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 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 SO 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 $S,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Beazley, Mr Burr, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Corbett, Mr Hyde, Mr Kelly, Mr McVeigh, Mr Porter, Mr Thomson 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 South Wales for the triennium 1977-1980. by Mr Anthony, Mr Sinclair, Mr E. G. Whitlam and Mr Sainsbury.
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 Sinclair, Mr Abel, Mr MacKenzie and Mr Les McMahon.
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 Industries Assistance Commission and Green reports.
We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way
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,
Petitions received. by Mr Sinclair, Mr Baillieu and Mr Dobie. Petitions received.
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 should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution. by Mr Lynch and Mr Short. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi an applicant for amnesty has been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in the House assembled, will take the most steps to ensure: That as Mr Salemi fulfils all the publicly announced criteria for amnesty he is permitted to remain in Australia as a resident. by Mr Uren
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 many young people seeking to enter the work force at the close of the 1976 school year, and their parents, will suffer considerable hardship because:
And we therefore call on the Government to remove all restrictions on unemployment relief for the genuinely unemployed and to take immediate steps to create employment opportunities in Bunbury and surrounding districts especially for the youth of the district.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Beazley Petition received.
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 programs designed for children is the fundamental diver- gence of aims between those primarily interested in the we.fare of children and the commercial interests of television licensees and their shareholders.
We request: 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 197S, as a positive step toward providing better quality television for Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
Post Secondary Education in Tasmania
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undernamed persons (Citizens of Tasmania and the other states) respectfully showeth:
Their disapproval of the recommendations of the Karmel Committee on post Secondary Education in Tasmania.
The proposed dismantling of the T.C.A.E. Mount Nelson Campus, the takeover of some courses by the University of Tasmania, and the transfer of others to Launceston would be to the detriment of quality of post secondary education in Tasmania. It would deprive the southern regions of a vital institution while not replacing it with anything like an equal institution in the North and Northwest.
In particular, the Tasmanian School of Art would suffer from disruption, the termination of its long tradition in Hobart, and depletion of staff and students. The School of Art could not be viably reestablished outside the main cultural and urban centre of the state.
And your petitioners as in duty bound do humbly pray. by Mr Groom.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners believe that every citizen should have the fundamental human right to express his beliefs without the threat of arrest and punishment by the State and therefore expresses their grave concern at the arrest and detention of Jin Hajek and other Czech citizens merely for soliciting suprt for basic human rights as expressed in their ‘Charter
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to voice its disapproval of the arrests and detention which are contrary to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Groom. Petition received.
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Molonglo Arterial and Western Distributor be deferred until a full public inquiry has been carried out, investigating Canberra’s total transport needs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Haslem. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government, through its appropriate authorities controlling the establishment of television services, provide these services to the Eyre Peninsula region of South Australia as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received. by Mr Wallis Petition received.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. He will be aware of the 25-year record rise of 6 per cent in the consumer price index announced yesterday, the under-subscription of the February loan and the continuing inflationary effect of devaluation. Does he agree that these factors are certain to force interest rates up and lead to a further severe credit squeeze? In view of these circumstances, what action does the Treasurer now propose to take to keep interest rates down and to ensure that the economy is supplied with sufficient funds to maintain even the existing low level of employment and output?
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is utterly irresponsible in raising the question of interest rates. I assume that he had in mind a speculative response by me. Not only is he utterly irresponsible in raising that matter but also his constant harping on matters of this type in this House is very destructive of confidence throughout the general community. As he ought to know very well, no Treasurer at question time will ever responsibly comment on the general level of interest rates and speculate as to thenforward movement. I remind the honourable gentleman in the first place of what I said in the economic statement made in the House recently. Of course the Government wants interest rates down but they will be brought down in the context of inflation. Whilst inflation remains high, there is an incapacity in quite responsible terms to bring interest rates down.
– What about the February loan?
– If the honourable gentleman will bear with me for a moment I will come to the February loan. The February loan is, of course, important when seeking to finance the Government’s deficit in relation to the sales of government paper outside. In this respect the loan was quite successful. The non-bank sector, as the honourable gentleman would, I hope, know from his somewhat passing knowledge of the economic discipline, is the important area in seeking to finance that deficit in a noninflationary way. Subscriptions from the nonbank sector totalled some $134m or almost $50m more than was raised from the non-bank sector in the October loan. The Government is therefore encouraged by the non-bank take-up in the February loan. I of course recognise that there was a lower proportion subscribed by the banks but with regard to subscriptions for particular stocks, I mention for the information of the House that the 1978 stock attracted 47 per cent of subscriptions; the 1981 security 24 per cent; the 1987 security 17 percent; and the 1999 security attracted 12 per cent. I am not in a position to speculate on the general nub behind the honourable gentleman’s question for the reasons I hope I have made perfectly clear to this House.
-Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of the strains under which the Commonwealth Employment Service is operating? Are these strains affecting the compilation of accurate statistics? What plans does the Minister have to solve these problems?
– It is true that the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service are operating under considerable difficulties, both in relation to their staffing requirements and the physical space in which they have to operate. The Governmment recognised the difficulties of the CES and also the fact that its operations had not been fundamentally reviewed for almost 30 years. As a result of that and the obvious difficulties that were being experienced by employers trying to find labour and job seekers seeking vacancies, the Government appointed Mr John Norgard to undertake a fundamental review of the Service and its operations. Mr Norgard has been engaged in that review for some months and has visited a great number of offices in most States. I understand that in a week or so he will be going to Queensland to undertake the same exercise there.
I expect to have well before the middle of the year Mr John Norgard ‘s report which hopefully will identify the problems to which the honourable member has referred and which, I am sure, will make constructive suggestions towards their solution. Of course, as soon as the Government receives his report it will give close attention to it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been covering cricket tests on radio since 1932 and on television since 1957 and that the sporting public is highly satisfied with the ABC coverage, particularly because it is not interrupted by commercials? Has the Minister noted reports that the Channel 9 network has obtained exclusive rights to the Jubilee cricket test series between Australia and the Marylebone Cricket Club in England this year and to the Wimbledon, French and American tennis titles? Has he seen the reported statement by the Chairman of Channel 9 that the reason his network obtained these rights over the ABC could be given in one word, money, and that the deal cost a total of $2m? Was the ABC also seeking these rights but was unable to match the bid made by Channel 9 because of cuts in funds?
Finally, in view of the fact that Channel 9 expects to make a substantial profit from sponsorship of these events, is this not simply a government subsidy for its old friends, Channel and Australian Consolidated Press Ltd?
-I have seen the Press reports of the arrangements that Channel 9, the Packer network, has entered into with regard to the 1977 cricket series. I want to indicate quite clearly that I would be concerned if there were not an Australia-wide coverage of such a test series. I find it difficult, with the limited knowledge that I have today of this matter, to believe that that is going to be possible. What the honourable member says about the ABC traditionally having this facility to broadcast such events is perfectly correct. I inform the honourable member that the ABC was negotiating on this matter and had offered a fee. I am informed that before it had an opportunity to reconsider whether it would increase that fee an agreement was entered into with the Channel 9 network. It is not fair of the honourable member to suggest that reductions in the expenditure of the ABC in any way had any impact at all on those negotiations. I repeat that die ABC was negotiating in the usual way and was denied, so I am informed, the opportunity of reconsidering the figure that was involved.
I simply say that the matter has come to my attention only in the last day or two. I will be looking at it more closely. It is quite improper to suggest that what has happened in any way represents a sponsorship of the Packer interests, or Channel 9 or any other commercial interests. What I will be concerned about- the honourable member will see me taking steps to do what I can- is to ensure that the Australian public is not disadvantaged in any way as regards enjoying something that they have traditionally enjoyed.
– Has the Treasurer given any instructions to the Taxation Office as to the Government’s attitude to current cost accounting for the next financial year? Has he studied the effects of any alteration to taxation yields as a cost to revenue?
– No, I have not given any instruction to the Taxation Office as to the Government’s attitude to current cost accounting. I and other Ministers in the Government have noted the extensive debate in the Press as to the desirability or otherwise of businesses reporting results in terms of the provisional standards for current cost accounting that have been issued by the provisional accounting bodies. As to the second part of the question posed by the honourable gentleman, the extent to which businesses do report results based on current cost accounting will not have any impact on taxation revenue. The tax law will continue to operate on the basis of historical costs. However, the new trading stock valuation adjustment system will take into account the impact of cost increases in respect of eligible stocks. The new system is estimated to cost some $400m during the year ahead.
The Government is continuing to examine the impact of inflation on depreciation allowances and other aspects of business financing and profitability. Any further action taken in this general area will, of course, need to have regard to the capacity of the Government to afford further reforms. My final comment to the honourable gentleman is that I shall be meeting with the accounting bodies on this matter in Sydney in the early days of next week.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. I refer to recent allegations in the Canberra Press that the dispute between salaried and private specialists in the Australian Capital Territory is being resolved by the destruction of the salaried service and that the Capital Territory Health Commission could be in breach of the Trade Practices Act. As the Minister has not refuted these allegations, I ask him: Firstly, is he concerned that this is in fact the situation with regard to specialist services in the Australian Capital Territory? Secondly, does he intend to discuss this matter with representatives of the salaried specialists?
– I thank the honourable member for Fraser for the question. I have just returned from a luncheon with the Chairman of the Staff Specialist Council. We discussed some of the matters that are concerning the salaried specialists in the Australian Capital Territory. The reports in the Press to which the honourable member has referred are quite incorrect. I do not believe for a moment either that the Capital Territory Health Commission is attempting to discriminate against the salaried specialists or that it is in breach of the Trade Practices Act. I have seen a number of articles on this matter and I am concerned that the people who are writing these articles are doing sufficient to create further damage to relationships that have existed between the private specialists and the salaried specialists in Canberra. I take no responsibility at all for that state of affairs. In fact, the responsibility can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the Opposition because when it was in government it created in this city a situation in which the salaried specialists and the private specialists found it very difficult to work together. This occurred at the expense of the public in the Australian Capital Territory.
Among the other things that I had to do last
Sear in frying to sort out one big mess in the ealth area was to attend to the problem that existed in the Australian Capital Territory. I have used the patience I have at my disposal and I shall continue to use whatever patience I can command in trying to overcome what I believe to be a most unfortunate state of affairs within the medical profession in Canberra. In trying to do so I set up a joint working party, comprising private practitioners and salaried practitioners in Canberra and under the chairmanship of none other than Professor Hughes, who happens to be the chairman of the advisory committee of the joint colleges in Australia. The Government has adopted the recommendations contained in his report. The Capital Territory Health Commission is in the process of trying to implement those recommendations. But, in the final analysis, success will depend upon the degree to which both the private people and the salaried people can work together. I call upon the medical profession in Canberra to settle down and get on with its job of looking after the people in accordance with the ethics of the medical profession.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware of the decline in funding for roads in relative terms over the past 5 years? Is the Minister currently seeking submissions on the proposed terms and allocation of road funds relative to new legislation to have effect as from 1 July 1977? Is the Minister giving consideration to submissions from the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Shires Association of New South Wales and the Australian Council of Local Government Associations that the Commonwealth Government contribution of funds be increased substantially and in real terms, thereby reducing the local government contribution to this area of responsibility?
– I am conscious that in real terms the funding of roads as a total of all outlays has declined. To be specific, Commonwealth outlays on roads have declined from 2.9 per cent to 2.3 per cent. State budgetary outlays on roads-this is equally important of course- have declined from 3.3 per cent to 3.7 per cent. There has been a decline in real terms on road spending throughout Australia. There has been, of course, an increase in money terms but that has been eroded by inflation brought about by the maladministration of the previous Government’s 3-year term in office. This would be readily conceded, I believe, by the Leader of the Opposition. He would agree with me wholeheartedly that a disastrous effect of his policies has been to cause a decline in road construction throughout the nation.
When coming to office we were immediately conscious of the position in which local government authorities, urban and rural, found themselves. When on one occasion we allocated $64m and on a second occasion $32.5m for roads we sought to see that the majority of the money was in fact spent through local government authorities. The House will recall that of course the previous administration had reduced the level of funds to local government authorities by a much greater margin than it had reduced the level of funds for other aspects of road funding. Thus local government authorities find themselves in a serious position. The honourable member is quite correct: I have been receiving deputations from local government associations. I received one from New South Wales yesterday and an earlier one from Victoria. Representations have been made by other authorities. The wish of the Government will be to try to maintain at as high a level as possible the road funds that are spent through local government authorities. We recognise that local government authorities have road building problems as well as unemployment problems m their areas. We believe that by assisting them in this way we will help the cause of roads and employment generally. Despite the difficulties that we might face in the next Budget period I am confident that my colleague the Treasurer will assist me in helping local government authorities as much as possible.
-Has the Prime Minister noticed that the annual report of the Health Insurance Commission, which also appeared yesterday, revealed that Medibank in its first full year of operation expended $157m less than its Budget allocation for hospital and medical benefits and grants to the States and that it saved nearly a quarter of a million dollars in administrative expenses which represented only 0.04 per cent of the Commission’s total payments? Does the Prime Minister still maintain that his decisions to restructure Medibank justified the 82.9 per cent increase in the health component of the consumer price index which the Statistician revealed yesterday?
– The honourable gentleman’s own question has emphasised the extent to which the revised Medibank arrangements in fact have saved funds. By far the overwhelming majority of the $157m, which I am advised has been saved as against the estimates, has come out of the revised hospital agreements with the States. The joint Commonwealth-State committees are defining the nature of expenditure which ought to be undertaken and allowed under the SO/50 hospital cost sharing arrangements. As honourable gentlemen know, when this House was earlier advised that the original agreements were, in the Commonwealth’s view, in the view of the Attorney-General and in the view of other law officers, illegal and had been improperly undertaken, we immediately set about negotiating with the States to achieve an arrangement which would be not only legal but which at the same time would not be completely and absolutely open-ended so far as hospitals are concerned.
My colleague the Minister for Health, those who have been working with him in the Commission in relation to these matters and negotiating with the States, and those on the CommonwealthState committees in each of the States which are looking at the budgets of hospitals, all deserve the highest possible commendation for this very large and substantial saving which has been achieved. None of this would have been achieved, all the money would have been spent if it had not been for these new and revised arrangements. The honourable gentleman ought to understand that and to know it well. The States ought to be particularly grateful for these revised arrangements because, out of the total savings under the hospital cost sharing arrangement, half the savings accrue to the States and half the savings accrue to the Commonwealth.
I am quite certain that the honourable gentleman would have preferred Medibank arrangements which made people think that health care was free and that it did not have to be paid for. I refer to the actions which have been taken by the present Government, which give to all people a right of choice- a right of choice that a very large number of people nave wished to exercise. It is well worth noting that the President of the Australian Labor Party- sometimes- the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unionssometimes and, I think, the Leader of the Opposition himself, have decided that under our revised arrangements Medibank is good enough for them. They have joined Medibank Private.
Previously, as I understand it, certainly Mr Hawke and maybe the Leader of the Opposition, were insured under private arrangements. Medibank was not good enough for them under their own arrangements. What complete and absolute humbug to suggest that Medibank has been damaged under our arrangements. It is at last good enough for the Leader of the Opposition and for the President of the Australian Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The sooner the latter leaves one of those jobs the better it will be.
The fact that the cost of health care is now plain and out in the open is a healthy factor in Australian society. People can see that there are costs. They know quite well that the costs must be paid for either by taxation or by some other means. To have the cost of health care hidden was itself extravagant and conducive to the use of health services at a rate that was not necessary. Very considerable savings have already been made. The Minister and those officers who have been working with him deserve the highest commendation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport. He will be aware of my representations to him about the reported closure of the Mildura flight service unit during weekends. Has he been able to carry out a review of this situation? If so, what arrangements are being made to permit essential administrative and operational duties to be performed?
– I am aware of the very forceful representations made to me by the honourable member for Mallee about the Mildura flight service unit. After those forceful representations were made I looked at the problem. I am able to assure him that he will be most satisfied with the arrangements. The Mildura flight service unit will be able to undertake its proper responsibilities right through the period ahead.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a report into today’s Melbourne Age that a law professor at the University of Tasmania has claimed that a former hired killer was actively recruiting in southern Tasmania for the Rhodesian army and that the man claimed that the Australian Government knew of his work? If so, have the allegations been investigated? What substance is there in them? If the gentleman is engaged in these nefarious activities, is he an Australian citizen or an overseas visitor?
– I regret to say that my attention had not been drawn to the report. I will certainly have it examined. If activities of that kind are being undertaken it would seem to me that it is against Government policy and certainly against the spirit of legislation which the Attorney-General has in hand, of which the honourable gentleman would be aware. This matter will be examined forthwith to see what truth there is in the report.
– My question which I address to the Prime Minister is supplementary to the question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Wakefield. In his reply the Prime Minister referred to the excessive rate of change imposed upon industries by excessive wage rises and inflation and stated that protection policies should be and therefore could be employed to prevent the export of jobs overseas. He referred to high freight rates affecting Australian industry. Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr Henderson, the Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, states that the weight of the tariff burden is about $4,300m annually?
– How much?
– It is $4,300m. Does the Prime Minister realise that most of that burden is ultimately borne by exporters? Is he aware that the high freight rates he spoke of by and large protect the competing import industries and penalise the exporting industries? Is the Prime Minister aware that the sector of the economy already making the greatest rate of adjustment is not in fact the manufacturing sector but the rural sector? Does the Prime Minister recollect telling the nation on Australia Day that the cargo cult must be banished from Australia? Is it his intention that competitive industries should go on paying increasing amounts of cargo to protected industries?
– I think that overall something like 55 per cent of Australia’s primary products are exported. I do not want to be held absolutely to that figure but overall I understand that that is about the percentage, taking most of the products together. Quite clearly, therefore, there are many primary products which are heavily dependent upon an Australian market, upon people who work in Australian factories and live in Australian cities.
One of the things that people do with great disservice to the total Australian community is to try to divide that community into separate and competitive sections- those who work on farms, those who live in cities, those who work at the Ford organisation’s factory at Geelong or in some other factory, or those who work in the mines. It is utterly impossible to make that kind of division and come out with any sensible answer. There is an interdependence between the major sectors of the Australian economy, between different sectors of the Australian community, and it is not possible to look at one in isolation from the other.
If the logic of the honourable member’s question were taken to its limits one would, I suppose, end all protection- and the honourable member said that there is $4,000m worth. If we take it to that limit what does that do in terms of the harm, hardship and difficulty of the many thousands of people who thereby would be placed out of work and who would be unable to buy butter from Australian dairy farmers and lamb from Australian lamb producers? We have an interdependence. The effect that would follow from that kind of policy just does not make sense. I would have thought that we would have been much better served if we stopped talking about different sectors of the Australian community being competitors or about somebody getting something at the expense of others, and looked at the whole to see how we can advance the whole.
-I direct my question to the Foreign Minister. I ask: Can aliens with criminal records secure permission to enter Australia? What checks are made to ascertain whether aliens who have criminal records have changed their names before they apply to enter Australia? What action does the Government take in cases where previously unknown criminal records or name changes come to notice after the person concerned has entered Australia?
-The honourable member well knows that these matters are checked. He well knows that I am not prepared, nor has any previous Foreign Minister or Attorney-General een prepared, to give a break-down of the methods that are utilised.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the serious and high incidence of skin cancer in
Australia, particularly in Queensland and the northern parts of Australia? What action has the Minister taken to alert Australians to the danger of skin cancer? Can the Minister advise the House what benefits are available to assist persons suffering from this unfortunate disease? Are such benefits also available to sun seekers who may expose themselves to greater dangers?
-Of course, with a complexion such as I have, I am well aware of the problems of skin cancer, sunburn and so on. So I extend the deepest sympathy to those who suffer from these problems. I am aware also of the serious problem that skin cancer is from a medical point of view, articularly in Queensland and in northern New South Wales. The medical complement of my Department, the Australian Government Analyst from the Department of Science and the Australian Cancer Council have been in conference and as a consequence of their efforts a booklet has been published and 200 000 copies have been distributed this summer to people in various parts of Australia.
For the honourable member’s benefit, I mention that all treatment of skin cancer performed by a doctor in his surgery or in a hospital attracts medical and hospital benefits. We have ensured that surgical aids, such as artificial noses that may be required as a consequence of cancer of the nose, are available free of any charge to patients at recognised hospitals in the States where such artificial aids are necessary as part of the ongoing treatment of the patient. That arrangement has been made with the various States. So I can Assure the honourable member for Petrie and Other honourable members that action has been taken to try to warn the public and to ensure that those who are afflicted have medical benefits and other assistance.
-I ask the Foreign Minister a question that is supplementary to that asked him by the honourable member for Hunter. My question arises, as I apprehend the honourable member’s question arose, from the report that an American gangster entered Australia under a name different from that which he bore when he was convicted. I point out that I no more wish to elicit the methods of checking than I believe my colleague sought to elicit them. I ask: Are checks made- I do not ask what checks- to ascertain whether aliens who have criminal records have changed their names before they apply to enter , Australia? I also ask: What action does the Government take where previously unknown criminal records or previously unknown name changes come to notice after the person concerned has entered Australia?
-This is a question that really should be directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
-He is not here.
-There is an Acting Minister here; but in the stead of the Acting Minister I will give what I understand to be the position in the case of the person now alluded to. In regard to the first 2 questions asked, I would say -
– You have responsibility.
-I have responsibility for passports but not for visas.
– But your officers issue the visas.
-You like sometimes to project a filing cabinet mentality. If you cannot recall the difference between issuing a passport to an Australian citizen and issuing a visa to an alien, then I am sorry; I will take you outside.
– Your officers issue the visas.
-I confirm -
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The practice of speaking across the table in the fashion that has just occurred, I do not accept. It can lead to honourable members making statements which they later regret. I call upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs to answer the question and to direct his reply through me.
-Mr Speaker, in regard to the first question raised, checks are in fact made. In regard to the second question, which relates to the nature of the checks, I Will need to obtain further information from the responsible Minister. I will do that and I will convey the information to the Leader of the Opposition. As to the person referred to obliquely in the question, I can confirm that it is my understanding and advice that the visa issued to that person under another name is in the process of being cancelled and he is being instructed to leave the country immediately.
-Is the Minister for Transport aware that the South Australian State Government is not allocating road grant funds in the way it proposed when seeking grants from the Commonwealth Government? Further, is the
Minister aware of Press reports in which Mr Virgo, South Australia’s Minister for Transport, has blamed the Commonwealth Government for cuts in funds to local council areas provided by both governments for rural local and rural arterial roads? Is the Commonwealth in fact responsible, as suggested by the State Minister?
– I have to say at the outset that Mr Virgo has completely misrepresented the position, and to say that he has done it with some base political motive is probably to come very close to the truth. The fact is that on 1 5 April last year Mr Virgo sent to me for approval a program of projects to the value of $6.257m. He submitted that program for $6.257m at that time knowing full well that the level of Commonwealth support for the program was $2.1m in that financial year. In addition to the $2. lm we later gave to South Australia an extra $3.2m of which $1.2m was to go to rural arterial roads. It is quite clear to me that Mr Virgo in submitting the total program for $6.257m had held the view, knowing the level of Commonwealth support, that he would be able to secure the balance of the funds from State Budget sources. But apparently in his discussions around the Budget table he failed in his desire to get the level of funds he sought, and therefore the total level of funds available for South Australia was not as high as he had submitted to me.
The Commonwealth’s role is simply to approve the projects. It does not dictate the times by which the projects will be completed or the rate at which the work will be done. The important element is that Mr Virgo obviously honestly believed that he would receive a total of $6.257m that year for rural arterials. When he failed to secure funds from his own State’s Budget he set to and re-ordered the priorities that had been allocated in the original application. I note, for example, that he took out the Lucindale to Penola road. Clearly, that road did not rank high enough in Mr Virgo’s priorities to secure funds; so he cut it out and did not proceed to build the road. Then he claimed that it was cut out because of the failure of the Commonwealth Government to supply a high enough level of funds. This is not the first time that State Ministers have misrepresented this sort of position and it probably will not be the last time, but I can assure honourable members that when the new roads grants legislation comes in I will be doing my level best to make sure that each of us- Commonwealth and State Ministers- stands and is counted properly for the responsibilities that he carries m his own area.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, refers to his Government’s decision to increase vastly its powers to restrict the industrial activities of employees and their trade unions through its proposed introduction of the industrial relations bureau, its reported intention to increase substantially the penalties provided in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and its trade practices legislation which would make many employees and probably their unions liable to injunctions, civil actions for damages and massive penalties. I ask the Prime Minister: Will he inform the House why his Government is seeking such draconian powers when industrial disputation has declined dramatically over the last 2 years and wage settlements are almost completely confined to wage indexation increases? Is it the case that the Government regards such legislation as essential to its announced aim of slashing real wages this year, or is it simply that it is seeking to provoke a confrontation with the unions and thereby distract public attention from its abysmal economic performance?
– While the industrial relations record in many areas is better in certain significant industries, it is not good, as the honourable member knows, especially in certain areas which affect our export trade m iron ore and in matters of that kind. The industrial relations legislation that my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will be introducing will, I believe, be regarded as enlightened and sensible legislation. It will do a great deal to protect individual trade unionists against unfair practices by employers and it will strengthen the provisions in that regard. It will also protect individuals against unfair practices by their own organisations. These matters are in the present law but the provisions will also be improved under the proposals that will be brought forward. I suggest that the honourable member would do much better to wait for my colleague to introduce the legislation and judge the matter calmly than to try to imagine all sorts of horrible things and cause fear and concern in relation to these matters.
I think there is also a widespread view in the community- it is certainly a view which the Government strongly supports- that there ought to be reasonable rules for the conduct of human affairs in all important areas of activity within society. I do not believe that in Australia people generally feel oppressed by the normal State or Commonwealth rules that govern and determine our behaviour. Generally we are not even conscious that such rules exist but we know they are there for the protection and broadening of the area of human freedom.
There are areas in which the activities of some union leaders have restricted freedom and inhibited human rights and human dignity. If the honourable member is suggesting that there should be a situation in which an important area of activity, such as industrial relations, is largely conducted outside any law or outside the capacity to apply any law then he is saying something very serious about the nature of that society, and that is something that ought to be of concern. I believe that the great majority of people feel that there ought to be reasonable rules for the conduct of industrial relations and for the protection of individuals, because that is what it is all about- people. That is the purpose of the Government’s legislation. It will take into account also the necessary requirements of the public interest and the community at large.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, under standing order 151 will you permit me to ask a supplementary question straight away of the Prime Minister who made such an important reply? Is that possible?
– The previous call to my right having gone to the Liberal Party, it is not the practice of the House to permit an honourable member of that Party immediately to ask a supplementary question. Under the practice of the House the next call goes to the National Country Party, and I am offering it there. I call the honourable member for Capricornia.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister would be aware that on 22 December 1976 he instructed the Australian Meat Board to continually monitor prices obtained for exports to Japan and to take any necessary action to obviate undue price discounting simply to earn credits for the United States of America. As it is apparent that price discounting is now taking place, can the Minister inform the House what action has been taken by the Meat Board? If the Board has not yet acted, will the Minister intercede so as to protect Australian producers against these unfair practices being reflected in saleyard prices?
