30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.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 provide50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr Carige, Mr Chapman, Mr Groom, Mr Katter and Mr McVeigh.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of N.S.W. Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will take action to ensure that the needs of the motoring public and the retail petroleum industry are given every consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry, Dr Klugman and Mr Mackenzie.
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 Graham and Dr Klugman.
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:
The 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. byMrBradfield.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Zone Allowance Provisions currently included in the Income Tax Assessment Act require variation from the point of view of boundaries and value of the allowance in view of the substantial changes of circumstances over the last decade, brought about by the coal mining enterprises in the Central Queensland Highland.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we request that your Government take immediate action to have established at Moranbah, ABC Television without further delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many people in the Mackay Region are concerned about the future of the Australian Assistance Plan.
That we feel the Australian Assistance Plan makes it possible for citizens to help themselves and to become more selfreliant. We have especially seen this in the Mackay Region, with the work to the Handicapped people and the youth.
We believe the Australian Assistance Plan represents the best possible use of limited government resources because of the hundreds of hours contributed to the community by volunteers. We believe the idea encompassed in the Australian Assistance Plan is an effective way for citizens to work cooperatively with all levels of Government.
We ask that the Commonwealth Government support the Australian Assistance Plan by providing for legislation and finance for the plan on a national basis to be administered by State Governments.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Danny Sankey of 18 Village Lower Road, Vaucluse in the State of New South Wales, Solicitor, respectfully showeth:
Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that your honourable House will:
And your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ellicott.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That may Australians are concerned at the announced decision by the Australian Government to reduce the 1975-76 Overseas Development Assistance vote by $21 million, and by the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gillard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the House takes note that:
The Minister for Post and Telecommunicatons on 10 March 1977 announced that he had rejected the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that a high powered radio licence should be granted for the north-western area of Sydney to Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd, the first commercial broadcasting licence to be granted in the Sydney metropolitan area in 40 years;
This decision was made at a time when legal proceedings concerning the issuing of a licence were before the High Court of Australia and due for hearing in a period commencing on 15 March 1977;
The appeal to the High Court was initiated by MetroWestern Broadcasters Ltd of which a principal was a Mr Harold Cottee. Mr Cottee has been alleged to be:
a Federal Councillor of the Liberal Party of Australia;
chairman of the Liberal Party of Australia Selection Committee of the Hills State Electorate Council after the death of Max Ruddock, within which area the licence was intended to operate;
a member of the Mitchell Federal Electorate Conference of the Liberal Party of Australia, within which area the licence was intended to operate;
a member of the Castle Hill Branch of the Liberal Party of Australia, within which area the licence was intended to operate.
It is also alleged that the Minister made his decision on 10 March 1977 to circumvent the High Court making an order to the Minister to grant the licence to Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd;
The Minister, in not accepting the recommendation of the Broadcasting Control Board of Australia made after a public hearing at which all parties were legally represented has ignored the broadcasting needs of the north-western suburbs of Sydney and has acted arbitrarily to protect the commercial intersts of the 6 commercial broadcasting stations which have existed in the metropolitan area of Sydney for over 40 years, or, in some other way, is setting out to favour the Liberal Party of Australia interests in regard to the issue of new, high powered radio licences.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, relates to the Government’s puerile ‘co-operative’ securities legislation. Can the Minister say how his proposed ‘co-operative’ securities legislation will protect creditors from the appointment of trustees in the bankruptcy of a stockbroking partnership who have ‘a rapport with and a sympathy towards members of the partnership’ or who have been cognisant of a diminution in the liquid capital position prior to the collapse of the firm, but who make no reference to this diminution when compiling financial statements?
-The first thing I would like to say in response to the honourable gentleman’s question is that the scheme agreed to by the Commonwealth and State Ministers is not a puerile scheme. If the honourable member thinks it is a puerile scheme he ought to look to the public statements of the New South Wales Attorney-General who at the meeting represented the Minister responsible for corporate affairs in the honourable gentleman’s home State. Mr Walker did not describe the arrangement as being puerile. I think that the words attributed to him, and he has not denied them, were that he was jubilant that agreement had been reached. The honourable gentleman’s specific question relates to the administration and terms of the Bankruptcy Act and not to the administration and terms of the area generally covered by companies and securities. I will analyse those sections of the question which relate to changes to the Bankruptcy Act and I will communicate with the honourable gentleman regarding them at a later date.
– When will you do it?
-I will attend to it expeditiously.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I remind the Minister of representations that have been made to him on behalf of East
Timorese refugees presently living in Portugal. What action has been taken by the Minister to consider the situation of East Timorese evacuees in Portugal who wish to be reunited with close relatives in Australia?
– As honourable members would know, the East Timorese evacuees in Portugal went there following the events in East Timor. They all have, as I am informed, Portugese passports and therefore do not come within the strict definition of ‘refugees’. But of course they can be regarded, as they are, as evacuees. The Government has had a migration officer in Portugal for some weeks now and has decided that the following groups of evacuees in Portugal can be accepted in future: First, those immediate family members of Australian residents, that is, the parents, spouses, dependent children and fiances; secondly, brothers and sisters of Australian residents, and in considering brothers and sisters occupational criteria will not be applied; and, thirdly, all those other evacuees who are able to meet the normal occupational criteria. All these people will of course be subject to the normal health and character checks.
I might say that as at 17 March some 560 East Timorese evacuees in Portugal had applied for movement to Australia. I am informed that about 47 have already been issued with visas and another 12 visas have been approved. There is a difficulty with the East Timorese evacuees in Portugal because they have been found to be suffering from various medical disabilities, in particular tuberculosis and malaria. As honourable members would know, a number of these people wish to travel to Darwin. The anopheles mosquito is present in the Darwin area. Health considerations in relation to this fact must be taken very carefully into account. But the Government has closely considered the problem. These measures are designed to overcome many of the disturbed family situations which at present exist in Australia. I hope the measures will have the support of the entire House.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to reports that the Metal Trades Industry Association and the trade unions associated with the metal trades have called on the Government to stop tariff reviews until the economy has recovered. Will the Government agree to support their proposed 2-year moratorium on tariff changes, thereby protecting the jobs of a quarter of a million Australians and assisting a strategic sector of our economy consisting of over 4000 industries already established?
– I welcome the change of heart in the honourable member. Has he forgotten that he was a member of a Party that across the board without examination reduced tariffs by 25 per cent, an action which led quite directly to the export of tens of thousands of Australian jobs from many industries including the metal trades industry? But now, obviously in spite of the honourable member’s short memory, he is adopting a different course. Well, that at least is welcome. It would be nice to know whether the present Leader of the Opposition adopts the same view because we know that in the then Government he was the founding father of the free trade movement in reducing tariffs and in creating unemployment in Australia.
Having said that, I think I ought to point out that it should be very clearly evident to all members of this House that the Government has adopted a very different attitude to the Industries Assistance Commission and to its reports compared with the attitude of our predecessor. My colleague is introducing changes to the Temporary Assistance Authority and in addition the IAC has been required to report on the employment impact of its recommendations. The general tendency of the Government is not to accept recommendations that would reduce employment prospects in Australia. The particular suggestion that has been put forward by the metal trades is an interesting suggestion, but it needs to be judged against the quite different attitude that we have to the IAC compared with that of our predecessors.
– Is the Minister for National Resources aware of reports that Sir Charles Court has agreed with the North West Shelf natural gas consortium that the consortium should be allowed to export approximately 6.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas? Is the Minister’s own view and that of his Department that the figure should be 4 trillion cubic feet? Is it a fact that the High Court has given the Commonwealth absolute sovereignty in off-shore areas? Will the Minister assert this sovereignty and inform Sir Charles Court that the level of exports should be commensurate with the long term domestic demand for natural gas and that the Australian Government will be the final arbiter of the issue?
– I do not intend to enter into any controversy between the Western Australian
Government and the Commonwealth Government over the negotiations that have been proceeding for the development of the North West Shelf. The approach of the Commonwealth has been to have tripartite negotiations between the Commonwealth, the Western Australian Government and the joint venturers. In those tripartite discussions all the issues of concern will be canvassed. I can assure the House that ultimate responsibility for off-shore development lies with the Commonwealth Government and that the Commonwealth Government will be the final arbiter in any decision that takes place. I do not intend to canvass the figures mentioned by the honourable member one way or the other. It is the Federal Government’s policy to give permission for the export of quantities of natural gas which will make the venture commercially viable. Unless a quantity of gas is exported which will attract people to develop these resources, they will not be developed.
-Can the Prime Minister advise the House whether he has any plans to visit Washington within the next few months? What would be the purpose of such a trip if it does take place?
-As honourable members know, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is in Washington at the present time for discussions with senior officials of the United States Administration. The Government places importance on a close personal relationship between Australian Ministers and their counterparts in the United States. I will be calling in on Washington for a working visit of 2 days after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in June for discussions with President Carter and other senior officials.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I ask whether he is aware that there is now a very long delay in the hearing of cases in the Family Court- a matter which has been made the subject of remarks by His Honour, Mr Justice Emery, and a number of members of the profession who are concerned about the delay? Is the Minister concerned about the delay, particularly in the hearing of defended cases in Melbourne, so much so that the view has been expressed that some of these cases may never be heard? Will he do his best to alleviate that delay by the appointment of new judges or by the introduction of other procedures which may result in speeding up the procedures for the hearing of these cases?
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I draw your attention to question No. 525 on the notice paper in my name. I suggest you do your own homework.
- Mr Speaker, on the point of order, the question asked by the honourable member relates to the Australian Legal Aid Office.
-The question is in order. I call the Attorney-General.
– Needless to say, I am concerned about the delays occurring in the Family Court. Honourable members will be aware that since the beginning of 1976 the numbers of applications received by the Family Court have been running at a much greater rate than those received under the Matrimonial Causes Act.
Opposition members interjecting-
– If honourable members opposite will listen they will hear the answer to the question. During the major part of last year applications for divorce lodged with the Family Court were running at approximately 1000 a week. That figure is for the whole of Australia. Towards the end of last year the number fell to approximately 600 or 700 a week. Early last year I anticipated that the work load of the Court might well fall but it appears that since the beginning of this year applications lodged with the Family Court have increased, and they are now running- without being completely accurate- at between 850 and 950 a week. That is a disturbing indication that the number of divorce applications is not abating at all but in fact is remaining at a fairly constant level.
Honourable members will also be aware that at the present time judges of the Family Court have to be appointed for life. Already 28 judges have been appointed to the Court and I am proposing to put recommendations to Cabinet soon for the appointment of another 2 judges to the Family Court. Honourable members will also know that the regulations under the Family Law Act restrict to twenty-nine the number of judges who can be appointed. I am currently conducting a complete review of the judicial work load of the Court and of the need in the immediate future for additional judges to be appointed to the Family Court. I anticipate that the number will have to be increased maybe to thirty-nine or forty judges in all in the next six to twelve months.
At the same time I want to stress that the solution to the delays occurring in the Family
Court is not to be found only in the appointment of additional judges. I have pointed that out to the judges themselves. There is a real need for research to be done by those involved in the family law area as to the appropriate way in which this work can be done. I am not satisfied that the solution is to be found simply in the appointment of additional judges. For instance, let me point out that the 2 judges attached to the Parramatta Family Court are doing as much work as are 4 judges in another part of Australia. That is not to suggest that those other 4 judges are not working fully and up to the limit. The procedures adopted in the Parramatta Family Court are different from those used in other courts. One of the things that needs to be looked at is the use of the procedures adopted in other pans of the jurisdiction. I can assure honourable members that the matter is under review. I am concerned about the delays. I shall be acting in the immediate future to put before Cabinet proposals designed to alleviate the situation.
-Is the Prime Minister aware that there are reports, both in Australia and overseas, of up to one million cattle having been destroyed or died in Australia during recent droughts? If that is not an accurate figure will the right honourable gentleman give an indication of what he thinks the figure is? In view of that situation, in view of the requests from governments in Pakistan, Bangladesh and other parts of Asia for the provision of cattle from Australia, partly for breeding purposes, and in view of the shortage of funds provided for aid programs and other things, will he give consideration to the preparation of a plan to provide adequate finance for the provision of 10 000 or 20 000 cattle a year from Australia? I point out that that would be in the interests of Australian farmers as well as in the interests of the people in the countries to which the cattle would be going.
