should apply to private enterprise and not to government enterprise of a commercial nature. The Minister went on to indicate that at present an interdepartmental committee is examining the detailed implementation of this proposal. I want to encourage the Minister to ensure that this committee reports promptly.
– Well, I hope the Minister can assure us that he will adopt new provisions very shortly- perhaps when we consider these amendments when the Parliament resumes in a fortnight’s time. In my view it is important that statutory corporations operating in direct competition with private enterprise should comply with this legislation. Statutory corporations should not be allowed to continue to be immune to this legislation. We do not often hear about State corporations such as the dockyard at Newcastlea New South Wales socialist enterprise. We do not often hear that and we want to hear that this legislation will apply also to those socialist enterprises and the statutory corporations of the States. I hope that the interdepartmental committee looks at some of those aspects. This may lead us to some conflict with States, but I would hope that this legislation would apply to all trading corporations, be it Trans-Australia Airlines vis-a-vis Ansett Airlines of Australia or be it Medibank vis-a-vis the private health funds.
In recent history let us look at a letter by Professor Peden of Macquarie University on Labor Party advertising, in relation to Medibank, in which it is suggested that Medibank was free. In a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 November 1976- honourable members might like to refer to it- he makes reference to this problem. This sort of advertising could be prompted by a government for political reasons. It was not capable of being reviewed by the Trade Practices Commission. I believe it should.
The other matter with which I will deal briefly is public hearings. We know, of course, that the manner in which public hearings of the Commission are to operate is to be changed. The Swanson Committee, in dealing with conference procedure in its report from page 240 onwards, mentions that the proceedings ought to be made simpler and implies that people who might offer professional advice to companies ought to be excluded from those provisions. I suggest to the Minister in relation to small companies that are not in a position to have on their boards a solicitor, a barrister, an accountant or somebody like that who can argue their case with some familiarity that those companies will be put at a disadvantage in comparison with the larger companies in some of these exercises. I think we ought to look much more closely at whether or not the smaller companies ought to be able to get some advice in that way.
Another aspect which I wish to cover deals with secrecy. I think it is important that we pay some respect in this legislation and in the way in which we examine it to some of the aspects of corporate property. In this I mean trade secrets, patents, items on which companies have contributed valuable research, development, knowhow and so on and other matters that have been mentioned to me such as the money price of a merger and details of current costings. I believe that in the examination that is to take place much of the secrecy is preserved by the new procedures that have been adopted. I have not examined this aspect of the Act in detail. One of the things that I would be looking for in my own personal examination of these provisions is that these valuable items of corporate property are protected. There is a public interest to which we must look as well. I believe that it is important in the public interest that people who have invested money in companies in the knowledge that they will have certain corporate assets and advantages that sometimes those corporate assets bring have their investment protected. I am pleased as I speak in this way to see honourable members nodding some approval in relation to these aspects. It is of fundamental importance in this legislation that there is the protection of minority interests, that there is the protection of the rights of individuals and that there is genuinely equality before the law.
Let me return to the point upon which I started. We know that in this legislation as previously drafted certain people were exempt from its rather onerous provisions, onerous as they have been described by honourable members opposite even though they legislated for the provisions. I want, in my consideration of this legislation- and I am sure at least all honourable members on this side of the House do- to ensure that all people are equal before the law and that the law applies to individuals, corporations and groupings of people to a like extent so that any trade practices which are unreasonable can be stopped.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This is a curious debate in that we are debating a Bill which will wither on the vine and come back in a new form in the new Parliament.
-It will not be all that different.
-I hope that it will be very different in one respect. If it is not, the Minister will be in terrible trouble. The Bill before the House is entitled the Trade Practices Amendment Bill but that is an incorrect description of the Bill in my view. There should have been included in the title some reference at least to the fact that it contains a clause which will, if passed into law, bring about a fundamental change in our industrial law. Indeed it will have the effect of totally disrupting and rendering unworkable the system of industrial relations that has been established in this country throughout this century. It is, in fact, the most repressive piece of industrial legislation ever brought before the Parliament. That the clause is contained in a Bill described as a Trade Practices Amendment Bill should not be allowed to disguise that fact.
The key clause of this Bill which introduces this horrendous provision is proposed new section 45D, as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) said. Proposed new section 4SD is described in the marginal note as dealing with ‘Boycotts by employees’. In fact that description of the proposed section is completely misleading. Nowhere in the proposed section is the term ‘boycott’ mentioned. In fact the implications go far beyond the matter of union boycotts, whether they be secondary boycotts or any other form of boycott. As I understand it a boycott in its primary sense means an endeavour to dissuade members of the public or commercial entrepreneurs from entering into trade relations with the offending employer, whilst the Swanson Committee referred to ‘secondary boycotts’ as a situation ‘where employees of one employer place a boycott upon the dealings of that person with another person’. But whatever definition of ‘boycott’ is adopted the fact remains that proposed section 45D ranges far beyond the narrow limits of these definitions and therefore the description of that clause in the margin in the Bill is thoroughly misleading. So, too, is the explanatory memorandum issued by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard). It says of proposed section 45D:
New section 45d prohibits boycotts -
I emphasise ‘ boycotts ‘- . . . by employees which have the purpose of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services by the employer to a corporation if that action would have substantial adverse effects on the business of the corporation whose supplies are curtailed.
In fact proposed section 4SD does not mention boycotts. As I said it goes far beyond the boycotts, and would have the effect of prohibiting most industrial action by way of strikes, goslows, black bans, picketing and so on in a wide range of industries totally regardless of the purpose for which such action was taken. If one reads proposed section 45d- I doubt that honourable members opposite have done so- one sees that nowhere does it mention boycotts. It states:
An employee of a person . . . shall not engage in conduct in concert with another person or other persons … for the purpose of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services by the employer to a corporation if the hindering or preventing of the supply of those goods or services by the employer to the corporation would, or would be likely to, have a substantial adverse effect on the business of the corporation.
As I understand it, that means that any action of a group of employees acting in concert which had the effect of hindering or preventing the supply of goods to a corporation would bring it in contravention of proposed section 45D. That goes way beyond the kind of action to which the Swanson Committee referred. It goes far beyond the actions of the petrol tanker drivers in New South Wales. It covers a vast spectrum of union activity. It covers a vast spectrum of industry in this country. I ask honourable members to consider what this proposed section states. It says that any time any group of employees act in concert in support of, say, a wage claim -
– It does not say that.
– It does not say ‘wage claim’ but the reasons are irrelevant. The reasons are not mentioned in section 45D.
– It says: ‘ . . . substantial adverse effect on the business of the corporation’.
-Right. So, if the result of the action for whatever reason, is the hindering or the preventing of the supply of goods or services to a corporation the effect is a contravention of the Act under proposed section 45D.
– It is the purpose of the conduct that is relevant, not the effect. It is the purpose of the conduct which is the dominant consideration. If you read the proposed new section carefully, you will discover that.
– I have read very carefully the proposed new section. It states ‘for the purpose of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services’. The purpose in any industrial dispute -
– Keep reading the proposed new section.
-Obviously you know nothing about industrial relations. In any industrial dispute employees take strike action or other action for the purpose of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services to a corporation, for another purpose, which is to support their wage claim. They intend to hinder or prevent the supply of goods or services to a corporation. That is the intent of their action in 95 per cent of industrial disputes. The employees take action. If it does not have the effect of preventing or hindering the supply of goods or services to a corporation or to somebody else, it does not have any effect. They are not putting on any pressure.
– But do they-
– You will get your chance later. The whole point is that they need to put on pressure. To put on pressure they need to prevent or hinder the supply of goods or services. That must mean that in most industrial disputes employees will be found to be in breach of proposed new section 45d. If the Minister cannot understand that, I think there is something wrong with him. It is quite clear to me and to my legal advisers. I have had this matter looked at by people whose legal qualifications, I think, far exceed the Ministers. Their interpretation is the one I am giving him now. All I can say is that in our view the proposed new section is industrial dynamite. It goes far beyond boycotts. It provides that any action by employees which has the effect of hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services -
– It says ‘for the purpose of.
– Yes, it can be ‘for the purpose of. The purpose of doing it is to get another result, which is an industrial aim. Nothing in this Act qualifies that.
Proposed new section 51 sub-section (2) was mentioned by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). He obviously had no idea what he was talking about. If one looks at that sub-section one sees that it specifically exempts the proposed new section 45D. Therefore it is of no relevance to a consideration of section 45D. We can forget proposed new section 5 1 sub-section (2) (a) in terms of looking at proposed new section 45D. We regard the proposed new section 45D as of tremendous importance. It is not a trade practices item, as we see it. It is one of the most revolutionary and venomous introductions to the area of industrial law that any government has contemplated in the history of this country. Let me describe to the Parliament the effect of proposed new section 45d on employees engaging in ordinary industrial action in this country. The proposed new section is included in Part IV of the proposed
Act. Part VI of the Act prescribes certain penalties for a contravention of a provision of Part IV. The penalties that could be imposed upon employees indulging in ordinary industrial activity could be enormous. Under section 76, Part VI of the Act, a person who has contravened Part IV, which will now include the proposed new section 45D, may be fined $50,000. That is just the start.
Furthermore, under section 82, a person who has contravened a provision of Part IV may be sued for loss or damage by the corporation that has been affected by the hindering or prevention of the supply of goods. Thus employees who go on strike in support of a wage rise, for instance, and who, by so doing, hinder or prevent the supply of goods or services to a corporation may be fined $50,000 and sued for damages by the affected corporation. So there is not just a fine of $50,000; there is also the liability to be sued for damages by the affected corporation. But that is not all. The employees may also be subject, under section 80, to injunction proceedings. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, the Trade Practices Commission or any other person in the country has the right, under this Bill, to seek an injunction from the Federal court restraining a person from engaging in action that contravenes proposed new section 45D, that is, engaging in action such as strikes or other activities which prevent or hinder the supply of goods or services. The Government could get an injunction at any time it liked and so prevent all industrial activity. That right would be limited to this extent: The action would have to be preventing or hindering the supply of goods or services to a corporation because the whole new section is based on the corporation power.
Obviously some employees are not affected. An obvious example would be school teachers. Certainly, if we consider the kind of ramifications that this action would have, the transport industry would be affected. Railways, airports, road haulage, shipping and all forms of transportation would be affected. Telecommunications, banking, employees in fuel and power industries such as gas, coal, electricity and petroleum would be affected. Certainly employees making component parts would be affected. I think even employees making finished products would be affected because their goods or services go to retail corporations. So the proposed new section will affect the vast majority of employees in this country. It is not confined to a few.
– Hear, hear!