-It is true that I have contacted the Australian Meat Board on 2 occasions because of reports that had come to me of significant price discounting in the Japanese market, thereby affecting returns not only to exporters but also, and significantly, to producers. The exporters’ returns, of course, are not unduly prejudiced because while Japan is a credit earning market the credits earnt in the Japanese sales are available to be used subsequently to ship cargoes to the United States of America, from which an added premium is expected to be received. I am told that at its meeting in Adelaide on 21 February the Board discussed with the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, the Council of Australian Public Abattoir Authorities and the Australian Meat Works Federal Council, the subject of my concern. The tenders opened over the last few months were actually canvassed at the meeting and it might be of interest to honourable members to know the prices for ox crops. In July 1 976 the price was 20c to 22c a lb ac-f.o.b. In August 1976 the price was 27c to 28c a lb ac- f.o.b. On 8 December 1976 it rose to 47c a lb ac- f.o.b., in other words showing a very marked lift in the post devaluation period. At the same time, those returns were certainly not passed on to producers, which is another matter of concern. On 15 December 1976 the price was 46c to 48c a lb ac- f.o.b. On 26 January 1977 it was 44c a lb ac-f.o.b. and subsequent to the introduction of the diversification entitlement, on 17 February it fell to 39c a lb ac-f.o.b. The industry representatives at that meeting said that they did not accept that the discounting in price was only a matter flowing from the earning entitlement on those sales. However, the matter is certainly one of concern. It is a matter which the Meat Board has taken up with the meat exporters to the point of suggesting that some future change in meat diversification entitlement might well be necessary if this trend were to continue.
A general review of the present base of entitlement to the United States market this year is scheduled for March and this matter will be considered further at that time. In the meantime, the Meat Board has put those groups at that meeting on notice that there may need to be some adjustment of future sales to Japan if there should be too significant a reduction in prices, seriously prejudicing the returns to Australian producers. I might add that whilst the present rain has significantly changed pasture conditions in much of Australia, and hence probably the supply and demand circumstances, the low prices paid to beef producers in an industry where there have been demonstrable benefits in improved export prices have been a real worry.
This circumstance, of course, means that beef producers are not in a position to gain advantage either from the 1714 per cent devaluation or improved market demand. Many of them, including those in the honourable gentleman’s own area, have been in a very serious financial predicament. I believe that exporters themselves need to take note of this predicament, for unless there is a passing on to producers of the improved prices that exporters are receiving, many producers will, unfortunately, go out backwards. In those circumstances there will not be the availability of meat to sustain others in other sectors of the trade.
- Mr Speaker, I should like to add briefly to an answer that I gave to the Leader of the Opposition a moment ago. It has been brought to my attention that I misheard the year to which the honourable gentleman’s question about Medibank costs related. I thought he had related his question to the current year costs and my answer was related to and is accurate in relation to current year costs. Savings in relation to last year when, of course, the new arrangements did not apply, amounted in part to an over-estimate by the States in relation to hospital costs of nearly $80m. Under the new arrangements with the joint Commonwealth-State committees, the possibility of over-estimation in future, especially after the result of this year’s experience where further substantial savings have been made, is most unlikely to arise.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Film Commission Act 1975 I present the final annual report of the Australian Film Development Corporation covering the period from 1 July 1974 to 7 July 1975.
Pursuant to section 122 of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971 I present the annual report of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. Yesterday the Sydney Daily Telegraph carried an article by Dorian Wild implying that I had commented on the suspension of a doctor at the Orange Base Hospital. The article is headed: ‘Blitz on Medibank: Doctor out’. The article then reads:
The State Health Commission yesterday revoked a doctor ‘s hospital privileges for such a refusal.
Officials and Federal M.P.s said later his actions had been part of a pattern throughout N.S.W. towns where patients were being ‘ held to ransom ‘.
In the article I am the first Federal member of Parliament to be quoted. I have made no such comments. I was asked by Mr Wild whether I had any further comments to make to my question on notice No. 203 5 which asks the Minister for Health in which New South Wales country towns private doctors are refusing to treat standard ward hospital patients. I replied in the following terms:
There are Sydney suburban hospitals, including the Fairfield District Hospital in my area, where people cannot attend specialist outpatient department clinics or be admitted as standard ward obstetric patients because so-called honoraries will only treat private patients. These honoraries should be warned that access to private and intermediate patients may be denied to them and that the hospital boards should try to run the clinics and wards using highly qualified and well paid salaried specialists.
That is the end of my statement. Mr Wild last night agreed that he became aware of the suspension of the doctor in Orange only after speaking to me. Therefore I obviously was not asked to comment on that case.
– by leave- The Government has decided to recommend to Executive Council the appointment of Mr James Mollison as the first Director of the Australian National Gallery for a term of 7 years. The Government has also decided to appoint a Secretary-Manager to manage the administrative and financial affairs of the Gallery. These two statutory appointments will ensure a proper complement of artistic and administrative skills within the Gallery’s top management. Mr Mollison has carried out the duties of Director since 1971 and was selected from a wide field of applicants who responded to an advertisement placed in Australia and overseas in September last year. I might add that I regard it as entirely appropriate that an Australian should be the first Director of the Australian National Gallery. Mr Mollison has already made a major contribution to the development of the national collection. The quality of acquisitions purchased under Mr Mollison ‘s guidance has already established an international reputation for the Gallery.
– Rubbish! What about Blue Poles!
-The new Director’s knowledge of and commitment to the visual arts is well known and the Government is confident that he will continue to bring imagination and flair to the important task before him. The Director will, as executive officer, be responsible for the overall conduct of Gallery affairs. In particular, the Director will concern himself with the direction of artistic policy, the development of the national collection and all professional matters relating to the acquisition of works of art, conservation and research and the exhibition of the national collection. Negotiations with the successful applicant for the position of SecretaryManager are almost finalised. The SecretaryManager will be Secretary of the Council and will be responsible for the important administrative and financial affairs of the Gallery in all their aspects. This will free the Director to undertake those tasks for which he is primarily appointed and make the best use of the professional skills of both. The Government will also be proposing new administrative procedures to the Gallery Council designed in association with these appointments, to ensure the development of a distinguished national collection on the most favourable terms in the national interest.
I might say in addition that in the last 14 months, under the policies determined by the Government, greater emphasis has been given to purchases of Australian art than was the case before There is, of course, a most distinguished collection of Australian art, and pre-eminent in the Gallery is a repository of works by Australian artists. It is my hope that later this year a comprehensive purchasing policy of the National Gallery, endorsed by the Government, will be able to be announced in this Parliament so that all honourable members, the community and the artistic world will be able to know and to understand the full purchasing policy of the Gallery and the background against which purchases are made and priorities formed in the conduct of that policy. A draft of the policy is in the Government’s hands, but a good deal of work needs to be undertaken in relation to it. My colleague, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley), as Minister assisting me in the arts, will be consulting with the Director and the Council of the National Gallery in pursuit of these objectives.
– by leave- I welcome the announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It represents the consummation of the statutory arrangements which my Government introduced. I applaud the appointment of Mr Mollison and what the Prime Minister has said about him. I take the opportunity to say this because many implicit reflections were made upon Mr Mollison ‘s skill and conduct, particularly during 1975. Questions were askedone, I notice, by the right honourable gentleman himself- about the purchasing policies and the commissions paid. Since the overseas visits were always made in the first case by Mr Mollison, it was possible for people to infer that there were doubts about the propriety or the expertise with which he conducted his job. My predecessor, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), was head of government when Mr Mollison was appointed. I was happy to continue him in his position. I am glad that the Prime Minister has now made Mr Mollison ‘s appointment for the maximum term which the Act permits.
There should be no doubt now about the good investments which Mr Mollison recommended to the Acquisitions Committee and later to the Interim Council for the Gallery. As I am reminded by my colleague, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who recently, I have no doubt, has taken the opportunity to see some comprehensive and valuable collections in the United States of America, questions were asked from time to time about the wisdom of purchasing Blue Poles or Woman V. As we all know, if the Australian Government were now to dispose of those 2 works on the international art market, Australia would reap a very good profit indeed.
It is less than a year ago, in fact, that the Prime Minister was casting aspersions on Mr Mollison ‘s negotiations to acquire an ancient bronze of unknown authorship. I thought it somewhat strange that even an Australian head of government should make such references. The inference was that ancient bronzes of unknown authorship were junk; that they were not to be considered. One appreciates that such an attitude would involve removing from some of the great galleries of the world the Venus de Milo, or the Winged Victory of Samothrace, or taking down the Horses of Saint Mark’s, the Charioteer of Delphi or the Dying Gaul. But the Prime Minister has changed his tune in these matters. Last month he opened in Melbourne, as I shall open next month in Sydney, a visiting Chinese exhibition. It is full of ancient bronzes. They are insured for $200m. All of them are of unknown authorship.
– For the information of honourable members I present the following documents relating to defence arrangements between Australia and Papua New Guinea: A joint statement by the Australian Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea; a status of forces agreement which will be registered with the United Nations; and two separate exchanges of letters between the Australian Minister for Defence and the Papua New Guinea Minister for Defence, Foreign Relations and Trade, concerning: Consultations regarding the use of Australian loan personnel in politically sensitive situations; and an arrangement for the supply support of the Papua New Guinea Department of Defence by the Department of Defence, Australia.
I seek leave, Mr Speaker, to make a short statement relating to these documents.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Right Honourable Michael Somare, issued a joint statement in Port Moresby on 11 February which made mention of defence arrangements formally negotiated and agreed between Sir Maori Kiki and myself as Ministers for Defence of the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia respectively. The agreements then reached fulfil the Government’s intention, as set out in the White Paper on Australian Defence that I presented to Parliament in November last year, to formalise defence arrangements with Papua New Guinea in the near future.
I am pleased today, on behalf of the Government, to table, for the information of honourable members, full details of these arrangements. Honourable members will note that they closely follow the arrangements in force during the interim period since Papua New Guinea independence, as set out in documents tabled by my predecessor in the previous Government on 9 October 1975. 1 should say that the Government is very satisfied with the arrangements. They demonstrate, in a practical way, the importance Australia and Papua New Guinea attach to a continuing and close relationship in the defence field.
The agreement between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments to sustain their close co-operation in defence matters and the joint affirmation of their intention to consult at the request of either about matters affecting their common security is not the less historic because so readily agreed, nor the less significant- for each and for others- because their friendship is already so firmly and so openly established. This Parliament may look with pleasure and with no little pride upon the fact that in this new era of Papua New Guinea’s independence and national sovereignty it has joined with Australia to re-affirm a clear and mutual interest in close co-operation and consultation in defence matters. In a statement on 1 1 January, Sir Maori Kiki identified his Government’s view of the defence relationship. He said:
The Papua New Guinea Government continues to seek by direct negotiation between the two countries continuing support and co-operation in defence matters with Australia, not by any formal defence treaty but by mutually acceptable arrangements between the two Governments and by frequent consultations.
This is a view which, as these documents demonstrate, the Australian Government can warmly endorse. Honourable members will note that, under the arrangements, Australia will continue to assist in the development of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force through the Defence Cooperation Program. This program, to which the Government has allocated some $ 1 2m this financial year, will be planned in close consultation with the Papua New Guinea Government and will be responsive to Papua New Guinea priorities. I commend the Australia-Papua New Guinea defence arrangements to the House.
– Would the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) be good enough to reschedule this matter for debate after the prorogation of the Parliament, if the Opposition should wish to debate it?
– I would have no hesitation in doing so- subject, of course, to the concurrence of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). He certainly would have my support -
– Order! There is no subject for debate at this stage. A statement has been made; that is all. That is the end of the matter.
– Nonetheless, I wanted to get that on the record.
- Mr Speaker, he is making that request in the event of the Opposition wanting to discuss the matter at some future time.
-It would require the moving of amotion.
– That is so. I appreciate that.
– I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is on the front bench. He might move that the House take note of the paper.
– But all of these matters will be removed from the notice paper with the prorogation of the Parliament, will they not? I am talking about after next week; after we have had a chance to consider the matter. There may be many changes. Your own position, Mr Speaker, may be changed by then. We cannot talk about what might happen that far ahead.
– If the honourable member wishes to seek leave to make a statement now, he may do so.
– There would be no point in my doing that because I have not received a copy of the arrangements.
– If the honourable gentleman is not seeking leave to make a statement, I will proceed to the messages from the Senate.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Crimes (Biological Weapons) Bill 1976. Public Service Amendment (First Division Officers) Bill 1976.
-I present a report from the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism. The report states that the Committee has been unable to complete its inquiry.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave of the House to make a short explanatory statement.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted.
– I thank the honourable member for Port Adelaide. The Committee held its first meeting on 8 December 1976 and since then has met on S occasions for the purpose of holding public hearings. The Committee has heard evidence from 32 persons representing 1 S organisations, taken almost 1300 pages of evidence and received many exhibits. The Committee had received submissions from 93 organisations and a further 28 organisations have indicated their intention of making a submission to the Committee. Because of the prorogation of the Parliament we have been unable to finish this work. The Committee recommends that a committee be constituted after the prorogation of the Parliament. It is also recommended that the Parliament give the new committee power to consider and make use of the records of the present Committee. It is further recommended that the Parliament give the new committee power to bring up an interim report. At the present moment we are empowered only to report as soon as possible. We consider that there are certain issues upon which the committee may wish to make recommendations before it has completed its final report. Accordingly the Committee has recommended that the new committee be given the power to report from time to time.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The record high level of unemployment.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
Mi WILLIS (Gellibrand)-(3.27) Within 15 months of taking office the Fraser Government’s success in restoring the economy to economic health can be measured by the fact that it is now presiding over the third highest ever quarterly inflation rise and the highest ever level of unemployment recorded by the Commonwealth Employment Service. At the end of January 1977 the number of registered unemployed with the CES was 354 589, which is approximately 10 500 more than in January 1976- one year earlier. Of the 354 589 registered unemployed, 156 000 are juniors. This demonstrates the enormous problem that we have in this country with unemployed youth.
But the CES figures do not tell the full story. In fact there has been a big rise in hidden unemployment. The labour force figures published every quarter by the Bureau of Statistics show that in the year to November 1976, which is the latest period for which figures are available, there was a rise of 185 000 in the population aged 15 years and over in this country and in the same period there was an increase of only 5000 in the number of employed wage and salary earners. Clearly there has been a big decline in the work force participation rate as people have given up hope of getting a job. Indeed that decline in the participation rate is demonstrated in the labour force figures which show a decline from 62.1 per cent to 61 per cent in the ratio of the population aged 15 years and over who are working. That happened in the course of the year to November 1976. Clearly there has been a big increase in the level of hidden unemployment. There should have been an increase in employment in this area of something like 100 000; in fact there has been an increase of 5000 in the number of wage and salary earners in the year to November 1976.
If we look at the breakup of the number of employed wage and salary earners we can throw more light on the troubled employment situation. In fact the number of jobs for males declined by 15 000 in the year to November 1976, the first year of the Fraser Government. The number of females employed went up by 20 000, but of course over the last decade or so a very substantial growth in female employment has been in part time jobs so that the full time equivalent would be much less than 20 000. Furthermore the industry sectors also show some interesting facts. The number of wage and salary earners working for private enterprise went down by 2000 in the first year in which the lights were to be turned on. The number of Australian Government employees went down by 12 000 and the number of local government employees by 4000. The only area of growth in the whole country was State government employment. There was an increase of 22 000 in the number employed in that area. Without that there would have been a very substantial decline in employment.
The industry breakup provides some interesting figures. The number of employed wage and salary earners in manufacturing industry declined by 24 000 in the first year of the Fraser Government. The number of employees in building and construction industry went down by 18 000 in the first year of the Fraser Government. The only areas of substantial growth were health, in which employment was up by 17 000, education, in which employment was up by 16 000, and the wholesale and retail trade, in which employment was up by 12 000. Health and education of course provide very substantial areas of government employment. We can see that the employment picture is indeed dismal. The unemployment figures showing an increase of only 10 500 over the period from January 1 976 do not show the full picture. There has been a minimum increase in employment in the past year in a period in which another 100 000 or so people should have been working in this country.
The prospects for the future are also very grim. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its survey on Australia forecast a further rise in unemployment in 1977. That survey has only recently become available. Let us look at the overtime figures. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said last July that these were a very good leading indicator of employment trends. At that time the level of overtime being worked on a seasonally adjusted basis was 2.6 hours. It had slipped to 2.2 hours in December. So, there has been a very substantial decline in overtime worked on a seasonally adjusted basis. If that is a leading indicator of employment, as the Prime Minister says, it does not give us cause for any satisfaction about the future. Much more important than that is the evidence that became available yesterday from the Australian Industries Development Association by way of a survey that it had carried out on private employment prospects for 1977. That should cause every member of this Parliament to be very worried indeed. A survey was carried out of the companies which employed about onetenth of the Australian private sector workforce. Let me read some of the conclusions from the survey. The Association found that if there was a 10 per cent increase in growth in sales and production in 1977 the vast majority of the companies would be able to accommodate such a sharp production increase by either a rundown in stocks or an increase in overtime and shift working and therefore by either making no new hirings or increasing their employment by no more than about 2 per cent. The conclusion continues:
Less than 10 per cent of the respondents would foresee the need to increase the labour force by S per cent or more, should this hypothetical growth in output take place.
The Association is saying that if there was a 10 per cent growth in output, which would be a very substantial growth, employment would go up by only 2 per cent in this coming year. The Association went on to say: . . . remarkably few of the respondents expect more than a slender growth in output to take place this year. Considerably less than half of the respondents replied m terms as to suggest that the 4 per cent growth in real output on which the 1976-77 Budget was framed is possible in the present year … But very few companies expect more than 3 per cent- 4 per cent real growth in output, and a large number are still working … on the assumption that real output in 1 977 will be no greater than it was in 1 976.
Let me summarise that by saying that this survey shows that private companies in this country are saying that if there was a 10 per cent growth in output this year, in other words if we had a miraculous and substantial economic growth, there would be only a 2 per cent increase at the very most in employment. They do not expect anything like 10 per cent, they expect maybe 3 per cent to 4 per cent at the outside. The obvious implications for employment are that it will rise by much less than 2 per cent in those circumstances. Even if it rose by 2 per cent there would still be an increase in the level of unemployment because the labour force is increasing at the rate of 2lA per cent to 3 per cent. In those circumstances the 2 per cent increase in employment would not take up all that increase, and there would be a further addition to the level of unemployment. With a 3 per cent or 4 per cent increase in output and much less than a 2 per cent increase in employment, perhaps no increase at all or perhaps even a reduction, obviously we are in a far worse situation. That evidence has just become available to the Government and should impress itself upon every member of this Parliament. Employment prospects are grim in the coming year. It needs no exaggerations or accusations of talking down the economy to make those statements.
Another factor which is important in thinking that the prospects for the future are dismal is that there is likely to be a continuing high rate of inflation. We have been told by the Government time and time again that until it gets down the rate of inflation there will not be much economic growth, and that that is the basic thing for economic recovery. The Government has induced a high increase in the rate of inflation through its Medibank rearrangements. With the subsequent price rises through the effects of devaluation, we can expect an increase of something like 16 per cent in retail prices for 1976-77. If past experience is any guide, and it should be, the effect of that on consumer demand must be that it will cause consumers to retract their expenditures even further, and there will be a decline in the propensity to consume. Without an increase in the propensity to consume, without an increase in consumption, we cannot expect, as the Budget Speech said, economic recovery to occur. Yet the Government, through its ineptitude, its stupidity in exacerbating inflation in the extraordinary way that it has, has created the conditions in which we are likely to have a further reduction in the propensity to consume.
The social impact of unemployment is something which I think has not been discussed sufficiently in this Parliament. Admittedly, we do not get a great deal of time to talk about these issues. A quarter of an hour does not give one much time to embark on it. I recommend that all members read the submission of the Australian Council of Social Service which stresses in detail the number of surveys which have looked at the plight of the unemployed. We must bear in mind the tremendous social costs associated with increased unemployment- social, personal and human costs which tend to be lost in the statistics. It is not an economic argument, it is not a statistical argument, it is not a political argument. It is very much a case of social and human suffering. We should not lose sight of that fact. I recommend that members read that submission and note the very devastating effects which substantial or long-term unemployment can have. I refer briefly to a survey by the Brotherhood of St Laurence which is summarised in the submission of the Australian Council of Social Service. The report of the Brotherhood of St Laurence states: … the long-term consequences of young people being unemployed over a long period are stated as: ‘(a) Loss of faith in society and government.
They are quite clearly very important effects on young people. So we must do something about unemployment. The Government must start to take some positive action about unemployment. It must start creating jobs now. It is not sufficient to say: ‘We will kill inflation firstly, then economic recovery will occur and everything will be all right’. It is patently clear that that is not the situation. Inflation will continue, in the first place. Secondly, as the Australian Industries Development Association survey shows, even if a miraculous economic recovery were brought about there would not be created sufficient jobs to stop the level of unemployment increasing substantially for the next year or more. So the Government must start taking some positive action now, if it really is concerned about the unemployed, to create jobs. If it intends to do that, it will have to change its economic POliCY
On a number of occasions the Opposition has put forward its economic pokey. Let me briefly summarise it. We are concerned about bringing down the rate of inflation and are also very concerned about creating jobs. We have stressed the need to reduce the rate of indirect taxation, in particular, which would have the effect, through wage indexation, of winding down the inflation rate by the initial reduction in prices, then the reduced wage flow-on having a secondary antiinflationary effect and also stimulating consumption through the reduction in some prices. We have mentioned other action directly to create jobs and to increase government expenditure. Capital works and housing projects were slashed dramatically in the Budget. Overall government expenditure has been cut by 4 per cent in real terms, not just in money terms. If one takes account of price increases, government expendi- . turehas been cut by 4 per cent. In the areas of urban and regional development, the growth^ centres and so on, it has been cut by 50 per cent. ‘ In the area of housing it has been cut by 22 percent. In these capital works and housing areas there has been a dramatic cutback because of the multiplying effects. Those cutbacks, were fed into private industry- into the. building supplies industry and so on- and have brought* about higher levels of unemployment. We strongly urge the Government to expand its expenditure on these projects. They could easily be put into operation. The plans are there. They would quickly feed through into higher employment in private enterprise and would have a very stimulating effect because of their multiplying effects.
We have stressed the need for the introduction of job creation programs. The Government promised them at the last election. It said it would introduce such programs but has refused to do so despite the fact that previous LiberalCountry Party governments have done so. Such programs could be introduced quickly. They would have high multiplying effects. A government which is sensitive to and concerned about unemployment should surely be concerned to introduce such programs. It is a scandal that they have not been introduced. Industry POliCY could be changed. The Prime Minister says that he is concerned to put jobs first, not to restructure people out of jobs. What has he done in the shipbuilding industry? Tell the people of Newcastle and Whyalla that the Government is not restructuring people out of jobs. Clearly a strong change is needed in industrial policy as well.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I find this matter raised by the Opposition today a classic example of crocodile tears. I find it extraordinary that the Opposition, having caused the highest rate of unemployment in Australia and, even worse, supporting policies which would guarantee its continuation, should bring forward this matter. I find it extraordinary that the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) should speak in the way that he did. Let us look at what led to the present situation. I make no apology for repeating figures which I have given in this House previously because they bear repeating. When Labor came to office unemployment was 136 000. When it left office unemployment was 328 000. Unemployment in the under-20 age group was approximately 80 000 when Labor came to office. It was 132 000 when it left office. There is no doubt whatever who caused the high rate of unemployment in Australia. It is important to realise why it was caused and to avoid such a situation happening again. In 1973, 1974 and 1975 average award wages rose by approximately 56 per cent. Gross domestic product during that same time rose by approximately 6 per cent. There can be only one result of figures like those. Because of the huge rise in the labour cost much of Australian industry has been priced out of the market and naturally this has led to reduced employment.
The position is shown in stark clarity when one starts to make a few international comparisons. Over the most recent 12 months, despite some moderation in the rate of increase in wages in Australia, hourly earnings in manufacturing increased by 16 per cent. In Canada they increased by 13.2 per cent, in the United States by 8.2 per cent, in Japan by 11.8 per cent, in France by 14.4 per cent, in Germany by 6.8 per cent, and even in the United Kingdom by only 14.4 per cent. In the face of such a situation how can the Opposition and those who support what the honourable member for Gellibrand has put forward today expect Australian employers to compete in overseas markets, or for that matter expect Australian manufacturers to compete in respect of imports on the home market? If such a situation continues the hard won gains of the recent devaluation will be rapidly frittered away. Yet the announced policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and now I presume of the Opposition, is as a result of seeking total full indexation to bring about a continuation of just the sort of situation that they themselves created.
Despite some slowing down in the rate of wage rises, which I mentioned a moment ago, we are still way out of line with our major trading partners. There has been a tremendous loss of competitiveness which the figures that I have just cited show so clearly. We cannot regain our relative competitive position under the present wage or economic policies advocated by the Opposition and put forward again today by the honourable member for Gellibrand. Those policies created the high unemployment in this country. The Opposition persists in advocating policies which would guarantee its continuation. It has shown a completely selfish unconcern for the unemployed. It has put even more people in vulnerable industries at risk, particularly those industries which face competition from imports and which employ a considerable part of the work force. These industries have been put in a vulnerable position and as a result the people they employ become vulnerable themselves.
Excessive wage increases progressively have priced certain classes of labour out of the market. This has not applied to any extent to skilled or experienced labour. As we know from our experience and from reading many reports there are still shortages of labour in many of these areas. But the labour being priced out of the market is the inexperienced, the unskilled and, of course, the young of this country. These people represent the great majority of the present unemployed. It is these groups that both the Opposition and the trade union movement hold themselves out to be greatly concerned about. In point of fact the trade union movement, and again today the Opposition, have put forward the same policies by pushing for whatever they reckon they can get in the marketplace regardless of the adverse economic indications, making the position of these disadvantaged groups even worse than it is now.
It would appear that the advocates of the policies that have been put forward today are guilty of gross hypocrisy. On the one hand they are appearing as the defenders and supporters of the unemployed; on the other hand they are deliberately and coldbloodedly following policies which if successful would not only render the present position of the unemployed even more difficult but also would add to their numbers. One basic fact that the Opposition has always been unable to accept is the basic economic truth that unemployment, inflation and wage restraint are completely and totally interrelated. Where wage restraint is lacking inflation becomes inevitable, with all the consequences that I have just described. The real causes of the present situation are the excessive past wage demands and in some cases present wage demands.
By aligning itself with this element of the trade union movement which throws over not only the interests and concern for its fellow workers but also for the unemployed, the Opposition is directly contributing to the slowdown in the rate of Australia’s economic recovery. Employers are becoming much more selective in their attitude to recruiting workers. They are requiring a broader range of skills and in many instances higher standards and that is making it constantly more and more difficult for those whom I might describe as being at the margin of the work force to gain employment.