– I think there are 2 separate issues involved in the matters raised by the honourable gentleman. While I can well understand that if other countries wish to have cattle provided to them as part of an aid program it would be within Australia’s capacity to organise that and to arrange it in a way in which suitable animals could be provided, I do not think that can be related to the loss of cattle during drought. I think the honourable gentleman knows that in working out our aid programs the provision of aid is in accordance with what the countries concerned regard as their own high priority items. If the provision of cattle were to be a high priority item in countries that now receive aid obviously it is something that Australia would look at. But trying to relate that to the loss of cattle during drought I think is not really relevant because many of the animals that died would not have been suitable for aid purposes, certainly not at the time they died or were close to death or destroyed as in the sort of programs that were undertaken in Victoria. It was the poor quality cattle, the cattle which had very much lost condition, that were destroyed. In the remoter parts of Australia of course the nature of the animals that are bred and used in those areas would very likely make them inappropriate for provision to countries overseas. I think the question of aid needs to be separate from the loss or destruction of cattle in time of drought. I believe the aid program ought to be looked at and judged on its merits as it has been in the past.
– In relation to the allocation of funds for roads, has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to a statement attributed to the Victorian Minister for Transport criticising meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council relating to decisions on the Commonwealth funding for road needs and allocations? I further ask: Has the Commonwealth given consideration to allocating further funds for roads for next year or reallocating those funds already so allocated?
– My attention has been drawn to a report of a speech made by the Victorian Minister for Transport, Mr Rafferty, apparently last night. I have seen Press reports about it this morning. Mr Rafferty reminds me of the small boy who wants to play cricket and then says: ‘If you do not give me the bat I will not play’.
– Those are Rafferty ‘s rules.
– Rafferty ‘s rules certainly apply to the approach that Mr Rafferty has taken in his criticism of the Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting. In fact what Mr Rafferty said was that during the course of the ATAC meeting I listened with mild tolerance and then calmly rebutted the arguments of State Ministers. As the House knows, I am a very calm person but on this occasion the reason I was able calmly to rebut the arguments of the State Ministers was the facts which had been placed before me. The first argument related to the total level of funds. It is a fact that I was given $475m to offer to the States as the total level of Commonwealth funds for the ensuing year. I was not able to move from that position and the States had to accept that as a fact. But the major pan of the argument rested on the allocations in the categories.
Mr Rafferty made great play on the fact that we had supported the local government areas considerably more in these proposals than we had done previously. Of course we did that for several reasons. One was that in our federalist policy we said right from before coming into government that we would be looking to support local government and we have demonstrated that in the roads grants allocations. All through last year there were letters from both the Premier of Victoria and the Minister for Transport, Mr Rafferty, to local government authorities full of complaints about the lack of Federal Government support in this area. So we have demonstrated our real concern for local government authorities by upping our share of the funds for rural local roads from $ 10.7m to $ 19m- an increase of 77.6 per cent. We have also upped our share for urban local authorities, which have a very small base start, from $4.6m to $8.9m- an increase of 93.5 per cent.
– You have done a good job, too.
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the interjection. I believe that the Commonwealth has been responsible in this matter and that it has demonstrated its concern for local government authorities. But really, Mr Rafferty has nothing to be proud about. The fact is that the Victorian Government’s support for road building as a percentage of the total outlays has dropped from 5.2 per cent in 1970-71 to 3.1 per cent in 1974-75.
-I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– The point I make is that whilst Mr Rafferty has been critical of the Commonwealth on this matter and critical of me in particular, I think he ought to have a look in the mirror.
Mr James proceeding to address a question to the Attorney-General-
-Order! The question is out of order. The Attorney-General has no responsibility for evidence given in a proceeding before a judicial court.
Mr Hyde proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Business and Consumer A ffairs-
-Order! The honourable member is now giving too much information. He must ask his question.
Mr Hyde continuing to address a questionMr SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member can only ask for information. I call the honourable member for Fremantle.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. The right honourable gentleman will recall that on 10 May 1973 this House rejected a proposed change in the criminal law in the Australian Capital Territory related to the termination of pregnancy, entitled ‘The Medical Practices Clarification Bill’. It was rejected by 98 to 23 votes. I ask the Prime Minister whether there are proposals to change the law in the Australian Capital Territory again. If so, will the matter come to this Parliament? If the matter will not come to this Parliament, why is the decision of 10 May 1973 being evaded, and why is this Parliament being evaded? If the Legislative Assembly, which was not elected with this question as an election issue, opts for free standing abortion clinics, does the Government -
– Order! The honourable gentleman is moving to a hypothetical area.
– Does the Government accept that position as a decision of the final authority?
– The honourable member for Fremantle reminds us of a debate that took place in another Parliament at another time when quite obviously the former Government was trying to make the Australian Capital Territory and its people the guinea pigs in a social laboratory.
Opposition members interjecting-
– Time and again we had debates on issues for the Australian Capital Territory in areas over which the Commonwealth itself -
– I take a point of order. The point of order is that the honourable gentleman referred to a motion before the House as being a Government measure. I voted for it, but it is quite false to say that it was a Government measure.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– We have decided as a government, and quite rightly so, that matters relating to the Australian Capital Territory, matters that have great social consequence and matters that have wide-ranging consequences for the people in this community will be debated, discussed and decided by those people who were elected by the local community. I pay full credit to the way in which members of the Legislative Assembly have faced up to taking decisions-
– You are a gutless wonder.
-I beg your pardon?
– You are a gutless wonder.
– So are you. You are a gutless wonder yourself.
-Order! The Minister for Health will resume his seat.
– I did more than you did. You did not believe in anti-abortion. You are just a gutless wonder.
– I will see you afterwards.
-Order! The Minister for Health will resume his seat.
– We will see how gutless you are.
-Order! If the Minister for Health does not resume his seat, I will deal with him. Several times I asked the Minister for Health to resume his seat. He refused to take any notice of me because I think he did not hear me. I advise the Minister for Health to pay attention. The honourable member for Blaxland and the Minister for Health, in a cross-fire, were accusing each other. I think that each of them would be wise to withdraw the allegation against the other. I call upon the honourable member for Blaxland to withdraw.
– I withdraw, but-
– I want to make it quite clear that the Prime Minister advised the Minister on the way in which he spoke.
– I call upon the honourable member for Blaxland to withdraw unqualifiedly.
– I do so.
– I call upon the Minister for Health to withdraw unqualifiedly.
- Mr Speaker, I withdraw unreservedly, apologise to the honourable member for Blaxland, to you and to the House for my part in that recent exchange.
– I call upon the Minister for Health to continue his answer.
– I conclude by saying that the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly voted to ban abortions outside the recognised hospitals in the Australian Capital Territory for a 90-day period during which time it will debate the wider issues and take decisions in respect of the way in which abortions will be carried out in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I take a point of order. The acoustics of the chamber do not seem to be satisfactory this morning. It is extraordinarily difficult to hear. I was sitting just behind the Minister for Health during that recent exchange. I could only just hear what you were saying, Mr Speaker.
– Absolute rubbish. We could hear it over here.
-The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent.
– If the honourable member for Melbourne would be silent perhaps we would be able to hear.
-Members on my right will also remain silent. The House seems to have Thursday morningitis today. I would like the House to settle down.
– I wonder whether you might ask that the microphones be turned up.
-I will check on that.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister because it spans the work of several departments. Has his Government examined the implications of the great potentiality of the Australian territory in the Antarctic, whose area is nearly as great as that of the Australian continent itself? Although I understand that there was a ministerial visit recently, is it true that no other members of Parliament have visited the Antarctic since the expedition which I led some 20 years ago? Will the Prime Minister have prepared for the House a report upon the work done in the Antarctic? Would such a report include the scientific work, the meteorological work which relates to the Australian climate, the fishing work where there is the greatest potential in the world, the mineral work where there is some doubt as to the value -
-Order! I cannot allow the honourable member to catalogue the entire storehouse of the Antarctic. Would he now ask his question?
– I ask: Will the Prime Minister have prepared a comprehensive report of the work which is being done or should be done in the Antarctic and make it available for the House? Does he agree that in view of the great potentiality of this area the Australian interest in the region and the amount of Australian resources devoted to it have been quite inadequate?
-The honourable gentleman has shown an interest in this subject over a great many years. I think a number of his imaginative proposals have centred on what could or ought to be done with the resources of the Antarctic. I will see what can be achieved and what report can be made available to the Parliament in regard to the work that he proposes should be done. As he knows, my colleague the Minister for Science has recently been to the Antarctic and was impressed with what he saw. I am not aware whether other honourable members have been to the Antarctic since the honourable gentleman led a delegation there 20-odd years ago. If the indications coming from the backbench are correct, other members have been there since then. If other members of the House are interested it might be possible to arrange for some of them to visit the Antarctic.
– And come back, too?
– I suppose that would depend on the person’s personal inclination.
-I have been informed by a number of honourable members that this morning the amplification system in the House does not seem to be carrying voices throughout the chamber. I call upon the Serjeant-at-Arms to speak to the technicians in order to have the fault remedied.
– Can the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs inform the House why the application for incorporation in the Australian Capital Territory made by the Preterm Clinic last year has still not been approved?
– The application in question involves the exercise of a discretion which, as I understand it, is totally within the responsibility of the Registrar of Companies for the Australian Capital Territory. I am aware of the substance of the application, information having been given to me for obvious reasons. I shall make inquiries as to the current situation regarding the application and let the honourable gentleman know the result of those inquiries.
-I ask the Minister for National Resources: Is it a fact that Peko-Ez and Queensland Mines Ltd claim, or intend to claim force majeure on their existing uranium contracts with Japan?
-On Tuesday afternoon Peko-Ez informed me that the board had on legal advice brought force majeure to notice of the Japanese electricity utilities. Yesterday I received advice from Queensland Mines Ltd that it was doing likewise. I note, too, that Queensland Mines Ltd made a statement to the Stock Exchange which has been reported in the Press today. Peko-Ez told me that it sought legal advice for 2 reasons. The first was the uncertainty surrounding the development of Australia’s uranium resources pending the outcome of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The second was the delay in reaching agreement with the Government on the terms of the stockpile borrowing. Queensland Mines made similar points in the statement that it released to the stock exchange.
In regard to the first point, it is well known that the Government’s attitude is that there will be no decision on any uranium policy until the Ranger report has been presented. As regards the second point, the Government has been negotiating arrangements with Peko-Ez and Queensland Mines for access to the Government’s stockpile to meet early delivery under those contracts. These negotiations are continuing and we hope that they will be finalised very soon. But of course I would not like to comment on the details of those negotiations. Peko-Ez told me that it is expressing its hope to the Japanese utility companies that there will be a speedy and satisfactory solution of the present situation and that it will be possible to establish a mutually rewarding long-term relationship between it and the Japanese companies. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the possible outcome of ongoing commercial relationships between the Australian companies and their overseas customers. As regards the Government’s attitude to the approved export contracts, I repeat what I said in a statement in this House on 25 February 1976, namely, that the Government would wish to see honoured those contracts for the supply of uranium entered into before December 1972. These contracts were also confirmed by the Whitlam Government.
-My question directed to the Prime Minister refers to the Government’s new federalism policy. What restrictions if any are there on States levying surcharges? In other words, does a State require the consensus of other States? Is there any limitation as to the amount? When will stage 2 of the scheme commence? Further, will those States which forgo death duties be able to consider that amount forgone as a reason to receive a grant as a claimant State from the proposed Grants Commission?
-There will be discussions on 12 and 13 April with the Premiers concerning a number of matters, including the further implementation of the Government’s federalism proposals. It is the Government’s intention and certainly the Government’s wish that stage 2 of the proposals, which would enable the States to levy their own surcharge or provide for a rebate for people within their own border, be operating by the next financial year. On the advice available to us that can best be done if there is legislation in all the States and also in the Commonwealth. I do not believe that legislation in all the States is a necessity. I say that it can best be done if that is so, because there can be problems in the border areas. For example, in Albury-Wodonga a person could be working in one State and paying payasyouearn tax in another State. Matters of this kind can best be resolved by legislation in the States. I would hope that even if a State were philosophically opposed to having this right, this power, it would participate in legislation that would enable a State that wanted to exert this power to implement it effectively and smoothly. Because of the border problems, as I have indicated, that would require legislation from all the States concerned. The Commonwealth is determined to press forward in this matter. Even if the best and most ideal legislative solution cannot be achieved because of differences of views between the States we would still want to see stage 2 of the federalism proposals in force.
It is not suggested that there should be any limit one way or another, because I believe that the State governments in the excercise of common sense would impose their own limitations on the extent to which a rebate might be provided or an additional surcharge imposed. Quite obviously there are implications for industries and for individuals within a State depending how far the States actually move. It is worth noting that in Canada, on the last figures I saw- I must admit that they are a year or two old- the difference between the highest taxed province and the least taxed province was about 6 per cent each side of a mean point. Therefore the differences in taxes in the individual provinces in Canada were not all that great. On the last point that the honourable gentleman mentioned, on the question of death duties, I would rather think that somebody could argue the other way. If a particular State provides a particular benefit which is not generally provided in other States, that would be an argument for receiving less money from the Grants Commission and not more.