-The honourable member for St George is singing out ‘Hear, hear’. I suppose he thinks: ‘This is great stuff. Let’s stick the boot into them. It is really beaut. He will have another think coming later on if the Government goes on with this sort of legislation. This is incredibly hard and extensive legislation of which I think some Government members are only just starting to appreciate the ramifications. Obviously some members, such as the honourable member for St George, think it is tremendous and wish that it were even tougher.
If an injunction is sought and granted and the employee does not abide by it, the court has the power to impose fines or gaol sentences, as it sees fit. There are 3 penalties-a $50,000 fine, action for damage by the affected corporation and provision for an injunction to prevent the action being continued. If that injunction is breached, fines and gaoling, as the court sees fit, are provided. Thus quite an horrific array of penalties can be used against employees indulging in normal industrial dispute activity. It does not end there. Under section 76 it seems that individual employees could be penalised even if industrial action did not eventuate. If there were no industrial action, no prevention or hindering of the supply of goods or services, they could still be fined under section 76 in the way that I have described. This comes about because proposed section 76 states that where a person has attempted to contravene a provision of Part IV; or has aided or abetted or counselled or procured a person to contravene such a provision; or has induced or attempted to induce a person to contravene such a provision; or has been in any way, directly or indirectly, knowingly concerned in, or party to, the contravention by a person of such a provision; or conspires with others to contravene such a provision- in all those cases he is liable to a $50,000 fine. Even if the employees did not undertake any industrial action but merely discussed the possibility of indulging in such action, they could be in contravention of a provision of Pan IV and could be faced with penalties under section 76. They could also be faced with injunction proceedings to stop them considering the possibility of such action in future.
This is extremely strong stuff. This is not some incidental change to a trade practices Bill. This is the heart and soul of industrial legislation in this country. I do not think some members opposite really understand what they are throwing into the ring. All of this is in relation to individual employees, but the legislation goes further than that. It could be that penalties would apply specifically to trade unions as well as to employees. Under proposed section 76, a union with which an employee acted in concert to prevent or hinder the supply of goods or services to a corporation would be liable, by virtue of the aiding and abetting provisions of section 76 to which I have just referred. This assumes that a union would be regarded as a person under the Act. My understanding is that that almost certainly would be the case, regardless of whether the union was a federally registered union, a State registered union or an unregistered union. Thus unions whose members engaged in action which contravened proposed new section 45D would be liable, under section 76, to a fine of up to $250,000 plus injunction proceedings, plus action for loss or damage by the affected corporation.
The ramifications of this Bill are enormous. It clearly introduces in the guise of a trade practices Bill the most repressive industrial laws ever put before this Parliament. Yet a Press statement issued by the Minister last Thursday stated -
– I am glad that you read them.
– I do. I keep quite a good eye on them. It said:
He said that the effect of the amendments would be to subject both companies and trade unions which engaged in a particular form of anti-competitive conduct to the same rules.
The Minister said that the new amendment would in no way interfere with or restrict legitimate union activities.
What a ludicrous and ridiculous statement.
Quite clearly from what I have put to the House it is absurd for the Minister to claim that the amendments would in no way interfere with or restrict legitimate union activities. As I have already shown, the legislation goes far beyond boycotts. I have shown that it goes to ordinary industrial activity and that it would apply to the vast majority of employees. I have shown that enormous penalties would apply. Yet the Minister says that it would not interfere with legitimate union activity. Perhaps it gets down to the definition of what is legitimate union activity, in which case I can only say that the Minister must have a remarkably narrow view of what comes within that definition.
I have said that the action being taken in this Bill goes far beyond that recommended by the Swanson Committee, which confined its considerations to the matter of secondary boycotts. I do not think that in the time available I need pursue that point. It is fairly self-evident. It is quite clear that the Government in introducing proposed new section 45 D has gone miles beyond the secondary boycott limits that the Swanson Committee was talking about.
Such laws as are being introduced here are totally inappropriate to a rational industrial relations system. The whole concept of introducing this statutory civil liability is a revolutionary change in the whole system. In Australia we have had applying alongside the arbitration law a system of industrial tons inherited from English common law. Those industrial tons have been rarely used. Although they have been used in a number of instances in the last half dozen years, I suppose we can say that their use has been rare. What we have in this Bill is the introduction of statutory civil liability for industrial disputes in a way that has never been applied in this country or any other country. In England where the industrial torts operated they affected unions up until 1906 when the English Government saw fit to legislate to prevent such common law applying to unions. The Trade Disputes Act 1906 has applied ever since and was strengthened in the mid 1970s to ensure that industrial torts do not apply to unions.
In this country such law has never been passed except in Queensland. It has never been passed federally or in any other State. But the Federal Government is now in effect legislating to enable the torts to be put into the statutes. This is a remarkable change. It is a remarkable advance or regression in the law, depending on the way one sees it. I personally see it as a remarkable and amazing backward step, one which will plunge this country into the possibility of industrial chaos. It makes one wonder why this Government is taking this action. Perhaps it is true that the Government does not know what it is doing, in which case it is made up of fools. The alternative is that the Government is composed of knaves because it is indulging in action which will bring about in this country an industrial confrontation which simply must occur if the unions are to preserve their rights to act collectively and to take any form of industrial action.
It could also be a demonstration of anti-union phobia for which the Government is well known. It could also be that pan of the Government’s logic is that this legislation will be thrown in as part of the array of measures that it will use against unions in the post-wage indexation era which its wages policy will bring about. But whatever the reasons, this is most vicious legislation which we will oppose absolutely and totally.
-The Government and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) are to be congratulated on introducing this legislation. In particular the Minister is to be congratulated for the way in which he proposes to deal with the legislation. The Opposition is to be castigated for the dismal and miserable contribution it has made to the debate.
There are a number of important matters to which I wish to refer before I deal with proposed new section 45D which so concerned the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) as to leave him in an almost demented state. Proposed new section 47 provides most important amendments. Australia is in an extremely important stage of its development. It is a wonderful country which faces tremendous crises. It was necessary that legislation of the type before us be introduced, and such legislation was introduced by the former Government. We have had some time to assess the effect of the legislation. We have had time to see whether we should strike a balance between the legitimate interests of the development of the nation through our free enterprise system and the legitimate interests of the individual in respect of protection from improper or unfair practices. We must not allow the pendulum to swing too far either way because in some circumstances legislation can have a regressive effect upon the economic development of our nation. On the other hand, if there is too much liberty in the hands of corporations there can be excessive impediment to fair competition and there can be development of an improper type of business activity.
Australia has many industries which need to develop, particularly the capital-intensive industries which need to be able to enter into longterm contracts. Such industries need to be able to see and plan well ahead. Proposed new section 47 bears to some extent on this position by relaxing some of the authorisation tests and providing a reversal of onus in regard to the question of competition and public benefit. So to that extent the amendments make these developments a little easier. The amendments to section 50 will also enable a number of difficult problems to be overcome. Nowadays we do not see small business developing into big business that used to be the case so many years ago. At times when business became too big it developed its own bureaucracy and the bureaucracy of big business, big unions or big government often militate against the rights of individuals. But there was a lot to be said for the small business that could develop. An incentive was given to a proprietor so that he could develop. Mergers in respect of these small business arrangements were often very productive. In many cases a small businessman who worked all his life and built up his business had a person interested in buying him out. Such a person would reach the stage where he wanted to retire because he did not want to go on forever. A sensible merger might provide economies of scale of a new enterprise as against perhaps dis-economies of scale that previously operated. But the prohibitions upon mergers that have applied in the Act to date in many respects have militated against such sensible mergers. There have been complaints by persons who have said that they have been unable to do this.
– Give us an example.
– One can easily understand the simple example that I am putting. There are two obvious extremes. By taking one extreme one could say that there should be absolutely no mergers at all. This would guard against the development of possible structural monopolies. On the other level one could say that there should be mergers without any restrictions to allow rationalisation of industry and to overcome diseconomies of scale.
It is vital that legislation strikes a sensible balance. To a great extent Opposition members tonight have not been prepared to direct their minds to the balancing features of . this legislation. I am not entirely sure that the threshold provisions relating to section 50 direct themselves to that problem. But at least there is a reasonable provision relating to the figure of $3m to differentiate between large and small business and to allow mergers which are reasonable in the circumstances. Mergers between very large companies are, of course, still subject to the usual provisions of the Act.
It is proposed that section 49 will be abolished. I would think that the Minister might give some thought to whether other sections of the Act or other aspects of the corporations power could be used in this area. The Commission itself raises a fair point when it says that it may be that some small businesses thought there would be no point in making submissions to the Swanson Committee. Whilst that possibility exists, the door should not be closed absolutely to the use of the Act or of the corporations power in some proper way to ensure that we are not acting contrary to the interests of small business. It is quite clear that section 49 has had an inflationary effect on the grand scale. That is wrong. Anything that can be done to help reduce inflation is extremely welcome. I know that the Government and the Minister have looked at this question in very great detail.
There is one aspect that needs to be looked at. I think perhaps small businesses could be invited to make further views known on this aspect because the confidence of small business is very important. It is vital in the national interest that businesses in this country be allowed to operate at the optimum size and structure. Confidence of the small businessman is important. If something can be done in the legislation to assist small business I think it should be done.
I turn to the proposed new section 45D. There are many matters in the legislation with which I could deal before coming to the proposed new section 45d. I do not wish in any way to underestimate the importance of the amendments to which I have just referred and the other amendments in the Bill. Nor do I wish to give credence to the Opposition’s hysterical considerations about the new section 45d. I merely wish to answer some of the more ridiculous points that have been raised by Opposition members. Firstly, I strongly urge the Minister to look at the wording of proposed new section 45d and to add a provision that applies also to the acquisition by a corporation of goods or services. The proposed section applies only to the supply of goods and services. I would think that it ought also to apply to the acquisition of goods and services by a corporation, or at least by a corporation which is the employer of the employees who are engaging in the prohibited conduct. Otherwise one could see huge gaps that one could drive trucks through. I have no doubt that the cunning and ingenuity of many members of the extremist trade union leadership would take advantage of those possible gaps. I believe the Minister should look closely at the wording of the proposed new section 45d.
Let us now ask ourselves why the proposed new section 4SD has been introduced and why into this Act. It does not really matter what Act it goes into. It still becomes the law of the land, and the law of the land applies regardless of which Act a particular section is found in. For some reason Opposition members seem to be implying that they would welcome this provision in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I am sure they are only speaking with tongue in cheek. The fact is that it is an appropriate section to insert in this Act.