Surveys were undertaken, I understand, during the time of the Labor Government which indicated that there was a hard core of unemployment in this country of at least 60 000 people. Those people were not considered to be eligible for sickness benefits or unemployment benefits. I understand that the report concluded that neither should they be considered as being in the normal unemployment category. I presume that as this was a fairly recent survey the numbers have not altered greatly. To this number is now being added those in the work force with minimal skills and/or minimal experience; that is, those people who are extending that margin. The margin which was previously of the order of 60 000 people is now being constantly widened by the sort of policies and the sort of actions about which the honourable member for Gellibrand has been talking. Because of wage rates, employers are unable to employ or are at best very cautious about employing people. Nonetheless, despite the number of registrations for employment, particularly those in the category I have described, there are innumerable documented cases which continue to pour into my office and those of supporters of the Government, and I would strongly suspect into the offices of members of the Opposition too, of employers being unable to fill advertised vacancies even in areas where registrations for unemployment are at a very high level. I doubt that this is due to any one reason; it is due probably to a combination of reasons. But whatever the reasons, the fact remains that quite well paid jobs are not being filled, even in areas where the level of registered unemployed is fairly high.
It was because of this situation and also because a fundamental review has not been undertaken for nearly 30 years, that we instituted the inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service. Honourable members may remember that a question was asked of me on this subject during question time today. The inquiry is being undertaken by Mr John Norgard who will be looking at the sort of problems that I have just been outlining. Clearly there are problems in satisfying the requirements of those who are seeking labour and those who are seeking jobs. There is an imbalance, or something wrong anyway, when those 2 sectors cannot be brought together in areas and at times of advertised high unemployment. Mr Norgard ‘s report, which as I mentioned earlier today I hope to have before the middle of this year, should enable us to identify those problems or combinations of problems more clearly and should spell out the action required to correct them. But m the meantime the Government has instituted a series of measures that I will explain in a moment.
What did the Opposition do when confronted with the problems that it itself had created? Its only reaction was to institute the Regional Employment Development scheme which proved so costly that subsequently the Opposition itself had to abandon it. Consistently since then, and again -
– You abolished it. It was still operating when you came into office.
– You abolished it in about September 1975. The Labor Government abolished it. It made the decision to abolish it and that was that. The Opposition, having abolished it, is now advocating that it be reintroduced. The only measure that it can suggest to deal with this current situation is one which it itself tried and abandoned.
– I rise to order. The Minister knows because I wrote him a letter -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Oxley knows that that is not a point of order. I suggest that he resume his seat.
-By contrast, the Government has instituted a series of measures aimed at specific groups in the community who are experiencing employment difficulties at present. I mention first the extension of the National Employment and Training scheme, which at the time the previous Government introduced it we acknowledged was excellent in concept but which fell down badly in administration. When we came into government approximately 7500 people were in training under the NEAT scheme, many of them taking formal full-time tertiary courses. We changed the direction of the NEAT scheme; we shifted the emphasis to in-plant training, that is, people getting training for jobs in which there is a labour market demand and at the same time having them in productive employment. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that there are now more than 14000 people in the NEAT scheme, of whom more than 1 1 000 are in parttime training while engaged in productive employment. Of that 1 1 000, some 4000 are the young people who come under the special youth employment training program for those aged between 15 and 19 years.
We have also recently introduced the completely new apprenticeship scheme known as CRAFT- Commonwealth Rebate Apprenticeship Full-time Training-which has had a very favourable response from all sections of the community including, I am pleased to say, the trade union movement. We have introduced preapprenticeship and accelerated apprenticeship training schemes in conjunction with the States. I would like to mention briefly the community youth support scheme which, I am pleased to be able to inform the House, now has something like 60 projects in operation all over Australia and involving some 12 000 young people. Sustained reduction in unemployment can come only from the control of inflation. If that is not achieved, any improvement can be only temporary. The policies of the Opposition cannot be successful in controlling inflation. They have been tried and they have failed. We cannot spend our way out of unemployment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) will not admit that the Government’s policies have failed completely and utterly. The Government came to office on an undertaking that it would reduce unemployment. Unemployment has since increased, and in some areas very dramatically. I will give a very good example. In the Australian Capital Territory the rate of unemployment has gone up from 1 per cent to 5 per cent. Today more than 5000 people are unemployed in the Australian Capital Territory. I can give another example, namely, in the western suburbs of Sydney, in my own area. In the areas administered by the Commonwealth Employment Service offices at Blacktown and Mount Druitt the total number of unemployed as at the end of January was 7107, of whom 52.24 per cent were young people under the age of 21 years. This is the important thing: I checked this morning on the increase in the area administered by these 2 offices since this Government came to power. The total has gone up by 32 per cent since then. For people under the age of 2 1 years the total has gone up by 44.4 per cent. That is the result of the policies of this Government.
– Many people are not registered.
– What the honourable member says is quite correct. There are 2 groups of persons who are not registered. For a start, married women have given up the ghost. They know that it is impossible to get employment and they no longer bother registering. Furthermore, because of the attitude this Government took to unemployment benefits for school leavers, there is still a big swag of school leavers to be registered at the end of this month. In other words, there are large elements which are not yet employed. Is it any wonder that this situation has arisen when we consider the policies which have been carried out by this Government- devaluation, the skimming off of spending power by the new Medibank arrangements and expenditure cuts in employment-giving areas? As I have said, a very good example is right here in Canberra. If the Government cuts expenditure in employing giving areas it must create unemployment.
I mention the attitude the Government has adopted to the Commonwealth Employment Service. It has deliberately imposed staff ceilings, with the result that today fewer people are employed in the Commonwealth Employment Service, particularly in New South Wales, than when the crisis began. This is a ridiculous situation. It must mean that the Commonwealth Employment Service cannot fulfil its duties in finding employment opportunities for our people, particularly our youth. While on that subject, I refer to a case that has received a bit of publicity. The general manager of the Fidax Engineering company, at Silverwater is reported as saying:
I just don’t believe there’s unemployment. I won’t buy that.
He is also reported as saying:
The factory has been advertising in vain since Christmas for 8 unskilled and semi-skilled workers.
Speaking of the Commonwealth Employment Service, he said:
The Granville one told me I’d be lucky to get anybody.
I checked this out. I made a number of checks. I found that, first of all, the company has not a good reputation as an employer. It insists that people provide their own transport because the factory is situated in a place that is very difficult to get to by public transport. The company insists that its employees start at 6 o’clock in the morning. I also found out that it had gone to the Commonwealth Employment Service, which had filled 15 out of the 17 vacancies it had last year. This is completely contrary to what has been reported in the newspapers. The Commonwealth
Employment Service did not hear from the company this year until 8 February, and it has filled 4 vacancies since then. From what I can gather, the real problem of this company is that it cannot keep people. Employees leave or their services are terminated. Obviously there is a very big turnover of labour. As the company apparently is employing people who are normally prisoners, undoubtedly it is taking the opportunity to exploit the penal system. I think this needs to be inquired into very carefully.
– It wants them on the cheap.
– Of course. It is exploiting cheap labour. I raise the question of the investment allowance. This Government has put $600m a year into an investment allowance. This will make industry more capital intensive and therefore throw more and more people out of work. I think these funds would be far better used for an unemployment relief scheme. We should look very carefully at this issue. We are throwing away millions of dollars a year on unemployment benefits. In the normal course, if there was an unemployment relief scheme, we could look forward to those funds going into projects which would be of lasting value to the community. That is not happening today. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was not permitted to make this point, but I recall his mentioning on the day he preserved the Hayden Budget- a very fine Budget- that the Whitlam Government would be making more money available for the Regional Employment Development scheme. I understand that the honourable member for Oxley has written to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations pointing out this very fact to him. So, the Minister was being less than frank with the House when he made the remarks he made earlier this afternoon.
What is required is an unemployment relief scheme. Quite apart from the humanitarian aspects- man’s right to work and the dignity of man- the facts are that we are throwing money down the drain and getting nothing in return. It would be far better if we were employing people on community projects which would be of long term value to us as a whole. Secondly, I believe there must be a complete revision of the apprenticeship scheme, not just the patch-work that is done every now and again by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister recently announced that 1000 more apprenticeships would be available for the whole of Australia. This is only peanuts.
– And no jobs for them.
– As the honourable member for Sydney says, there will be no jobs for them when they finish their training. We ought to have an apprenticeship scheme for those young people who are out of work today. As they get older they will find it increasingly hard to find work. For example, in 12 months time if they are still out of work employers will not take them on because they would have to pay a higher award rate. So employers are taking on people who are completely unskilled. It would be far better if these young people spent 2 years at a technical college and at the end of that time were indentured, preferably with a government department, because government departments turn out the best apprentices in the country. Every trade union official knows that. These are the important issues at which we should be looking.
I believe also that it is imperative that the Government lift the staff ceiling imposed on the Commonwealth Employment Service. I know that recently the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) ordered an increase of 101 staff for the CES for the whole of Australia. Once again that is only touching the problem, it is not overcoming the problem. The new Department of Finance stopped the CES from recruiting. That decision has been reversed and the CES can now recruit an extra 101 people. But probably 20 to 25 extra staff could be used in my area alone, and my electorate is only one of 127 federal electorates. We should take note of what was said in the recent report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. It said that there is no prospect in this financial year of a reduction in unemployment. In other words, unemployment will become worse. This Government is soil not taking any positive action to reverse the ridiculous economic policies which it introduced and which it has followed throughout its period of office, nor is it taking action in setting up new employment-giving schemes to employ our people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I am very pleased to have this chance to participate in what I believe is a most important debate. The two honourable members from the Opposition side who have spoken suggested that the answers are simple and that it is easy to overcome the unemployment crisis. But they would not accept any blame for the mistakes which their Government made between 1972 and the end of 1975. There was no admission of guilt of any kind. I suggest to the House that if we are considering a record unemployment figure we should consider the record number of people which the Australian Labor Party Government put out of work in its 3 years in office. Let us look at the figures. They indicate the sheer hypocrisy of the comments made by the 2 speakers on the other side.
When Labor came to office in 1972 there were 136 769 people unemployed and when it left office at the end of 1975 there were 328 705 people registered as unemployed. That is a significant figure. Honourable members opposite should think about that figure and ask themselves whether they are proud of it. During Labor’s reign 191 936 Australians were forced out of work. Opposition members pretend to be the saviours of the working people. They pretend to do everything for the working people. Look at what happened. In so many ways they did great harm to the lot of the working people of this country. The figure of 191 936 people put out of work in that period reminds us of that fact.
– You have an all time record.
– Honourable members opposite ask what is happening now. Let us look at the situation. I think it is important to compare the figures. When we came to office in December 1975 there were 343 939 people registered as unemployed, thanks to the policies of the Labor Government. Now there are 354 989 people unemployed. That is the important figure. About 10 000 people have lost their jobs during this period, but when one takes into account -
– Are you proud of that?
– We are not proud of it. We appreciate the problems. There is nothing more tragic than people being out of work, and we are doing what we can. In the 3 years of Labor administration 191 000 people were forced out of work, and 10 000 in the last 12 months. I submit that the unemployment situation is not dissimilar to a slippery slide. I am surprised that there is no laughter. It is easy to go down the slippery slide but it is much harder to stay level. One thing that we have done since we came to power has been to stabilise the situation to a very large extent. We have stabilised the numbers of people becoming unemployed, and that is the important thing. It has not been easy to achieve. I appreciate that there are problems in looking at the situation in purely numerical terms when we are dealing with human beings, but taking into account that the Regional Employment Development scheme was being run down when we came to office, very few people have become unemployed during the period of the present Government’s reign. I suggest that that is a significant achievement.
The causes of unemployment are many. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has spoken about some of them and I do not intend to canvass them in the time available to me. There is no doubt, as the community realises, that the wage spiral encouraged by the Labor Government has been the primary cause of inflation and the primary cause of unemployment. The tragedy is that employees have priced themselves out of jobs because of the wage spiral encouraged by the Labor Government. Young kids in Australia who have qualifications and who have work capacity can still find work. The unfortunate ones are the young people with lower qualifications and a lower work capacity. They are the ones about whom we must be concerned. The price of labour today is too high and employers are looking for value from their employees. I am not speaking on behalf of the Government when I confess that it will be very difficult indeed to get the unemployment figure down; but on any reasonable analysis of the figures one can see that there has been an improvement in the situation. I believe that there will continue to be an improvement as times goes on, and the people of Australia will recognise that improvement as it continues.
We have heard from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) their ideas on how we can overcome our problems. Perhaps one is entitled to be cynical about their suggestions because of their failure and the failure of their Government to act between 1 972 and 1975. It seems to me from listening to their comments that what they are suggesting is that we must increase government expenditure. They say: ‘Spend more and more of the taxpayers’ money and you will solve all the problems’. It is the old solution.
– That is nonsense.
-That is what they are saying- ‘ Spend more and more of the taxpayers’ money’- but they are ignoring all the best advice that is available at the present time. Labor’s solutions just will not work, as the RED scheme did not work. I think that Labor wants to reintroduce the RED scheme. Digging holes and filling them up again was all that was achieved by that scheme, and then the previous Government wiped it. I am pleased that an inquiry is being conducted at the moment by Mr Norgard into the CES and related matters. I believe that the community wants to look very closely at the CES and its operation. Moreover the community is concerned about the unemployment figure and wants it analysed properly. The Minister has mentioned a number of anomalies that occur when employers who appear to be genuine people are saying that there is no unemployment crisis and they cannot get people to fill jobs. This is happening all over the country. Mind you, many decent Labor supporters admit that this is being said all over the country. In fact, some of them are saying it themselves. So this inquiry might uncover some of the problems.
One example which comes to mind is the situation in Queenstown in my electorate. Honourable members on both sides of the House will remember the problems of the Mount Lyell Railway and Mining Co. at Queenstown. Some 300 people were retrenched from that company. I am told by officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service that in Queenstown now only 1 1 people are registered for employment- 1 1 people out of some 300 people who were retrenched. We see how high the bald unemployment figures are, yet people who are really keen to get work and have a good work record are able to get jobs, even in a State like Tasmania where there is a high unemployment figure. I am not saying there are not genuine people. There are many genuine people around who are out of work and who want jobs, there is no doubt about that. But honourable members opposite do not understand the unemployment figures. With respect, I do not think the Government fully understands the unemployment figures. I think the figures have to be analysed. I hope that Mr Norgard will investigate these figures and perhaps come up with some answers and explain some of the anomalies.
This Government is doing a good deal to alleviate the unemployment situation in this country. The most significant action it has taken has been to try to achieve recovery in the economy, and I believe that recovery is under way. It is very gradual indeed, but it is under way. If honourable members look at the situation objectively they must agree with that statement. Only by achieving a recovery in the economy will we get these young unemployed people into the work force. As I have said, I believe this recovery is under way. We are on the road back. It will not be easy. Honourable members opposite laugh at the figures I have quoted, but if they look at them objectively they will see that there are signs of a significant improvement, and I think the public is recognising that this improvement is occurring.
-The discussion is now concluded.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: HMA Naval Dockyard, Williamstown, Vic- Modernisation of facilities, stage 2.
The proposal is for the provision of improved ship refitting facilities and outfitting and administration facilities. The proposed work comprises: New Nelson Pier West, crosswharf and workshop; extension to existing pipe shop; new dockyard store, oil fuel installation and gate house; temporary fleet maintenance party workshop; extension of electrical, mechanical and hydraulic services, including provision of new boiler house; and services tunnel extension. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $24m at July 1976 prices.
– I take it that the Public Accounts Committee is happy with this proposal. I hope that the expenditure of $24m will eventually put the Williamstown Naval Dockyard into such a situation that Australia will not need to import ships, particularly warships. The desperate situation in the Australian shipbuilding and ship repair industry is now public knowledge. All the evidence that has come before the defence committee which is looking into this matter indicates of course that Australian dockyards ought to have been re-equipped years ago. There is no evidence from anywhere to indicate that Australian workers and Australian managers given the appropriate equipment cannot compete with anyone else. I hope that by modernising the faculties at the dockyard it will mean that there will no longer be any need for Australia to look overseas for the manufacture of its naval vessels. Perhaps at some time the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) could give the House a run down on the future position of our dockyards. I guess the information is in a document somewhere. I think it would be of general assistance to the community if there were a definitive statement on the effective future of such places and particularly on their capacity to build naval vessels completely and, if that is not
– In the first place, this matter was referred to the Public Works Committee. I think the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) referred to the Public Accounts Committee. Perhaps it would not be inappropriate to read from the report an extract from the evidence taken by that Committee. This is relevant to the inquiry made by the honourable member.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I assume no one else is desirous of speaking on this subject?
– I shall take the opportunity, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank you very much for giving me that opportunity.
– We are now in the position that the Minister is closing the debate by replying to the honourable member for Wills. Perhaps the Minister can assist the House. I think it would be helpful if he concluded his remarks now and then the honourable member for Burke could be granted leave to make a short statement.
– Why cannot the honourable member for Burke continue? If the honourable member for Burke, who will provide a most ap- propriate accompaniment to the speech of the onourable member for Wills, puts nis view now the Minister can then close the debate because in another 24 hours or so the whole thing will be off the notice paper and will not come up again. So we might as well debate the subject properly.
– Perhaps the honourable member for Burke could continue.
– The House is debating the motion that certain works should proceed. Therefore I do not need leave to speak. I can speak as a matter of right because I am speaking to the motion. Is that right?
-Yes. I had pointed out to the honourable member for Burke that I had called the Minister because no one else rose. In the strict technical sense the Minister has closed the debate. In the circumstances I think it would be best if the honourable member for Burke were to commence his remarks and speak to the motion which is that certain work shall proceed. I call the honourable member for Burke.
– I take up the point raised by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). The report of the Public Works Committee will quite clearly show to
I might just say in conclusion that I hope that honourable members will pay careful attention to both reports- the present report and the previous report- on the Williamstown Naval Dockyard. I think that after reading the reports honourable members would agree that Williamstown Naval Dockyard would probably be one of the best equipped dockyards in Australia.
– Without keeping the House for any undue length of time may I commend the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) for exposing a range of considerations which have not been referred to by the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay). I must say that I am personally intrigued with the proposal- I am certainly not antagonistic to it; I would not want to give that impression- that there ought to be extensions to the HMA Naval Dockyard at Williamstown at a time when dockyard facilities in Australia are standing in heavy surplus and retrenchments are the order of the day. Perhaps there are some special requirements for naval dockyards. But I know that at Garden Island in Sydney there are frequent problems concerning the availability of employment and a very great degree of uncertainty pervades that establishment.
That has certainly been the case in Newcastle. I think that the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay), in seeking the endorsement of the 356 REPRESENTATIVES 23 February 1977 HMA Naval Dockyard, Williamstown
House for this expenditure-frankly, I do not know the amount that is involved in the construction of the Naval Dockyard at Williamstown and the modernisation of facilities there-ought to be making out a case of justification. There are shipyards in many parts of Australia and there are facilities at HMAS Stirling as well. It would seem to me that if one is seeking to justify the substantial expenditure which must be involved for this purpose, in a situation where there is excess capacity in the commercial shipbuilding area, it is necessary to provide information about the deployment of the fleet. How much of our fleet, for example, is to be sensibly deployed in the southern parts of Australia as compared with the west, the north and the north-eastern coast line? Is Melbourne, in fact, the place to locate this facility.
I put it to the House that the Minister appears to me to be treating this matter in a fairly cursory and cavalier way. As one who has had the job on many occasions, as a former Minister for Works, of justifying public works expenditure, I have always found it necessary and to be an obligation to equip myself with a case that I thought would be adequate to satisfy both the Parliament and the people. The amount of money involved - $24m- is no mean amount. I know that the Minister is the builder and that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) might be expected to know more about these things than the Minister for Construction, but the Government has an obligation to make out a case in these times when it is possible to spend $24m in ways that could be extremely advantageous to many areas of deprivation in Australia. I ask the Minister either to indicate his capacity to placate the anxiety of the Parliament about this matter or to call for help from some other Minister.
– in reply- Might I say that I looked around the chamber earlier and there was no one standing. I had no wish to close the debate then if anyone had wished to make a contribution. I think that the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) were not in particularly good taste, especially having regard to the fact that he was the Minister with this responsibility in the previous Government. The remarks of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) seem to me to be entirely appropriate and I think they answered the criticisms of some of the other speakers. The honourable member for Hughes is a former Chairman of the Public Works Committee -
– A distinguished one.
– The present Chairman has reminded me that he was a distinguished chairman and is, I think, currently the Deputy Chairman of the Public Works Committee. So the Committee is in good hands. I need to go on and complete the document which I was reading earlier. The Public Works Committee, reporting favourably on the construction of this work, has commented:
The Committee note with concern that there are no specific proposals for a destroyer construction program and suggest that other avenues be explored to explore the maximum utilisation of ship construction facilities.
In regard to this comment the Government has commenced investigations into the concepts, characteristics and costs of destroyers, preferably for construction in Australia. The use of Williamstown Naval Dockyard for the construction of new destroyers will figure predominantly in these considerations. Constructions of other naval vessels will also be examined against the background of capability and work load at the dockyard. The Committee recommended:
The Department of Defence and the Department of Construction should consult further to ensure that the proposed extension to the Melbourne Harbour Trust Wharf is really necessary.
The Government accepts this recommendation and arrangements will be made for the Department of Defence and the Department of Construction to re-examine the need to extend the Melbourne Harbour Trust Wharf. I will also ensure that the Committee is advised of the outcome of further examinations. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee. I refer all honourable members interested in this matter to the report and recommend that they read it because it is a very interesting and comprehensive report and there is a whole page dealing with need, which is the matter raised by the honourable member for Hughes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the validation until 30 June 1977 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs
TariffProposals 1 to 5 introduced into the Parliament last Tuesday and not enacted to date. Under section 226 of the Customs Act the collection of duties in pursuance of Customs TariffProposals is protected against legal challenge for 6 months or until the close of the session of Parliament, whichever occurs first. The introduction and passage of a validation Bill is therefore a necessary machinery measure which takes over from section 226 pending the introduction of a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill which will formally enact the tariff changes contained in the Proposals.
It is anticipated a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill will be introduced during the autumn session to cover the Proposals included in this Bill. Honourable members will have a further opportunity at that time to debate the Proposals or any general questions of Government tariff policies. Full details of the changes concerned were supplied to honourable members at the time of introduction of the relevant Tariff Proposals. I commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
-The people involved in the industries covered by this amendment have not been knocking on our door complaining about the recommendations. Nevertheless, I want to use the opportunity, as do some of my colleagues, to say something about what the Opposition considers is occurring in manufacturing industry and some of the problems with which we will perhaps be confronted. Obviously the Government is facing some dilemma on this matter as a result of the 2 questions that have been asked from the back benches today and yesterday about the policies that it ought to be adopting. In terms of the role of the Industries Assistance Commission or the suggested amendments to the role of the Temporary Assistance Authority, obviously there are a lot of question marks hanging over the role and future of manufacturing industry and it would expect that the national Parliament would be taking more than a passing interest in what might occur.
Before I turn to the actual impact of the IAC reports or the reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority on the industries themselves, let me say that in my tour of industry during the Christmas break and subsequently, I found that a number of industries were in the throes of making decisions about their future and about the future employment that may be available in those industries. Yesterday an announcement was made that the December quarter resulted in a 6 per cent increase in the cost of living. This will become the subject of a national wage case commencing next week. Of that 6 per cent increase, if we take the word of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), 3.2 per cent is made up of the Medibank charges or the change in the health scheme arrangements in Australia. The 3.2 per cent of the increase should not be subject to any debate because the Government promised that the 3.2 per cent would not be opposed. So the argument will revolve around whether 3.2 per cent is passed on or whether it is 3.2 per cent plus 2.8 per cent. So one can imagine that there is a fair dilemma in the minds of those who manage and work in our manufacturing industries throughout Australia. That is the situation which applies to the December quarter. But then we are faced with the problem of the devaluation and what that might do to the consumer price index for the first quarter of 1977. Most people seem to be predicting I do not have the expertise in this subject and I do not make the prediction myself- a 5 per cent increase in the CPI for the first quarter of 1977. That is the figure which is most commonly used.
-Order! I wonder whether the honourable member for Port Adelaide would care to tie bis remarks to the Bill so that I can understand what they are about.
-Debate on Bills such as this always revolves around the impact upon manufacturing industry. If we are looking at the things that are going to affect manufacturing industry, we can hardly leave aside the relationship between pay increases and Industries Assistance Commission reports, otherwise we are asked to walk on one leg. I am just looking at the problems that will be confronted by manufacturing industry.
– I rise on a point of order to ask through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, exactly what the honourable member is saying and whether what he is saying has any relationship to the Bill which is a Bill to validate duties collected in pursuance of Customs TariffProposals Nos 1 to 5. 1 suggest that the remarks of the honourable member for Port Adelaide have nothing at all to do with the Bill and that he should be asked to confine his remarks to the Bill.
-From memory, I think that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has made a valid point, namely, that traditionally a fairly wide ranging debate has been allowed on Customs Validation Bills.
Nevertheless, I do not think the Chair ought to look that leniently on a speech that does not refer to the validation of those Bills. I suggest to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that as he proceeds he should tie his remarks to the Bill.
-I am not wasting the time of the House. If I wanted to waste half an hour I could simply read from one of the reports. I could do that quite simply. I am not taking up very much time of the House. I am merely putting forward what I consider to be the great questions that have to be answered by manufacturing industry and the proposition that the Government has to understand the position in which it is placing manufacturing industry. It may be to the delight of some honourable members sitting on the back benches opposite that there is the demise of manufacturing industry. To my mind, there is a sad lack of understanding by the entire Government of what is happening in manufacturing industry. I do not say that unkindly; I think that charge would be made by many representatives of employer groups. In fact, the first paragraph of the editorial in the latest issue of the Manufacturers Monthly seems to me to be quite damning on the question of the way in which the Government is dealing with manufacturing industry. The 5 IAC reports we have before us deal with manufacturing industry. We cannot isolate them and say that the industries dealt with in those reports will boom while all the others will go to the wall or that they are not being affected by the IAC. This is what the Manufacturers Monthly says in its latest report:
The draft White Paper on manufacturing industry prepared by the Department of Industry and Commerce has simply been another effort in governmental ad hockery stupidity and ineptitude.
So what I am saying to the Government is that the charges that are made- namely, that perhaps the IAC ought to be let run loose at a time when there is some sort of economic stability- is not the case that ought to be made out when we have a situation such as that which we have at the moment, namely, an economic recession. As I said at the outset, I have not had people knocking at my door asking me to protest about the changes that are proposed in the reports under discussion, but obviously great changes are taking place in industry and the Government is not acknowledging them, nor is it bringing forward any policies to deal with them. As I said, you cannot separate that problem and the problems that industry is going to confront, whether it be manufacturing industry or primary industry, in regard to the national wage case which will begin next week or the national wage case which will follow. As I said, the Government has made a promise in relation to the additional Medibank component of the CPI of 3.2 per cent. If the Government keeps its promise all industry in Australia obviously has to gear up for at least a 3.2 per cent wage increase. The trade unions will set about making out a case in relation to the 2.8 per cent increase which resulted from the devaluation. At the next national wage case which follows the one commencing next week arguments will be put forward for another 5 per cent increase. So manufacturing industry faces many problems this year.