-Is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware of Press releases indicating that ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd is poised to enter the discount marketing of petroleum in New South Wales? In view of the great concern expressed by honourable members on both sides of the House on the implementation of certain recommendations of the Royal Commission on Petroleum, will the Minister comment on the findings of the Royal Commission that draw particular attention to price discrimination and the activities of ACTU-Solo?
– I am aware of Press reports that ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd may be, in the words of the honourable gentleman, ‘poised to enter the petroleum market in New South Wales ‘. I express the hope that any restraints that may be imposed on the entry of ACTU-Solo into petrol marketing in New South Wales will be restraints of a normal commercial character and that the decision as to whether or not to enter the New South Wales market will be taken on proper commercial grounds. I hope that the company will not be at any disability in that regard. The other part of the honourable gentleman’s question relates to the Government’s decision on the recommendations contained in the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum. As the honourable gentleman is aware, *L Government has had this matter under consideration for some months. I have consulted a very wide range of people, including representatives of ACTU-Solo Enterprises Pty Ltd, and I expect that the Government will be taking a decision in the very near future on whether to adopt some or all of the recommendations.
-Has the Treasurer seen the figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics relating to the amount of overtime worked in larger Australian factories? Is it true that the overtime rate has declined from a peak of 2.6 in July 1976 to a low of 1.8 in January this year? Does the right honourable gentleman recall that some 12 months ago he was fond of using the overtime worked factor as an indicator of economic recovery in Australia? In the light of the continuing decline and deterioration of the Australian economy, as evidenced by the latest overtime figures released by the Bureau, can he please explain his reluctance to use these figures as an indicator of Government performance of late? When will he next be regaling this House with the selective use of overtime figures as an economic indicator?
-Order! The honourable gentleman may not use terms of that kind.
– As the Government has made consistently clear over a period of time, the overall state of the indicators which are available and which are emerging certainly shows that the economy is moving in line with the Government’s overall strategy.
– It is all over the place, in other words.
– The honourable gentleman is becoming his normal nervous self. I suggest that he gets his nerves in order. As I have mentioned before, there is from time to time too much concentration on a particular indicator. If one looks at the overall position one sees quite clearly that the economy is moving in line with the Government’s overall strategy. The particular figures have been mentioned by the Prime Minister as recently as yesterday or the day before. If one looks at the overall position one sees quite clearly that the gross non-farm product increased in real terms by 5.2 per cent over the year to the December quarter. It rose by 3 per cent in the second half of 1976 compared with 2.9 per cent in the first half of 1 976. With regard to investment, an area which is a very useful barometer of activity, the investment in plant and equipment increased by 32. 1 per cent. Company profits last year were up by 33 per cent. I shall not cover all the figures used recently by the Prime Minister but it is quite clear that the economy is, in fact, moving in line with the Government’s overall economic strategy.
Mr ELLICOTT ( WentworthAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Third Seminar on International Trade Law organised by my Department and held at the Academy of Science, Canberra, on 19 and 20 June 1976.
-by leave-I wish to announce to the House that I have resigned from the Liberal Party of Australia as from today. I believe I have conformed with the courtesies demanded of such a decision. I have informed you,
Sir, the Leader of my Party, the Right Honourable the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Victorian State President of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Chairman of the Hotham Electorate Committee of the Liberal Party. It naturally follows that I shall not be presenting myself as a candidate for the Liberal Party of Australia in the division of Hotham at the next House of Representatives election.
I shall continue to represent the division of Hotham in this House for the duration of this Parliament or until such earlier rime as circumstances may demand. Although I am proud of the high personal vote I receive from the electors of Hotham, I recognise that I am here by virtue of my former membership of the Liberal Party and therefore believe it is proper that I should generally give my vote in support of the Government in the business before the House and in the conduct of the business of the House. However, I will exercise the right- which is already held by all members of the Liberal Party- to vote against the Government on any issue which a member believes to be not in the best interests of the country or his constituents. I extend my gratitude to the many friends and members of the Liberal Party in Hotham who have loyally supported me over the years and given me the privilege of serving in this House.
I hope that my friends and colleagues in the Parliamentary Liberal Party will understand my reasons in taking this decision and that the personal friendships and relationships that I have made and enjoyed over the years will not be impaired by my action. I note in passing that notwithstanding the tag of ‘rebel’ that some people have chosen to put upon me, I have never exercised that right of voting against my Party in my 16 years in this place. In fact, I think it is fair to me to place on record that during the 15-month term of this Government, I have been publicly critical of its decisions on only 5 occasions. These were:
When these 5 public criticisms are put against the dozens of times I have publicly supported the Government, even on occasions when I did not agree with it, I believe the tag of ‘rebel’ is palpably unfair. There have in fact been a great number of issues with which I have strongly disagreed and on most which I have been invited by the media to criticise my Party. I have refrained from that criticism in the interests of Party unity and with a view to assisting the Government in overcoming the massive problems it faces, many of which were inherited from the results of the gross maladministration of the Labor Party’s terms in office. However, the number of significant Government actions which conflict with my own views are now so many that I feel that my continued membership of the Liberal Party, as it is now led, managed and structured, would be incompatible with my beliefs and would constitute an act of hypocrisy. Inevitably some people will impugn my action and ascribe to it the motive that I am taking this course because I am not in the Cabinet. To that I simply state without argument that under no circumstances could I, or would I, serve as a Minister under the present leadership.
Members of the House would know that one reaches a decision such as this- after giving 16 years of one’s life to it- not without a great deal of deep thought and troubled deliberation; but as one who at least in latter years has tried to pursue a course of true liberalism, I find I can no longer do that within the confines of the Party. In these circumstances I believe the only honourable thing to do is to resign.
For the record I simply state my areas of contention without debating them. I cannot agree with the Government’s current economic policy. Particularly, I am concerned with its failure to honour the promise to the private sector to give it stable and definite future guidelines to allow it to plan and invest for the future. I believe the private businessman, especially the small businessman who employs the bulk of the work force of this country, is more confused, more in the dark about the future, and less confident than he was 15 months ago. This seems to be strange behaviour for a Party that champions the cause of free enterprise.
I am very critical of the lack of consultation between the Government and the trade union movement. It would be cruel and unfair to ask the worker to be the sole bearer of the cost of reducing inflation; but wages are too high and taxes are too high to provide incentive for increased productivity by both workers and management. Interest rates are devastating, especially to the young, and yet no attempt at real, sensible and sensitive discussions between the Prime Minister and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been made. In fact the Prime Minister has refused to enter such discussions. Instead, while the economy continues to slump, these 2 leaders seem to be continuing in a public slanging match while the economy continues to deteriorate and the responsible blue and white collar Australian workers and management suffer.
I confess to a very deep concern about the intrasigence of the Prime Minister in bringing in the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation at this time- a time of remarkable industrial peace and at a time when it is being vigorously opposed by both employees and employers alike. I have been grossly disappointed with the attitude of the Government on uranium mining. Notwithstanding the repeated requests by the Fox report for a full parliamentary debate we have had 2 hours only on it and it is now off the notice paper. I am grateful to the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) for giving me an undertaking this morning that that matter will be restored to the notice paper.
The last straw on this issue was the action of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in launching a pro-uranium book simultaneously with a statement by the Ambassador of Japan advocating the mining of Australian uranium. The breach of our promises to continue the Australian Assistance Plan, wage indexation, the value of the currency, the Social Welfare Commission, increased research on solar energy, are matters which have disturbed me greatly.
Further, our incredible attitude towards Timor; the overt and capricious provocation of Russia, an almost pathetic reliance on the nonproliferation treaty which the Fox report described as giving only ‘an illusion of protection’; the absence of strong Cabinet action to overcome the bureaucratic bungling and red tape affecting human beings seeking refuge from Indo-China are some other matters which have left me deeply concerned.
On the other hand I draw no comfort from the current attitudes and policies of the Australian Labor Party. Although the state of the world economy contributed in some way to Australia’s economic problems during its 3 years of office, its mismanagement of the economy resulting in the unique situation of causing unemployment to increase simultaneously with inflation was near catastrophic. I would be a little encouraged if I believed that it has learned some lessons from its errors but that does not seem to be the case. It is still motivated by events of the past, still obsessed with its socialist ideas and a hatred of private enterprise, and dominated by the shadowy faces in the trade union movement. In opposition its performance has been little short of ludicrous in questioning and probing the Government on the real issues that affect the country.
I draw no comfort at all from the public opinion polls which indicate a Labor Government is possible- if not probable- in the near future. I find it almost unbelievable that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam)- a man who led his Party to its most humiliating defeat in history just 1 5 months ago- now ranks about equally in popularity and respect with the Prime Minister. Does this mean that the people of Australia hold both men and both parties in relatively low esteem?
In conclusion may I say that I have become disenchanted with party politics as they are practised in this country and with the pressure groups which have an undue influence on the major political parties. The National Country Party properly represents the interests of a small sectional group- some of the rural community- but improperly in my view, and unduly, influences national policies quite out of proportion to the small group it represents.
The Labor Party is dominated by the vested interests of trade unions. The Liberal Party, although properly concerned with the vital role of private enterprise, seems too pre-occupied with the wants of what is euphemistically known as ‘big business’ to the sacrifice and detriment of medium and small-size businessmen who form the backbone of our industrial and commercial sectors.
The parties seem to polarise on almost every issue, sometimes seemingly just for the sake of it, and I wonder whether the ordinary voter is not becoming sick and tired of the vested interests which unduly influence the present political parties and yearn for the emergence of a third political force, representing middle of the road policies which would owe allegience to no outside pressure group.
Perhaps it may be the right time to test that proposition. That move will have to come from those people in Australia who believe in the encouragement of free enterprise, who believe it has not had a ‘fair go’ from interfering Governments who regularly change, without warning, the conditions under which they operate. It must come from people who believe in true justice for the work force and compassion for those in need, but who believe that actions must be taken to prevent social problems from occurring rather than trying to cure them and hide them once they have arrived. But above all, it must come from those people who are disgusted with those politicians and political parties who indulge mainly in cheap political point scoring in the endless pursuite of votes at any price and from people who want their Parliament to identify the real and significant problems of the future and to take action now which will make the country a good, safe and sound place for future generations.
-For the second time I seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to draw your attention to the difficulty which the House is experiencing in regard to what may or may not be discussed because the discussion of some matter might directly prejudice a case which is before the court and which is in the process of trial. Yesterday evening during the adjournment debate the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), for whom I have every respect, wished to raise a matter of public importance and attempted to table a copy of an agreement between -
-Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the adjournment debate last night the honourable member for Holt raised a point of order which was ruled out of order by the Deputy Speaker occupying the Chair at the time, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). Under the procedures of this House the honourable member for Holt had open to him 2 courses of action. The first was to dissent from the ruling of the Chair and the second was to give notice of motion that at the next day of sitting he would move a vote of no confidence in the occupier of the chair at that time. Neither of those courses was adopted. Although it would be proper to do so in the House of Commons from which the honourable member obviously is adopting his procedures, I submit that it is not proper in this chamber, where it is open to the honourable member to move a motion of dissent, now to canvass the ruling made from the chair during the adjournment debate last night.
-The honourable member for Corio is correct. However, I was willing to give the honourable member for Holt some latitude in his remarks. I shall stop him if he gets beyond what I regard as being reasonable. I certainly will not permit him to criticise in any way the ruling of the honourable member for Lyne when he was occupying the chair. I call the honourable member for Holt.
– I would prefer to have your ruling than that of the honourable member for Corio, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to the ruling given by your predecessor on 14 November 1974. The Hansard record shows that Mr Deputy Speaker ruled that a member would not be in order in referring to a person against whom litigation had commenced or in relation to whom proceedings were pending. I objected to the matter raised last night on 3 grounds: Firstly, there was a direct reference to Mr Barton standing trial; secondly, the references to Mr Gruzman would gravely prejudice his position if legal proceedings were taken against him; and, thirdly, I objected to this House being used as a sort of court of first instance where parliamentary privilege would protect those making statements offered as evidence of guilt. Mr Deputy Speaker ruled that what the honourable member for Hunter had said concerning Mr Barton and Mr Gruzman was not contrary to the Standing Orders, but I have had great difficulty in finding standing orders on what is sub judice.