The honourable member for Gellibrand cried all sons of crocodile tears about the penalties. I am sure he has not forgotten that the Australian Labor Party sought to introduce legislation during its term of office relating to electoral matters in particular that provided massive fines for individuals. It was atrocious legislation that was properly rejected by the Senate. I am sure Opposition members have not forgotten the first draft of their race relations Bill which, before it was amended and the amendments were eventually accepted in the Senate, provided massive fines for persons who could be called into the office of the Commissioner without having any say and without being told who was their accuser and could be fined huge sums of money without any recourse to the law. If memory serves me correctly, it was the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs who did a great deal in this House to move amendments which were eventually accepted by the Opposition. I expect the Opposition to understand that the Minister has given a great deal of thought to these sections, and it should accept them also.
The honourable member also forgot to remind the listening public that the penalties of which he complained apply equally and with the same force to corporations which breach similar provisions in the Act. What is unfair about that? Nothing at all. The honourable member harped, whinged and grizzled about the fact that the trade unions are subject to the penalties but he failed to inform the listening public at large that exactly the same penalties apply to corporations which breach very similar provisions. He gave himself away when he said that the rights of the trade union movements must be preserved and any form of industrial action should be preserved as the province of the trade union movement. We see how wide the trade union movement seeks to extend its province. We have only to look at the proposition to see how stupid it is. No priest would recommend that any form of moral action, just because a person believes that he is correct, should be the subject of no legal regulation at all. This is a pluralist society in which checks and balances have to be found between the rights of various groups and the rights of individuals. What one person calls industrial action might not in fact be industrial action to another. It may be heinous action.
Following on the words of Paul Johnson, who castigated the trade union movement and described its extremist leaders as robber barons, let us ask ourselves what practical examples have arisen in recent times to warrant this equal treatment under this legislation of trade unions and employer groups. I do not wish to categorise the average trade unionist as a person to whom this is directed. The average trade unionist in this country is still a hard working person, still patriotic and still interested in his country, but he is in the grip of many trade union leadership groups which are interested only in their own power and march only to the drums of their own egos. Some of them are so extreme as to wish only to bring down this country and the free enterprise system and to replace it with their own version of society. Let us ask ourselves what has been done by the trade union movement in the past few years. It is a fact that many boycotts and bans have applied. It is also a fact that in England and in Australia civil remedies have been available in the courts and injunctions have been given to stop this activity. It is no use the honourable member for Gellibrand pooh-poohing this fact. All this legislation does is translate some of the existing legal remedies into a clearer legislative form. Has the honourable member forgotten the ban on wool traffic, from Kangaroo Island to South Australia a few years ago when Mr Dunstan was petitioned by union leaders to waive a court order under which union leaders who had been in contempt of court were put in gaol. He was asked to waive the order of the court. He was not game to do that. It was not possible for him to do that. He had to uphold the law.
The simple fact is that Australia’s exports of wheat and flour to Chile, which used to represent 5.4 per cent of our exports of these commodities in 1973-74, have ceased as a result of trade union action. The growing market for Australian wheat and flour in Indonesia, which took 5.4 per cent of our exports of these commodities in 1974-75, is now under similar threat. Is it not proper that these sorts of boycotts that affect our export industries should be subject to the same type of legislation as they would be if the companies had carried out these sorts of activities?
What is happening in New South Wales today? The Transport Workers Union has banned delivery of petrol supplies to discount service stations, thereby preventing fair competition. This is why it is appropriate to put the boycott provisions in this Act. The Act deals with competition. Members of the Transport Workers Union are preventing the New South Wales public from having petrol at reasonable prices or at a reduced price as applies in Victoria.
The point to be made is this: This is not directed to strike action as such. We concede the claim of the trade unions to be able to withhold labour. The legislation is directed to trade unionists who say: We are going to work today but we will obey only so many of the boss’s orders. We will deliver petrol to such and such a place. We are not on strike but we refuse to deliver petrol to discount service stations. In other words the boycott provisions are designed to deal not with unionists who are concerned with industrial conditions but with unionists who are not on strike and who are not on a go slow but who simply say: ‘We will defy the boss and we will decide where to deliver the goods’.
We also have in New South Wales a ban by bread carters because of discounts. They refuse to deliver bread to supermarkets that sell at less than the price approved by the union. Who is running this country? The unions are attempting to run this country. That is a complete denial of the rights of housewives to purchase bread at reasonable prices. All we get is Mr Wran in New South Wales window dressing and bleating about the bread manufacturers when half the problem comes from the unions. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitiam) talked about applying the law. That gives me the opportunity to remind the House of what has happened in New South Wales under the Wran Government. That Government has no respect for the application of the strict letter of the law. It does not enforce the law in relation to casinos. It decided to grant an amnesty one week in respect of prosecutions for trading outside shopping hours and not the next. By regulation, it has declared some beach to be a nude bathing area. I do not know how the Crimes Act can be waived just by regulation. There we see a Labor Government which turns on the law one week and turns it off the next week if that suits it politically.
Also in New South Wales we had the John Fairfax and Sons Ltd dispute. Honourable members opposite do not seem to have known that these things were occurring. In sympathy with some strikers it was decided to cut off newsprint supplies. That did not work because the Fairfax company happened to have enough of its own newsprint to get by. Postal bans have been applied from time to time to companies including the Fairfax company. Those union members were not necessarily on strike. They said: ‘We are not going to deliver this mail to Fairfax’. One of the difficulties that has occurred in the recent past is that the public has not been given the necessary moral boost by governments and employers to stand up to these actions. Indeed some years ago there were difficulties with the Rocks development in New South Wales. One would have hoped that the managers of the Rocks project would have taken appropriate action to bring the union leadership before the court by taking out an injunction. That was not done. I certainly hope that this Government will ensure that, to the extent to which they may be affected, its instrumentalities will be the first in the field to see that the law is applied against trade union leaderships that cany out these types of activities. The facts of life are that the union bosses have grown far too big for their boots. They believe that they are above the law and, in many respects, they are above the law.
In addition to the amendments which I have proposed to section 45D, I see no reason in principle why the trade unions should not as far as possible be subject to the same law as other corporations. I am reminded that some years ago the New South Wales Government forced registered clubs to incorporate. I think that over a period it would be possible, if it were carefully done, to have trade unions incorporated- not in the hybrid way as at present when they hide behind all sons of legal technicalities, but incorporated as fully as possible under the same legislation as corporations. We would then see how many trade union leaders were immune from the Crimes Act, the Securities Industry Act, the Companies Act, the Trade Practices Act and other Acts that would put them into the same position as company directors.
Let us see what can be done swiftly about legal proceedings to avoid having to have royal commissions every time somebody puts his finger into an area of murky corruption, as occurred with the Seamen’s Union of Australia. In that case a royal commission was held and it was proven that there was massive graft and corruption. The royal commissioner had to recommend some action by the Government to deal with the return of huge sums of money. The introduction of this sensible legislation is long overdue. It will give heart to the public. The trade unions and their mouthpieces in this chamber talk about threats. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) says: ‘You will be sorry.’ AH I can say is that the more they protest, the more people will wonder what they have to hide and the more the Government’s actions will be fully supported by the vast majority of Australian people.
-Before I speak about the trade practices legislation let me make a few brief observations on the speech made by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). All that I have heard tonight in this debate from honourable members on the tory benches has been one long litany of union bashing. Let me say to the honourable member for St George that I can understand, admire and respect the Government seeking to put the trade union movement of this country in a legal legislative straightjacket if the Government demonstrates some semblance of equity and justice by applying the same legislative straightjacket to companies, stock exchanges, banks, insurance companies and all companies -
– We do.
– I am pleased to hear the interjection. It would seem from a perusal of what is envisaged in this piece of legislation that the Government does not intend to do that. It proposes to drop section 73A from the Act. I will come to that later. The Government ought to deal with this son of legislation with equity and justice. Today I asked a question of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard). I thought it was a very sensible question. I asked, in view of the fact that there will be an escalation of oil imports into this country, what was the Government intending to do about setting up an agency to monitor the prices? More importantly, I asked whether it would allocate sufficient funds for the Royal Commission on Petroleum to complete the collation and assessment of the vast amount of evidence presented to it on transfer prices? The Minister’s response was nothing more than a long retort about section 45D and how it would overcome the problem. Let us assume for a moment that the Government does what it proposes with section 4SD. That will not solve the problem ultimately of protection for the consumer.
The Government must do 2 things. We failed to do them. First, it must make a complete assessment of the transfer prices. Second, it should set up in this country a proper agency to monitor prices. The Minister must admit that we do not have such a structure. The criteria used by the Trade Practices Tribunal to fix a certain area of oil prices is limited. The criteria used by the people in Adelaide to fix petrol prices in Australia are posted prices. The Minister knows as well as I do that posted prices are nothing more than a tax rake-off for the producing countries particularly those in the Middle East. I think that in this debate we ought to be a bit constructive as to where we are going. I have very few attributes to be a politician but one is persistence. The Minister can take it from me that I will persist with those 2 matters. If they are riot dealt with there is no question at all that the consumers throughout this country will be taken to the cleaners. The Minister knows that as well as I do.
The dilemma for this tory Government is that it is under intense pressure from the oil companies and the finance corporations. That is why section 73A has been deleted and, if I am any judge, the Government will not re-introduce it. The same pressure comes from bankers. Those are the sorts of people whom honourable members opposite really represent. I respect that and I understand it. As I recall it, in 1975 honourable members opposite totally opposed the trade practices legislation which we initiated.
-Yes, you did. As I recall it, honourable members opposite intended to emasculate that legislation in order to give private enterprise the freedom it chose. They have woken up to the fact that that was not the ball game. They will be under very intense pressure to ensure the desired final result. Two issues are involved in this whole question of trade practices. One- the downstream effect- is the protection of the consumer. The important factor beyond any doubt is the belief that the Government espouses as the cardinal principle behind its philosophy, that is, freedom of competition. I put it to honourable members opposite that the provisions of section 49, which they are emasculating, section 47- there the Government is not putting in the provisions required for price discrimination particularly in the retail section of the oil industry- and section 73A, the link provisions, are .being ignored because the Government will be obliged to do so.
Despite what the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) has said, I have received many representations from small business people in my area. It is their assessment that the more insidious amendment which the Government is making is undoubtedly the repeal of section 49. That was recommended by the Swanson Committee report. Whom does it represent? If we come to grips with the situation, we understand that it represents big business. The Committee was appointed by the present Government. With due deference to the Minister and to the honourable member for Parramatta, I would say that this matter is of great importance to a fragmented section of industry like small business which lacks all the resources of the legal fraternity, the medical fraternity, big business or the Australian Retail Association. It does not have the resources. One would have assumed that before the Swanson Committee made an assessment it would have at least undertaken one or two surveys. Am I right, Mr Minister, in assuming that it never did undertake surveys? No surveys were undertaken, as I understand it, by the Swanson Committee. Why not? Irrespective of the call for submissions, why were surveys not undertaken?