It cannot be said: ‘Look, let us see manufacturing industry decline, because if we see the decline of manufacturing industry we will assist the export industries’. At the moment you cannot talk in those terms, with at least 350 000 people out of work. No honourable member opposite, except perhaps those who live at Tarlee, can put forward the argument that at the moment, at a time of economic recession, that is a sensible way of trying to solve the problems. I simply wished to raise those questions. I hope also that before any legislation is introduced which seeks to amend the Industries Assistance Commission Act a statement is made in the House so that we can discuss those matters and perhaps get a clearer idea of the form that the amendments will follow when they are introduced into the House.
I put forward seriously those views about the position in which we now find manufacturing industry, because many jobs no longer exist. My colleague, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), led the debate earlier today on unemployment. Obviously many jobs now no longer exist in manufacturing industry which used to offer an opportunity for people who live in the cities. It is untrue to say that the population is moving away from where the industries are situated in Australia. It cannot be said that we are providing new opportunities or new employment opportunities for people in other parts of Australia. It is untrue to say that perhaps the mining industry can take up the slack created by manufacturing industry, because that also is not happening in Australia at the moment. What the Government ought to be doing-this relates very much to the operations of the 2 authorities- is seeing what it can do to engender some sort of lift in manufacturing industry which will put people back in work for the time being.
The present situation affects honourable members opposite more than it does honourable members on this side of the House because with their present numbers they now represent most of industry in Australia. They ought to be thinking seriously about providing opportunities for adults, whether it be in apprenticeships, in full time employment, in retraining, or in relation to the semi-skilled workers and process workers in Australia. These things ought to be looked at so that we can overcome the great social crime which has been committed in Australia. I refer to the ignorance of the plight of the people who are unemployed. It is of more than just passing interest when we talk about manufacturing industry in Australia. Something quite substantial can be done. Suggestions have been put to the Government about what ought to be done. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave- I thank the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) for agreeing to interrupt his remarks.
I wish to report to this House on the forthcoming visit to Australia of Her Majesty, the Queen of Australia, and our plans to commemorate Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee. The Queen will arrive in Canberra on 7 March, accompanied by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, and will spend 3 weeks in Australia. Parliament is to be prorogued and the Queen will open a new session of Parliament on Tuesday, 8 March. She will then visit all States and the Northern Territory. Mr Speaker, we are delighted that the Queen has chosen to visit Australia as one of the first events of her Jubilee year. I know that she and Prince Philip will receive the warmest welcome from all Australians. There exists a special affection and deep respect on the part of Australians for the Queen, which will be further strengthened by Her Majesty’s visit here next month. I know that great numbers of Australians will wish to see the Queen in person while she is here. Wherever possible, arrangements will be made to ensure that Commonwealth Government employees are afforded the opportunity to see Her Majesty. The Government urges all States, private industry, other employers, and educational institutions to take similar action so that no Australian is denied the opportunity to see Her Majesty at some point during her tour.
In addition to the formal opening of Parliament, Her Majesty’s role as Queen of Australia will be highlighted immediately after her arrival on 7 March. At a luncheon at Government House, the Governor-General, as Chancellor of the Order of Australia, will present to Her Majesty her badge as Sovereign of the Order. The badge has been made by a skilled Australian craftsman, Stuart Devlin, who has designed all the insignia for the Order of Australia. The badge depicts the Australian wattle flower and is made of gold and set with yellow diamonds. On 9 March, an investiture will be held at Government House at which Her Majesty will present the first awards in the Order of Australia. She will also confer a number of knighthoods and will make the first presentation of Australian bravery decorations, including 2 posthumous awards.
The Government has decided to make a personal gift to Her Majesty as a symbol of the respect and affection felt for her by all Australians. Knowing her long and active interest in thoroughbred racing- an interest which is shared by a large number of Australians- we felt that it would be appropriate if we presented Her Majesty with an Australian thoroughbred. Arrangements are being concluded with the South Australian breeder and trainer, Mr Colin Hayes of Lindsay Park Stud, for a number of foals to be bred to the European racing calendar from the well known sire Without Fear. The mares concerned include High Desire, Pearl of Albion, Portal, Defiant and Rose of Kempton. The best foal will be selected and trained and then sent to England for presentation to the Queen on behalf of the people of Australia. This is a long term project. I am sure that all Australians will take a keen interest in the development of the foals, and in the success of the selected foal when it carries the Queen’s colours in Europe and hopefully to victory after victory.
Australian participation in the commemoration of the Silver Jubilee will not end with the departure of the Queen from Australia on 30 March. As announced on behalf of the Governor-General on 16 November last, the Queen has approved the institution of a medal to be known as ‘The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal’ to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of her accession to the Throne. The medal will be struck for issue as a personal award from the Queen to people from all walks of life in Australia, the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries who have rendered service to the Crown or to the community. The Commonwealth and State governments have agreed to participate -in the awards. It is expected that the Australian list of recipients will be announced within the next few -months. The medals will be distributed in June. Other commemorative events will include the issue of a special SOc coin, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) on 1 November last year, and 2 special commemorative stamps issued by the Post Office on 2 February.
A major event of the Silver Jubilee commemoration in Britain will be the special thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on 7 June. Australia will be represented at the service and the Government will facilitate the attendance of those Australians invited to the service. Each arm of Australia’s defence Services will send representatives to the United Kingdom to take part in various events there during the year. It is proposed that 3 Australian ships- the aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, the missile destroyer, HMAS Brisbane, and an Oberon class submarine- attend the naval review at Spithead, Portsmouth, on 28 June. The Army Band will fly to London in July in a RAAF CI 30 Hercules to take part in the Royal Tournament at Earls Court. The Royal Australian Air Force will send 2 aircraft-an Fl 1 1C supported by a CI 30 Herculesto the Royal Air Force review on 29 July at Finningley, South Yorkshire.
The Government believes that the churches in Australia would wish to mark the commemoration of the Jubilee. Church leaders have been approached, inviting them to give consideration to the holding of appropriate services. I am sure that Australians of all faiths will appreciate the opportunity to participate in denominational or ecumenical services to mark this special occasion.
Honourable members will know that an appeal has been launched in the United Kingdomthe Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal- to commemorate Her Majesty’s Jubilee. The United Kingdom Appeal, which is led by His Royal Highness Prince Charles, is by the Queen’s wish dedicated to young people. The Commonwealth Government has decided to conduct an appeal in Australia with the beneficiaries to be the younger generation of Australians. I am honoured to announce that His Royal Highness Prince Charles has consented to be Royal Patron of the Australian Appeal. Their Excellencies, the Governor-General and the Governors of the States, will be vice-patrons of the Appeal. The Australian Appeal- also to be known as the ‘Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal’- will have as its target the raising of $5m of which the Commonwealth Government will contribute $2m. I have written to the State Premiers inviting their cooperation and suggesting that they associate their States with the Appeal. The public will also be invited to subscribe. All donations to the
Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal will be tax deductible.
The total proceeds of the Appeal will be used to establish a trust which will be a registered charity. The trust will be styled The Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Trust and its income will be applied, in part, to foster involvement in and service to the community by young people. The trust will also provide opportunities, particularly where they would not otherwise exist, for talented young Australians to further their careers by additional study and training, if necessary overseas. The emphasis will be on advancing levels of excellence in the broadest sense and developing a sense of purpose among individuals. Young people will be encouraged to develop qualities of initiative and leadership and to serve the community further through voluntary associations and organisations. Primarily, assistance will be given to young people working in the service of the community and in the trade and technical fields-for example, young apprentices, craftsmen and trainee nurses. Grants will not normally be available for furthering university or post-graduate education, as the Government believes adequate arrangements already exist to cater for such matters.
The trust will give consideration to giving financial support to any proposals put forward by community organisations which are designed to involve young people in the life and welfare of the community. The trust will be responsive to community views, particularly those of the younger generation, in deciding how to carry out its objectives. The Appeal will be conducted by a national committee assisted by State committees. A most distinguished Australian, Sir Ian McLennan, K.B.E., known throughout Australia as an outstanding industrialist and public spirited citizen, has agreed to act as Honorary Chairman of the National Appeal Committee. Chairmen of State and Territories committees are in the process of being appointed and an announcement of their appointment will be made shortly.
I commend this Appeal to all Australians as one that is a most worthy tribute to our Queen and a constructive program to help young Australians in a continuing manner.
The Government has considered a number of proposals for special events to commemorate the Silver Jubilee. To plan, arrange and co-ordinate these events we are establishing a Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation. I am pleased to announce that we have secured the agreement of
Mr Harry M. Miller to serve in an honorary capacity as Chairman of the Organisation. Mr Miller is admirably suited to this task, being a leading theatrical producer and an outstanding personality in Australian business and cultural life. He has generously placed his talents at the service of this and preceding governments. Mr Miller will be assisted by a small team of skilled personnel to help to plan and arrange selected activities. It is the Government’s earnest desire that Her Majesty’s visit to Australia and the Silver Jubilee year commemoration be a happy and memorable one for the Queen and for all Australians. We are confident that the people of Australia will ensure by the warmth of their welcome to our Queen that her visit to Australia will be a highlight of her Silver Jubilee.
– It is not my intention to detain the House any longer. I understand there will be other speakers in this debate. I put it to the Government that it ought to be looking seriously at the question of employment in the manufacturing industry, and I have taken the opportunity given in debating this Bill to say so. I nope that other honourable members from both sides of the House will support the sentiments I am expressing.
-I support the Customs Tariff Validation Bill. I feel that it is about time that we stopped some of the nonsense which has been spoken for some time between 2 groups which have been trying to divide this country. I refer to the free trade group and the so-called protectionist group. For too long too many people have asserted that what is happening in this country is not good for the country. Tariffs are an historical means of protecting industries against unfair competition, against dumping, against low wages and against different standards of living which exist throughout the world. Tariffs are an extremely important means of keeping Australians in jobs. Tariffs are the means of keeping this Government and this country in a position which will ensure the future of our country. Australia- I say this deliberately to the free traders- is one nation. I am fed up and sick and tired of hearing the rubbish which has been spoken by a minority of people representing a minority of interests. Those people are extremely selfish. The free trade groups seek to divide this Australia of ours. I say to them very briefly: No protection, no jobs. I would like to hear what they intend doing with the people who do not have jobs and how they intend paying for those people who are unemployed.
I think it is necessary to get the whole situation in correct perspective by going back to the period immediately after the Second World War. At that time we had come through a conflict and we found that we could not produce certain types of items which were necessary for our defence. We could not produce radios, torches or a whole range of items which are so necessary for our daily living. The man who led this country in a great government, Sir Robert Menzies-then Bob Menzies- got together a team of people and said: ‘What are we going to do to ensure that this nation is not faced with the type of problem as we had during the conflict of 1939-45?’ He worked with a group of people. They decided to adopt the program which became known as the import replacement policy. Under that scheme if an English or Hong Kong made radio was imported for £1 and it cost the Australian producer 30s. to make the same type of item a tariff of 10s. was imposed. That policy applied right across the length and breadth of our nation. Out of that we grew substantially in population. We were able to bring a number of migrants to this country and provide them with jobs. We built a number of industries which were so terribly important to the growth of this nation.
One hears academic arguments that we have too many motor vehicle manufacturers in this country and that they should not be subsidised. Again I say that that is a selfish attitude by a group of people. Those people are saying: ‘We do not want to pay $6,000 for a motor vehicle. We want to pay $2,500. In that way we will get a cheaper car . But what about the hundreds and thousands of people who will be thrown out of jobs? I ask those people to answer that question. During the 1950s a number of industries come to Australia. They brought their own capital. They brought their wealth. This resulted in a great degree of involvement by the Australian people in a number of new industries. This progressed during the 1960s. At the same time we had a mineral boom and the Australian became the envy of the world.
On 2 December 1972 a disaster struck. That disaster was the voting into office of a Labor socialist government. We saw the academics unleashed and then, the academics were pushing aside the public servants who had been advising relevant people in this sector for a number of years. They presented an idea to the government of the day. In July 1973 a decision was made to cut tariffs across the board by 25 per cent. What that decision effectively meant was that we treated a Mini Minor in the same way as we treated a Rolls Royce. We treated the female shoe hand made on the Italian last in the same way as we treated the mainland China thong or the Hong Kong thong. It was like chalk and cheese- none had any relationship to the other. But that demonstrates the type of government we had. That Government had a lack of understanding of anything that was going on in this area.
The effect of that decision was that the number of unemployed people of this country, which stood at 128 000 when the Labor Party came into government, rose dramatically. The figure kept on rising until the Labor Party was soundly defeated on 13 December 1975. That tariff decision of 1973 unfortunately started a chain reaction which has not yet completely stopped. That decision effectively destroyed a great number of our Australian industries. A great number of those industries were labour intensive. A great number of Australian businessmen who had worked hard and built businesses in the main from little or nothing had to decide whether to go ahead, fall back or leave the nation. I refer now to the difficult decision made by a number of people to go off-shore. That decision was made e 1974-75 period and the movement continued into the early part of 1976. I ask those people who went off-shore to reconsider their position. I ask those off-shore manufacturers to come back to Australia and to employ their fellow Australians once more.
A second group of people bit the bullet. Those people continued in Australia and cut costs as much as they possibly could. They realised that as the flood of imports started to arrive they had an extremely difficult period ahead. I have met a number of these businessmen. In a lot of cases, they were migrant people who came to this country in the 1950s or in the late 1940s, with little or nothing. They came here and made their homes here. They worked hard and long and raised their children here. They established themselves in the Australian society. In the main they made a significant contribution to the Australian society by their culture, their dedication and hard work and their culinary tastes which they brought to Australia from their own country. The third group of people were ones who could not survive, who could not go off-shore and who unfortunately went broke or closed their businesses. They put the dust covers on their machines. Those people are the ones who I believe are the most difficult people to face today because they realise that what they worked towards for a number of years has been completely and utterly destroyed.
I am deeply concerned that a number of people in the labour-intensive industries, the protected industries, do not feel that they have confidence in the Government today. I must say to them that this is a good government which is terribly concerned for their future. It is making every effort to right the wrongs as soon as possible, to ensure that what went on in the past is corrected and to ensure that the future which is being mapped out now and in the near future, in announcements, will be something on which they can totally rely. I am deeply pleased to say that I am a member of this side, with a Prime Minister who has shown by public statements his concern in this area, with 2 Ministers- one in this House and one in the other House- who have not only shown their concern but have gone further and announced decisions to ensure the future of this industry.
Not all the decisions have been announced yet. Not all the tariffs or quotas or the degree of protection which will be afforded have been announced because a number of reports must be forthcoming before the decisions can be made in the Cabinet. Then they will flow through to the Australian people. It will help the people who have placed their confidence in this country and in labour-intensive industries, who know that they cannot compete with Asian nations which can produce goods cheaply because the largest amount of money that is paid for a 40-hour week is $5 or $6. Those nations do not have the standard of living that we have. While I am on this subject, I believe it is terribly relevant that we get the situation in perspective. The average weekly wage paid in Australia is one of the highest in the world. The average weekly wage in Australia is currently $47 a week more than the average weekly wage in the United States of America. We are the only country in which workers get 4 weeks paid annual leave. We are the only country in which a per cent loading is paid on annual leave. We are the only country which has more than 5 statutory holidays per year. We achieved those distinctions with the support of the socialist Labor Party, with the support of left wing unions which want to see how much thenworkers can get by doing as little as possible.
If we agree to that type of wage structure, that entitlement to holidays, that loading, the standards to which we have been accustomed, etc., we must pay for them. That is a simple, basic fact of life. We must pay for them. The sooner people who want to see protected industries destroyed realise that, the sooner we will get on with the job of employing fellow Australians who were placed on the unemployment lists as a result of the academic decisions of the previous Government. In 1972 in this country 8 out of 10 people on the average weekly wage of $80 a week could afford to buy a home and service the loan. In 1975, after 3 years of rule by the Labor Party, the rate had slipped to 2 out of every 10 people on the average weekly wage of over $165 a week. That is the legacy of academic theorising, and that is the legacy of not protecting our industries.
Assertions have been made in this place and in the Press that the protected industries, by virtue of their protection, have made sweetheart agreements with the trade unions. I turn to the area in which sweetheart agreements have been made with the trade unions. I refer to the primary producing area, particularly the mining industry. Employees in the mining industry live in an airconditioned home which is serviced free. They are being paid big money every week. Next door people have been involved in the farming industry for some considerable time. They cannot afford to pay a giant salary or provide a magnificent air-conditioned home. Recently I read with interest about a fellow who drives a train. He works in an air-conditioned cabin. He lives in an air-conditioned home. His children attend a free school. He has a crib which is supplied by the company and which includes a choice of smoked salmon, roast turkey, roast duck, a choice of 3 fruit juices or tea or coffee. That is supplied to a man who drives a train from an airconditioned cabin. He also gets $600 a fortnight. He lives in a completely rent-free home. People such as this man are claiming that in certain areas, in the protected industries, there are sweetheart agreements.
– Where was he driving this train?
– Are there any vacancies?
-I feel that some of the people from the Opposition who are interjecting should earn their pay by driving one of these trains. They should find out what these men are doing. Because of the high wage structure and the benefits which have been offered for a considerable period, certain industries have now reached the stage at which the margin per ton of certain types of ore that are being exported is down to 40c. If the wages that are demanded by certain unions are paid and if the terms and conditions that are put forward are accepted, those industries would have to close because they could not afford to pay.
I return to the labour-intensive industries. We continually hear the argument that we must get involved with other countries because of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I bring to the attention of the House the fact that countries which are signatories to GATT have never stuck to it when people in their countries have been unemployed. Recently Canada decided to solve its unemployment problem, particularly in the garment textile area. It solved the problem all right It shut the door on all imports. That really fixed up everybody. Australia still represents only a very small market. If we imported from Hong Kong every item of clothing for men, women, girls and boys, we would represent less than one per cent of the total export market of Hong Kong. We are not big. People are prepared to say: ‘Let us close down that industry because of its degree of protection. Let us put those people out of jobs. Let us ensure that those people who have been working in the industry for a number of years, who are specialised in the industry and who want to stay in the industry, are put out of jobs. We do not care about them. We will put them out of work. We will adopt the selfish approach. We will ensure that those people who could be employed or who should be employed are not employed. ‘
– That is what the Labor Government did.
-The Labor Government not only did that, my friend and colleague, but it also went further because it destroyed the infrastructure of these very important labour intensive industries of Australia. The wage-cost spiral, which was deliberately set about by that Government, pushed the costs to such a high extent that people all of a sudden saw the vast difference in prices. For example, a garment which sold in Hong Kong for 85 cents might be manufactured and retailed in Australia for $3.99. (Extension of time granted). Australia has a great future but it must be tied up with the people who are employed in our industries.
The problems of unemployment which we inherited when we took office have been solved to a large degree. We have cut the rate of unemployment which had risen dramatically through 1973, 1974 and 1975. We stopped it at the peak of 354 000 people. The future of our nation is an important issue. I believe that we must continue to be involved with legislation relating to tariffs and the protection of industries. We must ensure that we give people guidelines for the future. One of the ways in which we can do this is by ensuring that they are protected.
-Before I call the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) I remind the House that while the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) was talking a point of order was raised. I gave my opinion that Customs Validation Bills allowed a fairly free ranging debate. Since then I have been informed that that opinon was incorrect. From now on I would request all honourable members to stick fairly closely to the Customs Bill under consideration when they make their speeches.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you have certainly limited my remarks by what you have just said. However, I am anxious to rebut what has already been said and I hope that you will not take too fine a line in that sense. I will address my remarks through the Chair to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) on the basis that this validation indicates that he is virtually validating some of the other matters that he introduced into the House on 7 December last. The Minister in his second reading speech said:
These proposals implement the Government’s decision which I foreshadowed in this House on 7 December last.
The Minister perhaps has not had a chance to look at the specific items under consideration but I just want to emphasise again how such decisions can cause difficulties and an immense amount of damage. The worthy Minister on 7 December last introduced into this House a wide ranging report on the result of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report into multilateral trade negotiations in which tariff was to be reduced on an enormous number of items. A schedule was then tabled in the House. That schedule was made available to the public. It was in accordance with the IAC report which at that stage was not tabled. Nevertheless we assumed that it was in accordance with the report, as it proved when the report was subsequently tabled when the House assembled this month. But in the interim, as indicated in the Minister’s statement to the House of 7 December, it was obvious that a number of tariff reductions certainly would be completed- in fact all of them, one would read into his statement, would be completed- not later than 28 January.
Appropriate commercial interests throughout the country looked at the Minister’s schedule and advised all people interested in importing and exporting- particularly importing- that this would be the schedule that would apply. As I raised by way of question in the House, people in Sydney who were relying on the good faith of statements made in this Parliament, acted in accordance with the foreshadowed reduction in tariffs, ordered substantial supplies of goods and quoted a lower price on a forward selling basis. They have now been told that that was a mistake and therefore the reduction will not take place. In other words, some alteration is to be made to the statement made in the House on 7 December.
I know that the Minister of course indicated that there might be some difficulties in relation to underdeveloped countries and matters of that nature. The point I am making is that people have suffered substantial damage as a result of Parliament being informed on 7 December that these were to be the issues. The schedule was produced, the details of the tariff reduction were available and people acted on that information in good faith. However, it was not gazetted. I think that this is a very shabby performance for any government. The Government has advised the Parliament what is to happen and people have acted on the basis of that advice. But the Government now says that it is really not going to happen now in respect of a certain number of items in the schedule. The people concerned have suffered substantial damage. I understand that the loss for one small company is $50,000. Honourable members can imagine the trouble caused by this sort of incompetent arrangement. I am not blaming the Minister because he does not really know what is involved in respect of the whole 900 items or what will happen. He has other things to do. But this is no way to handle IAC reports. The Government certainly should not give advice to the Parliament on 7 December that a report is to be acted on by 28 January when that report is not in fact acted on.
Having said that, let me come to the broader issues of what was said by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson). The honourable member made a very good speech. I must say that in the main I find myself in complete agreement with hin again. I agree that if we ever want to lose the manufacturing base in this country we should just adopt what has always been said by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), what used to be said by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) until he was elevated to the Ministry, what was said here this afternoon by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) and I would be prone to think what would be said by most members of the National Country Party despite what they might not say today.
-That is not right, Lionel.
-The honourable member will find that the National Country Party, through graziers and others, is agitating on the basic that there is far too much protection. A problem exists in this area. Everbody seems to be concerned about the efficiency of industries but nobody in the LAC seems to look at the question of what is to happen to people who are to be displaced. Thereby hangs the problem facing every government, including this one.
I can tell the honourable member for Brisbane that when I attend textile industry council meetings I am told quite frankly by people that the Labor Government was about the worst Labor government they had ever seen in their life. But they modify that by saying that the Fraser Government is the most disastrous government in the history of Australia. Why would they say that? We can understand why when we look at the Government’s incompetence and bungling in respect of import quotas in the light of what can be done by way of the manufacturing base in Australia.
The Minister would know that he could not remain in business if he did not know from the end of one 6-month period to the next what was to be the import quota. Why would he plan for investment in accordance with the bonanza of his Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in relation to the investment allowance if in fact there was nobody to buy his product? This is a valid point. I will tell the Minister now that the Labor Party has to get new policies. It will get them by maintaining the manufacturing base and by working in conjunction with employers and employees on a basis of efficiency and what is best for this country. The Government has a policy of allowing structural change to take place which has resulted in people who nave invested losing their money and the people who had jobs joining the dole queues. The Government has no hope at all of selling that as a viable policy. As has been correctly said, what other country in the world would allow such a policy?
President Carter received the plaudits of the textile workers in New York when he promised them protection. The Japanese Government guarantees to maintain Japan’s textile industry. What do we do? We get some theorist who says that it is much cheaper for us to get our shirts made in Hong Kong or Taiwan. So it is, if we just want to get a shirt at a cheaper price. When I asked the Commonwealth Statistician to tell me the benefit to the consumer or whether there had been a reduction in the consumer price index in respect of the sale of imported textiles or shirts, he said: ‘I am unable to tell you’. So we have no guarantee from the point of view of the consumer price index as to where the real benefit lies. We hear figures, such as $4,300 million quoted glibly. Maybe they are correct; but, as many manufacturers and employers say, they would love to see the bank accounts in which that money will be saved. If we just want a very cheap manufacturing industry, why not import a thousand Chinese, pay them $2 a day and make the shirts here just as cheaply as elsewhere?
Maybe we should be getting out of a number of industries. If that is intended, by all means tell the people in those industries in advance and by all means plan the reconstruction; but do not have, as we have now, a number of massive changes and reductions in tariffs. Perhaps that would be quite unsatisfactory from the point of view of some manufacturers who might be greedy and try to make excess profits. One can foreshadow that International Harvester Australia Ltd, which manufactures tractors, will not continue to function for much longer because obviously it cannot be protected for much longer. Why should it bother to continue its production in the electorate of Corio, which is represented by one of my friends on this side of the House?
– Are you a free trader?
-No, I am not a free trader. No matter what price the shirts I like are, I will buy them; but I look at what is happening to Australia. In its effort to win government at the next election the Australian Labor Party has adopted a policy that guarantees full employment at all levels. We do not have the disastrous primary production policy of members of the National Country Party, who religiously ask a question here once a month about the price of meat and get a nice answer saying: ‘It is going up and things are getting better. Of course, many people have left the land in the last 12 months, particularly those who were in meat production. If beef producers read *Hansard and the reports given to them by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) or the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), they must think something is wrong, because the prices they are getting for their beef are in no way related to the answers of Ministers.
Let us talk about efficiency in production. As was said by the honourable member for Brisbane, of course minerals can do well; but look at our work force. What the Labor Party will do, must do and obviously will be encouraged to do is to plan to help industries that we want to maintain. Certainly those that we do not want we will guarantee to tell in advance what will happen. I have had given to me by courtesy of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) a statement as to what is happening in a number of the metal trades. Mr Deputy Speaker, in case you are dunking I am deviating from the point, I point out that this is relevant to some of the items mentioned in the Bill. At Kirby’s 150 employees are due for retrenchment. At Victa Mowers 80 employees are about to be sacked. At Sunbeam 70 employees were dismissed last week and another 70 are due to be dismissed next week. At Bradford Kendall approximately 26 employees have been retrenched, 40 per cent being tradesmen. At Crompton Parkinson 50 employees are to be retrenched in the very near future. Smith Industries is to reduce its work force from 1000 to 300.
These retrenchments are on the basis that we can maintain the relativity if we just allow a surge of imports. We should wake up to the fact that many of our managerial class who are interested in profit have realised that it is much more profitable for them to move factory operations to a low wage country and to import to Australia. In the footwear industry it is well known that one major company actually bought machines in Australia to commence additional factory production in Melbourne, and when it realised that it would not have continuity of protection it moved the machines to the Philippines and employed workers there to make shoes and imported them here.
Maybe that is fair and reasonable if we look at the whole balance of world trade, but nobody in the field of world trade is fair and reasonable. I have never seen any country play it so tough and so hard as the United States of America. In the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Kennedy Round of talks it negotiated protection for all its industries first and then said that because Australia had not protected its industries it should not try to protect them now. The textile industry in the United States is 90 per cent protected. The United States will maintain that protection because it suits it. We have no objection to that, but I remind the House that when Labor started to lower protection in accordance with its fundamental belief that there should be freer trade, particularly with developing countries, we received a protest note from the United States saying that we were not doing well enough and that we had put up some temporary tariffs. We asked the people delivering the note: ‘How is it that you have protected all your industries?’ They said: ‘We did that before the GATT negotiations commenced, and you did not do it’. This is a very fine line. It is like a High Court argument about the wording of a Bill.