-Order! I am afraid I cannot allow the honourable member for Holt to proceed any further. The question of the sub judice rule is difficult. Essentially it remains in the discretion of the presiding officer. Last year I made a statement in which I expanded on the interpretation of the sub judice rule which I would adopt. I was determined that this national Parliament would not silence itself on issues which would be quite competent for people to speak about outside the Parliament. On the other hand, I was anxious that there should be no prejudice whatever to persons faced with criminal action. Prejudice can also occur in cases of civil action. But I was not prepared to allow the mere issue of a writ to stop discussion by the national Parliament of any issues. Therefore I adopted a practice that it would not be until a matter was set down for trial that I would regard the sub judice rule as having arisen and necessarily stiffle speeches in this Parliament. There is a stricter application in the matter of criminal proceedings. I listened to the debate last night in my chamber though not in the Chair. I heard it all. I heard the rulings of the Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Lyne, Mr Lucock. I do not want in any way to indicate to the House that I had a different view from that which was given by the honourable member for Lyne.
– In that case may I give notice that in order that there shall be no misunderstanding -
-Order! The honourable member will give notice in accordance with the Standing Orders. The honourable member will resume his seat. I must indicate to the honourable member for Holt that I am well aware that he spent a great number of years in the House of Commons. I have therefore been prepared to give him considerable tolerance when he attempts to use the forms of that House in this House. But I can no longer allow him to interrupt the proceedings of this House on a procedure which does not exist here. If he wishes to give notice he shall give it when I call for notices at the commencement of proceedings. Alternatively, he may give notice in writing to the Clerk and the Clerk will then report the notice.
-As chairman I present the 162nd report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave to make a statement on the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The 162nd report relates to the Committee’s inquiry into the financial administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The Committee considers it important to emphasise that this inquiry presented a number of problems which were exceptional and unique. For example, it was the first time, the Committee believes, that the relationship between a Minister and his permanent head had been aired in public before a committee of the Parliament. It was also the first time that a Minister of State had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee. Furthermore, there were occasions during the inquiry where conflicting evidence was given by witnesses on particular events that occurred in relation to the matters under review, thus making it very difficult for the Committee to determine what in fact had happened and where appropriate to apportion responsibility. Despite these problems the final report of the Committee was adopted unanimously. The inquiry was originally undertaken by the ninth Committee following the tabling of a special report by the Auditor-General on 5 March 1974 which dealt specifically with the deficiencies in the financial and administrative control over the receipts and expenditure of public moneys by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
The delay in tabling this report in Parliament is due to the 2 double dissolutions which necessitated 3 reconstitutions of the Committee in the period 8 April 1974 to 14 January 1977. It is a practice for the Committee to conduct inquiries in depth. Consequently submissions were requested from the Department on all matters raised by the Auditor-General in his report, while submissions on specific matters were also requested from the Treasury, the Public Service Board, the Australian National University, Captain S. J. Benson, C.B.E., Applied Ecology Pty Ltd and the Department of Transport. Evidence was heard from witnesses in relation to all submissions with the exception of the Department of the Treasury whose submission was considered to be self explanatory.
On 4 December 1974, the former Minister, the Hon. G. M. Bryant, E.D., informed the Chairman by letter that he wished to appear before the Committee to present evidence in relation to the inquiry in the form of a submission. Mr Bryant appeared before the Committee on 6 December 1974 and tendered a comprehensive submission based on all the minutes of evidence and all the submissions presented by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to that date. He was invited to make a statement in relation to his submission and he did so. Due to the comprehensive and self-explanatory submission presented by Mr Bryant, the Committee considered that it would not examine him in relation to it. Following the tendering of Mr Bryant’s submission Mr Dexter, the Permanent Head of the Department, of his own volition, submitted a further statement on 24 December 1974, commenting on matters raised by Mr Bryant. During the drafting stages of this report, the eleventh Committee invited Mr Bryant to make written comments on Mr Dexter’s statement of 24 December 1974. These comments were received on 4 and 10 November 1976. Mr Bryant included in his submission statements criticising the Auditor-General’s method of reporting. After considering these statements and the advice given by the AuditorGeneral to the Committee, it could see no reason why it should suggest or recommend any change to the Auditor-General’s present reporting procedures.
Mr Bryant also drew the Committee’s attention to 4 instances where departmental witnesses gave incorrect information to the Committee concerning his involvement in the setting of the date for the National Aboriginal Consultative
Committee elections, the claim that the Department was unaware of expenditure commitments entered into by Captain Benson until the accounts were received, the number of blankets purchased directly by his office and the date the Department was informed of the proposal to purchase landing craft. The report fully covers the circumstances of each case. The Committee took a view that Mr Bryant and the staff of his ministerial office were a single entity for the purposes of the inquiry. It was apparent to the Committee from the evidence given that both Mr Bryant and Mr Dexter had similar views on their powers and responsibilities under section 64 of the Constitution and section 25 (2) of the Public Service Act respectively. But in the exercising of those powers and responsibilities there were significant differences. It is axiomatic that a Minister is answerable to the Parliament for the administration of his department under the doctrine of ministerial responsibility and has the power to intervene in the day-to-day affairs of his department. Nevertheless, the Committee believes it is important that effective lines of communication be maintained between ministers, departmental heads and their departments.
The Committee’s main conclusions are contained in chapters 14 and 15 of the report although conclusions on specific matters appear at the end of chapters 2 to 13. The main conclusions reached by the Committee in this report are:
Firstly, that the Department, from the outset, failed to organise itself adequately to control the expenditure of large amounts of public money in a satisfactory manner. The Committee has noted section 25 (2) of the Public Service Act which states:
The permanent head of a department shall be responsible for its general working, and for all the business thereof, and shall advise the minister in all matters relating to the department.
Thus the Committee believes that the permanent head is responsible for the organisation, supervision and control of the day-to-day financial administration of his department. Mr Dexter must therefore assume responsibility for his Department’s failure in this regard.
Secondly, the financial difficulties of the Department began with the decision of the Public Service Board that the Department should conduct its financial affairs through branches of two other departments. In the Committee’s opinion the Department of Aboriginal Affairs should have been given an adequate finance branch from its inception and to this extent the Public
Service Board bears certain responsibility for subsequent events.
Thirdly, the problems and difficulties which began to arise from the outset in the relationship between Mr Bryant and Mr Dexter were to a large extent due to a lack of liaison and effective communication between the former Minister and his office on the one hand and the Department on the other. The Committee considers that the importance of establishing and maintaining an efficient means of communication should have been obvious to all concerned. The fact that this was not done at an early stage caused many of the problems that subsequently arose. The Committee also believes that there was insufficient personal contact between Mr Bryant and Mr Dexter to allow a proper airing of points of view in relation to questions of policy, the administration of the Department, or even how the relationship should be developed. It is difficult for the Committee to decide exactly where the fault lay in this regard because of the conflicting evidence presented.
Fourthly, from the inception of the Department, although there were faults on both sides, Mr Bryant’s style of administration, which in some instances had the effect of depriving departmental officers of essential information, became an important factor contributing to the deterioration in the relationship between the Minister and the Permanent Head. Fifthly, departmental officers who were present when decisions were made by the Minister or his consultants that involved financial commitments must be criticised for their failure to ensure that important information reached the appropriate officers in the Department. That these officers seemed to be unaware of their responsibility to keep the Department informed on such matters points to a lack of instruction by departmental management and reflects upon the administration of the Permanent Head.
Sixthly, it is the Committee’s view that the Minister and his office should have made greater use of the expertise available within the Department to evaluate policy proposals before they were implemented. This should have provided the opportunity for the Department to point out any pitfalls inherent in the proposals and to record the financial commitment and make provision for the necessary funds. Seventhly, quite apart from the problems which arose out of the conflict of powers and responsibilities of the former Minister and the Permanent Head, the Committee was concerned with the conclusions reached by the Auditor-General over the expenditure on the turtle and crocodile projects during the period September 1970 to June 1973, which projects were established prior to Mr Bryant becoming Minister. The Committee believes that neither the Office of Aboriginal Affairs or its successor, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, nor the Australian National University, exercised adequate control over the expenditure of substantial amounts on those projects.
Eighthly, the Committee is concerned that the operations of projects such as the turtle and crocodile farms were conducted so as to remove them from the scrutiny of the Auditor-General’s Office. The Committee is strongly of the view that all government-owned companies should be subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor-General. The Committee also draws attention to a possible conflict of interest developing for officers of departments who are appointed directors of such companies. Ninthly, it is the Committee’s view that the establishment of any Trust Account under the Audit Act derogates from the power of the Parliament to control expenditure and that the continued use of such accounts must be fully justified. The Committee, therefore, was pleased to note that the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account was closed on 24 August 1976, with effect from 1 July 1976. Tenthly, grants should not be made to non-government organisations in advance of a clearly demonstrated need for funds. This principle should be applied to the payment of all grants of this nature made by departments and other government instrumentalities.
In making the comments and criticisms that appear in this report, the Committee has given due weight to the problems and difficulties faced by the Department, particularly in the early period of its development. Nevertheless, the Committee is not convinced that the Department’s problems, unique as some of them may have been, could not have been overcome by a greater degree of co-operation between the Minister and his Permanent Head and handled expeditiously within the existing financial framework provided by the Audit Act, the Treasury regulations and the Treasury directions. I commend the report to honourable members.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leaveproposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bryant) adjourned.
-I wish to inform honourable members of the resignation from the Commonwealth Service of the Government Printer, Mr Frank Atkinson. Mr Atkinson ceased duty in Canberra last Friday and at the conclusion tomorrow of the 12th Conference of Australian Government Printers, of which he is the host, will take up duty in Melbourne as Victorian Government Printer. Mr Atkinson became Australian Government Printer in 1972 after holding the position of Assistant Government Printer (Technical Services) for 2 years. An honours graduate in commerce and subsequently a Churchill Scholarship Fellow, he brought to the post of Australian Government Printer imagination, dedication and enthusiasm which enabled him to accomplish the transition from a hotmetal printing operation to the most modern process of computerised typesetting with a minimum of disruption to the Printing Office or to the Parliament.
As the Government Printer is primarily the printer to the Parliament, we regret the departure of such a competent man. Nevertheless, we can understand that the question of salary, administrative structure, status and duties were all circumstances which he quite properly took into account. We all wish him well and hope that his expertise will find full expression in his new environment. We would like him to know that his services were appreciated.
– The honourable gentleman is of course not just the Parliamentary Printer, he is the Government Printer, and as such, an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service. In addition to his duties of printing reports and the great quantity of other material which flows from various Government departments and so on, he is also responsible for the parliamentary printing. On behalf of the members of the Government, I should like to share in wishing well in his new responsibilities an officer who has served both the Government and the people so well in his many roles.
-On behalf of the Opposition I support the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) and you, Mr Speaker, in wishing Mr Frank Atkinson well. He gave distinguished service to this House and to the State. Mr Atkinson directed the Government’s printing services during a period of considerable expansion. In particular, he played a notable role in servicing the increased access to government documents given by the Whitlam Labor Government. He also took part in the transformation of national printing and publishing resources flowing from new technology. Communication of government activities through a wide variety of publications is a demanding and complex art. The Australian Government, since 1972, has been fortunate in having Mr Atkinson to guide its printing services through a difficult period of change. I give him our best wishes for his future.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
On 9 March I informed the House that, concurrent with the Referendums to be held on 2 1 May 1977 in respect of the 4 proposed laws to alter the Constitution which were passed by this House on 17 February 1977 and by the Senate on 25 February, the Government intends that a poll be conducted to assist it in choosing the tune for a national song. The purpose of this Bill, which is a simple machinery measure, is to ensure that there is no legal objection to using for this poll, the same ballot-boxes and polling booths as will be used for the Constitutional Referendums. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is a major measure of reform. Its basic purpose is to codify and clarify the rights and duties of citizens and the Commonwealth Police, when involved in the process of criminal investigation. Although it will initially apply only to the Commonwealth Police provision is made for application by regulations of its provisions to other employees of the Commonwealth engaged in criminal investigation. The Bill should not be seen in isolation. It is part of a comprehensive review of the laws of the Commonwealth which closely touch the human rights of the people of Australia.
In the life of this Parliament important steps have already been taken or foreshadowed which protect and advance human rights and it is appropriate to refer to but a few. They include: The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has been established and has begun its operations. The Administrative Review Council has been appointed and begun its vital work to review the administrative laws and procedures of the Commonwealth. The Ombudsman Act 1976 has been passed and last week the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced the appointment of Professor Jack Richardson to be the first Commonwealth Ombudsman. On 9 December 1976 1 announced that the Government had authorised me to prepare legislation for a freedom of information Bill. It is hoped that this Bill giving citizens a right of access in appropriate cases to government records will be introduced in the present sittings of the Parliament.