– I will reply to you later.
– I will be delighted to hear your reply and I think small industry will be, too. In that context it is hardy surprising that small business would want to amend section 49. To the small business people throughout the country section 49 is the cornerstone of survival. The purpose of the section is to put competition between small business and large concerns such as the chain stores at least on an equal footing. Before the Act was introduced small businessmen in the retail trade were often unable to get the same discount as a chain store even if both stores bought the same quantities of an item and traded next door to each other. As I understand it, in South Australia many of the small businesses cannot get access to the only wholesale monopoly in South Australia because they have not got the economies of scale to do so. Section 49 provides the opportunity for a small businessman to obtain the same discount as his competitor when he buys the same quantity of goods. Despite what the Minister may say later, there are undoubtedly more stringent provisions and they have existed in the United States since 1914. With all due respect to the honourable member for Parramatta, I have studied the Act in the United States and I believe it has had a constructive effect in the area it was structured to cover. It is not a good Act. It is not as good as it ought to be.
– Which Act is that?
-It is the Robinson Patman Act. I commend it to the honourable member. He ought to study it. The Swanson Committee in recommending the repeal of section 49 noted that only one submission had called for the retention of section 49 in its present form. I think we ought to put this in its proper perspective. The third term of reference specifically asked the Committee to report on the effect of the Act on small business and to assess whether small business could and should be accorded special treatment by the Act. At least one major retail association assumed that this automatically precluded the repeal of section 49. Consequently it did not make a submission to the Committee on that section. The 2 federal retail bodies which represent the vast majority of the small food retailers throughout Australia, namely, the Confectionery and Mixed Business Association and the National Association of Retail Grocers, both strongly oppose the repeal of section 49. You admit that, do you, Mr Minister? They believe that section 49 has in many instances prevented unfair discrimination and that it has been a major factor in the survival of small business.
For what it is worth I will cite one case. I think most probably the Trade Practices Commission was correct. The case was raised in South Australia. It portrays the problem faced by small business people:
We presented a case to the Trade Practices Commission. We are a mixed business in Adelaide purchasing about S40 worth of cake per day from a leading cake manufacturer.
– A chain store.
-Yes. It goes on:
The chain store next door to us was purchasing around $13 worth of cake from the same manufacturer. The small man was permitted a discount off suggested retail price of 20 per cent, the goods being charged at retail price less discount. The chain store with smaller purchases was given a 30 per cent discount.
The Commission dismissed the complaint, stating that the manufacturer claimed he was meeting competition as provided for in section 49 (2) (b). It was felt that if the party against whom the manufacturer had to compete was offering a special discount then he must have originally contravened the Act. I would have assumed that to be correct. In this type of case the Act does not give the assistance to small businesses that they had hoped for and that they felt confident they would receive from the original piece of legislation.
Let me cite another case. It is not strictly pertinent to this section but it is an indication of the business ethics that those who sit on the other side of this House support. I have an interest in oil. I took note of a particular company report last October. The report was issued by Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd. The company was most impressed that the quotas on polyunsaturated margarine had been lifted throughout Australia following a move initiated by the Labor Government in South Australia. However, the company did indicate in its annual report that it was concerned that profits had been reduced because of the price cutting structure within the large chain stores. I noted that. Three weeks ago I decided to do a survey. The remarkable thing is that no longer does there exist any variation between the prices of polyunsaturated margarine and butter. I would like that case sent to the Commission for investigation. I assume that there has been a levelling up of prices.
-Write a letter.
– Do you call that business ethics? The only person who suffers in that instance is, of course, the consumer. Then there is the matter of beef prices. Mr Minister, I would be grateful if this matter too, were referred to the Commission. Beef prices have been extremely low, as I recall it, for the last 18 months. But anybody in the leather industry will confirm that in the last 2 months the price of leather has risen by 5Vi per cent. Yet beef producers in the last 18 months have been going bankrupt.
– Tell us about the industrial disputes.
-Never mind that. I am sticking to something a little more constructive. Mr Minister, I would be grateful if both of those matters could be investigated.
– I would welcome that.
-So would I. The Automobile Chamber of Commerce, which represents the majority of petrol retailers, has asked for a strengthening of section 49. The Trade Practices Commission itself, after studying the report of the review committee recommended that section 49 be retained. Am I correct or not, Mr Minister? The Royal Commission on Petroleum recommended after an extensive study of petroleum marketing and a close observation of the effects of price discrimination that section 49 be strengthened along the lines of the Clayton Act in the United States. I suggest to the Minister that when he finally gets down to making an assessment of the oil pricing mechanism and structure in this country he will be obliged to adopt similar legislation. You concede that, do you, Mr Minister? I am delighted. On the other hand, the Australian Retailers Association, which is dominated largely by the food chains and large retail interests, is opposed to section 49. 1 wonder, Mr Minister, whether you have received a submission from that august body in support of the retention of section 49, or has it sat on the fence? I assume that it has done the latter. It is not surprising, to me at any rate, that the Government is obliged to back big business. That is part of the political game, regrettably. If this section is repealed the result will be a return to the law of the jungle. The retail chains will increase their holding of the present food market from 60 per cent to 80 or 90 per cent because of the pressures they can exert on suppliers. No member of this chamber would have to travel more than 200 yards from where he lives to see what the large monopolistic retail chains have done to the small corner shop that honourable members opposite seek to protect. If the Government eliminates section 49, that is precisely what it will escalate.
– Where do you buy your groceries?
– I return to the earlier 2 cases. What does the Government mean by inflation? The Government talked a lot about it in the period up to 1975, when the housewife went to the local chain store and found that prices escalated week after week. If the Government allows the sort of practice that goes on with polyunsaturated margarine and if that is escalated along the line, who pays the price? What does inflation mean to the ordinary housewife? It means that she pays higher prices. That is what inflation means to the ordinary housewife. The Government will destroy the mechanism by which that process can be pulled or clawed back if it destroys section 49. But the Government r/ill do what it is told to do, as it will with section 73A. I put 14 questions on the notice paper to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) regarding this matter.
I refer to the article which appeared in the Financial Review. The only difference between the Minister and myself is that I followed it up. I will be very interested to hear a reply from the Minister on what he will do with that section which was contained in the old Act. He has now taken it out of the legislation. As I said earlier, if section 73A is removed, any sense of meaningful competition will cease. All international oil companies will continue to discriminate on prices to the detriment of their own lessee dealers. This will escalate in the oil industry. The consumer will again be on the receiving end of what is loosely but appropriately termed collusive and manipulated business transactions.
The point is that preferential discounts must be paid for somehow. Somewhere down along the line somebody pays for them. It is the consumer. The easiest way is to charge small business a fictitiously high wholesale price. Once any market is dominated by a few major organisations, as will occur in the retail field if section 49 is abolished and mergers are allowed to continue with takeover provisions, past experience has shown that the poor consumer will be the last to receive any consideration. I put to the Minister that I am firmly convinced that the abolition of section 49 will certainly lead to the death knell of so many small businesses throughout this country, businesses which this Government hypocritically and sycophantically espouses. I do not think there is any doubt at all that there will be 3 deficiencies, apart from proposed section 45D, in the amendments. My colleagues have done a magnificent job with regard to section 45D this evening. I regret to say that I do not think there will be any constructive movements in section 49, section 47 or section 73. It is in those 3 areas that so much depends, particularly for small business in this country. It is to that extent and with regard to the other 2 issues which are raised that I can assure the Minister that I will persist throughout this debate and subsequent debates.
– I have sat in this chamber throughout the entire debate and have listened with a great deal of interest to my friends on both sides of the chamber expressing their views on this legislation which I intend to support. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) has advised the House that after the proroguing of the Parliament and Her Majesty’s opening of the Parliament on 8 March, he will introduce later in the year a new Bill which will contain the decisions of the Government in relation to the various matters that have been discussed during this debate.
It has been recognised by the Labor spokesman, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), that this process will take place. Before I begin to refer to some of the matters about which he spoke, I would like to say that the Minister has made it clear that there will be a widespread opportunity for the general public to have its views considered before the Government reaches its final conclusion. I should have thought that there was ample evidence in the speeches that have been made in this House this afternoon and this evening that this has been true over quite a long period of time. I can find nothing, for example, in the Swanson report or in the last annual report of the Commission which leads me to believe that the people in the commercial world or the trade union world- I know that they are in some way connected with commerce and I indicate to the House that I have heard of a company called ACTU-Solo Pty Ltd and I am aware of their growing interest in commercial matters- have, in fact, been treated in an arrogant, domineering manner, in any manner that would justify the appalling comment made in an earlier speech that an image would emerge in government administration that would be reminiscent of the late Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler. I really think that was an appalling reference. The Government seeks, and I have no doubt that it is basically accepted by members of this Parliament irrespective of what they may say, to act in the best interests of the majority of the people of Australia.
The description of this legislation as ‘ami trade unionism’ is, in my judgment, quite wrong. It remains true, and I believe it would be accepted by the responsible members of the Opposition, that trade unions are expected by the people of Australia to act in the national interest. However, Australians are pragmatic and I think they have a great deal more native wit and ingenuity than many of us give them credit for. I think there is evidence of that, and with great respect to the Minister and some of my distinguished colleagues on the other side of the House, it ought to be seen that the legal profession should be well aware that that is the case. However, the Government recognises- I think most Australians do- that the trade unions are subject to that syndrome which has become fairly well known over recent years and which is known in the colloquial expression: ‘Bless you, Jack. I’m allright’. At this time in this country with approximately 95 per cent of people gainfully employed, concerned and worried about inflation, approximately 5 per cent of the workforce are unemployed.
The aim of this legislation is to contribute towards a set of circumstances that will allow the national economy to overcome the sickness of inflation, to become more competitive, to become more efficient and to do more for Australians who are prepared to do a reasonable day’s work and achieve, in their own way, an advancement in their circumstances. These troubles, in my judgment, are much more profound today than they were when my old friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), introduced his first Budget as Treasurer of the Commonwealth in 1973. 1 recall the feeling I had in my heart. I shall remind the honourable member of the phrase that he used in his speech. He said that the time had arrived when we should begin transferring assets from the private to the public sector.
– Hear, hear!
-My friend says: ‘Hear, hear! ‘ On a number of occasions I have indicated that this process of appropriation has contributed enormously to the sickness that we see in the national economy today and to the fact that 5 per cent of the work force, the bulk of whom honourable members opposite believe support them, are out of work because profit cannot provide jobs for them. I think honourable members opposite carry a great deal of responsibility in these matters.