We are dealing with trade. In the multilateral trade negotiations taking place in Geneva there is very strong pressure on us, again from the United States, to lower tariffs again. But if we try to suggest to the United States that it lower tariffs I guarantee that it will say that it wants to maintarn the negotiated agreements it already has. We have obviously upset a number of our neighbours, particularly the Philippines, which knew that what we had done to it was not really fair. At the same time we have to ask: What is to happen to the industries that have started here? They have started, and now they have no production. So there can be international friction which is of no value to Australia. The United States has been capable of escaping all that criticism by the manipulation of the GATT Kennedy Round talks. The Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) has appointed to his staff an economic adviser to advise on how he will be able to assist underdeveloped countries. I applaud that. It must happen. But the leaders of underdeveloped countries do not want just a semblance of help for their industries. African leaders want real markets for their goods. They certainly can produce them, but when they come into production they are mystified to find that the shipping combines or others have increased the freight rates for thengoods well above what might have been the protection. Many of them established industries thinking that they had a market. They have a market all right, but they have to pay freight at a rate that is twice as much as the previous cost. This is how they are cheated.
There can be freer world trade, but there has to be complete understanding of what it is all about. It is important for our primary producers to wake up to the fact that it would be much more beneficial for them to process their wool here and so develop more industry in Australia and sell the processed product on a world market, instead of leaving it to the Japanese, the Russians and everybody else to scour the wool and make a profit out of it. Why are we not doing it here? At Orange in New South Wales the only company doing it is Japanese-owned. How ridiculous can Australians get? This is the nonsense we face when we talk about free trade and tariffs. Let us talk about free trade and tariffs on the basis of efficiency and utilisation of our resources to their best potential.
We should be the best producers of food in the world. There are markets for it. The Russians would have bought much more of our meat if we had been able to establish the Overseas Trading
Corporation. When we introduced the necessary legislation the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) opposed it. He said: “This is a stunt for your commie friends’. Since then he has been to Russia and following his return has been saying: ‘Isn’t it marvellous? They are going to buy 100 000 tons of beef. That is a mere trickle compared with what could have been sold to Russia, which still wants to talk about food production. The same applies to China. China says: ‘Our greatest problem is famine. We will take all your wheat. ‘
Why do we not get into proper trade negotiations? In that context, let us look at what we are doing with our tertiary institutions where we are training our technical fitters and turners. What will happen to them? In to what part of production can they fit? If it is to be in a factory, what is the factory producing, where is the productivity in that factory, and where is the market for what it is producing? Maybe it ought to be part of a world market. If it is to be in car assembling perhaps we should be producing only part of the car. It may be that we have to nave a world production run. As it is now, it is quite ridiculous to leave our manufacturing base in the automotive industry to the whims of directors in Detroit or to someone else in Japan. They have no interest in what will happen here.
Those of us who represent workers at General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and other factories know that the workers can receive dismissal notices as soon as the sales of their vehicles go down. No protection is given to them. Let us formulate a plan and put it on a proper basis. An interminable debate has been going on in this country between free traders and protectionists. We must get rid of those two expressions and talk about production. We must have an economic plan. I cannot see this Government producing such a plan. It has no idea where it is going. It will be soundly defeated if it adheres to its ad hoc policies by which on some occasions it reduces a tariff and immediately there is unemployment it brings in temporary assistance for a short time and expects people to maintain their investment In the metal trades industry, the textile industry, the electronics industry or any other industry we see that there is no investment despite the investment allowance because there is no guarantee of security for the product here. These people now recognise that it would be far better for them to move their factories into the East where they can employ people at $2 a day. That might be the right thing to do if we had full employment here all the time. It is certainly wrong and it is misleading to our workers to suggest that they have a guarantee of employment when the Government knows jolly well that by these sorts of policies their life style will be altered and a guarantee of employment does not exist.
When I look at all these items mentioned by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs I can see that he is merely informing the Parliament as to what the Industries Assistance Commission report has recommended and that he has carried out the law of this country, except in that particular case which I mentioned earlier. But what is important and what the honourable member for Port Adelaide has said-I support him- is that unless this country wakes up and gets rid of the divisions within it, unless it stops arguing city against country or one State against another, we will not have much of a base on which to work. It does not take the Germans, the Americans or the Japanese very long to exploit any weakness in world markets. If they can destroy a country’s markets they will do so because it is of advantage to the people back in their countries and because it suits their politics to say ‘We are making progress’ even if it is at somebody else’s expense. What is needed is complete consultation between the manufacturers, primary industry and the trade union movement It is important that the workers have a share of the business. If they are to be just factory fodder we should tell them quickly to get out of it. But if there is a future in the industry they ought to have part of the profits and the Government ought to maintain them in the industry. There has to be close consultation, as the Jackson Committee report foreshadowed and urged. There was wisdom in that report. Very little has been heard of it, and very little will be heard of any progress until such time as the Government wakes up to the fact that there has to be planning in this field. It is not good enough just to be introducing reports without any supplementary statements.
-Before the honourable member for Paterson rises, let me say that it seems that honourable members have misinterpreted what I said before. All I said was that an earlier speech related entirely to the consumer price index and cost indices. I have no complaint about a free ranging debate concerning tariffs or trade. That seems to me to be the guideline which the House should adopt.
-On behalf of the National Country Party I wish to support Customs Tariff Validation Bill which proposes to validate the collection of duties in relation to S Customs TariffProposals. The five matters dealt with in the Bill are as follows: The removal of tariff quotas on galvanised sheets and the removal of temporary duty on monochrome television sets; the Industries Assistance Commission recommendations on Multilateral Trade Negotiations (Tropical Products) and agricultural tractors- this matter is of great importance to primary industry in this country and I will devote the major part of my time to it- Industries Assistance Commission recommendations on Multilateral Trade Negotiations (General Tariff Reductions- Devaluation); Papua New GuineaAustralia Trade and Commercial Relations Agreement; and IAC recommendations on calcium carbide, copper foil, primary shapes produced by rolling, drawing, extruding of nonferrous metals.
In this legislation the Government has decided to introduce a revised bounty scheme for agricultural tractors and to remove the licensing controls on imports of used, second-hand and disposal agricultural tractors. The decisions followed the Government’s acceptance of the Commission’s report of 19 February 1976 on agricultural tractors. This report was presented in this House last week. These recommendations have been received favourably by both tractor producers and the primary industry organisations representing users of agricultural tractors. Assistance for the production of agricultural tractors in Australia is provided by means of a bounty related to the horsepower of the tractors manufactured. Over the years governments in Australia have supported by way of bounty the manufacture of farm tractors by the International Harvester Australia Ltd in Victoria and by Chamberlain- now Chamberlain John Deere Pty Ltd- at Welshpool in Western Australia. Both of these manufacturers, which are protected by a bounty on certain horsepower tractors, have made a major contribution to employment in those two States.
The Commission recommended the continuation of assistance by this means and that the bounty be phased down over a S-year period to bring the assistance for the industry more into line with that available to industry generally in this country. The new bounty structure will provide assistance which will be relatively uniform in respect of tractor size and local content. The new schedule will be phased in in 2 stages over 5 years, for the first 3 years at current rates. These phasing in arrangements will allow the industry to adjust gradually to the reduction in the level of assistance. The new bounty schedule will be indexed to maintain assistance in a similar way to that provided by ad valorem tariffs. The indexation will be effected on implementation by use of the Reserve Bank of Australia import price index ‘machinery except electric’ group. That will not be considered under this particular scheme.
The bounty entitlements will reduce by an amount equal to one per cent for each one per cent by which the Australian content measured as a percentage of factory cost is less than 100 per cent, with no bounty being payable where the Australian content is below 55 per cent. This is important. In assessing factory cost and Australian content the value of the tyres and tyre tubes, winches, air conditioning and sound equipment will be excluded. This includes transistor radios in the tractors. There is no doubt today that the farming community looks for comfort when they are farming their huge areas of wheat, sorghum and other grains. These components when imported as part of complete tractors will be dutiable at the same rates that they would attract if imported separately. Except for these components, imported tractors in the bountiable range will continue to enter duty free. A misunderstanding exists amongst a lot of people in Australia- that these large horsepower tractors come in from overseas duty free.
Payment of bounty at the proposed rates wm be made from 1 January 1977. Bountiable tractors produced before that date but sold after that date will be subject to the rates and conditions of bounty applicable under the provisions of the existing Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act 1966. The industry will be reviewed again within a period of 8 years except in respect of tractors with a power rating in excess of 105 kilowatts at the PTO, which is the horse power at the belt pulley as opposed to draw-bar horse power which is the main one in which farmers are interested. No evidence of these tractors being manufactured in Australia had been given and accordingly the Industries Assistance Commission could not make any recommendation in regard to this type of tractor. However, it has come to the Government’s attention that tractors in excess of 105 kilowatts were being produced in Australia and this has been referred to the Commission for report and inquiry. So it is good to know that large horsepower tractors will be manufactured in Australia because with the huge production of grain in this country large horsepower tractors will be required by the farming community to cut their costs, to cover the ground quickly, to conserve moisture when it rains and to give increased production.
One thing which concerns my colleague the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and me relates to the manufacture of tractor cabins. Until 2 years ago all tractors came into this country without cabins. The tractor cabin industry in Australia was established. There are 2 very well known firms. One is A. F. Gason Pty Ltd at Ararat which I think employs 500 or 600 fine Australians and the other is Wolmar Industries Pty Ltd at Orange which employs a similar number of people. There are other tractor cabin factories in Australia. These firms are being seriously affected at the present time by the tractor manufacturers in the United States and in Europe insisting that they supply machines to the Australian market with cabins attached to them. If we allow this practice to continue it will seriously affect the 2000 or 3000 people employed in the manufacture of tractor cabins in Australia. I hope that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) will look at this part of the tractor industry because there is no reason at all for us to be paying money overseas for tractor cabins on these imported machines when they can be made just as good and in fact better in Australia. So I hope that the Government will have a look at this because it is a serious situation. I have sat in with the honourable member for Wimmera at a meeting with executives of A. F. Gason Pty Ltd. I know just how concerned they are about their future because if imported machines with cabins attached to them keep coming in their business will be very seriously affected.
It is surprising to me that members on the Opposition side keep harping about the unemployment situation in industry in Australia, particularly in the industries about which I have been speaking in this debate. It amazes me because in 1975 the Party they support brought in a 25 per cent tariff cut right across the board, and this seriously affected manufacturing industries in this country. Let us look at our textile industry. There were 120000 people employed in that industry. When this across-the-board tariff cut was brought in unemployment in that industry became prevalent Honourable members opposite are the ones who started unemployment in industry in this country. Instead of getting up and saying that there will be 700 000 unemployed in 12 months time or something like that they should be making responsible statements about the employment of people in Australia.
One of the proposals relates to galvanised iron which is a commodity that is much in demand in this country, particularly in the areas that members of the National Country Party represent. Other proposals relate to rolled sheet steel and non-ferrous metals. It is interesting to note that the Government has made decisions to lift tariff quotas following a re-assessment of market conditions expected during the remainder of the tariff quota period. The Minister and the Government have apparently been satisfied after consultation with the Australian manufacturers that with improved market conditions the quota restrictions are no longer required to protect the industry from disruptive imports. However, it is to be hoped that the Minister and the Government will make sure that they continually keep in touch with the Australian manufacturers to ensure that at no time they will be seriously affected to the extent that the employment situation in the industry in question is upset. I have much pleasure indeed in supporting the Bill brought down by the Minister.
– I think that this debate provides an opportunity to say something about the principles of foreign trade. I was much attracted by the very sensible views that were put forward by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson). What is needed is rational protection of local industry whether it be primary or secondary. All great economies accept this principle and their acceptance of it has to some degree been the foundation of their economic greatness. The United States does this. It preserves the home base of its industries. The economic community in Europe does it. Japan does it pre-eminently. On that secure base those countries are able to erect a very considerable industrial machine.
Free trade is the principle of centralisationthe centralised economy for the whole world. We give lip service at any rate to the principle of decentralisation here when we say that all power should not be in Canberra and that we should decentralise power to the various States. But at the same time too many unthinking people, shallow thinkers, espouse the principles of free trade which are the principles of economic centralisation. They want to bring all control into the one single economic system and allow of course the size of that system to crush the whole of the industry. An economy is healthier if it produces a high proportion of the products it consumes; what one would call autarky- self-sufficiency. Unless a country has that its economy is subject to the whims of foreign competition and foreign economic conditions which a country itself cannot control. Because of this a country can involve itself in tides of unemployment, for which there is no local remedy, if it espouses the pernicious principles of free trade.
Of course one does not want to carry this principle too far. One can envisage that the degree of self-sufficiency depends on the size of the economy, and a small economy must have a low degree of it Of course there are special natural advantages in every country, and naturally a country would want to exploit those advantages to the extent that the world market can absorb the product.
Come home to Australia, to our existing structure of population.’ It is quite impossible for us, for any foreseeble time, to find employment for our people in export industries because the export industries are not high employers of labour. In fact, if they became labour intensive they would very often become inefficient. Because the world market simply will not absorb increasing quantities of beef or wheat or even iron ore, there will be natural limitations and there will not be the external market. With our high standards of living we simply cannot compete and there will be unemployment in Australia if there is free trade.
I wish to make 2 brief comments before I sit down. Firstly, I deprecate this idea of Australian companies going off-shore if it means that they tend to ask for tariff concessions for their imports. If a company in Australia goes off-shore it should not receive any tariff concessions whatsoever for its imports into Australia because it is importing unemployment and exporting employment. Secondly, I would hope some time to develop the thesis that the Industries Assistance Commission should be looking not at things in the way in which it is now looking, but rather should be seeking constructive ways in which to develop Australian industry and obtain economies of scale without involving high prices, but at the same time maintaining the level of employment which should be given to Australian workmen to provide Australian goods for consumption on the home market.
– in reply- In closing the debate I want to reply specifically to the point that was raised by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who has a specific complaint about the mechanism for the MTN tariff reductions. I draw the attention of the honourable gentlemen to the wording of my statement to be found at page 3412 of Hansard of 7 December 1976 in which I made it perfectly clear that details of the tariff items would not be completed until 3 1 January 1977. Whilst I Will examine the specific complaint raised by the honourable member, it was made perfectly clear in that statement that the details would not be available until the end of January. As a consequence, it should have been some notice that one should proceed with caution until such time as the precise details are available. I thank all honourable members who contributed to the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17 February, on motion by Mr McLeay
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill provides an initiative on the part of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), which is welcomed. Its proposal is to index in accordance with the consumer price index and a simple formula outlined by the Minister in this House last week, the payments under the DFRB and DFRDB pension system. The Opposition endorses and proposals and I see little point in debating the subject further and unnecessarily taking up the time of this House and its officers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. In Committee
-I will be brief in my comments as I have waited a long time for this Bill to be introduced and I shall not detain its passage through this House for any longer than is necessary. During his second reading speech the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (Mr McLeay) said ‘the adjustment provisions incorporated in the Bill are detailed and complex’. That would be the understatement of the year so far, but as long as the provisions correct the injustice that ex-service pensioners have suffered for so long I am satisfied, and I know that they wm be too.
The Bill provides for pension increases to be retrospective from the first pay day in July 1976.
That, as I understand it, is the 13.4 per cent pension adjustment factor for 1976-77 according to the consumer price index movements. As I further understand it, on the first pension pay day of July this year there should be a further percentage increase according to the CPI movements up to March of this year. If my understanding is correct, this will bring the ex-service pensioner up to the automatic adjustment level of Commonwealth Public Service pension beneficiaries. I may add that it is not before time because for many years the ex-service pensioner has been neglected as far as adjustment provisions have been concerned. Ex-service pensioners have always been the last group to receive adjustment benefits, yet a great number of them fought in 3 wars for this country. That is a fact that governments have been inclined to overlook.
I also note that the Minister stated in his second reading speech that ‘the Government is currently considering a number of beneficial variations to the existing legislation arising from a general review of the revisionary benefits structures of the DFRB and DFRDB schemes’. He is getting as complex as the Bill. This is interesting and welcome news as far as I am concerned, for my own report on the subject will be completed by the end of March. I have no doubt that it, too, will contain matters for review. Perhaps they also could be studied with the Government’s review. At long last, after all these years, we have a government that is prepared to consider the problems of the ex-service pensioner, and I commend it for that. I welcome this amending legislation and trust that it gets the speedy passage through both Houses that it deserves.
– I rise very briefly to associate the National Country Party of Australia with the Defence Force (Retirement and Death Benefits Amendments) Bill 1977 which is before the Committee. I would like to compliment the Government for the stand which it has taken. In doing so I pay a tribute to the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), who has just resumed his seat, and who has worked on this matter for many years, as he had just reminded us. I have had the pleasure of working with him on numerous occasions, and I know how devoted he has been to this cause. Of course, his interest is brought about by his earlier experience in the Services. I think the significant aspect of the Bill is that its effect is to be retrospective to July 1976. From that time on, of course, we have the automatic annual adjustments to be effective on 1 July of each year and based on the consumer price index figure for the 12 months prior to March of the year in which the adjustment is being made. I think that provision virtually removes much of the contentious politicking that could be and has been used over the years in relation to this type of legislation. I certainly commend the Government for that.
In his second reading speech the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (Mr McLeay) referred to the fact that he was speaking only in broad terms on the provisions of the Bill for the simple reason that a lot of technical detail would be forthcoming as a result of the Bill. I repeat the words used by the Minister:
It was intended also to provide in this Bill beneficial amendments to section 25 of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act designed to remove an anomaly affecting certain officers who were detrimentally affected by their transfer to the DFRDB scheme in October 1972. Drafting of the necessary amendment has raised a number of complex technical drafting difficulties. The pension updating provisions are therefore being introduced now and drafting of the amendments to section 25 of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act is proceeding for introduction as quickly as possible into the House.
That is rather a novel way of doing things, but I still think that it is a practical approach to a problem which has been with governments for a long time. I believe that that is one very good way in which the Government can legislate for a very worthy cause. On behalf of my Party, I support the measure before the Committee.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 February, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When my remarks were interrupted last night I had been talking about what the Labor Party really stands for these days in its relationship with the working people of Australia. I was saying that one of the great things about that part of the legislation to which I was referring, namely, proposed new section 4Sd, is that it will protect the workers against some of the worst excesses of some of the worst people in the trade unions. Workers do need protection and, under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, of course, workers are protected in regard to their conditions of work because they have obtained legitimate awards. But they have not been protected in many other respects.
One thing which is necessary for everybody, especially the family man, is the right to work. Many bans have been imposed in this country, not only this year and last year but for many years, and they have militated against people in the work force being able to go to work to earn the bread that they require for their families. I believe that the insertion of this proposed section in the legislation is of great importance to those people in the Australian work force who want to go to work and earn some bread. It is important for the members of the work force as consumers to be able to go to work and not to be kept out of their places of work by a small number of people who have ulterior motives for doing so. It is important for these people as consumers to be able to earn enough money to be able to afford the things they need.
– How about lockouts?
– There probably should have been a few more lockouts. As far as consumers are concerned, from the other side of the coin it has been very frustrating at times, even within the past month, that because of what I would call illegitimate black bans consumers have been inhibited in buying the goods they have a right to buy. In my electorate at Christmas time, because there had been what I regard as a shameful exhibition by some people in the petroleum industry, consumers and people with businesses were not able to obtain the services they required. Consumers were affected because petrol sometimes was not available and businesses which employed other workers were affected because tourists were not travelling to their area for fear that they would not be able to buy petrol.
It is all right for people to go on strike or to withdraw their services full time. That right is probably sacred in our society. But, when people band together, as they sometimes do in powerful unions, and partially withdraw their services and thereby prejudice the jobs of a great number of people across a wide area, they have gone too far. It is the feeling of the vast majority of the Australian electorate that for too long we have had black bans and, at times, green bans. These bans have militated against the livelihood of Australian workers. I draw attention to a statement made by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) in his second reading speech, which points out that the legislation is not meant to interfere with legitimate actions. He said that the exemption is now to be limited to matters of remuneration, conditions of employment, hours of work and working conditions. In other words, there is still to be an exemption. When people in a union are working hard to get better conditions and remuneration and perhaps they do fully withdraw their services, that is not covered by this proposed section. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act applies to such actions. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act theoretically people should discuss and decide in a court exactly what the award should be. The Opposition speakers did seem to want to expand the debate to cover those areas relating to conditions of employment.
One of the members of the Opposition who spoke on this Bill said that the Government was trying to limit the right of association-that sacred cow. Nobody wants to limit the right of association or the right of people to get together legitimately and to look for better conditions. But so often it has been the case that other people, apart from the few with vested interests in unions, have had their livelihoods prejudiced. I was reminded today, when I read a Press release issued by one of the rural organisations, of some of the problems that have been associated with rural industry over the past 12 months. People in my area received legitimate payment for their wool many months late because of illegitimate action by the Storemen and Packers Union. People found that they had to plead with the Treasury to be permitted to pay their tax late in a year in which it was hard enough anyway to scrape together enough money to pay their tax. It is terrifically important for us, as Australians, to realise that we all share in the responsibility of making this country run properly. The divisions that exist because of militant unionists using great privilege through the system that has been evolved have militated so much against the best interests of the country.
One of the speakers from this side of the House noted that ours is a pluralist society. We depend upon people from all sorts of positions to make up the work force and to contribute to production in this country. When one of the cogs in the wheel is stripped by people abusing power, the whole system slows down. There is no future for this country if there are a few revolutionary people who want to grab large numbers of people- as they have the power to do these days- pull them out of the work place, hold the rest of the country to ransom, run down production in the country and run down the livelihood of those people who are being pulled out of the work place. Rural industry, which is very close to my heart, has suffered greatly; but plenty of other industries should be assisted if proposed section 45d can be enforced.
I am reminded of the situation which exists in Japan, where I understand the union officials have a much greater awareness of the fact that the people who work in unions are part of the wheel of society. I believe that last year in Japan a strike at a transistor radio factory in which the workers, who probably had a legitimate complaint, instead of going out on strike, going slow, or doing any of the things which ultimately result in a loss of production and therefore an increase in prices to consumers, remained at the workbench and produced a great deal but decided not to weld the last little bit in the circuits in the radios. When the dispute was resolved it was just a matter of doing those final little bits of work very quickly and the company, which had been deprived of its income, was put back on its feet in that it could then ship out the orders, perhaps to overseas customers, that produced the income for the workers.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) last night espoused competition. Competition has no truck with illegitimate black bans; nor does it have any truck with the outmoded scab syndrome which the Labor Party constantly pushes in this place. The scab syndrome, under which a man is not supposed to go to work if his mates illegitimately refuse to deliver goods to his place of work, inhibits fair competitionthe thing that the honourable member for Port Adelaide so highly espouses. We have a free enterprise system in this country, and thank heavens we do. We need a free enterprise system in which there is fluidity and in which people can change their work place and are not tied down by a small number of labour organisations which are feathering their own nests.
I imagine that one of the problems of this particular part of the legislation will be that of enforcement. A member of the Opposition- I believe it was the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson)-stated that this proposed section will invite turmoil into industry. Why should it invite turmoil into industry? Why does he not believe that Australians are responsible people? We know from the way they voted at the polls at the last general election that they are responsible people. I invite the workers of Australia to enforce this proposed section. It would be in their best interests to do so. They will have the force of law behind them if they stand up against people who want to pull them into black bans that are against their best interests. I believe that this proposed section should have been inserted in trade practices legislation long ago. It is in the interests of the Australian producers and consumers.
The Labor Party would always be far too timid to introduce such a proposal. It knows from where its funds come. They come from the big monopolistic unions. The Labor Party would never have been strong enough to act in this way. Thank heavens this provision is now being included in the Act. I support very much proposed section 45d which will effectively and m wide terms ban illegitimate black bans. I hope that in the review of this legislation that will take place in the recess the Minister makes certain that the proposed section is retained. I will be telling my constituents about it no matter which way they voted at the last election because one of the questions that I have been asked by people so often in my electorate in the past year is: ‘Why do you not somehow stop the unions prejudicing our jobs?’
-One never ceases to be amazed at the mental gymnastics which Government supporters perform. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) made some almost fairy tale assertions in his speech. His first assertion was that he stood for the rights of free choice. In another place tonight legislation is being debated which takes away the equal opportunity of Australians -especially those living in cities in which most of them do- to elect their Parliament. It is a rigged electoral Bill of the worst type. We will debate it tomorrow.
– Were you one of the twentyfour?
-I am sorry that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) does not understand the legislation his Government introduces. The Senate tonight is debating amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The amendments have not been brought into this place. The Bill being debated in the Senate is not related at all to the referendum Bills in respect of which he is talking.
-I rise on a point of order. The honourable member is not talking about the Bill before the House. He is talking about another Bill in another place.
-I thank the honourable member for his point of order. The honourable member for Corio has not yet got warmed up to his subject. I expect he will.
-One of the things Government supporters are very good at is making speeches in which they say things are not the same when they are different. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro also made the very pungent point that people are not altogether free to do what they wish when they have to bow to the sources of their electoral funds. I suggest that that point applies to the Government to the extent that this legislation brings in at the behest of certain big corporations -
– A misquote.
-It is not a misquote. It is an interpretation. I did not quote. This Bill proposes to bring certain provisions into law. Last century people died in their fight to have those provisions taken out of the law. The Government is in fact putting into legislation provisions which can be used for the purposes of blackmail. If we add that to the comments which are continually being made throughout this country about stopping the trade unions- good solid political stuff- I have no doubt that it will gain honourable members opposite some political kudos. If that is the basis on which honourable members legislate I say good luck to them. They will most likely win elections. They will not do the right thing by Australia or Australians but they might win elections. If that is all they are interested in it shows their degree of morality.
– Is that not what you are interested in too?
– We took up some extraordinarily unpopular subjects like Vietnam. We lost elections over them. But those issues were proven morally right in the long run. The Bill before us proposes to introduce a section which is repugnant. It does not matter how the Minister chooses to interpret the proposed section. The interpretation which will count is that which is put on it by the High Court which is currently extraordinarily conservative. Most likely it is the most conservative High Court structure that we have had in a number of years. If we look at its recent decisions -
– You do not like its decisions?
– No, I said it is conservative. It is.
– Blame the referee.
– The Minister’s Government appointed the referee.
– Not all of them.
-The Minister’s Government appointed five out of seven; not a bad effort.
– Which one did you appoint?
-The honourable gentleman refers to ex-Senator Murphy, former AttorneyGeneral. He seems to feel that the appointment of Attorneys-General to the High Court is an improper thing. I remind him that the present Chief Justice was a former Attorney-General in a Liberal Party government. The Minister who was appointed to head the Industrial Court on its formation was the Attorney-General in the Parliament at the time the Bills to set up the Court were passed. If the honourable member is saying that it is improper for a Labor Attorney-General to be appointed I suggest that he should look at himself m the mirror because- his Party- he was a member of the Democratic Labor Party then; he has joined the Liberal Party since -
-Order! I suggest, firstly, that comments should be directed through the Chair. Secondly, I think that the honourable member for Corio, who is a most respected ex-Speaker of this House, would know that he is getting on to rather dangerous opinionative grounds according to the Standing Orders in relation to the High Court. I suggest that he should get on with his speech.