References have been given by me to the Law Reform Commission upon a number of matters which are vital to the human rights of all Australians. A reference for a major review of the laws protecting privacy in our community was given last year and is well advanced. A reference to reform defamation laws, so vital for striking the right balance between freedom of speech, on the one hand, and the maintenance of honour and reputation on the other hand was also given to the Law Reform Commission last year. Work on this copy is also well advanced and a preliminary paper distributed by the Commission has secured a positive and favourable response. I have also asked the Commission to report upon the question of the standing to sue in federal courts and courts exercising federal jurisdiction and within recent weeks, in consultation with my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ( Mr Viner), I signed a reference relating to Aboriginal customary law; a matter of great importance especially to the Aboriginal people of this country. In Her Majesty’s Speech this month it was announced that the Government intended to establish a human rights commission. Preparation of legislation for this purpose is well advanced and discussions will take place with the States on the matter in the near future. The aim of the legislation will be to give effective machinery on a national basis to protect and advance human rights in this country. These steps reflect the Government’s concern with the rights of the individual and the need to update the law and legal protective machinery so that these rights can be asserted in the present age. There are other initiatives to which I could refer but it is enough to refer to those mentioned to demonstrate the concern of this Government with the individual, the ordinary man and woman in our community. This concern is nowhere more vital than in the area of criminal investigation and police procedures, which is the subject of this Bill.
The Bill is especially relevant for the Government’s stated intention to establish a human rights commission, a basic purpose of which will be to ensure that our federal law complies with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The International Covenant is itself part of an international movement to protect human rights, which originated after the Second World War and was foreshadowed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights agreed upon early in the life of the United Nations Organisation. The International Covenant in many of its Articles demonstrates the vital importance of adequately protecting the individual when he is faced by authority. It is in this circumstance that the individual is at his greatest disadvantage. The measure of the fairness of a criminal justice system is the manner in which it deals with an accused when he is under suspicion or arrest. It is therefore natural and entirely to be expected that the International Covenant refers to the rights of a person in this circumstance. Article 9, for example, contains the provision:
Article 10 requires that:
Article 14 contains a number of provisions entitling a person, subject to any criminal charge against him, to minimum guarantees in procedures for the determination of that charge. They include: 3. (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him;
There are many other provisions in the International Covenant which are relevant to this Bill which is a practical endeavour to implement the obligations of the Covenant. The influence of the Covenant will be seen in the provisions of the Bill and even in the language adopted by it. The Bill represents a practical attempt to translate into our criminal justice system and the procedures of the Commonwealth Police Force, the standards of the Covenant. With the deposit of a sufficient number of ratifications, the International Covenant came into force as part of international law in 1976. Australia, with a delegation led by Attorney-General Bowen, was a party to its preparation. It represents the standard which civilised communities around the world agree should govern the civil and political rights of their people.
At the same time, it is important that any attempt to translate the language of the Covenant, which is of necessity language of generality, into specific legal provisions should be done with a full knowledge of the tradition of our criminal justice system. It is a system, inherited from the common law, in which we can take pride and which has contributed much to the standards of criminal justice which the international community now embraces. The real genius of the common law was its capacity in many instances to provide protection to the individual in the face of the organised forces of government. The Judges Rules are a basic example. We should not, therefore, underestimate too readily the rights which our own system already guarantees. At the same time, we cannot afford to be self-satisfied about it and it is entirely proper and necessary that, from time to time, we should subject our system to vigorous scrutiny. We should especially do so against standards accepted by the international community. This Bill must therefore be seen in the context both of the important initiatives taken by the Government in Australia to advance and protect human rights and against the background of the International Covenant. It exemplifies the approach which this Government takes in this field. Basic human rights should not be left in vague general terms. To be effective, they should be translated into specific, clear and simple obligations and privileges. This Bill endeavours to do that.
This is a significant piece of legislation for another reason. It is the first occasion a Bill based upon a report of the Australian Law Reform Commission has been introduced into the Parliament. It is apt to repeat what I have frequently said. There is little point in me, as AttorneyGeneral, referring matters to the Law Reform
Commission if the results are ignored. There is no logic in law reform bodies producing reports and spending large amounts of public money in the process if the reports are to lie unread, gathering dust on ministerial shelves. A law reform commission, which is mere window-dressing to make a government appear progressive, can have no justification whatsoever. It was for that reason that the Commission’s report was referred to the Government Committee on Law and Government for its consideration and views. Although the Government had decided not to proceed with the proposal to establish an Australia Police Force, much valuable work had been done by the Commission which should not be lost. The Law and Government Committee supported this view. It expressed the opinion that the Government should proceed to implement the second report of the Commission on Criminal Investigation. However, it proposed that the first report on Complaints Against Police should be reviewed because it was closely related to the organisation of the proposed Australia Police and might need to be reconsidered for its applicability to separate police forces. I have, therefore, asked the Commission to review its report on Complaints Against the Police in the light of the Government’s decision and of other developments. Already, the Commission has produced a Working Paper for this review and I expect to receive a supplementary report from the Commission on the subject of Complaints Against Police in the near future.
The report on criminal investigation did not, however, contemplate any particular police force organisation. It is for that reason the Government decided to proceed with legislation to implement the report. The Bill now introduced follows substantially the measure proposed by the Law Reform Commission. There is one major exception, namely that a dissenting view expressed by Mr F. G. Brennan, Q.C, now the Honourable Mr Justice Brennan, has been preferred by the Government. This relates to police powers following restraint and follows more closely the traditional approach of the common law to the powers of police in this situation than did the majority view expressed by the Commission. Therefore, the rules formulated by the United Kingdom judges in 1918 to provide a guide to police interrogating suspects, which are the rules applied by Australian courts, are given statutory force. Save in this respect, the Bill represents, substantially, the implementation of the Commission’s majority report.
It is most important in the view of the Government and in the view of the Commission that its reports should be considered by the Parliament. My colleague, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley), has already announced the decision of the Government to present legislation, based on the Commission’s other substantive report on alcohol, drugs and driving, to the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory for its consideration. It can, therefore, be seen that the Government is giving prompt and proper attention to the Commission’s reports. I am sure that this Bill will be only the first of many measures by which the Parliament is aided to modernise, reform and simplify the laws of the Commonwealth by the reports of the Law Reform Commission.
In the preparation of the report on criminal investigation not only the Commission itself was involved but quite a number of persons with experience specially relevant to the questions involved participated as consultants. The Commission did not simply prepare its report behind closed doors but sat in all parts of the country including all capital cities. The list of persons and organisations that made written and oral submissions, as set out in Appendix A to the report, bears witness to the major attempt by the Commission to ascertain the views on reform of this area of the law held by police, the professions, community organisations and the public. The report also records the private discussions which the Commission had with members of the judiciary.
Nevertheless, in spite of these extensive inquiries, the Commission suggested that its report should be regarded as an interim report so that further reaction could be elicited before Parliament was invited to act. The report has received a considerable degree of attention and the reaction of the public and both the practising and academic sectors of the legal profession has been generally favourable.
In the task of preparing the present legislation, the Government had the benefit of a draft Bill attached to the Commission’s report but it was necessary to depart in a number of respects from this draft Bill, largely in order to incorporate the minority view of Mr Justice Brennan. These modifications have been discussed with the Chairman of the Commission and Mr Justice Brennan and the Bill attempts to reflect the results of those discussions.
In its preparation, an endeavour has been made to strike a balance between the community’s needs for effective law enforcement and the need to preserve and respect basic human rights. The Government recognises these competing interests and has decided to allow the Bill to remain on the table for sufficient period to ensure adequate public consideration by all interested segments of the community of its terms. If, in the light of ensuing public comment and criticism, it appears that the measure does not adequately protect the citizen or, on the other hand, interferes unduly with proper police investigation, the Government will be prepared to make the necessary amendments to it. At the same time, an attempt has been made in the course of its preparation to ensure that a proper balance is maintained.
A law on criminal investigation must not be a law to protect criminals and stifle the police forces in their important role of criminal law enforcement. Crime is too rife in our community to impair the basic efficiency of our police. At the same time the basic rights and freedoms of the individual citizens in our democracy must be preserved.
I now deal with the major reforms that will be effected by the Bill. There are ten I would like to mention. They are:
Although there have been a large number of reports dealing with particular aspects of criminal investigation there are, so far as I am aware, only two other reports within the Commonwealth of Nations which have lately sought to deal with the whole body of criminal investigation, from first contact of the police with the accused up to the trial stage. It must be stressed that this Bill and the Commission’s report deal with the process in a comprehensive way. The report of the Criminal Law and Penal Methods Reform Committee of South Australia on criminal investigation and the Thomson Report on criminal procedure in Scotland are the only equivalent efforts to review procedures of police investigation in recent years but neither report has, to date, been implemented. There have, of course, been particular reports dealing with special aspects of the subject. The proposals for reform of particular procedures have been carefully weighed and are reflected in the Bill. But the advantage of dealing with the whole procedure, from first police contact until the criminal trial, is that it permits the development of an approach to the relationship that should exist between citizens, including the accused, the police and the courts in the procedures involved in investigating crime. If the relationship is defined it is more likely to be understood and room for disputation, which often occurs in these matters, should be diminished considerably.
Although a large number of reports have been produced and many reforms proposed, I think it is fair to say that this Bill represents the most significant legislative initiative in this field to be taken in the Commonwealth of Nations at least since the last War and probably since the establishment of modern police forces. It comes to grips with a whole variety of difficult issues upon which there has been much writing, widespread dissatisfaction but little legislative action.
The Bill is also noteworthy because it represents an attempt by the law to catch up with the developments of science and technology and to call them in aid, both of the police and of the accused, in the process of criminal investigation. But above all, it proposes that these advances which are now available should be brought to the assistance of the administration of justice itself. In the foreword to the Commission’s report upon which this Bill is based, the Chairman laid stress upon this approach by the Commission. He stated:
The reforms should be seen as part of a total scheme to modernise and rationalise this area of the law . . . The thrust of the Commission’s proposals is towards recognising, controlling and using, in the interest of the accused as well as the authorities, modern technology tape recorders, telephones, telex, computers and copiers.
When one considers the debates that surround confessional evidence and the time of courts taken to resolve these debates, it is impossible to doubt that some at least of them could have been avoided by the use of tape recording devices. Especially in a large country, such as Australia, and in remote districts, it is diffiult to believe that telephones should not be specifically recognised as appropriate instruments for permitting, indeed encouraging, judicial superintendence over police decisions on bail, searches and so on. Recent cases and other inquiries emphasise the potential for injustices in identification parades. Why should not photography or even film be specifically recognised and required as a means of satisfying the court that the identification procedure was fairly conducted?
Part of the resistance to the sound recording of confessional evidence is no doubt based upon the objection that it will be cumbersome and unnecessary. Part may be based upon the resistance to change itself. But, just as the law and lawyers must accommodate themselves to technological advances, so should police forces. Resistance to the use of methods that can fairly end controversy are bound, in the end, to fail. It is important that the law should not fall behind technological developments. In a number of major ways, this Bill seeks to utilise science and to bring the process of criminal investigation into the modern age. This Parliament should be content with nothing less.
On the lines of the Commission’s recommendations and draft Bill attached to the report, provision is made regarding the communication to other persons of information held in the records of the Commonwealth Police Force. When the form of the proposed freedom of information legislation is settled, it may be necessary to reconsider the provisions in the present Bill in the light of that legislation.
As previously stated, the Bill represents an attempt to strike a balance between the community’s need for effective law enforcement and the need to preserve civil liberties. The Government looks forward to an informed and constructive public debate on the provisions of this Bill which, as I have stated, will apply initially only to the Commonwealth Police Force but which may be applied by regulation to other employees of the Commonwealth engaged in criminal investigation. Any suggestions for improvement of the legislation will be very carefully considered before the Bill is proceeded with. It is important in matters as vital to the proper operation of the criminal justice system as this Bill that proposals for legislation should be thoroughly and carefully weighed before the law is finally enacted. It is also vital that the community should be involved in the formulation of this legislation. This is the way the Commission approached its task. It is also the way in which the Government approaches the implementation of the Commission’ major proposals. It is hoped that the legislation will be debated towards the end of these present sittings and I look forward to receiving submissions from honourable members and senators and from all other interested persons and organisations, if possible, by 1 May next. I would also invite State Minister and police forces to make submissions if they wish to do so. The legislation could become a model for all criminal investigation in Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In 1959 Cabinet decided that the then AttorneyGeneral should explore with the New South Wales authorities a proposal for the Commonwealth and the State to co-operate in the erection of a court building. It was ultimately decided to erect such a building on adjoining pieces of land owned respectively by the Commonwealth and the State. The land has frontages to Macquarie, King and Phillip Streets, Sydney.