I turn now to some of the comments that were made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide who talked about the Government’s problems within the economy. He talked about competition as being fundamental, in the conceptual sense, to the Act. He said that prices and profits cannot be ignored by companies. I say to him that prices and profits cannot be ignored by governments. If the Labor Party has learnt one lesson in recent years, surely it is that the vast majority of jobs in the community are provided from successful private enterprise and usefully employed people are the greatest national asset we can have.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide talked also about criticisms of trade unions and the Labor Party. He said that the trade unions and the Labor Party were separate in a very real sense. My friend the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) later in his speech made reference to this matter and pointed out that we have all been interested in the activities of the President of the Australian Labor Party in his 2 roles, one as President of that Party and the other as the recognised and accepted trade union leader in Australia. I put it to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that he must have absolute contempt for the Australian people if he really believes that the great majority of them accept the view that when the President of his Party takes off his Labor Party cap and puts on his Australian Council of Trade Unions President’s cap he becomes a different man. I say to the honourable member that that is an absurdity. I am certain that a great number of Australians who voted in December 1975 with great clarity to expel him and his colleagues from the Treasury bench did so because they wanted a change of government so that they could at least have government that they could understand, appreciate and respect. They do not have to like the Government. Governments do not have to be popular. Ministers of State do not need to be popular people. What they do need is respect. Honourable members opposite will not get back on to the benches on this side of the Parliament until they earn the respect of the Australian people.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) made an interesting speech. He talked about the Government’s denial of adequate support for the Trade Practices Commission in terms of finance and staff. I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether he would be kind enough in due course to make a specific reply to the honourable member for Grayndler, because I can find no evidence of similar complaints in these reports that I have studied. I noted his comment that he thought that it was improper or wrong for the Commission to indicate that it anticipated the support of the Parliament. I do not believe that a commission of this description has displayed evidence that that has been part of its thinking.
The honourable member for Grayndler also said that section 49 would be repealed without much support for such action being given by small business. All I can say is that I can find no evidence in the Swanson Committee report to support that proposition. I therefore say that if it is true that the repealing of section 49 will lead to small business associations complaining to the Government, no doubt the Minister will receive those complaints within the next few weeks.
The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) talked at great length about the trade unions being democratic. He talked about the right of people to band together to protect their interests, and he said that is how trade unions operated. But, he said, they were not corporations. I am prepared to accept in the terms of the law that trade unions are not corporations, but what I am not prepared to accept, and what I do not believe the majority of the people of Australia are prepared to accept, is that trade unions are bodies which, at the expense of the national interest, may further their own selfinterests. In fact, there are in the industrial world many disputes known as demarcation disputes, because, as I understand it, the ‘Bless you Jack; I am all right’ syndrome begins to operate and we find large trade unions endeavouring to deal with smaller trade unions, to take them over and to deny them their right to be exactly what the honourable member for Burke suggested they ought to be. So this internecine strife that we have seen has characterised the last several years, and the industrial record during the 3 years that the Labor Government was in power was worse than it had been for a very long time.
In my judgment, this country is the most magnanimous in industrial issues. I know of no other people who have a greater magnanimity towards industrial issues than have Australians. I remind the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) that that has been true for 50 years, because in 1927, which is 50 years ago, he may recall that a distinguished Prime Minister lost his seat because a couple of trade union fellows had been put in gaol. One of them was a member of this House when I first entered it in 1 950. He had been here for a very long time and he had been a Minister of State in the 18th Parliament under the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon J. B. Chifley. In that respect, therefore, I feel that the comments made by the honourable member for Gellibrand were designed more for the consumption of some of his colleagues in the trade union world than they were a proper expression of his own judgment.
The problem that emerged, as the honourable member for Gellibrand saw it, was as described in his words, the creation of ‘the most vicious legislation’. He talked about the enormous fines.
He talked about section 45D as though the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, for example, did not exist, as though there were no conciliation commissioners, as though people would automatically be found to be guilty by the Commission. I find recommendations emerging in the reports and in the Swanson Committee’s report on its examination of the Act- these are to be found in paragraphs 1 1.34 and 1 1.35, which I am sure the Minister and his colleagues will be considering- which seem to me to suggest that the commissioners be made available for discussions with people so that it will be clearly understood what actions are being taken and how they contravene the legislation.
If this is the attitude of the Trade Practices Commission, it seems to me that the more rational line of conduct for those who would speak for the trade union membership would be for them to take the view that no decision should be made on the hindering or prevention of the supply of goods or services by an employer or corporation until the picture is clear in the minds of all those people who are part and parcel at least of the trade unions. I remind honourable members that the postal workers made it clear to their union leadership that they were not prepared to go along with the denial of the right of the Sun newspaper company of the Fairfax Press to receive its mail. I would have thought that that was an expression of judgment which meant that within the trade union movement there were sufficient people with enough good sense to realise that there was a limit to the type of conduct in which these people could indulge.
I trust that when the Minister answers these questions that have been raised he will deal in particular, if he can, with some of those matters that were referred to by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), who has been in the Parliament now for some years and has an awkward habit of referring to matters as though they were peculiar to South Australia and quite unknown elsewhere. He usually manages to use expressions such as ‘consumers being taken to the cleaners’. I do not find that a particularly attractive expression. I suppose if I had any shares in a cleaning company I would be most embarrassed to admit it. I do not believe that consumers are taken to the cleaners. I believe that in most of the Australian cities- from what I last saw of Adelaide a few weeks ago it is the case there also- there are plenty of opportunities for people to shop around and for them to go to a variety of companies where they can compare prices before they make their decisions to purchase.
The fact remains- this is the most important part and the reality of this legislation- that we have to stimulate the Australian economy. We have to get people back into employment. As I said earlier, the social effects of long-term unemployment, particularly dreadful as they are, will be remembered by those whose memories go back to the years From 1932 to 1939. 1 suppose the only thing I can say in conclusion is that I gain from the honourable member for Hawker the impression that there is only one cake manufacturer in Adelaide. I am quite sure that the Austrian Queen of King Louis XVI could not have said: ‘If they can’t get bread give them cake’.
– I do not know in what particular fashion the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) wanted to direct his mind to any particular segment of this legislation, but I am reminded by my colleagues that as an old Spitfire pilot he should have been interested in maintaining section 49 of the Trade Practices Act and not so anxious to destroy most of this section. He dealt with a wide-ranging subject, ending up by mentioning cake. We do not seem to be grappling with what this matter is all about. Fundamentally, the problem we have is this: Despite the worthiness and integrity of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), when he set up the committee that is now known as the Swanson Committee it was clear from the membership of that Committee that he was going to get the report that he has now. It was clear that it would be the sort of report that this Government wanted- a report that would virtually destroy the trade practices legislation that was introduced by the Labor Government.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) is quite right when he talks about the problems that are going to occur now because of the snide attack on the trade union movement contained in proposed new section 45. As honourable members can see, proposed new section 45D relates to virtually any conduct at all associated with hindering or preventing the supply of goods. I understand that the Minister has attempted to indicate that that will not really be the case but that there will have to be major intent. I draw the Minister’s attention to proposed new clause 4e (2), which clearly provides that any conduct engaged in for a particular purpose, whether or not that purpose was the predominant purpose, falls within the ambit of proposed new section 45D. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that this provision will be applied only in particularly exceptional circumstances. The real issue is that proposed new clause 4E (2 ) clearly states that any purpose at all is sufficient to be covered by the Swanson report. This could be applied to actions by the trade unions in their legitimate activity of trying to better the industrial conditions of their members.
Why is so much emphasis placed upon a certain small segment of the community in Sydney which is allegedly keeping up the price of petrol? Surely elementary wisdom would ask: If they are doing that, who is getting the benefit of that additional price? What oil company is getting it? It is known that at least one and possibly two oil companies are involved. What has the Minister done about that? But let us look at the reverse situation. Bob Hawke was mentioner* here tonight. Apparently he is doing well with ACTUSolo Enterprises Pty Ltd because that company is selling petrol cheaply. We had the present Government, when in opposition, urging that Hawke be brought before a criminal court because of allegations associated with what he was doing or might have said in respect of a petroleum commission finding. Even at that stage the then Opposition would not accept the finding of the commission. It wanted some criminal action taken against Hawke. To my mind, it appeared that the then Opposition was very upset to think that ACTU-Solo was able to sell petrol at lower than normal prices. Yet that was a legitimate transaction.
We now have a complete reversal of the situation. Because petrol cannot be sold at the same price in Sydney we now have to attack the whole .trade union movement because it is engaging in what is deemed to be a legitimate boycott. Do not let us fool ourselves. It is pretty well known what segment of the oil industry is interested in maintaining price control in Sydney. Consider the industry’s outlets and the rotten conditions imposed upon the people who maintain those outlets. When does the industry worry about the people who sell its products? Consider the profits the industry is making. It is most important that honourable members do so. The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) mentioned a royal commission of inquiry associated with the Seamens Union of Australia. Who set up the inquiry? It was the Labor Government. What was its finding? Substantial, moneys were paid. By whom? It was by the employers.
There is always more than one party to any collusive action or connivance. It is not much good to suggest that now for the first time the whole of the trade union movement is going to be enveigled; that for the first time in this countrycertainly this is not done in the United States of America- it will be the victim of trade practices legislation. Where in the trade practices legislation is the protection for any union? The legislation contains plenty of burden, penalties and damages. In fact, there could be a 3- cornered contest. Unions could be before the industrial court, they could fall within the ambit of the trade practices legislation, or they could also be before a State court on an injunction and faced with possible damages. There could be a 3- pronged attack against them. Where is the benefit for any one of them? It cannot be seen.
Why is it that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is so able to listen to big business but not able to listen to small business? When we look at his industrial cabinet- of which none of the honourable members opposite is a member or ever will be- we see where their affiliations lie. I think that Mr Swanson has had bitter experience of section 49 of the Trade Practices Act as a director of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited. He is well known not to be so interested in the maintenance of that section. Consider the other gentlemen associated now with the Prime Minister. Consider the industries they are engaged in and the protection given to them as big businessmen with the ear of the Prime Minister. We do not see their profits declining. But what about the other people? What about the small business people? Where is the protection for them? I well remember the Wiltshire report which was authorised in 1968, delivered to honourable members opposite in 1971 and which never saw the light of day in their term of office. That shows the bona fides and integrity of a Liberal philosophy. The Liberals will con the small businessman into believing that they really are interested in him.