-The provision to which the Opposition objects is proposed section 45D. It prevents or purports to prevent a collection or a group of people from taking action which would restrict the supply of goods to an employer or to another person in a manner which would affect that person’s ability to operate. The Minister has said that there are qualifications in regard to legitimate disputes. The qualifications are not evident in the Bill. The qualifications may be there in law, but I believe a risk is involved. That risk should not be taken.
A number of areas of legislation have been vague at the time of their interpretation. Ministers and draftsmen- I hope that the Minister is acting on the advice of draftsmen- have indicated in this Parliament that certain meanings attached to clauses when in fact it has been found that that is not the case. I wish to refer to an earlier Attorney-General. Two pieces of legislation declared invalid in the last couple of weeks by the now Chief Justice were introduced as being valid by that same person when he was the Attorney-General of Australia. What the Minister says in the House is not necessarily what the High Court will say subsequently. At least a body of legal opinion believes that proposed section 45D could in fact be used as a major punitive clause against a union taking legitimate actionaction which any person other than a person who is totally devoid of a sense of responsibility would accept that the union is entitled to takeand could result in a suit of prosecution of a nature which would make it impossible for small unions, and there are small unions, to operate. The legislation may not make it impossible for larger unions to operate as they have access to a greater level of funds.
-A union which has 500 000 members has access to a greater level of funds than a union which has 500 members. This Government has made it difficult for small unions to be strengthened, by amalgamation, into reasonably workable economic units. I think everybody would accept that there are too many unions in Australia. I hope even the trade union movement accepts that. The Government has made it practically impossible to overcome that situation. If the interpretation is correct, this legislation is the most punitive measure that has come before this Parliament this century other than possibly the Bill which caused the demise of the Bruce-Page Government in 1929. That Bill sought to abolish arbitration altogether.
– We are not that bad.
-I said ‘except’. The Government is nearly that bad. Much play was made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro about certain actions that are currently in vogue in New South Wales by a trade union to restrict the flow of goods in the petroleum industry. He made great play of the fact that the Government stands for that type of freedom of competition. I remind the House, in case honourable members opposite are not aware, that until the Australian Council of Trade Union’s store, Bourke’s Melbourne Pty Ltd, threatened restrictions against certain companies because of the non-supply of goods to that retail outlet restrictive trade practices of the type to which members of this House are now objecting were the norm in the supply of goods.
– Norm who?
– They were the normal situation in the supply of goods. I am sorry that the honourable member does not undertsand English.
– It was a different practice. .
-The practice was not wiped out and was not legislated for in this Parliament until there had been trade union boycotts. This would be an illegal boycott under any interpretation of this proposed new section of the Act. Under any interpretation, resale price maintenance would be said to be a political activity and not a legitimate activity of a trade union. I do not see how anyone could say otherwise.
– This says nothing about political activity, and you know it. You are deliberately misrepresenting the situation.
– The provision, as it was then, meant that the resale price maintenance system was broken down by direct action of the trade union movement. The Government responded to that action by outlawing the practice.
I deal now with the present cut-price operation in respect of petroleum. I am not altogether sure about the legitimacy of it. The delivery of cheap petrol is very much like the delivery of cheap clothing and other things. It is not all plus. It is all plus to the purchaser. It is not all plus to the operator of a service station who is very seriously disadvantaged in a lot of cases. I suggest that the people who do not understand the situation go to Victoria and talk to the service station operators.
– What a fate.
– I suggest that service station operators in Victoria are worth talking to when one is talking about this problem.
– I have talked to them.
– I acknowledge that, but I am sure that some members do not understand how difficult the problem really is. For instance, at one stage in Victoria the oil companies decided that the number of service stations was too bountiful. They set out a scale of assistance which they would give to operators who were under pressure from XL Petroleum Pty Ltd and IOL Petroleum Ltd. At that time ACTU-Solo was not in the field. The oil companies set out a scale of assistance. They said to one operator: ‘You will get 6c a gallon ofF. They said to another operator: ‘You will get 9c a gallon off*. They said to another operator ‘You will get 3c a gallon off’. To another operator they said: ‘You can go to hell’. This had the effect of sending operators of their own service stations bankrupt because the operators were not able to continue operating. At the same time the major oil companies were supplying surreptitiously the competition which was putting their service stations out of business.
– They were supplying ACTUSolo as well..
-It was not in operation at that time. That type of free competition is not all cream. Any suggestion that that type of free competition is altogether desirable is not correct. I do not know sufficient about the New South Wales situation to comment on it, but I can say that service station operators, at least in Victoria, do not think it is all cream. I do not include motorists, because we are all the same. If we get it cheaper, well and good. It is not always something which has the best consequence. The only other remark which I would make is this: If the Minister suggests that the meanings of the clause to which we have objected are not what we say they are, when the Bill is brought back before the Parliament the meanings ought to be written into the clause in a manner which cannot be misinterpreted.
-The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and the Government are to be complimented for bringing forward a Bill as important as this one and for allowing the public, the trade unions, the Opposition and members of this House to have the opportunity to read it and to discuss it among themselves. The Minister said that he would receive submissions so that amendments or alterations could be made in the next session. I have received a number of submissions from my Liberal Party organisation and from businesses in my electorate. I thank the constituents of Evans- the business people, large and smallwho have taken the time and trouble to read the Bill and the explanatory memorandum and to make submissions.
To participate in the debate this evening it is necessary not only to read the Bill, as it would appear members of the Opposition may have done, and to read the Bill which the Australian Labor Party introduced, but it is necessary to refer to the basic Act. I have read the Labor Government’s Bill. I will not condemn its approach out of hand. The consumer protection aspects of its Bill are to be commended. So I am not a knocker, as members opposite would be and have been. There have been submissions from outside business interests, from beyond the bureaucracy. I read the Minister’s second reading speech and the shadow Minister’s speech so that I could make a contribution this evening. It should be remembered that the initiative for trade practices legislation was not a Labor Party initiative. It was a Liberal initiative in 1963, when the Trade Practices Act first got off the ground when Sir Garfield Barwick pioneered proposals for regulating the market place. Listening to Opposition speeches this evening, yesterday and beforehand, one would think that the Labor Party was the pioneer- the protector of the market place and the protector of the businessman. From what I heard in the few brief speeches this evening, it would appear that the
Labor Party is the protector of the trade union movement.
We heard so much about petrol, bread and a lot of other things. I will come to them shortly. I stand four-square and unashamedly as a supporter of capitalism. I do so in the belief that m particular areas regulation is necessary and desirable if our economic system is to survive. I do not support unequivocally naked capitalism on its own. I learned enough about a mixed economy during the tragic years of the 1920s and the 1930s. By ‘mixed economy’ I mean one which has minimum government regulation and participation, as this legislation has, but maximum private and free competition and initiative, so that the rip-off and excesses of the Depression era cannot be repeated. I do not want to go into the Minister’s second reading speech at great depth, but a couple of aspects should be referred to. He said:
The Trade Practices Act will continue to deal with anticompetitive agreements, monopolisation, exclusive dealing, resale price maintenance and anti-competitive mergers.
If the Opposition has any concern for the consumer, the Australian public, if it has any concern for inflation, as it tends to indicate to this House and to the public at large, how could it oppose this Bill? Why does everybody on the front bench and elsewhere in the Opposition oppose this Bill? The Minister has made the position very clear. Do honourable members opposite oppose this Bill because they do not want a Bill that deals with anti-competitive agreements? Is it that they really want monopolisation and exclusive dealing? Let me talk about the selling of petrol and the selling of bread, because that seems to be a very interesting topic.
– What about beer?
-That is another good one. I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that if private contractors were put into the breweries, at a lower rate than the present carters receive, there would be some sort of move in the trade union movement that would cause a black ban to be imposed. Is it not strange that the housewife who has to pay 45c for a loaf of bread is told that she cannot have it for 40c, 39c or 38c because a few trade unionists have said: ‘We are not going to deliver it’.
– It is blackmail.
-That is exactly what it is. The Opposition would support in this House the continuation of that blackmail because it suits it politically and generally. But members of the Opposition have to go out to the electorate and talk to the consumer. How they can in all conscience adopt this attitude is beyond my comprehension. Let me go a bit further. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The present Act has been criticised as being unduly harsh on mergers involving the acquisition of small companies. For example, it has been criticised as severely hampering a small businessman seeking to sell his business and retire.
Is this the sort of thing the Opposition would be against? Are we again seeing a display of socialism, of which honourable members opposite are the greatest proponents- the belief that the businessman means nothing? Honourable members opposite believe that the only thing that matters is the public sector and that there is no such thing as the private sector. The reason this country is in the economic mess it is in and the reason for the unemployment that exists is that the philosophy of the previous Government was that 2 per cent was a sufficient return on capital, that the private sector meant nothing. All that mattered was the public sector.
– Economic vandalism.
– Economic vandalism! Members of the Opposition do not even know the meaning of the phrase ‘economic management’. To oppose this section of the economy is simply again to oppose the small man. They say: ‘Let us put him out of business’. However, if this happened they would ask: ‘What about unemployment?’ The Minister’s second reading speech covers the takeover of small businesses for which there is a threshold limit of $34m. Surely this proposal is not to be condemned. Of course, if there is a systematic takeover of one company after another there is cause for the Trade Practices Act to be enforced. But if the takeover of small businesses is in the interest of the consumer the Act should allow that takeover to proceed. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said yesterday -
– A poor speech.
– It was a poor speech. I would like to quote for the honourable member for St George extracts from the honourable member’s speech which is reported at page 28 1 of yesterday’s Hansard. The honourable member for Port Adelaide said: . . . Legislation should not be regularly amended.
Why not? Amendments equal contemporary and representative government. Is that why the honourable member for Port Adelaide objects? Does he not wish to be part of that system of government? Maybe he would rather be part of a government that puts a different connotation on it. Maybe a republican government is the type of government that he would support. Maybe he would have some support from the front bench of the Opposition in this respect. Perhaps the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jun) will be interested to hear what the honourable member for Port Adelaide is reported as saying at page 282 of Hansard. He said:
What is true -
And that is a statement in itself- is that the Labor Opposition and the Australian trade union movement have joined together to condemn this clumsy attempt to widen the scope of industrial relations.
I have news for the honourable member for Port Adelaide and for the Opposition. We intend to continue to widen the scope of industrial relations and in so far as we can to open up the trade union to its membership. The honourable member for Port Adelaide mentioned the petroleum and brewing industries. The Sydney petrol situationand I had something to say about this earlier- is one clear example of what this legislation will achieve. It should help to overcome the situation in Sydney where the Sydney consumer motor vehicle owner, with the support of the Wran Labor Government, has had expensive petrol. Yet consumers in Victoria have had the benefit of cheaper petrol. I ask the Opposition: Is that a fair go? Is that what the Opposition stands for? Is that the sort of treatment that it would like to continue? Not too many Opposition members in the chamber would prefer to say yes or no to that question. But silence is golden, and silence is condemnation.
The Swanson Committee clearly showed that the existing law has effectively abolished discounts and increased prices. What sort of legislation is it that after being brought into this place and thrust upon the Australian consumer has had the effect of forcing up prices although it was designed to give cheaper goods to the consumer? What possible answer can any member on the Opposition benches have when their own Bill did the reverse to what they intended it should do? It is fair enough to suggest that the intention of the Bill was to reduce prices. But it did not work. Honourable members opposite have had the audacity to stand in this House this evening and yesterday and suggest that the Government’s amendments are not for the benefit of the consumer.
I do not know whether anyone has mentioned in this debate the particular problems associated with, for example, the medical profession. I am not a doctor but I believe that we could get to the point where black bans could be placed on the medical profession because of the level of fees. Is there not something wrong with the system and with the Labor Government’s Act when on the one hand the Opposition says that the trade union movement can black ban service stations and black ban retail stores that would sell cheap bread and on the other hand it says that it is a great idea to black ban the medical profession? That is what is called 2-sided or 2-faced politics. The Labor Government’s legislation was designed to be 2-faced. When it suited honourable members opposite they supported the irregularities of the legislation and when it did not suit them they enforced the legislation. I have some other notes in respect of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I do not know why his name keeps coming forward. Maybe it is because of the poor quality of the speech that he made yesterday.
– He was terrible.
– Again the honourable member for St George is keen to interject For his benefit the honourable member for Port Adelaide is reported at page 284 of Hansard as saying that a Labor government would abolish the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. What a brilliant move. First of all the Opposition is concerned with consumer protection.
– It is a shocking move.
-That is right. I can assure the Minister that the Opposition is not likely to get the opportunity to do that for a long, long time. What would the abolition of the Department achieve, except for the fact that a very brilliant Minister would be looking for another ministry? We have just achieved a blend of regulatory processes under one umbrella in this Department The advantage of that is that all the agencies in this area will be grouped together. The regulatory agencies which are grouped under the one Minister will be able to keep businesses open, competitive and clear. As a result we have one Minister who can assess what some have called competitive interests but what I would regard as complementary interests. The Department of Business and Consumer Affairs has the interests of the consumer at heart. It has the interests of all consumers, and not a minority group, at heart. There is no selective treatment. The amendments that have been proposed in this Bill will mean that the consumer must gain.
I would like to conclude my speech by passing a compliment. I am not given to passing compliments in this House. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs who is at the table is to be congratulated, not just for the manner in which the Bill has been presented, not for his second reading speech but for bringing this Bill forward and for allowing sufficient public debate to go on to ensure that when the Bill that is designed to protect the Australian consumer is enacted in this place great benefit will go to the consumer. I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.50)- I oppose certain clauses of this Bill because I consider that they will do a great deal of harm to a large section of the Australian community. I found it very strange that the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) should start his speech by saying what a great service the Minister for BusIness and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) had done in allowing the Bill to be presented to the House so that the Opposition could debate it and people generally could be aware of the clauses. Surely, with a complex Bill such as this, that is the least we should expect under a democratic system of government. The honourable member for Evans said much about the Bill introduced by the Labor Government to keep prices down. He claimed that it had just the opposite effect. Right at this time Government supporters should be some authority on that because I would say that the cost of living figures announced recently in this House would clearly indicate that the measures that the Government has taken over the last 12 months have had the very opposite effect to reducing prices. Surely the honourable member for Evans would agree, on the figures in front of him, that the Government’s measures have had the opposite effect.
Let us give the Minister some credit. I remember that when he introduced the Bill before Christmas he said that he was doing so for the express purpose of exposing it both to honourable members and to the interested section of the community for scrutiny and comment and that when Parliament was prorogued the Bill would lapse and would be reintroduced later, incorporating such changes as would come out of this debate and submissions made by the interested section of the public at large. There is no doubt that some credit has to be given if that procedure is to be followed, I suppose even if it is only for the reason that it is so strange in this House for us to get that opportunity. The Government often brings in a Bill and when the Opposition wants to put forward speakers the Bill is pushed through in a great hurry. I think the express purpose there is to prevent people from fully understanding the clauses of the Bill.
Even if some credit is due to the Minister, the impression that one would gather from the speakers on the Government side of the House is that they take a different view altogether. While they are praising the provisions of the Bill and making a lot of noise about the wonderful submissions the Minister has received, one cannot help getting the impression that most of these submissions must have come from big business, because when speakers on the Opposition side have put forward proposals to improve the Bill as suggested by the Minister himself attack after attack has been made on them personally. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) spoke about the unions getting funds from the big monopolist unions. What big monopolist unions? The unions are made up only of small working class people such as myself. They have no big funds. The only funds they collect are from the union members. It must be recalled that when the Labor Government proposed to make known where campaign funds came from it was the then Opposition that opposed that Bill. Honourable members opposite are the people who do not want it known where campaign funds come from. One Government supporter spoke about the big union leaders being robber barons who march only to the drum of their own egos. It seems to me that, regardless of the good intentions of the Minister, this kind of rubbish will not bring about the co-operation of the great mass of Australian trade unionists; nor will it get the co-operation of the Australian public
It does not matter how much honourable members opposite try to gloss over this matter; this Bill contains a clause that will bring about a big change in our industrial relations. When unions take industrial action to put pressure on an employer in defence of the rights of trade unionists they will have to be conscious not only of the sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act but also of the sections of the Trade Practices Act, particularly proposed section 45D. This section will have the effect of rendering unworkable the system of industrial relations as it is known to most unions and unionists.
The greatest crime of all is that the Government has introduced this provision through the back door. It has introduced it into the Trade Practices Act and not into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is said to deal with boycotts, but the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) clearly demonstrated that it goes much further than that. It would have the effect of prohibiting all industrial action, such as strikes, working to regulations and picketing, regardless of how justified that action might be to defend trade unionists’ rights. The proposed section reads:
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 see it, this could mean that, if a trade unionist were locked out of an industry such as the mining industry or the timber milling industry and the industry continued to produce by working the staff and bringing in contractors, the people who were working for the contractors, if they said they would not deliver goods or take machinery in to do the work, would then be in contravention of the legislation. I understand it means that any action of a group of employees acting in concert which has the effect of hindering or preventing the supply of goods to a corporation would bring the group into contravention of proposed section 4SD. It covers a vast spectrum of union activity. It is very puzzling why it was introduced through the back door into the Trade Practices Act. Was the reason the fact that if it was introduced into the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act it could not be enforced on the great body of trade unions which are covered by State industrial legislation, or was there some other reason? We have not been told.
It must be a shock to decent trade unionists fighting against injustice. It must be a great shock for a trade unionist to learn that, if he dared to oppose the boss by supporting his fellow unionists who were out on strike or locked out of an industry and refused to supply goods and services to a corporation, he could be fined $50,000 under the section 76 in Part IV of the Act, which includes of course a penalty for offences against proposed section 45d. In addition, section 82 provides a further penalty for a person who contravenes a provision of the said Part IV. It states that he may be sued by the corporation that has been affected by hindering or preventing the supply of goods. It is very strange that the Government should introduce legislation of this type through the back door and not by an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This most suspicious piece of legislation will certainly plunge the country into industrial confrontation, because if the unions accept it without some kind of battle they will forfeit aU rights to act as trade unions.
It is also strange that while the Government is handing out what could be a death blow to the trade unionists it seems to me to be acting in a different direction towards big business. The Government proposes to drop section 73 (a). If this section is removed, meaningful competition between a lot of big businesses will cease, and of course the consumer will once again be on the receiving end. Someone has to pay for a manipulated business transaction, and of course the big slug will be passed on to the consumer. Preferential discounts which this section presently provides against must be paid for by someone. Government speakers blame the unions for inflation. Speaker after speaker on the other side attacked the trade unions and talked about strikes. One would think that there had never been a justified strike in the country. Honourable members opposite suggest that every strike is the fault of the unions, that unionists must like going home without pay, that they must like living without money. That shows the attitude of the Government.
Opposition members have never denied that inflation in this country is a problem. Of course it is a problem. But if the Government is sincere in its call for co-operation from all sections of the community, why is every measure it takes aimed at worsening the conditions of the workers, the trade unionists, and at making things better for big business? I remember when wage indexation was first discussed and the Government was saying that the unions must accept package deals. Lo and behold, it was not long before the Government wanted to water down wage indexation when the unions started to accept it. I remember a big attack on the trade union movement when I was a member of the Barrier Industrial Council. A vicious attack was made by members of the Government on the Barrier Industrial Council. But let me remind honourable members opposite that the Broken Hill mining companies negotiate round table agreements with unions. An agreement has been signed for 2 years and not one day has been lost in 2 years. It seems to me that, instead of trying to score in every direction they can, honourable members opposite should look around and see where they can give a bit of credit to the trade union movement. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) should be inviting a member of the Barrier Industrial Council over to help him solve some of his industrial problems instead of criticising unions in this House.
The Government should come out in the open and should stop trying to camouflage its incompetence in handling the ecomony. When the people get sick of the Government blaming everything on the previous Government, it thinks that the best way out is to make an attack on the trade unions. I hope that the Government will remove some of the pernicious clauses of this Bill and that it will adopt a different attitude to the trade union movement. The Government will eventually receive co-operation that way but not the way it is going.
– It pleases me to be able to follow the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) in this debate. He is a man for whom I personally have a great deal of respect. I listened to the comments he made and I am sure that between him and me and many other honourable members there are no arguments as to the responsibility of large sections of the trade union movement. But what has interested me in the debate as it has proceeded yesterday and this evening is that the Australian Labor Party Opposition seems to be obsessed by the application of this Bill to the trade union movement. There are many other important and significant provisions of this legislation which ought to be considered and which ought to be included in the debate in this chamber. I do not know whether members of the Opposition just do not concern themselves with these other matters or whether they are completely hidebound by the fact that there happen to be some provisions in the Bill which affect the trade union movement. I would like to direct some of my remarks tonight to some other aspects of the Bill.
Honourable members are aware that the second reading debate is proceeding at this stage and that a vote will not be taken on it at this time. The Government is prepared to allow this legislation to he until after the prorogation of the Parliament. During that time it will consider the incorporation of changes or amendments based on the many submissions which have been made. The Government will also take account of the complexity of the legislation and other things which may have an effect on it. I think that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and the Government should be complimented not only by honourable members on my side of the House but also by honourable members on the Opposition side and by people outside the Parliament for taking such a responsible attitude to what is obviously an important piece of legislation.
It ought to be pointed out that the proposal to examine trade union practices, which admittedly form part of this legislation, was foreshadowed in April 1976, which is nearly 12 months ago. The terms of reference of the Trade Practices Review Committee, or the Swanson Committee as it is known, included that proposal, and the unions have had the same opportunity as everybody else in the community to consider what changes may be made and to make submissions to that Committee and to the Government. As I understand it, more than 200 submissions were received on this matter. That in itself is significant. Also, in terms of the efforts which the Government has made to air the proposals that are before the Parliament, it is worthy of recognition that the recommendations of the Swanson Committee were published in August 1976. That was several months ago.
We all are aware that on 25 February this year an opportunity will be given to the union movement to discuss the legislation and there will be a meeting between the Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the matter. Obviously the unions still have a chance to put submissions on this question before the Government. The BUI itself was introduced into the House on 8 December last year. At that stage the Minister again invited submissions in relation to the legislation. I think that is a fairly reasonable proposition. I do not think that anybody could ask for greater consideration from any Government or from any Minister. As I indicated earlier, it is close to a year since the proposals were first put. The recommendations of the Committee ave been available since last August. The legislation has been before the Parliament and therefore before the people of Australia- anybody who may be interested- since last December, and a further opportunity is being given to the union movement to discuss these matters on 25 February.
The contents of the BUI are very significant and wide ranging. I do not think that in this debate the Opposition has given sufficient cognisance to aU of these matters. The BUI continues to deal with anti-competitive agreements, monopolisation, exclusive dealing, resale price maintenance and anti-competitive mergers although some adjustments are made.
The prohibition of price discrimination is repealed. The Government is of the view- I agree with this -that price discrimination arrangements worked to inhibit price flexibility and did not encourage competition. I think that what we have to be most concerned about in our society and in our economy is to ensure that there is an encouragement of competition. It is only in an atmosphere of healthy competition that we will be able to achieve any sort of restraint on unnecessary price increases. Alterations have been made to the provisions relating to anticompetitive agreements and the test of the restraint of trade has been omitted. There is now only one test on competitive effects and I think that this is something that ought to have been discussed a lot more by Opposition members in this debate. There has been a prohibition of collusive price agreements and collective boycotts. I think it is also significant to note that the Government has not adopted the recommendations that price agreements for services be prohibited outright.
There is a matter in this area which affects me as one who represents a rural electorate and so many of my colleagues in the National Country Party. That is the recent proposal by the stock and station agents associations, particularly in New South Wales, to increase their fees. Many people in rural industries took the view that the increase in fees was something which ought to have been prohibited by the Trades Practices Commission under the legislation that we are discussing at the moment, but this is something that the Government in its wisdom has decided not to proceed with. Although restraints are imposed upon these organisations they are free to increase their fees.
The legislation recognises the special place of joint ventures. It clarifies the law of monopolisation in such a way that only deliberate conduct by a market dominating organisation comes within the prohibition provisions and capital investment never of itself becomes a test of monopolisation. The legislation adopts the recommendations concerning the use of land as a means of effecting restrictive trade practices. It removes unnecessarily harsh controls on small businesses, and there are many of us in this Parliament who are concerned with that sector of our economy.
– A very important sector.
– As the honourable member for Darling Downs says, it is a very important sector. I could not agree with him more. Everyone of us has a lot to do in our electorates with small business and we realise the extent to which it is the backbone of the society and the economy in which we operate. The fact that the Government has lifted the threshold test to $3m annual turnover is significant. I think this Will have a beneficial effect on those operating in the area of small business.
Under the Act the Minister has a discretionary power to compel the grant of authorisation of a merger by the Commission. That power is to be removed under this legislation and that is in accordance with the undertaking we gave in the pre-election situation. Obviously a wide range of things are dealt by the legislation now before the House. Members of the Opposition have tried to narrow down this debate to a question of the effects of the legislation on the trade union movement and that alone. They have tried to portray the Government and its supporters as being interested in little more than union bashing. This is significant legislation and it ought to be recognised as such. It deals with many things other than the particular sections which relate to the trade union movement. There are important provisions about the Commission’s procedures in terms of restrictive trade practices. The legislation seeks to remove the clearest procedure which perpetrated unnecessary interference by government and we are all concerned about bureaucratic interference, particularly unnecessary bureaucratic interference in matters which ought to rest with private enterprise. A simple test of balance between benefits and detriments to the public is adopted in this legislation. This replaces the previously overly harsh authorisation test. Discussions with the Trade Practices Commission before the determination of authorisation applications or exclusive dealing notifications are provided for and I believe that they are important provisions.
There are also provisions which relate to employees. Exemptions which have long been afforded to this group are now limited to remuneration, conditions of employment and hours and working conditions, and secondary boycotts which substantially damage the business of Australia are prohibited. I think there has been adequate debate on those matters in this Parliament and they are things which are generally accepted by the community. Another important area in this legislation relates to consumer protection. I have noted an appalling lack of attention to consumer protection by the Opposition in this debate. The definition of a consumer is altered to afford small businesses a new degree of protection. I indicated earlier, particularly in response to my colleague the honourable member for Darling Downs, that small business is certainly an extremely important component of our economy. Protection is extended in matters of the promotion and sale of land, especially major interstate promoted subdivisions. A quick method of banning the sale of unsafe goods is now provided for and I think that again is something which is significant. It ought to have received more attention, and I would imagine favourable attention, from the members of the Opposition.
More satisfactory sanctions and remedies for consumer protection are provided in the legislation. Imprisonment is abolished. Courts may order corrective advertising, the repair of goods or affirmative disclosure. I think these things will do a lot to improve these matters which are of concern to so many honourable members. The Government is studying things like a multiplicity of State/Commonwealth laws implying excludable terms into consumer transactions to try to simplify them. The Government is looking at the possibility of direct liability of manufacturers for breach of implied terms in consumer contracts. I think all these things will serve to strengthen the position that consumers have in our economy.