In accordance with the arrangements made the then Commonwealth Department of Works, acting on behalf of both governments, entered into contracts for the erection of a building and became responsible for the contract supervision and for the management of the construction. It was intended that Commonwealth courts would occupy part of the building and that other parts of the building would be occupied by the New South Wales Supreme Court. It was originally envisaged that the general management of the building would be conducted by a committee comprising representatives of the Commonwealth and the State. However, it became apparent that a number of difficulties would arise if the Commonwealth and State lands remained in separate ownership. The building had not been constructed so that those parts standing on the separate lands could be used independently and, in order to protect the separate interests of both the State and the Commonwealth, a great number of complicated conveyancing and other arrangements would have had to be made. For this and other reasons it was thought that the better course would be to form a corporation in which all the land would be vested and which would also manage the building. Accordingly a company, Law Courts Limited, was formed and incorporated under the Companies Act 1961 of the State of New South Wales. The arrangements between the Commonwealth and the State are that both the Commonwealth and the State owned lands should be transferred to the company and that the company should not be subject to Commonwealth or State taxation.
Sub-section 53(1) of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 gives the Minister for Administrative
Services authority to dispose of land vested in the Commonwealth which is no longer required by the Commonwealth or is not required for immediate use by the Commonwealth. As the Commonwealth owned land is obviously still required by the Commonwealth for immediate use, it is my view that in the present circumstances, the Minister has no power under that sub-section to authorise the transfer of the Commonwealth owned land to the company. Provision for the disposal of the land is therefore made in this Bill- clause 4- and, in accordance with the arrangements made with the State, clause 5 exempts the company from taxation under any law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory. If at any time the building is no longer required for its present purposes, provision has been made in the memorandum and articles of the company for the 2 parcels of land to revert to the previous owners when the company is wound up. The State is enacting legislation which provides for the transfer of the State owned land to the company and for the exemption of the company from liability to pay any rates, taxes or duties under any law of the State.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 March, on motion by Mr Groom:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen be agreed to:
We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to thank Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The presence in Australia of Your Majesty and of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has once again brought the greatest pleasure to Your Australian people. We, their representatives in this House, are grateful for the opportunity to re-affirm our allegiance to you as our Queen.
-When this debate was interrupted last night, I was emphasising, in the course of setting out positively what the Government has done in restoring the economy, that a significant measure of economic recovery has taken place. As I said, the economy is not booming and the measure of recovery is uneven. Nevertheless, it is real. The December quarter national production figures have been referred to in this Parliament. They show a level of non-farm national production for the December quarter fully 5.2 per cent higher than for the December quarter a year earlier, and that increase was pretty broadly based. That increase is in the real level of national production, not a money illusion from inflation. Of key significance as an indicator of the long-term outlook and the direction in which industry is going are the figures for investment for the December quarter last. While again the picture is a mixed one, new capital expenditure by private enterprises in manufacturing was up 33 per cent in money terms and in wholesale and retail trade by 29 per cent. That would represent an increase of the order of 18 per cent to 20 per cent in real terms- a very significant advance. On the other side, investment in mining was significantly down, but the manufacturing sector in this context is quantitatively the more important. I make only one other point. During the course of 1976 some 95 per cent of the previous year’s school leavers were absorbed into employment, and I think that it is worth stressing.
To sum up, it is, as I said, recovery we are talking about, not a booming economy. What it needs to be contrasted with is the situation prevailing under the previous administration. We now have a significant improvement on the utter stagnation of production and investment and the massive increase in unemployment which occurred during the last 18 months or so of the term of the Labor Government. In that period there was no increase at all in non-farm national production, which in December 1975 stood fractionally lower than it was in December 1973, 2 years previously, and more than 200 000 Australians were added to the ranks of the unemployed, to give an unemployment total in excess of 300 000 Australians.
The key issue is that the recovery should spread and consolidate. That depends on a variety of factors, including the strength of renewed growth overseas, but above all it depends on the factor we have always pointed to and stressed, namely, containing inflation and the increase in costs. Beating inflation remains, as it has always been, a prime objective of policy. Indeed, if it is possible, it is even more so because the key feature of the Government’s policy mix as from November last has been the devaluation of the Australian dollar. There have been calls- they are still being made- for a stimulus to the economy. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was doing so yesterday. I stress that effective- I underline ‘effective’- devaluation of the Australian dollar is in itself a very sizable stimulus. What thus is of critical importance is that inflation and the increase in costs be contained to make the devaluation effective.
While the recovery of production is under way unemployment nevertheless remains highunacceptably high, in the Government’s view. It is said that this Government is not concerned about unemployment. That is untrue. Indeed, it is a slanderous statement. It is concerned. There is no greater affront to a man’s dignity or a woman’s dignity and to their confidence and sense of purpose, quite apart from the financial strains involved, than unemployment. The Government and, I venture to say, all members of this Parliament are very conscious of that. And of course, to revert to the Queen’s Speech, it is stated there that it is the essence of the Government’s economic program ‘to overcome unemployment’.
Nevertheless, it has to be recognised and said plainly that unemployment is not going to be overcome as quickly as we would like. For a start, the reduction in unemployment will inevitably lag behind increasing output. But what needs to be stressed is the complexity of policy to achieve our overall objectives of lasting recovery with reasonable price stability, renewed growth and full employment. We are not dealing with a straight forward, traditional cyclical downturn in the economy but rather with unemployment, and inflation, significantly associated with major elements of imbalance in the economy, with structural and other factors which are difficult to remove, offset or change quickly. Foremost among these is the so-called high level of real wages, which translates, to put it more straightforwardly, into the very high, the too high Australian cost structure. That is a prime legacy of the previous Administration, the Labor Government.
To put the point bluntly, the position is one where about the most expensive thing you can do is to employ an Australian. So everywhere in enterprises large and small labour is shed and employment is reduced, by every means possible. That in these circumstances the trend in unemployment has not worsened significantly over the period of this Liberal-National Country Party Government is a more considerable achievement than otherwise it might appear. I remind the House that it was under Labor that unemployment got up from the 2.4 per cent prevailing at the end of the previous LiberalCountry Party Government period of government to over 5 per cent of the work force. It was not under this Government.
After the high level of costs, perhaps the next most difficult factor is the high interest rate structure which has become built into the economy since the Whitlam Government first substantially upped interest rates in September 1973. That was designed as a brake on private- consumer and investment- spending in the attempt to make room for the destructive acceleration of the Labor Government’s spending programs. Even higher interest rates, to the detriment of the more rapid recovery of private investment spending, are now tied in with the requirement to finance appropriately the still large and stubborn Budget deficit. One can assert that this Government is determined to contain and as soon as practicable to reduce interest rates.
There are other factors of a more strictly structural nature. For instance, there is the pace of international industrial technological progress and the issue of what is, and what has been, practicable in this respect in Australia as compared with industry in the major industrial economies overseas. Witness the difficulties in this respect of even Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd. Again there is the threat to large sections of labour intensive Australian manufacturing industry, large employers of labour, from low cost imports, particularly from Asian countries. Again, important for its impact on manufacturing industry, there is the long term effect of expanding primary and especially mineral exports, which in the absence of enlarged Australian capital exports would result in the long term strengthening of the Australian dollar and even greater competition from imports for Australian industry, also difficulties for traditional exporters. I note in that connection that it is very important that Australian exports of capital should grow. But this is to move altogether too far afield.
I return to the dominating issue of costs. When the Government seeks to limit the increase in money wages and thus attempts to keep an already too high cost structure from getting higher still, with more jobs lost, it is accused of cutting real wages. The facts of this matter are that in the 12 months to December 1974 there was an unprecedented wage scramble encouraged by the Whitlam Government and real wages, that is money wages adjusted for price increases, or at least the real wages of those who kept their jobs, rose by 10 per cent in that one year. That, as Bob Hawke himself has said- I quote from the Australian of 6 October 1976- has ‘incapsulated into one year’ more than 3 years normal growth in real wages. Thus in holding the line on the growth of real wages in 1976- that broadly is all that this Government has done- and again in 1977, and hopefully we will succeed in the interests of all Australians and in particular the unemployed, the end point would still represent the normal growth of real wages anyhow. As I or as Bob Hawke, as I have just quoted him, say, in 1974 there was more than 3 years normal growth- up- and then substantially held, so by 1977, 3 years on, the level is what would have prevailed anyhow.
No one will have been done in. In fact wage and salary earners in a job had higher living standards in advance, so to speak. No one has been done in except those who have lost their jobs- because the cost of the massive wage hike of 1974 and some further rise in 1975 was significantly to reduce the profitability of industry and to swell unemployment, as I said previously, from the order of 100 000 at end 1973 to more than 300 000 at end 1975. Viewed in this way I am confident that all fair-minded Australians will support the Government in its policy to correct this fundamental imbalance and thus establish a basic necessary condition for renewed strong growth and investment and full employment in Australia. But, and this is the point I started from, the achievement of this is, in the nature of the case, a long haul as business investmentwitness the figures I referred to earlierand the general level of productivity rise to accommodate the presently too high level of costs.
So it is a long haul and will take some time yet, but the nub of the matter is that there is no other way. The prescription of the Opposition, the big spenders, more Keynesian than Keynes himself- - witness the honourable member for Oxley yesterday, irresponsible pretender to the leadership of the Opposition- is to spend up to create employment. Spend up; do not worry about added inflation or ever higher interest rates. That prescription is self-defeating- I stress ‘selfdefeating’ because for every job created directly today, inflation and higher interest rates cause the loss of another job, or worse, tomorrow. Meanwhile, recognising the time factor, the Government has introduced a number of measures to assist the unemployment problem directly. The National Employment and Training scheme has been revised and extended. The Special Youth Employment Training scheme has been implemented, providing a subsidy of more than $60 a week to encourage in-plant training of the youth unemployed. There is the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeships Full-time Training scheme and additional funds have been provided for pre-apprentice and accelerated training. In the longer term, an inquiry is under way as to how and which priorities should prevail in education, with special reference to technical education. In due course and as appropriate, there will be other measures.
Thus far I have stressed the significant recovery which has been achieved under the Fraser Government but also the very great complexity of policy to ensure that the recovery broadens and consolidates, with a restored impetus to growth and full employment for all Australians. An important component of that total policy is industry policy. It is important as a guide to the shape and size of industry in the future and hence of viable avenues of new investment. Of key importance in this respect is the White Paper on manufacturing which, notwithstanding the blusterings of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) yesterday, will soon be introduced.
Industry policy thus complements the central anti-inflation policy. Of the first broad thrust of the anti-inflation policy, namely, the taut fiscal and monetary policies which the Government has implemented since it attained office, which the honourable member for Oxley declared yesterday to be unnecessarily tough, I will say no more than that I know of no instance in any country where inflation has been reduced from the high rate reached in Australia without such a taut monetary and fiscal policy.
The other main thrust of anti-inflation policy is in the area of so-called incomes policy, that is, the more direct- than monetary and fiscal policy- restraint on prices and incomes. I deliberately use the term incomes policy because this is an area in which it is important to be evenhanded. I take this opportunity to stress that the Government has retained the Prices Justification Tribunal and the PJT is not a body lacking in clout. I need only cite the order of the week before last to Seatainers Terminals Ltd to make a general 10 per cent cut in its charges, which will considerably assist importers and exporters and thence the Australian public generally. What I would also stress is that on the other side- the key area of the containing of the increase in money wages and salaries where the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission exercises the major influencethe Government has played and is playing its part also.
There was a lot of fuss in the Press recently about calls for tax reductions and the apparent refusal of the Government to entertain such proposals. That is a travesty of the true position. Of all things this Government is, it has been from the beginning a tax reforming cum tax reducing government. Among other measures of personal and company tax relief I want to stress once again that as from 1 July 1976-that is, last year- this Government indexed personal taxes. That meant, in a word, that the tax scales were adjusted so as to counteract the effect of inflation on the amount of tax paid. As a result taxpayers have been saved over $ 1,000m tax that would otherwise have had to be paid. So when people say to me, ‘Let us cut taxes in a deal with the Commission and the unions’, that is a proposal not without great merit. I say that very deliberately. But as of now I say that we have already cut taxes very considerably, certainly compared with what they would have been under the alternative government. Therefore, let what we have done be taken into consideration right now in wage deliberations, along with the new system of family allowances, which has also operated since 1 July last year and which is of very great net benefit to some 300 000 low income Australian families.