Have honourable members opposite ever looked at State legislation and seen what has happened in relation to the small businessman? Concern has been expressed tonight about what has happened to the small shopkeeper. Once the Liberals took office in the States rent protection was removed from the small shopkeeper in all State legislation. People with small business were protected under a Labor administration. But once honourable members opposite took office they said that there would be no further rent protection and no further guarantee of accommodation at those premises. Many of the small businessmen went to the wall on this small issue. The real question at issue was: Why could not the small businessman buy the product that he wanted to sell at the same price as his competitor up the road? That was the reason, more than any other, that sent many small businessmen to the bankruptcy courts. Nothing was ever done in this regard until trade practices legislation was introduced. Now, we see its provisions being broken down completely on the basis that small businessmen, as stated in the Swanson Report, are a bit concerned about proposed section 49; it is not really operating satisfactorily. The incredible pan is that it is the same provision that has operated satisfactory in the United States for years and will continue to do so.
Harking back to the trade union position, I ask: Why is it that honourable members opposite have to embroil themselves in such attacks as they do when those in the United States have never had to do so? The simple answer is that they do not want to run an effective trade legislation on this basis. They never really have been interested in it. We give credit to the Barwick of the past; he was interested in it. But Sir Robert Menzies never was interested in this sort of legislation. It was only as a result of the findings in the concrete pipes case that at last something could be done.
It is important that we address the public’s mind to what honourable members opposite are doing in this legislation. They are weakening the protection of the small businessman. They are increasing the opportunity for the big monopoly to get stronger. They are guaranteeing that there will not be surveillance. Let us survey quickly the proposed sections and what they really mean. There is a greater opportunity to talk about exclusive dealing. There is no real worry about price discrimination now. We do not have to worry too much any longer about resale price maintenance. Mergers will not be as difficult as they were in the past. Those involving $3m or less are completely exempt from the provisions of the legislation as it is thought are mergers dealing with companies that are likely to be deemed to be failing. We see a complete erosion of the Trade Practices Act. We do not see any real strengthening except in one section dealing with the consumer situation relating to goods valued at $15,000. That is worthy of some small plaudit.
The report of the Trade Practices Commission slammed honourable members opposite for what they are. It referred to the questions that arose in the report. The former Liberal Government’s actions were not in the interests virtually of all of the people of Australia and particularly the small businessman or the consumers. The Trade Practices Commission, which was not consulted at the time the Swanson Committee was set up, invited itself within the ambit of the Act to make submissions. It has come out and criticised the Government. I do not think we have been able to get hold of the report. We were able to read of it in the Australian Financial Review of 22 September last. The newspaper, clearly talking about matters contained in the report, states:
There is no case suggested where authorisation has been refused where the Committee would think it deserved to be granted; there is no case suggested where authorisation of a deserving practice was not applied for because of the ‘not otherwise available ‘ requirement.
In other words, where is the evidence for all these suggestions? I will tell honourable members. It is in the big business personnel that I mentioned. If as members of Parliament we meet them they want to tell us what is wrong with the trade union movement, what is wrong with the demand for wages, and how unfair it is that there must be some sense of price justification, through the Prices Justification Tribunal, or trade practices control. Honourable members should look at the companies with which those people are associated. In many cases their management is ineffective and the companies are relying solely on their monopolistic characteristics to guarantee that they maintain their profits. Honourable members should have a look at how many of them are going off-shore now to engage Philippine labourers at $2 a day or people from Taiwan or Hong Kong. Honourable members should look where the foreign interests are. Is it any wonder that we will lose the manufacturing base in this country when these people are not really motivated by what is best for Australia? They are more interested in what is the best profit for their businesses.
Let us have a look at the automotive industry. We see the factors that I have mentioned shining very clearly right throughout its whole concept. As Australians we own very little of that industry; in fact, from the point of view of the manufacturing position, we own none at all. We note the damage coming now when we see on the Prime Minister’s advisory tribunal one man from that industry. We know that there is a guarantee that the automotive industry with which he is associated will do very well indeed. Is it not a fact that the automotive industry is interested also in the Philippines where it can produce in the future a major segment of its manufacturing base? It is from this sort of manipulation of governments that we get this erosion of fair legislation.
Why is it that the Minister has to damage this Act by weakening the provision on exclusiveness? He is doing away virtually with the restrictive trade practices aspect of the legislation.
What will happen when we put up the case of a weakness in the Act and suggest that it might be improved? We may find a small businessman asking whether he can get supplies from a wholesaler. The Government will say: ‘No. The Act is defective because we cannot control the guarantee of supply’. There again nothing is done from the point of view of strenghtening the Act. We see a complete erosion of its strength on the basis that, in respect of monopolistic control, we are letting in the foreigners to control our industries, our outlets and the whole of the work force of Australia on the basis of what they think will be to their best advantage.
How ridiculous it is, as mentioned in this debate, to talk about the shipping industry. Ministers of this Government went to Japan and suggested in front of the Japanese that they would come back and castigate the trade union movement in Australia. Many of the union leaders whom the Ministers want to castigate had to fight those same Japanese not so long ago. They cannot understand how the Government’s priorities are so low that it has to take this action in order to sell some S000 extra tonnes of beef or something of that nature. We are saying that the Minister has deliberately set out to destroy the Trade Practices Commission because that is his philosophy. The Government never really wanted to maintain it. The personnel on the Swanson Committee was a dead give-away of the Government’s bona fides. Not one representative of the trade union movement was on that Committee. Not one representative of the trade union movement was ever put on it. We have heard the most damning attack on the trade union movement during question time. We see the Government’s view reflected in its legislation. This attitude is epitomised by proposed section 45D, emphasised again in proposed section 5 1 and highlighted when we look at section 4E sub-section (2).
Do honourable members opposite expect peace and harmony on the industrial front? As I said in a Press release of 8 December,, honourable members opposite are setting out on a frontal confrontation with the trade union movement. It may be a device to divert the Australian people from the real troubles that they face with honourable members opposite as an economic management group. Inflation is raging at perhaps IS per cent or 16 per cent per annum. The level of unemployment is massive, particularly in the case of young people. Some 20 per cent of people under the age of 20 are unable to get jobs. Some 6000 graduates from the tertiary schools last year will never get jobs. What sort of future has Australia when we see this sort of economic management?
The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham), who is an expert of polls, should have a look at the last national poll. I think we are level pegging with the Government, despite all the things its supporters said against us. We are well ahead of the Government in terms of support from people under 30 years of age. That will be its indictment. The Government’s performance is so tragic in any area we care to mention. We do not mind honourable members opposite saying that they want to protect big business, to maintain profits and to dampen wages. That is their strategy. They have followed this course in the indexation cases. They have fought against complete indexation when it was being suggested by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Honourable members opposite, when talking about business, should talk about the small businessmen in this country because they employ most of their people. There are many small businessmen. The report shows that their numbers will decline if this system goes ahead. Honourable members opposite will find the people about whom we make submissions to the Government- whether they are selling tyres or anything else- will be unable to remain in business if they cannot get supplies or if some preference is given to somebody on the basis of favouring one distributor against another. It is discrimination at its worst. This report contains nothing of any real value that will help activate private business and get competitiveness back on a fair and proper basis. Instead it contains a threat of savage penalties against the trade union movement. That will be the result of the Swanson Committee report. Despite everything that the Government says, the report will lead to national strikes and stoppages on the basis that it is a complete attack on the trade union movement. How ridiculous it is, how insane it is, if the whole basis is that the cost of petrol allegedly is being maintained too high in Sydney. That is the whole argument. The Minister shakes his head. I refer him to his answer at question time today. He spoke about Hawke suddenly having a third hat. It is about time the Minister put on his first hat and looked at what he could do and at how he could investigate who is getting the benefit. Certainly the trade unionist in Sydney is not getting the benefit. The Minister is not prepared to say where he thinks the benefit would flow. I will tell him- it will be to the oil companies. They are anxious to get it. That is the big issue. Why not have a special investigation of the matter? The Government could do it. It could set up an inquiry on that matter. It could appoint a judge to look at the issue. Why not, instead of going behind the smokescreen of the Swanson Committee report and coming in with a proposed new section 45d which will do nothing but cause a complete collapse in normal trade and commerce? The trade union movement will not accept it. The unions are opposed to the legislation. They are entitled to oppose it.
– What are you afraid of?
-We are not afraid of anything because we can beat you at any time from the point of view of integrity of purpose. One has only to look at the legislation last week to see how lacking in that regard the Government is. How unfair the Government was to bring in amendments to this legislation which affect the trade union movement, without daring to suggest that any of its representatives or any people associated with it should be on the Committee. The Government is married to big business. It is married to profit. It has no interest in the small businessman. We can prove that by its actions.
When we look at the sections which the Government proposes to alter- I have named them- we see a complete erosion of this Act compared with the intention of the Labor Government in regard to it. The Government bears the responsibility for the strikes that will follow. It bears the responsibility for the confrontation. It is no good the Government wiping its hands of the matter and saying: ‘We had to do this to try to get business back on the rails’. That is nonsense. Business has gone right off. The Government is accelerating the deviation with this attack. It is bringing in legislation which will benefit Tasmania. It is bringing in legislation which has no parallel in any other part of the world. What a tragic record the Government has in any aspect of industrial conciliation.
– Tonight has indeed been a memorable night for quotations from both sides of the House. I have listened with great interest to the debate so far. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) unfortunately did not say very much about the important issues raised in this debate. He seemed more interested in at last trying to attack the Government on some things which are probably important and about which the people of Australia want to hear. Unfortunately the people of Australia are not hearing any opposition from the Opposition. The people are not seeing the issues that face this country properly laid out so we can talk about them in this chamber. I can see by the Press every day just how disappointed the people are at this rump of an Opposition which refuses to debate issues which face Australia. In no speech from the other side did I hear any real attempt to argue principles. The only principle that I heard raised by the Opposition related to its defence of privilege. The Opposition is well known for its defence of privilege in the higher echelons of the trade union movement which manipulate the working people of Australia in many instances, so of course it was proposed new section 4SD that was the subject of most of the attack.
There were many memorable quotes. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) said that it is the workers who will make things happen. I agree. He does not say many things with which I agree, but he is right on that. It is something that I think both sides would like to stand by. If only the workers would be allowed to let things happen. If only people such as the honourable member for Burke would not stick up for privilege in the trade union movement but would let the workers of Australia decide their future. That is why I think the proposed new section 45D, which is what I want to speak about mainly tonight, is so important. It protects the rights of the workers of Australia. It does not leave them to be manipulated by the people in the big black cars who are still driving around and getting paid when there are black bans and green bans in Australia. It is privilege that the trade union movement stands for so much. The trade union movement was built up by the Labor Party that then was; the Labor Party that saw the great privilege in the corporations and in the aristocracy on the 19th century; the Labor Party that was a great Party because to some extent it brought about social justice in this country. But it has gone too far. It has got into the hands of the intellectual Left. The intellectual Left has the Labor Party in its clutches. There are many members of the intellectual Left on the Opposition benches. The intellectual Left does not care about the workers of Australia. That comes out so often in discussions in this House, even in the very occasional discussions on the economy by the Opposition.