There are also other aspects of this legislation which the Opposition has chosen to ignore. They are again significant in that they relate to the Government itself. The legislation accepts the general principle that the Government’s commercial enterprises should be subject to the same laws except in those peculiar cases which relate to the national interest. Appropriate provisions to be incorporated in the legislation are being investigated by the Government, and other matters which are pending consideration but which are not in this Bill relate to the rights of franchisees, the liabilities of financiers for breach of consumer conditions and warranties and the application of this legislation to professional activities. I believe that the Government has given a good deal of consideration to this legislation. It has done more than could normally be asked for in terms of consultation with the community, with the people who are affected by the legislation, and in terms of the way in which the debate in this House has taken place.
I would like to direct attention to what are the aims of the legislation. These are the things that ought to be considered more in this debate. This legislation is concerned with the promotion of the rule of law. We should have the same law that governs industry and business governing trade union and government activities. That should be a paramount principle in the sort of philosophy that stands behind legislation of this nature and that is what we are seeking to do. These amendments will rectify and redress the sort of privileged positions that were given to some sectors of our community by the Bill which was introduced and passed when this House was controlled by the Labor Party. The laws should apply to the workings of private enterprise as in other spheres of civilised existence. Another aim of the legislation as I see it is to protect the public interest to prevent monopoly power from being exercised by either capital or labour or government for that matter except in those circumstances where the national interest is concerned.
The legislation is concerned not only to protect the consumer by legislation but also to protect the consumer by the efforts which are made under this legislation to counter inflation and by promoting competition. I believe we must be doing positive things towards countering inflation. The Bill itself will have a significant effect in this area. The Bill does not propose to introduce any restriction on legitimate trade union activities. Trade unions will be able to do all the sorts of things that they were able to do before but there will be particular things which have developed in the trade union movement which the Government and the community in general considers to be to the detriment of the normal operations of the community and economy which will not be permitted under this legislation. As I see it, as the people in my electorate who have spoken to me about this legislation see it and as my colleagues in the National Country Party and the Liberal Party in government see it, there should be no cause for concern by the trade union movement.
As I indicated earlier, my colleague the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) represents a union which has had a significantly good record in terms of industrial relations. The Barrier Council must be commended in this area. If other unions took the approach that was taken by those in Broken Hill in so many instances, I think the industrial relations scene in Australia would be far the better for that education. Unions which behave responsibly do not have any cause for concern under this legislation but those which seek to act in such a way as to impose a restraint of trade must be expected to come within the provisions of the legislation in the same way as the employers do, as private enterprise in general does and should continue to do and as the Government itself will do under this legislation. The public, as I understand from the reading of polls which have been published, has expressed its views about many of the things which this legislation accommodates. The public has expressed the view that the unions have tended to go far beyond the bounds of what the people are prepared to accept as being the normal and proper functions of the trade union movement.
There are many other areas in which the trade union movement has transgressed what we in Australia, under the historical development of the trade union movement, are prepared to accept as being within the proper role of the trade union movement. As I said a little earlier, I do not believe there is any need for any union which behaves in a responsible fashion to have any fear of this legislation but the activities of those who seek to enforce their will on their own membership and therefore on industries and the economy in this country will be noted as a result of this legislation. They will have to think twice about whether they are going to proceed with that sort of activity in future. I believe that the legislation is good legislation. It redresses the weaknesses that were inherent in the Bill which was originally introduced by the Labor Party when it was in government. It removes a situation of double standards which in my view applies to the trade union movement today. The trade union movement wants to impose all sorts of provisions on other people and is not prepared to have those same provisions imposed upon itself. There has been a greater need for clarity in this area of law in Australia and I believe that the Government has acted most responsibly in seeing that that clarity is in fact introduced. I cannot accept the criticism of the Opposition that this is a Bill which is designed to do little more than union bash. As I have indicated, I am convinced about this myself. There are many other important aspects included in this Bill to which the Government has given serious consideration and which have been before the people for a period of very close to 12 months. I think that the Government has taken an extremely responsible attitude to it and I support the legislation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I must say that it is a very welcome relief to hear the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) make quite a reasoned speech without resorting to union bashing. It has been quite sad to see so many Government supporters use the opportunity for debating this Bill to indulge in very blatant union bashing without any real consideration of the problems involved. I oppose this legislation precisely for that reason and the reason, of course, is contained in the objective as outlined by the honourable member for Hume. The legislation was designed to promote rule of law. With regard to the industrial aspects, I suggest that the Government should be looking at the causes of the problems in the industrial work force and not promoting the rule of law. I suggest to the Government that it cannot solve the deep social problems within the work force by repressive legislation. This is a completely negative approach which cannot possibly succeed and I have no doubt that it will exacerbate the existing very poor industrial relations which prevail between a government that is becoming more repressive every day and a work force which is becoming more disadvantaged and alienated every day. A more positive approach would be for the Government to have a serious look at the social problems facing the whole of Australian society but, more particularly, the industrial work force, due to the far reaching structural changes which are under way and which affect the size, the quality and the distribution of the work force. These are the real underlying problems but the Government chooses not to look at these problems but to apply some sort of repressive band-aid treatment to solve the problems.
The point that I wish to make is that the industrial work force has enough to contend with as the present capitalist system continues on its inevitable path of squeezing the work force in its quest for profits without being subjected to deliberately provocative legislation of this nature. It has enough to put up with without this provocative law making. I suggest that a more positive approach to the problem would indicate some of the real structural problems facing Australia. I am sure, for instance, that it would indicate that there is a good deal of evidence available, particularly in other advanced industrial capitalist countries, that the industries in these societies will tend to employ a decreasing percentage of the work force in relation to productivity increases as industry becomes more highly monopolised, internationalised and automated. It is quite apparent to workers and to industrial spokesmen that wage restraint in a capitalist society results in enhanced opportunity for business to accumulate profits with which to automate further their operations and dispense with workers, thereby adding to the growing unemployment and, in fact, establishing a large permanent pool of unemployed. The other very disturbing trend in the work force is that not only does the relative size of the industrial work force tend to decline but that the relative skill of the work force tends to decline. Whilst we must acknowledge that in the Australian situation there are shortages of skilled labour in particular sectors and in particular geographical areas of the work force, there is also considerable evidence that as automation and technology progress and while the need for small numbers of highly skilled operators may increase, there is also a definite tendency for the skilled operators to be replaced by semi-skilled operators and for semiskilled operators to be replaced by unskilled operators in industry. So when we consider this situation, it is little wonder, with both the size and the skill of the work force being squeezed, that workers should be anxious and apprehensive about maintaining their hard won salary standards and their status in the work force.
A further distressing aspect of this process is that it leaves large sectors of the work force in occupations which do not utilise the degree of skill to which they have been trained and which also leaves no scope for any advancement by utilising the latent skills which they may have as individuals. I suggest that these are very real problems facing the industrial work force in any capitalist society today, and these are the things that governments should be looking at. Governments need sympathy and understanding in order to develop a satisfactory industrial climate between the trade unions and government, and not repressive, union bashing legislation and stupid, unthinking, shallow speeches such as those which we have heard from the Government side today.
I want to refer to proposed new section 45D, because that is the section which concerns the Opposition in particular. I believe it is a rather classic example of blatant repressive legislation which strikes a savage blow at the only real weapon which the worker has at his disposal, and that, of course, is his right to withdraw his labour, which is the only means by which working people can demonstrate their solidarity. It is the only real weapon that workers have against the combined forces that make up the entrenched power and dominance of the capitalist form of production. It is the only weapon they have against the monopolies and multinationals and their expert teams of legal eagles, accountants, consultants, their friends in the media and the whole paraphanalia that make up the system. It is the weapon which the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) wanted the dockyard workers in Newcastle to give up before he would give them government contracts. To their credit they did not fall for it. I believe that this provision is a very ugly big stick by which it is hoped to bludgeon workers into submission.
Proposed new section 45D, of course, is concerned with secondary boycotts. Speaking of boycotts and people withholding their services, it might be of interest to honourable members opposite to know that members of the great and honourable medical profession, through their Canberra branch of the Australian Medical Association, have been effectively boycotting the salaried specialist services in Canberra hospitals by refusing to work with the people who provide those services, even to the extent of delaying urgently required medical services. What sort of boycott is that? We talk about trade union boycotts. This situation has been in existence in Canberra for more than 12 months and it is still continuing. I do not see that this sort of legislation will stop that sort of practice.
The Medical Association is, in effect, a trade union and in certain circumstances it withholds its services because it does not want to see salaried specialists infringing on its little empire, which is a very wealthy empire of course. It is prepared to take that sort of action to the detriment of the public medical services. It has practised social ostracism and even racial discrimination and petty obstruction against highly skilled specialists in a way which is contrary to the so-called ethical standards of the medical profession and in total disregard of the interests of the public. If industrial unionists acted in that way they would be put in gaol; they would be socially ostracised. But the medical profession gets away with it. I would like to know whether the Minister thinks that this sort of legislation should be applied to that sort of conduct by a profession such as the medical profession. I have m mind the way in which it has been carrying on in the Australian Capital Territory.
The only other aspect of the legislation I want to mention briefly is the threshold provisions. I know that there has been a lot of criticism of this aspect of the legislation. I think it is patently ridiculous to apply a $3m turnover threshold in controlling mergers. I understand that something like seven-eighths of all clearances in the past 12 months have concerned companies that fall within that category. Now, of course, they will be excluded. I suggest that it certainly leaves the way open for small, successful, fast-growing companies to be taken over and thus remove the competition which large companies fear and like to destroy. I think there is a very good case for the Commission, under well defined guidelines, to exercise discretionary power in relation to thresholds. But that should be left to the discretion of the Commission rather than be the subject of a cut-off point which is quite unrealistic. I believe that small companies, especially labour-intensive companies, have a very vital role to play in the Australian industrial scene. I think that they will continue to have that role while we have relatively small centres of population spread over very large areas. I think that the proposed threshold under this legislation will expose those companies to takeover and it will make it very difficult for them to survive.
I do not want to comment any further, except to say that this legislation, especially proposed new section 4So, is very repugnant. It cannot possibly work. Its results will undoubtedly be the opposite to that which it is intended to achieve. I have no doubt that proposed new section 45D will be one of the first measures which will be repealed when the Australian Labor Party comes back to government next year.
– I am somewhat astonished that the debate on a trade practices Bill has turned into a discussion on trade unions. Trade practices law has been in force in the United States since about 1890 and in the United Kingdom somewhat latterly, but always trade unions have been excluded from its ambit. What are trade practices supposed to be about? It is astonishing that at the moment, apart from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), there are only 2 honourable members on the Government side of the chamber, when during the whole of the debate honourable members opposite have been bashing trade unions. I submit, with respect, that in other countries with whom we like to compare ourselves- the two that I know best are the United States and the United Kingdom- trade . unions are specifically excluded from the ambit of trade practices. I suggest sensibly that when we are talking about trade practices we are talking about the operations of rather large business in relation to smaller units.
While the Minister is taking counsel at this point, we should at least get down to some parameters. Trade unions, after all, are organisations of people within particular industries to protect themselves from the organisation of capital, if you like, and economic power and so on. Trade practices, as I understand it, should relate to the operations of businesses. I respect the Minister at the table as being an honourable gentleman. Trade unions are organised to protect the individual worker against the rapacity of organised capital. But the term ‘trade practices’, in my view, has a certain meaning. I repeat, the law in the United States and the law in the United Kingdom, upon which we model ourselves, exempts trade unions from the operation of trade practices law. For some reason the Government seems to want to bring them within the ambit of this legislation. It can make this legislation as restrictive as it wants to and as rapacious as it needs to; but we have a Conciliation and Arbitration Act which is supposed to regulate the operations of trade unions. Trade unions are not trade practising organisations. Mr Minister, may I have your attention?
– I am sorry -
-A11 right; but surely certain decencies of debate ought to be observed in this place.
– I am sorry; your colleague interrupted me.
– I do not talk unless I feel I have something to say. I hope that the Minister will listen. I believe that the Minister has certain feelings about things. Honourable members may accept the Galbraith thesis about countervailing power- that the 2 great powers in the community are capitalism on the one side and the trade unions on the other- but that is not what trade practices regulations are about. Trade practices regulations concern the acknowledgment that there are some big economic units of operation and some small ones.
This has been a union bashing debate. In the 2 countries with which we compare ourselves, I hope honestly- that is, the United States and the United Kingdom- trade unions are exempted from the operations of trade practices regulations. For some obscure reason, which the Minister has not explained, he has sought to bring trade unions within this legislation. Trade unions have power, and thank God they do. The Government might not like the way they exercise that power. It is a collective power, but it is not the same as what is called ‘trade practices’. The title of this legislation is the ‘Trade Practices Act’. In what respect are trade unions brought within the ambit of trade practices? I think it is time that this question was asked. I am sorry that it took us so long to have a trade practices law. I am sorry that the Government now seeks to amend that law and to bring in something that was never brought into the equivalent legislation in the 2 comparative countries, the United States and the United Kingdom. Why does the Government not bring trade associations and boards of directors within the ambit of this legislation? In what respect are trade unions regarded as being perpetrators of trade practices? I hope the Minister will take up this point. I have listened to this debate and to what honourable members opposite have had to say. I can understand their not liking trade unions.
– We like them.
– Does the honourable member like them?
-Yes. They are essential.
-I hope he does like them. I hope there is an acknowledgment that trade unions are a necessary part of the division of economic power in the community. But surely this is not what we are talking about in trade practices regulation. If the honourable gentleman wishes to suggest that it is, that is fair enough; but, in the 2 great countries with which we compare ourselves, the Sherman Act in the United States goes back as far as 1890 and similar legislation in the United Kingdom was introduced a little more latterly. If honourable members wish to compare our country with Bulgaria, China, Portugal, or somewhere else, let us hear it; but in both the United States and the United Kingdom trade unions do not come within the ambit of trade practices regulation. Why are they brought into this legislation? I should like to have an answer.
– It is simple- they hate the unions.
-Exactly, they hate unions. But they have to acknowledge the existence of unions. Astonishingly, in the odd homily that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) delivered the other night, one of the reasons given for inflation becoming slightly less than it used to be was indexation- a kind of compact between the two sides. In my view, inflation will not be halted unless we have some trustful co-operation between employer and employee groups, with the Government being an honest broker between the two; but the other night the Treasurer said that he was going to be so honest as to say that he thought there should not be a plateau system but there should be a zero level in future adjustment of wages.
– A reduction of real wages.
– This would mean, in real terms, a reduction of the purchasing power of the great majority of people in the community. I have great respect for the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I hope that he might be one of the honourable parts of what I might call the ‘honourable brokerage’, but I do not think there will be such a brokerage. With great respect to the Minister, I ask: Why is it sought here, unlike in the 2 major countries with which we like to compare ourselves- the United States and the United Kingdom- to bring trade unions within the ambit of restrictive trade practices regulation? After all, in my view regulation of restrictive trade practices means the regulation of big business because big business can become so powerful in relation to the total economy that it has to be regulated.
– And the unions.
– If the honourable member thinks that unions are in the same league or even on the same level as big business, let him say so; but that is not really the case in respect of restrictive trade practices regulation. It is an acknowledgment that some areas of economic activity are so significant in their totality that they intrude into what might be called the individual’s freedom. If the Government thinks that unions do the same, it can amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But 2 animals that are not recognisable together are being mixed together when unions are brought within the ambit or restrictive trade practices regulation. I think this is what we have sought to point out during this debate; but all we have heard is the bashing of unions. If honourable members opposite want to say that they do not like unions, this is fair enough. I can acknowledge that. But they have to live with unions. The Australian community would not survive without them. Surely the Government has to have some sensible cognisance of how we live together.
I have heard it said in recent days, and I shall repeat it, that the Australian economy at the moment will not survive unless there is tolerance between employers and employees, with the Government being, at best- I hope not at worst- an honest broker. That is not what is happening at the moment. We have heard already the Treasurer saying that he will be going before the Arbitration Commission in a few days. I do not know whether he is the one who goes before the Commission. He will not say that he wants plateau indexation. He will say that he wants zero indexation. What does that mean to ordinary people? One can argue that the CPI is dishonest because the Government has imposed upon people a levy that they cannot avoid paying. This has been reflected in the index and it makes the December quarter rise of 6 per cent. Honourable members opposite have said that if the levy had not been imposed the CPI increase would have been 2.8 per cent. It could have been 2.8 per cent if honourable members opposite had not changed the system. Now honourable members opposite are bringing restrictive practice clauses into an area that was never regarded as being related.
I have heard so much piety in the last few days about small business. Surely restrictive practice is supposed to do something about helping the small as against the big. All honourable members opposite do is to intrude unions into the area. The Minister whom I respect -
– How can you respect him when he does these sorts of things?
-I respect him for different sorts of reasons. This proposal is in defiance of all the accepted practices adopted- in the places with which we like to compare ourselves when it suits us. I refer to the United States and the United Kingdom. They have specifically exempted trade unions from the ambit of trade practice regulations. Candidly I think honourable gentlemen opposite are mixing oil and whatever else cannot be mixed.
– Fair enough, water. In addition they are not putting oil on troubled waters; they are troubling the waters more than they should. Surely to goodness we should argue these matters in this chamber. Throughout this debate I have listened to people union bashing- I think that is the respectable term. Trade unions are an essential part of the Australian economy. Trade associations are an essential part of the Australian economy. But restrictive practice is not about that. Restrictive practice is about the power of big business in relation to the totality of the economy and somehow we have to intrude government power to do justice between the producer and the consumer. That is not what trade union organisation is about. Trade union organisation is about employee organisation as against employer organisation.
– What about political strikes?
– The honourable member can refer to political strikes if he likes. If we examine why political strikes take place we will find that they are more likely to take place if honourable members opposite pass this stupid sort of legislation that they are now perpetrating. I accept the fact that the honourable gentleman probably does not know much about trade unions He probably knows a lot about trade organisations. This legislation is not about trade organisations. It is an attempt to deal with trade unions. The legislation acknowledges that in the community certain organisations by reason of their existence can be more powerful against the community than others. The Government is trying to intrude to regulate that. I said earlier that I acknowledge the Minister’s humility. Humility is a great virtue which does not exist very much in Australia at the moment. Trade practices regulation in my view has nothing to do with trade union organisation. Honourable members opposite are trying to relate the 2 things. With all respect to honourable members opposite, all the speeches in this debate have been about that rather than about what ought to be considered. There are magnitudes of power and minitudes of power and some difficulties in a democratic system. To divide between magnitudes and minitudes is what government organisation in the finish is about. I would have thought that that is what trade regulation practice is all about.
-! am grateful to the House for allowing me a few minutes. I will not weary it on this subject. I am convinced, as are my parliamentary colleagues in the Aus.tralian Labor Party, that this is a snide attempt by a formerly respected Minister, the Minister for .Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), to curb the trade unions of this country. Much has been said about trade unions in this debate. I suppose that I represent an area in which as a small boy trade unionism became very important to me. I would hate to see this legislation pass through this Parliament and receive the royal assent without the withdrawal of the proposal to repeal section 49 of the principal Act. I bitterly condemn the introduction of proposed section 45d. Proposed section 45d is worth repeating. 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.
This virtually means that trade unionists who breach this proposed section of the Trade Practices Amendment Bill could be fined up to $50,,000.
I wish briefly to refer to the penalties that were imposed upon the old coal miners on the northern coal fields of the Hunter. The coal miners struggled for years and years until compassionate governments relieved them of their serfdom. I can remember people in my age group going to work in the winter time and, as a result of working a 48-hour week, never seeing daylight until Saturday afternoon.
– You are not the only one.
– I am conversant with the industrial struggles of the north just as the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is conversant with the great struggles of the shearers in that era.
– You look too young for that.
-I probably do. It might be my mode of living which has been patterned off the honourable member; honesty of purpose. Some of the old miners of the northern coal fields never got compensation when their fingers were chopped off The Government, by this legislation, is trying to prevent the Australian trade union movement from correcting grievous social injustices. It whips the principle of every Labor man in this nation.
The honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) proudly said this afternoon that he was an unflinching supporter of the capitalist free enterprise system. The capitalist free enterprise system on this earth is dying and it is dying very hard. It has failed the peoples of the world. The younger members of the Government ought to go to Latin America and have a look at the living conditions of the people which have been created as a result of trade unions being battered into the ground. The revolution in Cuba was brought about as a result of the trade unions being battered into the ground. The coup in Chile was brought about as a result of the trade unions being battered into the ground. The military coups in many of the countries of Latin America, including Brazil, were brought about as a result of the trade unions not being allowed to function properly or to have corrected capitalist injustices. If the Government gets away with this Bill and a series of other exploitations and . union bashings in this country, that will happen here.
Let me say a few things about what I would have expected some members of -the Government, in fairness, to say about big business and what it is doing today. Not many years after I was first elected to this chamber in 1 960 there was a debate on a Bill which first dealt with restrictive trade practices. The present Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, introduced the legislation. We complained then, that the legislation had no teeth, that it was a bulldog with rubber teeth, that it was intendednot to offend big business. At that time some members on this side of the House queried, whether the legislation would curb the actions of the brewery in Victoria which at that time had cut off beer supplies to a hotel in a small country town on the Victorian border because the licensee refused to sell the soft drink products which the brewery demanded that the hotel sell. When the widowed licensee of the hotel said that she had other arrangements by which she would get her soft drinks, the brewery said that she would get no beer from Carlton and United Breweries Ltd. She said: ‘Very good. I will get it . from Tooth and Co. Ltd or Tooheys Ltd’. Carlton United had some agreement with Tooth and Tooheys by which she could not get her supplies from them. I think she eventually had to go out of business.
Honourable members opposite condemn the trade unions for their actions, but they never condemn the actions of big business such as the brewery monopolies. What did Mr Harry Alee say at a Press conference quite recently? He virtually displayed the arrogance of a multimillionaire. I quote from the Melbourne Age:
Tooth and Co. may close 200 of its 900 hotels if its appeal to the Trade Practices Tribunal on tied hotels is unsuccessful.
He was virtually threatening the Tribunal.
– Yes, he was in contempt of the Tribunal, as the honourable member for Grayndler reminds me. I quote from an article in the Australian of 24 December. It refers to Tooth and Tooheys breweries in New South Wales. The article is headed:
Brewers told to end ties in 6 months.
The article stated:
The Trade Practices Commission yesterday opened the way for all hotels in Australia to sell liquor from any source.
It did this when it gave NSW brewers Tooth and Tooheys . . .
For half a century this decision had been wished for.
– That is the job of the Trade Practices Commission, not to jail unionists.
-That is right. What happened? The breweries have now taken on the Government and are appealing to the High Court. The lessees of Tooth’s hotels in New South Wales are irate because Tooth’s brewery will not supply its lessees with its products. The brewery is sending out the products to the retail liquor stores. The lessees are obliged to raise their voices and to approach members of Parliament about the matter because their leases will not be renewed. They have to buy cut price liquor from retail liquor stores. If they are caught by the breweries selling at the price they paid for it, which is virtually at a loss, they are threatened that their lease will be terminated.
I have other articles before me, but I promised to share my time with another member on this side of the House. The breweries have threatened to foreclose on some of their licensees who have mortgages owing to the breweries. The breweries are threatening to call up the mortgages. When Tooth will not supply the lessees with the products that they want, the lessees still have to pay the heavy rent that is imposed upon them. That is the type of butchery that big business does to its lessees when it has them tied up by a legal contract. The sooner they are free and the sooner the Trade Practices Act takes its proper course in society, the better it will be for society in general.
-I will not take as long as I ought to in this debate, but I want to say something about the trade practices legislation as a means of bashing the trade unions. I listened with a great deal of interest to my friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who pointed out that the countries with which we like to compare ourselves, the United States and the United Kingdom are 2 countries which have never allowed themselves to fall into the kind of trap into which this Government is asking us to walk. I would like to take the Parliament s mind back to the year 1 90 1 and to the famous Taff Vale case in England. The Tai Vale railway took the railway union to court for damages as a consequence of a strike which had held up the operations of the Taff Vale railway. After a long series of court actions and appeals, the matter was eventually settled in the House of Lords in 1902. The famous Taff Vale case was written into the case law of England as representing part of the common law of England- namely, that a union or its officials could be held liable for damages caused to an employer as a consequence of a strike action.
That distortion of Justice was corrected by the House of Commons in 1906- not by a House of Commons dominated by communists or even by Ramsay MacDonald ‘s socialists but a House of Commons dominated by people from the Reform Club of England, the Liberals, the Lloyd Georges, who saw the travesty of forcing unionists and trade unions to pay damages to an employer against whom they were engaged in a legitimate industrial dispute. From 1906 the law of England prohibited any action against unions or unionists for damages caused as a consequence of industrial disputes. This was the law of England until the famous Rookes v. Barnard case in the middle 1 960s when, by a decision of the High Court of England, it was held that the 1906 law of England did not provide an immunity against action for torts. The Wilson Government, to its eternal credit, altered the law again after the Rookes v. Barnard decision, to restore the rights of unions to use the boycott and the strike weapon to get a fair crack of the whip in an adversary situation with employers. It was not until the Heath Government came into power that the Rookes v. Barnard rejection was resuscitated to some slight extent. Even the Heath Conservative Government did not attempt to apply the law of torts to unions which were engaged in the kind of industrial disputes about which we are talking now.
This brings us to the famous Donovan Royal Commission, which was held not many years ago, which brought down a unanimous finding, which was tabled in the House of Commons, stating that it is utterly impossible to use the law of torts as a means of preventing unions from exercising their right to strike.
After all, what is the right to strike but the real trademark that distinguishes the free man from the slave? The only thing that distinguishes the free man from the slave is the right to strike. Take the right to strike away from a man who has only his labour to sell and we are looking at a slave, a mediaeval feudal slave. Do we want that? Some of us do. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), who is at the table and whom my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports respects so much, wants it and so does the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) want it. Well, I do not, and nobody on this side of the Parliament wants it. Nobody on the other side of the Parliament who wants to hold his seat dare say publicly that he wants it.
I am going to issue this word of warning to the Government. If it attempts to bring in the trade practices legislation as an indirect means of the application of the law of torts to unions and unionists who are engaged in an adversary industry situation with employers, the Government is surely going to face the biggest industrial confrontation that it has ever seen.
– It is not blackmail; it is telling you the facts. Let me tell honourable members opposite what they are going to run up against. They will be able to defeat the unskilled worker. They will be able to put the indian sign on the worker who is not well organised. They will be able to do these things by this legislation. All that they will do will be to provoke the skilled worker in key positions who is able, through strike action, to hold up hundreds of millions of dollars of capital. Let us have a look at the strikes that have taken place in the airline industry. Why is it that Boeing 747 pilots are receiving over $50,000 a year. They are not worth it. Let me say at once that they are greatly overpaid. They are getting at least $20,000 a year more than they ought to get when we compare their salary with what a fitter and turner gets for the work he does.
– You tell their union that.