These are quid pro quo already implemented for wage-salary restraint now, along with the other benefits that will flow from restraint, namely, the more rapid return to a normal economic situation of rising living standards, also full employment for all Australians. If there is a significant moderation in the increase in money wages and salaries then that will be an important pre-condition for further revisions in taxation within the very difficult budgetary constraints facing us, in exchange for continuing wagesalary moderation.
In conclusion I repeat that this Government is of all things a tax reforming cum tax reducing government. That is important not only in this context of current economic policy, but for the pursuit of our basic Liberal objectives of enlarging the freedom of individuals and of increasing the incentives to them, and their very capacity, to build a fuller life for themselves and a greater Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) is, of course, a loyal supporter of the Government but I am sorry that that prevents him from being more objective. His background as a university professor of economics leads one to believe that he should be objective, but he is not as objective as he ought to be in circumstances like this of grave economic uncertainty. The inadequacies and general bankruptcy of ideas in Her Majesty’s most recent Speech to this Parliament, which we are debating today, has already been well described in this debate. It is also well known that saying this is no reflection on the Queen herself in the context of our constitutional monarchy. It is a reflection on the Fraser Liberal and National Country Party Government which was responsible for handing her this inadequate Speech to read. A couple of Government back benchers have moved a traditional motion or address thanking Her Majesty for the Speech from the throne and expressing pleasure at the presence of the Royal Family in this country. To this it is now my pleasing duty to move an amendment. I move:
That the following words be added to the Address: , but note that the Speech among other things-
fails to outline the Government’s program for economic management;
thereby adds to the mounting uncertainty and concern in the community;
accordingly leads to the belief that the Government’s policies will be totally inadequate to contend with worsening inflation, post-war record unemployment, business stagnation and declining living standards for millions of Australians, and
) neglects to outline details of social reforms which are essential to reduce inequalities and to overcome hardships being suffered by so many in need ‘.
Now let me deal with some of these points which highlight the inadequacy of the Queen’s Speech. As stated in the amendment, the Opposition deplores the fact that there was no information in the Speech about the course of economic management. The old strategy of the Fraser Government, namely, applying contractionary policies whatever the cost to employment, concentrating only on inflation, is in tatters. It died a death of a thousand knives with devaluation. That disastrous decision of 28 November, taken against the advice of the Treasury and presumably of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), taken sinisterly by a small coterie of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and a few of his closest National Country Party grazier colleagues, taken cynically in order to transfer resources from have-nots to havesfrom wage and salary earners and small businessmen to mining companies and a few of the larger graziers- spelt the end of the old misguided strategy.
What is to take its place? We have not been informed. Certainly this Speech which we are debating, which is supposed to outline the Government’s program, does not tell us. No wonder it is the Opposition’s bounden duty to move this amendment which I have just moved and which will be seconded by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). It is vital that we force an end to this incompetent economic management. This ineptness is leading to enormous suffering in our community. Honourable members should think again of the psychological effects on those thousands of young people who cannot find jobs. They should think again of the misery in the homes of those thousands of older people who have been forced out of their employment, in some cases after twenty or thirty years of loyal service, and who now, because of their age, are wondering what the future has in store for them.
Instead of real concern for these and so many other human problems, we have these incompetent managers displaying complacency. At a time when the December quarter 1976 national accounts show a 1.7 per cent decline in gross domestic product, we suffer a Prime Minister suggesting that, to quote him, growth rates arc back to normal’. At a time when unemployment is at least 100 000 greater than the Commonwealth Employment Service registered figure of 347 000, when it is at the greatest rate for 40 years- since the War- Government Ministers are saying that unemployment is a myth. At a time when the inflation rate for one quarter is 6 per cent- I refer to the December quarter 1976- the Treasurer is purveying the untruth that the underlying rate of inflation is reducing. It is no wonder that the credibility rating of Government Ministers, in particular the Treasurer, in the most recent polls- I refer to polls published in the National Times- is woeful and is the worst on record for Ministers. I wish to dwell on the subject of inflation a little longer. The honourable member for Berowra spoke about it. The reduction of inflation was to be the main aim of these inept economic managers. Let us examine how inconsistent they have been in the policies pursued for the attainment of the Government’s aim of reducing inflation.
Firstly, the Government terminated the need for companies to pay their tax obligations quarterly. This meant that the saved funds were used by many of those companies to speculate on our dollar. This is one of the more immediate causes of devaluation and the enormous price increases which went with that disastrous decision. Secondly, the Government meddled with Medibank. In the December quarter of 1976 alone that meant a 3.2 per cent increase in the consumer price index. This is another way in which the Fraser Government has caused worsening inflation and is at a time when the Government said its main aim was to reduce inflation. Thirdly, the policy of so-called ‘new federalism ‘, which is just another way of describing the mutilating of the national public sector, has meant that the States have had to fulfil many of the functions in delivering essential services to the people previously administered at the national level.
What is important in this context is that the States have had to pick up the charges for those functions and pass them on to the people through State Budgets. So it is Fraser Government policies which have forced the States to put up their charges. To a great extent this is responsible for the enormous 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index for the December quarter of 1976. Fourthly, the Government has tampered with the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission. The honourable member for Berowra mentioned proudly that the Government had not mutilated the Prices Justification Tribunal in spite of the promises in its election program to do so. But there is nothing to be proud about with regard to what this Government has done to the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission. It has watered down the effectiveness of these bodies. Both statutory corporations have important responsibilities in the restraint of prices. Yet their task is made more difficult by the policies of the Liberal-National Country Parties.
How dinkum is the Government about reducing the rate of inflation? It is happy to undertake worker bashing’ with a view to influencing the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in national wage cases to reduce the living standards of millions of Australian wage and salary earners. It is happy to clamp on strict bank lending curbs and increase interest rates which penalise the smaller business men of our community. But when it comes to supporting institutions which apply restraints to large companies, the Government does the opposite. It waters down the effectiveness of our public institutions, the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission, charged with these tasks. We need go no further than the works of that great American, John Kenneth Galbraith, to learn of the sinister and detrimental influences of large corporations on our whole pricing structure. These corporations are so often in a monopolistic position and can claim whatever prices they want. I shall return to this theme on another occasion. What is important now is that the Australian people should realise that we have a government which does not apply itself to this problem. It does not exhort restraint on the part of those who have power over prices. It does not ask higher income earners- professional people- to limit their incomes. Instead, we have a conservative government which chooses confrontation with unions, with worker bashing and with doing its best to reduce the living standards of millions of Australian wage and salary earners. It is no wonder that the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has seen fit today to resign his membership of the Liberal Party of Australia. However, I will admit that much of what he had to say with regard to his resignation was destructive rather than constructive. These are 4 ways in which the Fraser Government has caused an increase in inflation since it came to power 1 6 months ago. It has terminated the quarterly company tax payments, meddled with Medibank, forced the States to increase their charges and weakened the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trades Practices Commission.
The fifth policy of the Government knocks all other policies into a cocked hat. I refer to devaluation. Devaluation adds enormously to our cost structure. No one is now thinking in terms of single digit inflation this year. In fact, we can only contemplate a 1 5 per cent to 1 7 per cent inflation rate, not only for this financial year but also for this calendar year. The decision is a disaster and is one which could have been avoided. I believe that the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon) explained in the Government Party room yesterday that, of course, a sizable loan should have been negotiated to stave off the speculation about devaluation. The amount of loan required for this purpose was not at all inconsistent with the loans being negotiated in Europe by, for instance, Canada. Canada is only one nation that has negotiated such loans in the Euro dollar market. Australia should have negotiated a similar loan. Devaluation, more than anything else, is responsible for the Government’s economic strategy being in tatters. It makes nonsense of the Treasurer’s untruthful claims that the underlying rate of inflation is falling. Yet it was the aim of the Government to bring down the rate of inflation. I believe I can show that by its own misguided policies the Government has added to the inflation rate.
What of the future? This Speech of Her Majesty the Queen which we are now debating highlights the bankruptcy of the Government’s present policies. While this vacuum continues, we can only speculate, as the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) did in this debate yesterday, that there will be an ever increasing lack of confidence at home which will again spill over abroad. If this happens, there is the danger that these conservatives who are in an ideological bind because of their misrepresentations over the Khemlani affair will fail to negotiate a loan to stave off speculation against our currency and once again Australia will be forced to devalue- or the Government will take the decision to devalue- with all the adverse consequences which result from that. What is the alternative? This has been outlined often by the Labor Opposition and is receiving increased support in the community, as is witnessed by some of the editorials in national newspapers. We must have a more expansionary policy. We must attack unemployment as well as inflation and we must unlock the door to encourage the return of consumer confidence, we must spend on manpower policies to train and retrain people with the necessary skills. We must make grants to the States so that they can bring alive the plans already drawn up for building and construction works in those areas where there are unemployed men, women and other resources. We must revive local initiative programs and allow local government bodies and other nonprofitmaking organisations to improve the quality of life in their districts by using the services of those who would otherwise be on the dole. We must selectively cut indirect taxes to stimulate that consumer confidence.
This total package would not be inflationary. It is designed in this modest way so that it will not worsen the inflationary situation. An increase in the money supply of 2 per cent would make $800m available and would save Australia from the threatened credit squeeze which is in danger of overtaking us. I believe that we can raise up to $500m extra from our capital market in a sensible funding program without increasing interest rates. This idea is being pursued right now in an interesting public debate about the liquidity of building societies and other fringe banking institutions. There is room for these fringe banking institutions to have a far larger holding of public securities. We must be realistic and recognise that the Fraser Government policy of an investment led recovery is a failure. New mining ventures do not get under way because of the investment allowance. They are commenced if and when there is a market for their product. Some investment allowances and other depreciation claims are more extravagant than they need be. When it is a matter of options, those who derive benefit from them could be far better off if the market were stimulated. With an increased level of economic activity will come more profits and lower unit costs. There is no need to make the transfers from wages that are being made now. It is the job of governments now to stimulate that activity. The modest, selectively stimulatory policies which the Labor Party is advocating have been adopted by United
States President Carter and Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda. They should be adopted here.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting for the lunch break I moved an amendment to the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by Her Majesty to this Parliament. That amendment will be seconded shortly, I hope, by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). Before the suspension of the sitting I was completing my speech in which I had pointed out that the Speech from the throne showed a bankruptcy of policies. It did so by drawing attention to the way in which devaluation in particular had meant that the Government’s economic strategy was left in tatters. I had pointed out that until devaluation at least we knew there was a focusing of attention on inflation as a problem but that in spite of that focus the Government’s policies had had the effect of increasing inflation. I drew attention not only to the termination of the quarterly company tax payments but also to the Medibank meddling which had caused a 3.2 per cent increase in the consumer price index for the December quarter alone. I mentioned how the so-called new federalism was causing the States to take on more responsibility in delivering services to the people and how it was causing increases in State charges. All of these policies had caused increases in prices- increases directly attributable to government action in spite of the Government’s declared aim of bringing down the rate of inflation.
I had also outlined the alternative strategy which was being put forward by the Australian Labor Party Opposition- modest, stimulatory increased spending in specific areas, particularly in areas of manpower policy and particularly in the area of grants to the States in order to allow the States to get on with construction and building programs in those centres where these programs were ready to go, where we knew the resources could be used, where there were unemployed men and women, and where there were building materials, to name just one resource additional to that of people. I pointed out also how we believe that in this time of an unprecedented rate of unemployment- the worst for 40 years- it would be advisable to get off the ground local initiative programs which were better administered than was the regional employment development scheme, which was introduced in a hurry, and which would employ people who are now receiving the dole. I drew attention to how all of this modest programming would not in any way increase inflation, because it is seen in a package not only of increasing the money supply but also increasing the sale of government bonds and substituting these programs for the out of date ones being administered by the Government. I refer to the Government’s policies of extravagant and expensive investment allowances which should be scrapped in favour of reducing indirect taxes in an effort to stimulate consumer spending. From an increase in the level of economic activity which would result from the programs that I have outlined as an alternative strategy would also come more profits, which are needed for that greater investment which in turn is needed to bring us back to an era of full employment. Also would come lower unit costs. It is the job of the Government to stimulate that activity and to bring it about.