Proposed new section 45d is a section for which many of my constituents have been looking for a long time. In the 1971 Act, introduced by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government, section 36 pointed the way to some control over black bans and collusive practices against industries by groups of persons such as unions. This section was never used. Not being a lawyer, I doubt that it really could have been used. Any possibility of it being used was very smartly removed by the Labor Government in 1973. The Labor Government was intent to say that some sections of the Australian people could not engage in restrictive practices but the same sections wearing different hats certainly could. I am concerned about the proposed new section because of its importance to trade unionists. I admit that a great number of trade unionists would never vote for people on this side of the House, but there are plenty who do. I believe that about SO per cent of trade unionists voted for us at the last election. I am talking about the working people of Australia- the people, as the honourable member for Burke said, who make things happen. Not long after that he said that all we are doing is wagging a big stick. He is frightened that this section might show the working people of Australia that they have rights against people of privilege who pull them out on bans that work very much against their best interests as breadwinners; as people who want to go to work; as people who want to buy consumer goods, and as people who have children to raise.
There is great concern at present in the Australian electorate about these issues. There is concern among non-unionists, people who wear other hats, but there is a great deal of concern among unionists. There is concern that the executives of the unions have too much power. The other day an old fellow, a strong unionist, who had worked in the mines said to me: ‘In the old days, when they could not find an excuse to bring us out they would bring us out because the pit ponies had bad breath*. That is the kind of stunt they get up to now. Members of the Australian Workers Union working on the lower Molonglo water treatment works told me last week that they are sick to death of being pulled out when they want to take home some pay for their wives and children. I realise that this debate will be adjourned shortly and that I probably should not develop my argument very much further. But let honourable members opposite at least take this thought home tonight: They support privilege in the unions.
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.
-On 23 December the Town Clerk of the City of Preston wrote to me expressing his Council’s concern at the high level of unemployment, particularly among teenagers, in the Preston municipality. He informed me that the council was concerned with the social implications of the massive level of unemployment. He said:
Unemployment appears likely to increase in the near future and the Commonwealth Government will incur a heavier liability for payments by its Department of Social Security. This expenditure is totally unproductive and perpetuates a system where the people concerned- particularly the young- face a life of frustration, boredom and poverty.
He then went on to point out that councils had the organisational capacity to absorb significant numbers of unemployed if the necessary finance was made available. He pointed out the very worthwhile work on which they could be used. He pointed out also that people employed on works would receive on the job training and acquire skills in various fields which would be of advantage to them in the future in obtaining employment in the private sphere. The City of Preston Council decided to mount a campaign for the reintroduction of federal funding for local local government projects similar to the Regional Employment Development scheme and circularised all municipalities in Victoria seeking their support and assistance.
I replied to the Council that the Australian Labor Party was seeking a reintroduction of the scheme. As is my usual courteous custom I sent copies of this correspondence to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I pointed out that this Council is a conservative council which consists of 8 conservatives and 4 Labor members. I supported the representations it made as they were in line with what we were doing.
I received from a councillor the response of the municipalities in Victoria. Of the 82 municipalities 62 supported what was put forward, 7 said no and 13 did not commit themselves. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the municipalities and their response.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. The last meeting of the Metropolitan Sectional Committee of the Municipal Association of Victoria passed the following resolution:
That this Association support the reintroduction of Federal funding for local government projects similar to the RED scheme; and further, that the Executive Committee investigate the feasibility of such a scheme and forward its findings to the Commonwealth; and at the same time taking into account experiences in supervision of previous schemes and the need for additional funds to cover that supervision.
I received an answer from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Viner). This is a quite lengthy letter and I do not have time to read it. In it the Minister throws some cold water on the type of
work that was done under previous schemes and insinuates that work done was of a make-work rather than of a productive nature. In his final paragraph he states:
The other point I would draw to your attention is that the Commonwealth provides substantial assistance to local government in the form of untied general purpose grants. This assistance is intended to supplement the resources of local authorities so as to ensure that local government has sufficient funds available to it to effectively carry out its functions.
On Monday night reports were presented to the City of Preston Council with regard to this matter. I will quote from one of the reports which states:
However, the Minister’s statement of the works in previous schemes being of a mundane nature should be refuted.
Furthermore, the reference to the use of Council funds for unemployment works indicates the Minister’s lack of knowledge of the financial commitments of Council and the responsibility for the expenditure of funds raised by Councils.
For Preston our 5 000 ratepayer pensioners would be contributing to a social welfare payment to the unemployed.
So the Council is persisting in its request. It is supported not only by the Municipal Association of Victoria but also by at least 62 of the municipalities around Victoria, many of which come from the electorates of Ministers. The electorate of the Prime Minister is included among those that said ‘yes’.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak this evening about the most recent bout of atrocities committed in Uganda by the regime of President Amin. I recognise that what I say tonight will do little to alleviate the suffering of the Ugandan people. Unforunately there is little any of us can do. But I cannot sit back and say nothing. It is incumbent upon me and all of us to speak out against this tyrant and the cruelty and inhumanity that he perpetuates in his country.
If speaking is the only weapon open to us, let us all speak. We can let the people of Uganda know that somewhere outside the borders of their country there is a widespread concern and dismay at their lot. We have a responsibility as members of the Parliament of a free country representing a free and responsible people to put their views. We have a responsibility to speak up for the cause of human rights in all countries, and nowhere are these less respected than in Uganda. We cannot any longer compromise our views by the dictates of diplomatic pragmatism. I was therefore pleased to hear today that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) intends to communicate directly to the Government of Uganda this Government’s abhorrence of the continuing reign of terror imposed by the regime of Uganda on the Ugandan people.
President Amin, since he came into power in 1971, has been responsible for the widespread slaughter of his own people. He has expelled all Asians from Uganda. He has presided over the disintegration of his country’s economy. He has allowed his country to become a refuge for international hijackers. He has abolished all political freedoms and remains in office by exterminating all possible challengers to his authority and creating an atmosphere of terror in all his subjects. He has executed university students at will, obviously because he realises that people with some intellectual capacity will not take long to recognise him for what he is. Estimates of people executed in Uganda range from 30 000 to 300 000. Grisly accounts of how these people were executed do not bear repeating here as they are well documented elsewhere. Most of the evidence, unfortunately, appears to be quite credible.
The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) referred in this House last year to the report of the International Commission of Jurists of May 1974 which showed evidence of a massive and continuing violation of human rights in Uganda which suggested a planned campaign of systematic liquidation. These are the kind of things that have become commonplace in Uganda today. I think that we would all be remiss in our duty not to register our protest in this Parliament, regardless of whether or not it will contribute to a solution of the problem.
As I have said, I am pleased that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is conveying this Government’s protest about the recent atrocities in Uganda to the Ugandan Government. But I think we can do more than that. As Uganda is, in terms of the Minister’s comments today, quite obviously not a member of the British Commonwealth in good standing, I hope that the Australian Government will now seek the views of other member nations with a view to dissociating themselves from the present regime in Uganda before the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. I would like to think that the Prime Minister of this country, or of any country interested in the preservation of human rights, would be seated at the same conference table as President Amin. In my opinion no member of this Government, let alone the Prime Minister, should ever allow himself to be present in the same forum as President Amin. He is not worthy of our presence. Perhaps in this way our view will become known to him.
I think our view can be made known to President Amin in other ways also. Let us also take action to bring Amin and his regime before the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Let us also cease to give official recognition to his regime. Finally, if any Australian citizens are in peril let us take the appropriate action before the International Court of Justice on thenbehalf. It is time for us to express our views in a frank, honest and direct way not only in relation to Uganda but also in relation to all countries which suppress human rights and prostitute human dignity. I think we would all be negligent in our duty to our constituents and this nation if we failed to speak out on this and similar issues.
-Today I have heard many conflicting reports about the petroleum industry in Australia. Tonight, for the benefit of both sides of the House, I would like to indicate the facts relating to the petroleum industry.
– Do not confuse us.
-I may confuse quite a few. I refer to a letter which was addressed to Mr Justice Collins, the Commissioner of the Royal Commission on Petroleum, by the former Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor. It states:
I refer to your letter of 24 March enquiring whether my Department is able to provide information about the various topics you have mentioned, namely the motor spirit ‘price war’, the relationship between oil companies and service station proprietors and the causes and remedies for the proliferation of service stations.
In summary, these topics all relate to the retailing of petroleum products, a matter about which my Department has virtually no information, and regrettably it cannot therefore be of any real assistance to you. Your officers are of course welcome to consult mine to see if the little information they do have on file is of any assistance.
Much has been made of Victorian petrol prices being subsidised and of the problems relating to the price of petrol in New South Wales. Honourable members should be aware that not only in New South Wales is the price of petrol extremely high; other States of Australia also experience high prices. For example, in Victoria motorists pay approximately 58c per gallon, in New South Wales 79c, in South Australia a maximum of 76c, in Tasmania 84c and in Queensland 85c. The recent claim by Mr Bob Hawke that the operations in Victoria enabled motorists there to benefit by about $25m was absolute nonsense. The operations of ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd have been but an added participation in a pricing structure heavily criticised in the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum. All that Mr Hawke ‘s ACTU-Solo did was leap upon an already rotten corpse of stable marketing and with certain exceptional bargaining advantages join in the feast at the expense of the truly Australian part of the industry- the average service station proprietor.
There is a growing awareness of the problems in New South Wales, and that is the reason for the course that the Transport Workers Union and the various industry groups have taken. I sincerely trust that before this company, ACTUSolo, makes inroads into New South Wales, creating the problems that will inevitably follow, this Parliament will be able to intervene and remove the unfair competition, the especially discriminatory price practices and exceptional bargaining advantages enjoyed not only by ACTU-Solo but also by the other price cutting companies now in Australia, and of course the devious practices by the major oil companies. I do not deny them, nor do other honourable members here present, the right to sell their petrol more cheaply. I think we all agree that we should deny them the right of unfair advantage over legitimate dealers and as a consequence force them out of the market place.
– I draw to the attention of the House an extremely serious problem. The Sydney Morning Herald reported recently that Federal Government bungling had deprived the seriously undermanned Commonwealth Employment Service of extra staff promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). A decision appears to have been made by the Prime Minister which in one way or another has been thwarted. This is not a matter that should be the subject of political capital. I have had the benefit of some discussions with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) regarding this and I know that he is extremely keen that the Norgard Committee report be made available as soon as possible as the basis for action.