– When I was Minister for Labour I told the Australian Federation of Air Pilots that these pilots were being overpaid. I bitterly opposed the increase and so did the Minister for Transport. In fact it was the then Prime Minister who eventually wrote the letter of instruction that forced Trans-Australia Airlines to follow Ansett Airlines of Australia in yielding to their demand for a 24 per cent pay rise when they had absolutely no right to it. But the pilots had the power to tie up hundreds of millions of dollars of capital owned by people who were paying tens of millions of dollars a year in interest and who on top of that were compelled to deliver millions of dollars in dividends.
I can tell honourable members opposite that the confrontation is not going to take place with council employees. It is not going to take place with the workers who are unskilled or with those unions which have a large unskilled membership. The confrontation will take place through a carefully orchestrated industrial compaign against the Government under which a tiny handful of skilled key men will tie up the whole of Australia ‘s industry. They will crush the Government as surely as the miners of Britain crushed its confreres in Britain when the Heath Government was so utterly destroyed as a consequence of the key position held by miners of that country. The workers of this country, through their key personnel, will crush the Government as utterly as the miners crushed the Heath Government. I hope they do because I believe that Parliament is a farce in terms of the way that it is being used to crush the majority of the working people in this country.
The working people of this country represent 82 per cent of the total voting population. If you want to pull them on- if honourable members opposite who represent and who speak for the 1 8 per cent want to crush the 82 per cent- the ballot box will determine your fate. Honourable members opposite will be forced to the ballot box because just as Kerr was able to force us to the ballot box by the use of the Constitution, or the misuse of the Constitution, there is a power that is greater than Kerr- the power of organised labour. There is no greater power than organised labour. In such a confrontation a lot of people will not have to starve. Nobody wm have to starve. Organised labour will be able to close down the wharves. I know that the Government’s secret strategy is to pull on a dispute with the maritime unions.
– Do you want them to?
– Yes, I want the unions to close the wharves before they allow this legislation to go on the statute books. They can and they will close the wharves. They will paralyse industry so completely that honourable members opposite will come back with their tails between their legs like whipped curs admitting that they cannot win against the organised might of organised labour. They have no chance of winning at all because they are only tiny little men who have none of the great battalions on their side. All that they have on their side are a few decrepit Press barrens and people who own the media. But the great power of the people is against them. Honourable members opposite will all have to face the ballot box sooner than they think if they put this legislation into being.
It does not worry me very much if the Government goes ahead with this legislation because if it does it will be defeated either way. I am glad that the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) is in the chamber. He is about the only member on the other side of the Parliament for whom I have any respect.
– I rise to order. Will you, Mr Deputy Speaker, ensure that the honourable member for Hindmarsh addresses this House from his proper place?
-The. honourable member for Hindmarsh, as I see him, is addressing the House from his proper place.
– I am glad that the Attorney-General is in the chamber. He knows the history of the law of torts in labour disputes.
– He knows the Constitution pretty well, too.
-He knows the Constitution extremely well. He was the one who was able to say in advance the exact steps that the Governor-General was going to take. Our lawyers told us to ridicule him, that he did not know what he was talking about. I joined in the ridicule of him but I lived to find out that the pattern of behaviour of the Governor-General was exactly as he planned and said it would be- not planned it maybe, but as he predicted it would e. I am not appealing to the rabble at the backthe claqueurs behind the Attorney-General. I am appealing to the Attorney-General of this country, as a man who has some stability and in whom I personally have faith, to tell his Cabinet colleagues that they will be taking the first steps along the slippery road to disaster if they go ahead with this proposal. The trade union movement is like a sleeping giant. China was once so described. The Government can let it sleep if it likes because it is sleeping now.
In conclusion I want to say that the Government cannot win this fight. It does not deserve to win it. It will be a bad Australia if it does win it. The trade union movement holds the key positions. It has among its members the electricians, the engine drivers and the firemen who can cut off the power. When supporters of the Government switch on their light switches they will see nothing. When they turn on their printing presses to print their rubbish in their newspapers against the workers nothing will come out the other end because there will be no power. Unionists will close down the wharves. They will close down everything- even the sewerage- that makes it possible for this country to tick. They will only ave to do it for 24 hours and this country will be in the midst of a revolution. It was in this kind of situation and in exactly the climate we have in the chamber tonight that people were saying in regard to people who wanted bread ‘Let them eat cake’. They thought it could not happen in Paris, that it could not happen in Leningrad, that it that could not happen in Czechoslovakia and that it could not happen even in England- but it did. It can happen here and it will happen here if honourable members opposite go on to bring into the trade practices legislation penalties of $50,000 and the like for unionists who after all are trying to use the only thing they know- organised labour power- against the tremendous, almost unlimited power of the organised transnationals in this country.
That is all I want to say. I hope that what I have said will cause the Government to think seriously about the steps it has taken. I hope that it will remember in the councils of its Party that this man Ellicott, not Fraser, and not the little person with glasses who is sitting at the tableHoward is the man who is more likely to lead the Government out of the swamp and the morass into which it has walked than anybody else I know.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Before I call the honourable member for Holt I would like to apologise to him for not calling him previously. I should have called him before theonourable member for Hindmarsh, but I did not see him rise.
-The speech we have just heard from the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) was one of great oratory and great feeling which we must admire, but I am wondering whether when he reads it tomorrow he will not conclude that he was addressing a meeting in Welshpool in 1870. I apologise to honourable members who have a Welshpool in their electorate. The honourable member for Hindmarsh certainly fell into it tonight. He may talk about the enormous power of the unions, and certainly we respect him but does he imagine that so many people on the Government benches were returned to power without the support of vast numbers of people in the trade unions? How stupid could an intelligent man be? He is intelligent. He is exceptionally intelligent and kind. He was defending a position which I respect. He said that the law of tort shall not apply in a union dispute, and it should not so apply. I think the Attorney-General and others in the United States of America who are interested in union law would question the premise that no trade unionist shall be subject to the law of tort. I would have thought that the distinguished member for Hindmarsh, who must know the union laws in the United States, would know that the law of contract would apply to Mr Fraseur or to Mr Walter Reuther if he signed a contract. The honourable member tried to draw a very clever political line betwen tort and contract.
– That is a different thing.
– I know. I accept it and I do not mind debating it with the honourable member. If we in the Government Parties are going to gaol trade unionists- that is, to bring criminal charges against them- then of course the honourable member has a point. If this legislation is going to do it, then he has a very important debating matter for the nation. I am open to discussion on it. My own view is that if unions contract with an employer that contract should be subject to the common law. But he knows very well, and so does the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), that by English history he has got out of the English common law and he has got out of the common law of Australia because unions are classified as friendly societies and therefore the employers cannot bring an action against them in contract. Therefore, whatever premise they start on, they are starting on a privileged premise that a unionist and a union are outside the normal ambit of the common law. I have never met a trade unionist who has never conceded that point. Let us start from there. Don’t you dare accuse me of being a union basher.
– Whom are you talking at?
– You, the honourable member for Hindmarsh. Don’t you ever dare in this House accuse me of union bashing.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Debate in the chamber must be directed through the Chair. The honourable member in fact is having a private debate with the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I suggest that he should address the Chair.
– I cannot uphold the point of order. The honourable member for Holt was looking at the honourable member for Hindmarsh and pointing to him.
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh can look after himself without the intervention of the honourable member for Corio, who should sit down and mind his own business. The honourable member for Hindmarsh knows perfectly well what the situation is in this country. Unionists in this country do not want confrontation. I can name only about 4 trade union officials who would like a confrontation. This country cannot afford a confrontation. The honourable member knows it and the Government knows it. Therefore we seek the cooperation of the trade union movement. The majority of unionists who work in the factories in my electorate- the factories of General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd, International Harvester Australia Ltd, Sperry Rand Australia Ltd and all the rest of them- are not going to be led a dance by any person in this House trying to persuade them to have a confrontation. Neither do I believe the treasury bench is seeking a confrontation with the unions at this critical time. How can we recover as a nation if we have a union confrontation? What a ridiculous idea! We cannot do it. We cannot afford it, and we know it. Therefore, please do not accuse us of trying to bash the unions in any way. The honourable member may say that this legislation is disagreeable. He has a chance to amend it. But I do not believe union members want a confrontation with the Government; neither do I believe the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wants a confrontation with the unions.
– Of course he does.
-When did he say he wanted it.
– You are too kind to him.
– I ask the members of the Opposition: When has the Prime Minister said he wants a confrontation?
– When he introduced this legislation.
-Of course, if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition keeps saying ‘Oh’ he will never become Leader of the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Holt address his remarks to the Chair and that interjections cease.
– As I have the floor of this House, I will debate with the Opposition as I desire, and if honourable members want to intervene and argue with me they may certainly do so. After all, are we not here to debate? Are we here to deliver 20-minute orations, sit down and bunk out of the chamber, or are we here as the debating forum of this nation? I propose to debate. Let us continue from there.
I simply cannot concede that at this critical moment of time there is a single major union which wants confrontation; nor do I believe the treasury bench wants it. The only problem is how to get co-operation from both sides. Is there goodwill from the honourable member for Hindmarsh? Is there goodwill as a result of his speech? I thought his speech was downright destructive. He called for all the grand bans of the unions. He said what they could do. He said that they could even stop the sewage. He called for a revolution. Does this help Australia? No. It is a waste of time. Fancy trying to stop sewage. There is enough of that anyway. The honourable member is trying to play games with us. The Opposition knows perfectly well that if we cannot get cooperation now we will not make a success of the economy during the next 12 months. If they do not want to see the economy succeed, if they want to create more unemployment, they should get up and say so. Do they want to create more unemployment? Do they want to destroy the economy? Is that their aim? Is it the aim of that front bench to cause union disruption, to cause trouble, to damage the economy?
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.
Question resolved in the negative.
– We will therefore now continue the debate. I am putting a question. Does the Opposition wish to see more unemployment? Why does the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions start saying that there will be- how many- one million unemployed by the end of the year? Why does the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) say that there will be inflation up to 16 per cent? What is he trying to achieve? He is just adding more fuel to destroy and divide the nation.
– What do you think it will be?
– The honourable member must work that out for himself. All I am saying is that I want to be quite certain that this country understands what the Opposition’s policy is. So far it has been carefully disguised. If the Opposition is calculating to create trouble, disharmony, more unemployment, more confusion, more chaos, so that foreign industrialists do not invest in this country- I want industrialists to invest in my area and I want at least 3 companies to expand- the sooner the Opposition tells the country what its aim is, the better. Honourable members have the right to oppose. I am certain that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), when he is not listening to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), will know that he has the right to oppose. He can oppose in any way he wants so long as he does not destroy the nation in his opposition and so long as he has some constructive policies to put before the nation. So far I have not heard from that front bench any major policy which would assist the national recovery.
I feel that honourable members opposite are looking for trouble. Their policy is to spend money. Of course they can buy themselves out of trouble. They are always looking for more disharmony. So they should not call me a union basher. I am looking for harmony. I am looking for progress and I am looking for co-operation. If they cannot give it us there are many unionists who will give it us. I can say that there are thousands in my area who will ignore them. The Opposition can have the unions. It can go on as hard as it likes. But when the unionists ‘ wives tell them what is going on- I know what I am talking about; I walk around a bit- they want work. The Opposition knows it. Do they want work or not?
– You sound like Enoch Powell to me.
– Yes, but I am not. I do not come from Enoch Powell’s area. I liked him but he was not that hot. The honourable member for Hindmarsh knows that I was getting too near the bone. That is why he said ‘Enoch Powell’. He wanted to try to detract from what I was saying. There are many people in my area who cannot afford a strike. They know it and the Opposition knows it. They do not want a strike. They do not want to see a loss of wages. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) can talk to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) as much as he likes but there are thousands of unionists in this country who are not prepared to listen to that jabber from over there. What is more, there are many people sitting on those benches who really know what they feel. Do not try to tell me that I do not know what they feel. I work in these areas and I know that they are worried about the security of their jobs. Are honourable members opposite helping by some of their statements about the security of their jobs? No, they are not. They are trying to cause malaise and difficulty at a critical time for the nation.
I will say this: When it comes dme to judge between our policies now and the polices which the Opposition is advocating, the average rank and file worker in industry in my area will say that what this Government is doing for them is right. It may not be good for the Opposition’s policies to get back into power, but these people have wages to collect and commitments to meet. They think that the policies of this front bench are absolutely right. Recently an American director of Massey-Ferguson came to open a $ lm new plant at Noble Park. This new plant is creating more jobs. He said one thing about this nation that was interesting. He said: ‘I travel. I am in Geneva. I am in London and I study the world and economics. I am amazed at the progress Australia has made during the last 3 years. Wherever I go cranes are building, more factories are going up and everything is going well. The only thing is that I cannot understand the Press.’ So I wonder how many people are working against what is obviously the good of the nation, and what is actually happening. I say this to the honourable member for Hindmarsh: He can make as many speeches as he wants here but the rank and file worker at General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and in the factories that I deal with do not want any confrontation.
– They will.
– They will not, and they will not have it. They do not want any confrontation. What they want is a 3-year wage stability contract as workers have m the United States of America so that they know they have security of employment for 3 years. There is nothing like a system of job security. The whole problem is that Opposition members still work on the old system of 1900, trying to kill industry, trying to kill private enterprise and take it over. Trie average worker does not want that. What he wants is production, profit and job security. He is going to get that, not from those people from over there who seek to destroy industry; he is going to get it from these benches here, as we realise that job security and profit making is as important for them as it is for the nation.
Nobody in the trade unions need worry about what the Opposition is saying for political reasons. They should understand that we are trying to work for job stability and production. That is exactly what our country needs. If we need to use the American system of trade union law and practice, then we ought to use it. I congratulate the Minister on what he has been saying. I congratulate the Treasury. I know that the majority of the nation will simply erase the speeches of Opposition members because they are talking politics. They are not talking for the rank and file worker in any factory in this nation.
-We are all indebted to the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) for a rather entertaining, if somewhat agitated, contribution to the debate. To summarise his speech, I would say that it was remarkable for its naivety, if I had to specify one quality. The honourable member accused the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) of referring to the 1870s. It is my observation that, if it were Welshpool in the 1870s, he was certainly trying to drag the honourable member for Holt screaming into the 19th century. It was far too quick. It may be pertinent for the House of Commons but certainly for Australia most of what he said was not pertinent. He speech illustrated that on the Government side there is a complete lack of understanding of the trade union movement and of the role that working people play in the community.
Honourable members opposite are still infatuated with the result of the election of December 1975. They still believe what the Treasury is telling them. They still believe what their great leader is telling them, although some senators are now coming to doubt it. So much for the honourable member for Holt. No matter how much honourable members on the opposite side want to describe this legislation as not being union bashing legislation, that is just not accurate. Previous speakers on this side of the House have identified section 45D of the Bill before us as being the most evil piece of legislation ever to be brought before this chamber. Government speakers talked about not wanting confrontation and about conciliation. Surely the role of the
Government ought to be that of being the honest broker, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said, of being the bridge between employees and employers; certainly not of being the agent provocateur, of being the agitator. The trade union movement cannot interpret the Government’s policy other than as one of deliberate confrontation. This is so when we look at this part of the Bill and when we look at the fact which is being secluded from the view of the public that the industrial section of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has now been re-established and is operating again.
– Under the bed.
– The operation of the ASIO spy force in the trade union movement must be some new kind of conciliation. We also see the projected establishment of an industrial relations tribunal. Our friend who is proud to have been a member of the National Civic Council is probably drawing on the resources of ASIO in that respect to support his own organisation, and good luck to him. But the establishment of an industrial relations tribunal- a euphemism for an industrial police force- again is conciliation, as I understand the honourable member for Holt. Do we expect the trade union movement to interpret the Government’s reneging on its election promises in respect of Medibank as being conciliation? Can we expect the man who is now paying a health tax, whether to a private fund or to Medibank, to think that that is an indication of good faith or of a conciliatory attitude on the part of the Government? Can we expect the work force to interpret the Government’s reneging on its election promises on wage indexation as being other than an act of confrontation? No matter how the poor back benchers on the opposite side of the House may be deluded by their Leader the stark facts are that this Government has set its course on blind confrontation. This is the most irresponsible legislation to come before this Parliament. It is an anti-strike law.
I want to bring to the notice of the Parliament a couple of matters in support of that observation. Disguised as an amendment to the Trade Practices Act we have this piece of anti-strike legislation. Unfortunately and tragically for the Australian community, it seems that there is a sufficient number of honourable members on the Government side who are prepared to put sound economic sense to one side and to follow the blind ideological course that if you put enough people out of work you can force the whole of the work force to take a reduction in living standards. That is what this Government is about. That is what the Leader of this Government has been saying over and over again. It is not what honourable members opposite told the people in 1975, and this is where they will come undone, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh said earlier.
– The honourable member might regard it as clap-trap. Others do not interpret it that way. Let me turn to the gang of four. This Bill deals with the withdrawal of goods and services. Let me direct the attention of honourable members to the gang of 4 Government Ministers that recently went up to Japan. They went to Japan and said: ‘If you do not buy more of our beef we will not give you a renewal of the use of our port facilities for your fishing vessels’. In fact, if my recollection is correct the annual agreement was renewed for only one month and then it was extended by a month. It was made very clear by the gang of four that went to Japan that unless there was an increase in purchases of Australian beef by Japan the port facilities in Australia would not be available to Japanese fishing vessels. Maybe honourable members opposite do not see that as a withdrawal of services but I am sure that every rank and file trade unionist does.
Let me turn now to the despicable remarks which were made by one member of the gang of four, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), on Monday Conference a few nights ago. He had the indecency to quote a little bit of juvenile doggerel on national television in the expectation that he would amuse some people by highlighting the very extreme personal hardships of thousands of people in the Hunter region. I would think that the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0’Keefe) would be with me on this point. I would like to read into Hansard these 2 limericks. The second limerick clearly defines the purpose of this legislation. The first one reads:
There were some men from Newcastle Who got themselves into a rassle When I said ‘ No strike if you want work ‘ They called me a jerk
They were right-
And lost their jobs in the hassle.
Government supporters interjecting-
-I am quoting the words of the Minister for Transport. I am sorry about the content of it. These are the words of the Minister. The second limerick reads:
There was a man named Bob Hawke Who then came out with a terrible squawk I -
That is, the Minister for Transport- said ‘Their jobs will be fine
If they stay on the line
No strike will stop the decline ‘
That is what this legislation is all about. They are the words of a Government Minister. He quoted them 2 nights ago. If honourable members opposite want to disregard what was said by one of their own senior Cabinet Ministers let them go right ahead. Let us look at the response which came from the Hunter region. The Newcastle Morning Herald in an editorial headed ‘Appalling taste’ said:
In an appalling exhibition of poor taste and judgment on ABC TV’s Monday Conference the Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, recited verse he had written belittling the efforts of some men from Newcastle who called me a jerk and lost their jobs in the hassle over the State Dockyard. The verse demonstrated only the Minister’s insensitivity to the plight of workers, be they labourers, tradesmen, technical staff, or management, put out of work by the winding-down of the dockyard. His remarks will alienate people of compassion whatever their politics. They are in keeping only with the Government’s refusal to compensate, in any way those who have lost most heavily from Cabinet’s decision to let the dockyard die.
Let me compare that with the Government’s decision on Fraser Island which affects the Maryborough district. Because the seat is held by the Government $10m materialised out of nowhere. It was said that it was not enough.
– They are workers up there.
– The honourable member for Riverina has said that the people up there are workers. He implies that the people in the Hunter region and the electors in the divisions of Paterson and Lyne are not workers. I hope his remarks are recorded. Radio station 2NX in the Hunter Valley ran an open line program today asking people to telephone in for their own ditties, thenown anti-Nixon limericks, to illustrate the community’s reaction to the attitude of the Government to the Hunter Valley and to the Newcastle dockyard.
– Does it begin ‘There was a young fellow named Charlie’?
-I will get the transcripts for the honourable member for Swan and have them incorporated in Hansard at a later date. He thinks it is funny. They are only people. They only need a living. They only want money to pay their bills to avoid foreclosure on their house mortgages. If that is the attitude he has towards people in trouble he can go on the record as saying it; do not make a farce of it. The Newcastle Sun in an editorial headed ‘Smart alec doggerel’ said:
If last night’s effort is the best he can do, Mr Nixon is a rotten poet.
We have heard about people who are poets and do not know it. Here is a fellow who is not a poet and still does not know it. The editorial reads:
It is incredible that a Minister of the Crown could produce a composition in such execrable taste.
Does Mr Nixon really believe that the desperate plight of the men who have been thrown out of work at the State Dockyard, and of their dependants, is a subject for smartalec doggerel?
An initial reaction might be that he would do better to devote whatever intellectual capacity he may have to making some contribution towards the solution of the country’s worsening economic crisis rather than to verse.
On second thoughts, though, a legislator who has shown himself capable of such excruciating insensitivity to human considerations should hand in his resignation, get back to the farm and spend his spare time at his listed recreations of golf, duck shooting and chess.
Unfortunately the Newcastle Sun left out one other recreation in which the Minister has proudly claimed in this House he indulges and that is bare-back riding. I have heard the comment of Lyndon Johnson about Gerald Ford playing too much football without his skull cap. Maybe the Minister for Transport has engaged in too much buckjump riding without his skull cap. Maybe that is the explanation. The Minister’s remarks illustrate the contempt that this Government has for people who are in difficulty. This Government through this and other projected legislation is following a course of deliberately expanding unemployment in this country in the foolish hope, the tragic hope, that if it gets enough people out of work it can force a reduction in living standards. That kind of belief is tragic for this country. This Government is expanding unemployment. It is perpetrating the position. The honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) agrees with that view and supports it.
The shipbuilding industry is a major industry. It is surprising in view of all the hawks on the other side- quite a number of new hawks became members of this House in 1975- that in all the discussions on the shipbuilding industry, the need to preserve employment in Australia and the need for economic recovery, none of those hawks made reference to the second part of the submission by the Department of Defence to the Tariff Board in 1971 which said that in a long term international conflict a major shipbuilding industry was vital to our security. All I can assume is that our defence hawks on the other side of the House expect that any conflict in future will be a 48-hour affair. They will be wiped out or somebody else will be wiped out.
This is vital and if you expect that you could use the plight of men in their 40s and 50s in the shipbuilding industry who have not been out of work for 20 to 25 years, skilled tradesmen and naval designers, and force them into the street and force foreclosure of the mortgages on their homes, as is happening in the Hunter region at the moment, it will not be very much longer before there will be a call in this Parliament for a moratorium on home loan repayments. If you believe that is the way to get the economy going you are making a very sad mistake, and you will not succeed in improving labour conditions in this country by introducing legislation of a coercive and snide nature such as that contained in proposed new section 45D of this Bill. Why do you not be honest? I know that it is difficult for you to be honest. Why do you not try to be honest and say what your intentions are. You have tried to use the shipbuilding industry without any reference to plant renewal or capital investment, which is the major problem of the shipbuilding industry linked with the world wide slump in ship building. They are the major problems in the shipbuilding industry, not labour productivity, but you are using the plight of the shipbuilding industry to try to force a group of people into accepting some new kind of industrial relations contract.
If you want a new type of industrial relations in this country you should have the dignity and the honesty, like the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) who, only a few minutes ago, at least had the dignity and the honesty, in his agitated way, to say that he wanted a 3-year labour contract, as they have in the United States. If that is what you are about, come clean and put your case to the trade union movement. But you are not doing that because that is only part of what you are about. To try to force a reduction in living standards you are seeking to crush and oppress a section of the community which is unable to defend itself. If you think you are going to force the 5000 jobless in my electorate and in the electorates of Paterson, Hunter and Lyne, thenwives and their children into the streets, you are not going to succeed. You are not going to develop any new kind of industrial relations, conciliation or good will in this country.
We have a Minister who delights in infantile doggerel and in ridiculing people who are out of work, men of 55 years of age who have not been out of work for 25 years, skilled tradesmen that this country needs in a shipbuilding industry. We need those men for defence purposes. You are throwing them out into the street. Maybe that is your capitalistic way. You think that is your right. You think you have a right to oppress and crush people and you think you are doing something for Australia. You are not doing anything for this country. You are dividing the nation the way you divided it in 1975. If you think back in 1975 when you said to the average trade unionist that he should not withdraw his services -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I point out, not only to the honourable member for Shortland, that recently in this House it has become a practice for honourable members, when making their speeches, to say ‘you did this’, ‘you did that’ or ‘you are responsible for something else’. An honourable member yesterday made a speech in which, if I remember correctly, the exact phrase used was ‘you should put your tail between your legs and crawl out of the House’. Honourable members are supposed to address the Chair and, in strict terminology, that expression could have been classed as being uncomplimentary to the Chair. If honourable members could address the Chair instead of making personal comments to individuals, it would help.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I accept your advice. I used the word ‘you’ figuratively in reference to the Government. I specified certain remarks that I made to the honourable member for Holt but, as I think you will understand, it is a very easy habit to fall into. I return to the problem of the shipbuilding industry and the purpose of this legislation. As I said, the Minister for Transport a senior Cabinet Minister, has made it quite clear in this little bit of doggerel:
When I said: No strike if you want work
They called me a jerk
And lost their jobs in the hassle . . .
I said: Their jobs will be fine
If they stay on the line
No strike would stop the decline.
That is not one of the unknown Government back benchers speaking. It is the coming Leader of the National Country Party who made that statement. He made it on national television. I could understand if it was a back bencher; I could understand if it was the honourable member for Holt because he is still back in the 19th century, but this is the 20th century and if this nation is to solve its economic ills and if we are to have some sort of good will and accord in the community, we need conciliation and good will and it does not do anything for those objectives if Government supporters embark on a program of confrontation and denigration of people who are unfortunate enough to be experiencing great personal hardship because they are unemployed. I sometimes think there is still a stupid belief among some of the Government back benchers
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the House moving a motion to suspend standing order 103 for this sitting.
– I feel that suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule is a departure from the normal practices of this Parliament. I understand the problem of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) but I believe that the motion to suspend the Standing Orders presents problems for the Opposition. In view of the importance of the legislation it is improper to move such a motion at this hour of the night when it is quite clearly the intention of the Government to push this legislation through the Parliament tomorrow. There are very serious consequences in the legislation and I do not believe that we should be proceeding at this stage of a session, after several years of conduct of the Parliament on what I should have thought were sane lines, to suspend the 11 o’clock rule. The Opposition is opposed to the suspension and will oppose the introduction of the legislation at this time.
– I wish to oppose -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the question be now put
-The question is: “That the question be now put’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
Opposition members- The noes have it.
-The House will divide. Ring the bells.
The bells being rung-
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like a ruling from you on this matter. In view of the fact that it is now after 1 1 o’clock, is it competent for this House to vote on the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule?
-The motion for the adjournment of the House was put and defeated. The House was in the process of continuing with its normal business. In any case, the motion for the suspension of the 1 1 o’clock rule was moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) before 11 o’clock.
– I rise on a further point of order. I submit that if the decision to suspend the 11 o ‘clock rule is made after 1 1 o ‘clock that decision is void. For the 1 1 o ‘clock rule to be suspended, I put it to you that that decision would have to be made prior to 1 1 o’clock.
-Order! There is no point or order, for the reasons I gave to the honourable member previously.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 February 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770223_reps_30_hor103/>.