What is occurring in the electorate of St George is not a happy scene. I have recently had the opportunity to look into this matter and in particular to visit the CES offices at Campsie and Hurstville. Those offices have obviously been neglected for two or three years. When the dramatic boom in unemployment commenced in September 1974 nothing of any substantial nature was really done to assist the offices to carry out their functions. In addition to the increase in unemployment they have had to handle various National Employment and Training schemes and a large number of other projects without much addition to staff. In
I understand that one of the most important aspects is speed. Employers want a replacement usually within 24 hours. Otherwise they tend to go elsewhere or there is a tendency to say: ‘We can do without that man. As it turns out, we will put someone else in the job.’ One of the most vital tools which it appears to me that the CES needs is an on-line computer so it can tell the exact number of job vacancies throughout Sydney at any time during the day. These computers are common in industry. The airlines use them. Medibank has an excellent computer system installed in its new Hurstville office which I have seen recently. It seems to me vital that on-line computers be installed in the CES. I understand that the former Labor Government made some provision tentatively to install on-line computers but axed the program from its 1975 Budget. When the Fraser Government reviewed the matter a decision was not made to go on with the program.
The CES also needs teleprinters to keep in touch with employers. Believe it or not, the Campsie and Hurstville offices do not even have photostat machines, which is quite preposterous. Often staff have to be devoted to the task of copying by typewriter various documents needed or a man has to be sent down the street to borrow a photostat machine. The staff is not able to keep up with the load. Whilst it will not reduce unemployment, anything that can be done to assist these offices to carry out their functions will assist unemployed persons to a very great extent. So I ask the Government to urge that the Committee report be brought down as quickly as possible and that every consideration be given to assisting with additional staff numbers and in particular with the equipment that will allow this very important organisation to do its task. I can assure
-Earlier we heard the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) refer to trade pricing practices.
– Stand up.
-It would not make any difference whether you stood up. No one would recognise you were here from what you have to contribute. The honourable member for Franklin referred to practices within the petroleum reselling industry. Again here is a very clear example of somebody saying something for the home electorate, something to be run in the local Press, but at the same time subscribing to and supporting in this chamber a policy of dual standards in respect of petroleum retailing. For many months the service station associations throughout Australia have been seeking from this Government a decision on the recommendations contained in the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum concerning petroleum reselling. Honourable members opposite are extorting the motorist. Their funds are provided by the petroleum organisations which they seek to represent. They are extorting from the motorist funds that go into their Party’s coffers. I wish to Heaven that they would be honest enough to admit it in this place because back in their home States -
– Prove that allegation.
– You prove it for me by your very words.
– Oh, rubbish!
– That is about all we could expect from you. Today we heard the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) saying that he had a deep commitment to see that Australian motorists- Australian consumersreceived petrol at the cheapest possible price.
– I rise to take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As a member of the Government Parties, I find totally obnoxious and distasteful the suggestion by the honourable member that we on this side of the House are corruptible in having received donations from oil companies.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Griffith knows that no point of order is involved.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this is not the first occasion in this chamber on which you have had to draw attention to the performances 324 REPRESENTATIVES 22 February 1977 Adjournment of the Deputy Whip on the Government side. It is a very poor reflection on him, given his years of experience, that he still does not yet know how to conduct himself in this place. I am grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you are here from time to time to provide some measure of protection from political vandals such as those who sit opposite and who are led by the Deputy Government Whip.
– Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Shortland continue the remarks he was making which relate to the subject matter and not to individuals.
– I rise to order. I do not want to pursue this matter to waste anybody’s time, but standing order 76 says:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly,
– Order! I think that the honourable member for Griffith has been in this chamber long enough to know that a remark made in general terms against either the Government or the Opposition, and not against an individual, is not subject to a request for withdrawal.
-Again, Mr Deputy Speaker, may I express my gratitude for your wise and just ruling. To the honourable member for Griffith I say: If the cap fits, wear it. Today the Minister expressed the view that he had a deep commitment to providing Australians with the cheapest possible petrol. Why then has he not as the responsible Minister brought before this Parliament a recommendation? I notice that the honourable member for Griffith is now hurling items around the chamber. That, again, is highly disorderly. The Minister has a responsibility to bring a recommendation before this Parliament. It is absolute clap-trap for the honourable member for Franklin to talk about lower petrol prices when the Government has a recommendation from the Industries Assistance Commission. I would like the Minister, as evidence of good faith, to tell the Parliament what view he has been putting to the Cabinet in the discussions about the adoption of the IAC’s recommendations on crude oil pricing, because what has been discussed by the honourable member for Franklin in respect of margins to resellers and prices- I suport him in the view that all resellers should have the same opportunity to buy at the same price- is in direct contradiction to the actions that have been taken by the Minister. I ask the Minister to tell the Parliament at the first opportunity what view he has put within the Cabinet in the series of discussions that have taken place on the recommendations of the IAC. Surely the people of New South Wales and all the motorists- not the industrial buyers but the motorists- are entitled to buy petrol at the best possible price.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to make a plea for the re-introduction of the Hobart suburban rail passenger service which was withdrawn from operation in the financial year 1974-75. This is a matter to which I would have hoped the previous speaker, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), would have directed some attention in his mystical shadow portfolio of Transport. If he had paid attention he would have appreciated that the City of Hobart has been deprived of a suburban rail service for a period of 3 years now. A matter of considerable concern arises as a result of the Joy report recently commissioned by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and presented to this House on 12 November 1976. It has now become quite obvious that, prior to 1974-75, the Tasmanian Labor Government had decided that it would destroy the Hobart suburban rail service. Aided and abetted by the Transport Commission of Tasmania at the time of the hearing of the Royal Commission into Transport in Southern Tasmania, the Government made no effort to preserve this most necessary service which in the year 1973-74 carried no fewer than 514 000 passengers. Over half a million passengers were carried on a service which had become very run down, which the Government had neglected and which the Government was hoping would disappear.
At the Royal Commission before His Honour Mr Justice Neasey the Tasmanian Government and the Transport Commission contended that it was costing an average of $1.63 to carry every passenger on each trip and that the passengers were paying an average of 13c a trip. It may be a matter of hilarity to the honourable member for Shortland but it is a matter which I regard as being of considerable seriousness. It has only recently come to light that there was a conspiracy between the Whitlam Government and the Neilson Government to sell out the Hobart suburban rail service. This information has come to light and it is documented in the Joy report prepared by a committee comprising Dr Stewart Joy, Mr S. K. Hicks and Mr K. W. Kershaw. With the consent of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) I will seek to incorporate in Hansard the passage on page 51 of the report in paragraph 5.1 1. The point I raise is one of considerable importance. To the amazement of Tasmanians, in the Joy report the following comments are made:
There is no foreseeable likelihood of the Hobart suburban passenger service being re-opened.
I dispute that strongly. A little further down it says:
Re-opening of the services would involve enormous unwarranted expenditures, -
I challenge that- . . . unwarranted by any benefits thus derived by rail users or the community generally.
I challenge that. Then we have this revelation:
As we understand that any subsidy for a re-opened suburban service would have to be met by either the State Government or Municipal authorities (under paragraph 7 of the Transfer Agreement), it seems highly unlikely that this will ever be pursued.
This treacherous conspiracy between the Whitiam Government and the Neilson Government has now been unmasked. The situation is that the Hobart suburban rail service was sold down the river whilst in South Australia- the South Australians will confirm this- by special permission of Mr Whitiam the Dunstan Government was permitted to continue the Adelaide metropolitan suburban rail services. The question that I now bring to the attention of this Parliament for the first time is: What motivated the Whitiam Government to give a favour to the South Australian Government to continue suburban rail services but to insist on the signing of the death warrant of the Hobart suburban rail service? I am pleased to say that on this matter I am supported by the Australian Railways Union and the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. Quite a few trade unionists in
Tasmania will want answers from the honourable member for Shortland as the shadow Minister for Transport and from those who were in the Whitiam Government as to why they sold out the Hobart suburban rail service. It is the most despicable conspiracy that has ever been uncovered. It has led to the closure of a rail service which was providing a good service to the workers of Hobart, the very people whom the Australian Labor Party claims to represent. The Labor Government got together with the Neilson Government and conspired to close it down. They conspired to put evidence before the Royal Commission which was false and misleading. I think that this matter deserves a royal commission into the actions of the Whitiam Government. I and other Tasmanians will work to the utmost to have this rail service restored.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I speak in the minute remaining?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member poses a problem. I call the honourable member for Ballaarat.
– May I raise a point of order?
– I admit frankly that this is a difficult decision. We will not get very far anyway as it is now 11 o’clock. If honourable members read the wording of the sessional order they will see that it can be interpreted that if a person stands, even if no one else from that side is standing, and he has already spoken, the call goes to a member who has not spoken. This does not matter so much tonight. I will discuss it with Mr Speaker and ask him in his wisdom to make a comment on it.
The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Further to my reply made in the interim to this question, I am now able to provide the following information:
1 ) The latest available figures are those from the Census of 1971. They indicate that the number of people in each of the 10 largest ethnic groups (as indicated by birthplace) was as follows:
Includes, inter alia, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
A period of approximately 10 years after the establishment of requirements would be needed for design and construction of the first stage of the building.
are currently being examined by a Joint Standing Committee. This Committee was established to act for and represent Parliament in the planning, design and construction of the new and permanent Parliament House, in effect serving the role of client for the building. The Committee staff are working with officers of the National Capital Development Commission preparing the Statement of Requirements which will cover the items raised in your question, broadly the needs, accommodation standards and location priorities for the new building. At this stage preliminary work only has been undertaken and the Committee has not yet deliberated directly on these matters. Therefore, no information is available to answer your questions definitely at this time.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Telephone conversations may be tapped by connecting monitoring devices directly or indirectly to: the telephone instrument the telephone cable wires which connect the telephone instrument to the telephone exchange, or the switching devices used in telephone exchanges to establish telephone calls.
Special security arrangements apply to prevent unauthorised access to the PABX at Parliament House.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the Honourable Member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the circumstances it would not be practicable for Telecom Australia to waive or reduce telephone rental charges for Surf Lifesaving Clubs.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Meetings of the Railway Group (Question No. 1811)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Working Party on Section 96 Grants (Question No. 1858)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cabinet and Transport, was established to examine alternative methods of funding programs presently financed through Section 96 grants.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Reciprocal Agreements on Social Security (Question No. 1932)
am asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
With which countries does Australia have reciprocal agreements on social security (a) in force and (b) under negotiation.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
On what dates has the Joint Hospitals Works Council met in each State since his answer on 1 June 1976 (Hansard, page 2777).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Meetings were held on the proposed dates which were asterisked in the reply of 1 June 1 976 to Question No. 487.
Meetings have since been held on 23 November 1 976-South Australia 24 November 1976- Western Australia 30 November 1976-Queensland 1 December 1976- New South Wales 7 December 1976- Tasmania 8 December 1976-Victoria.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 February 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770222_reps_30_hor103/>.