In conclusion, I make the claim that the modest, selectively stimulatory policies which we in the Australian Labor Party have been advocating and are still advocating have been adopted by United States President Carter and Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda. Those policies should be adopted in this country. Instead we suffer from Ministers of the Fraser Government one misleading statement after another displaying enormous and damaging complacency. That must end; new policies must be adopted. That does not apply only to economic management, although I have spent the time available to me in dealing with economic management. It applies also to social welfare policies. No reforms are being instituted by the conservatives, in spite of the words that they are in Her Majesty’s Speech. There is no attack on inequalities. There is no attempt to reduce the inequalities that exist in our society. There are no promised programs to overcome the hardships being suffered by so many in need in our community. The amendment deserves the support of this House.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr Abel) adjourned.
-I hope that this is the beginning of a thought provoking and thoughtful debate about the Parliament, its membership, its relationship to Ministers, the relationship of Ministers to their departments, the duties of officers of the Public Service to the
Parliament, and the duties and strength of inquiries by parliamentary committees. It is now 3 years or more since the Auditor-General first brought down his report concerning the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It was tabled in this House. I knew it was about to be presented. I could not ascertain any of its contents. I had been told by my friend Senator Cavanagh that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs had been making all sorts of critical remarks about my administration. I was sitting in the House, suddenly the report was handed down, and I was under fire without being given a chance to answer. Subsequently the Joint Committee of Public Accounts -
– That was the Auditor-General’s report?
-That is right; the AuditorGeneral ‘s report. I am not complaining about the Public Accounts Committee. That was 3 years ago. The Public Accounts Committee began its investigations in April 1974, a few days before the Parliament was dissolved. The departmental officers went before that Committee and made statement after statement about me, my administration and my general behaviour. I now stand here to refute those statements in public. They were wrong. The officers gave incorrect evidence to a parliamentary committee.
So after 3 years, 1 100 pages of evidence, 339 pages of report, statements from the AuditorGeneral, statements from various departments of state, statements from the Public Service Board and statements from the Treasury, I will try in the 12 or 13 minutes left to me to give an adequate answer. If I cannot answer it all, perhaps I will stimulate some discussion. What I have to say this afternoon demonstrates, I think, a distressing malaise in Australian public administration. I think it demonstrates gross intellectual sloppiness at high levels in the Australian administration. How was it that a department of state, with all of the resources at its disposal, placed before the Public Accounts Committee information, asserted to be evidence, which was wrong in fact? How was it that a departmental head repeated that information without checking it? How was it- I regard this to be more serious- that the Auditor-General quoted that information in his report? The report was uncritical and did not display a total acceptance of it, but to put it in the Auditor-General ‘s report is to give it the strength of holy writ in this community. How is it that the Press has not managed to examine these things in much more detail? 1 have no time to deal with that particular aspect of the matter now, except to say that apart perhaps from one or two perceptive articles- one of which appeared in the Canberra Times- the Press has shown little understanding of what it is all about.
I speak here this afternoon for the purpose of issuing a challenge to the integrity of Australian public administration and asking this Parliament to take serious note of what I have to say and what has occurred. I wish to cite a number of passages in the Auditor-General’s report which instance the excuses the Department gave for its failure to carry out proper procedures. The report states:
In certain cases the Depanment has sought to excuse its non-compliance with established procedures on the grounds that it became aware of ministerial decisions involving expenditures only when the accounts for the expenditures concerned were received . . .
The Auditor-General said:
While appreciating the difficulties in circumstances such as these . . .
And so on. That was in reference to several matters to which I shall refer, to the purchase of blankets and barges. Dealing with the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee elections in 1973 or 1974 the Auditor-General said that the main reasons that such shortcomings occurred were that the instructions could not be carried out completely in order to meet the deadline for the actual enrolment set by the then Minister’. He referred to the trawlers and said:
In relation to the accounts paid from Canberra, the commitments were entered into by a consultant to the then Minister and the Department had no knowledge of the commitment until receipt of the accounts;
Other instances are mentioned. The statements were wrong. I challenge this Parliament to do something about it. The Auditor-General is the paragon of probity. He would be naive indeed if he thought that he could put such things in a report and have them quoted without their having a serious reflection upon me. I have here page after page of headlines from the newspapers of Australia in which I am the guilty person. This afternoon I have not all that much time with which to deal with all the matters. But I insist that this is a fundamental question of the integrity of Australian public administration. I am not going so far as to say that all this was done with malice and malevolence. I think some of it was done with attitudes of resentment and hostility to me. But that is of little moment. What I am talking about is the intellectual challenge of hall.
I have been in public life for a long while. I have been a member of this Parliament for 2 1 years. I do not remember ever saying anything in public to harm another person which I could not support with facts. Yet a department of state prepared its documents, the permanent head asserted certain things, the Auditor-General quoted them, the Press of course noted them and the Public Accounts Committee listened to them. I do not think any of that action was carried out with the kind of intellectual integrity I hope I bring to my duties. That is what 1 have to say this afternoon. I put those people on challenge and I put this Parliament on challenge. What are we going to do about that? The evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee by the head of the Department and by his senior officers supported by other officers was on oath. Just take one simple example.
– You did not object at that time, did you?
– It was stated that there was no problem in obtaining blankets but there were orders for 8427 blankets in this period, none of which passed through the Department. This was totally wrong. I shall table documents later to show that it can be determined that what I say is true. My honourable friend opposite who I know brought a good deal of conscientious understanding examination to this matter when he was on the Public Accounts Committee will understand if I say that it was obligatory upon me to remain silent. Evidence having been given before the Public Accounts Committee I did issue a statement in about early 1974 just before the Parliament was dissolved to say that in due course I would refute the allegations, and I have refuted them. But that was in December 1 974. Of course I objected but I am putting it here on the line before the Parliament. This is my first opportunity to answer in my proper forum and I am doing it. Take those issues which are mentioned in the report. The Public Accounts Committee has not seen fit to criticise or to be non-critical of the fact that this evidence was given to it. I ask: How can one believe anything if that is the situation? I put that before the Public Accounts Committee. There are other questions but I shall perhaps leave that part of the matter at that.
I have no criticism of the style in which the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee produced the report or spoke to it. I am now going to express disagreement with some of the Committee’s conclusions. It is said that I did not establish effective communication with the permanent head. I suppose it is assumed that we are both more or less guilty. What evidence did the Committee have of that? Somewhere in paragraph 672 the report states that evidence shows that the problems and difficulties in establishing liaison flowed from certain attitudes which developed between the Minister’s office and the Department. The only evidence I can find of a concrete nature through the transcript- the 1 100 pages of it which I duly read- is at page 963 where Captain Sam Benson gave evidence. He was a former member of this House. He is one of Australia’s most experienced mariners. The question was raised about relationships between the office and flow of information. Captain Benson said:
Now that you have brought this up, Mr Bryant was very fair about these matters, because he used to have periodic conferences, like a good administrator should, and we would meet in his office. There would always be one, and up to 3, representatives of the permanent head of the Department and we would talk about these matters. I remember on one occasion there was a Mr Thomas and a Mr Gant, and everybody knew what was going on.
I think the evidence would show that there was no failure on my part to communicate. I spent a lot of time doing so. There was no possible justification for anyone in the Department not to know what our policies were, where I stood and what I wanted done. I can give one simple demonstration of the difficulty of it all. It was only months after I ceased to be the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that I visited the Commonwealth Bank office in Civic. The bank manager said to me: ‘This of course was formerly the office of Dr Coombs’. There was an office there all those months hardly ever occupied. And I never had anywhere to sit in the Department. I was never offered the use of that office. This is the way I proceeded: Firstly, there were standing orders in my office that the door was open, in the first instance to my colleagues in this place and to people from the Department. I cannot imagine a situation where the departmental head making a request to see me would be refused or his dropping in to see me and being refused. I suggest that most members of this Parliament would believe that is the way I operated. I think again- it is a soft impeachment- that the Public Accounts Committee could have called my staff and asked how it operated. Unfortunately I do not think the Committee did that. I said that we sent copies of all documents to the Department. In almost every instance in which I travelled across this country there was a departmental officer with me. I had continuous conferences with the departmental people. At the end of a letter I wrote in June 1973 to the Secretary- it is on page 102 of volume one of my original submission- I said that I wanted to make it clear that it is the Department’s duty to keep me informed of all operations carried out under my authority, because that is the way I have been trained.
In the report there is a reference to my style of administration. It is not unduly critical. I do not know that it is even critical in emphasis or even in context but perhaps I should explain the situation. Firstly let me state the principles upon which I proceed, best expressed by the last line of Tennyson’s Ulysses:
To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.
In my submission there are 300 pages altogether, 100 pages of statement and 200 pages of documents. If one reads through the documents one will find that from the beginning I asked that strong financial control be exercised over funds distributed through our Department. I had had a long experience in Aboriginal affairs and I knew most of the organisations. I knew that they were not experts in handling matters of this sort. One will see in the documents too that I wanted to give the Department organisational strength on the ground, that I wanted to have the Aboriginal people involved in it. I wanted to have established a system of control of funds and reporting on organisations. My colleagues who were with me on the Party committee at the time will support that. One of the things that I wanted to do was to know what went on. I suggest that if honourable members compare the Hay report of last year with the documents I have tabled, they will find that Mr Hay is now advocating that what should be done is what I told the Department and its officers 4 years ago to do. I hope that I can have an extension of time -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I move that the honourable member’s time be extended?
-No. At the moment an extension of time cannot be granted because the honourable member’s time has not expired.
-So that, I think, is point one. I claim that my system of communication was effective and that my system of administration was useful and was based upon sound premises. There are some other matters -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I move that the honourable member be granted an extension of time.
-The question is:
That the honourable member for Wills be granted an extension of time.
Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the noes have it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know that it was a genuine mistake but from the other side of this Parliament I was asked to put a note in front of the honourable member for Wills telling him that the Government would give him an extension of time in these very particular circumstances when he is under attack. I put that note before him. It has been a genuine mistake and I ask the Government to reconsider its position.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. I apologise personally to the honourable member for Wills because I gave him that information which I found out later was incorrect. In the strict sense, it was my mistake to give the honourable member the information. For that I apologise. But the question was put: That the honourable member for Wills be granted an extension of time. I said that the noes had it. I shall put the question again. The question is:
That the honourable member for Wills be granted an extension of time.
Those of that opinion say aye, of the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
– I recognise the embarrassment of all people involved in this matter but perhaps in every 2 1 years I might be entitled to an extension of time. Paragraph 670 of the report states that I should have adopted a more sympathetic and realistic attitude towards the establishment of the Department and allowed a more gradual implementation of the Government’s policies in keeping with the development of the Department’s staff resources. I find a slight contradiction in that with the suggestion that I should have relied more upon the expertise of the Department. The facts are that in 1972-73 the situation of the Aboriginal people of Australia was dreadful in the extreme. I do not lay the blame at anybody’s door. For 150 years the Aboriginal people had been neglected. The health of the Aboriginal people was amongst the worst in the world. There were more Aborigines in proportion to the population in prisons than anybody else. There was hardly anybody of Aboriginal ancestry in the senior levels of public administration. It was important that we get on with the job and that is what we chose to do.
In trying to recapture some of the atmosphere of the time, let me remind honourable members of one event which was not public knowledge. My friend, Senator Keeffe, who was Chairman of the Party’s sub-committee on Aboriginal affairs indicated in August his wish to resign from his position as Chairman because we were not going fast enough. It was a time of great demand and we set out to meet it. I do not think that the Committees comment was reasonable in the light of the history of the subject. We were competing in an area where there had been great failure to perform, where no government instrumentality anywhere performed up to the standard it achieved for the rest of the community. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a memorandum which I wrote to the Department on 24 January 1973 referring to the situation in Papunya.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The memorandum read as follows-
MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
Parliament House, Canberra. 24 January 1973
Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
OUR INHERITANCE-NOTES FOR DISCUSSION
I am working on the basic assumption that my philosophy and that of the Council and the Department’s senior staff based in Canberra is much the same.
My own position is compounded by a sense of urgency which I am sure everyone else shares but my position allows me to ensure that matters which have been deferred or strangled receive impetus. However, considering our earlier discussions I think that I would be less optimistic about other Departments and agencies performing up to our standards immediately than is the Council.
It is difficult to believe that the Health Department in the Northern Territory will spring into action at our behest any more than it has done in the past unless we do something dramatic. I recognise that the Minister for Health is on our side.
Are some of the things I saw at Papunya on the same continent and conducted by the same Government as controls Canberra?
Water- There is a shortage of water. I was told by one staff member that water had been located and the bores only had to be brought into action but there had been a hold up about the equipment. I discussed this with Mr Cooke who was going to look into the facts yesterday. It seems to me that we should bring the water supply up to standard no matter what it costs although I would think from the information I gathered that a good deal of the work of reticulating the water from the bore to the town could be a labour intensive operation directed by somebody on the spot or somebody employed to supervise it. I cannot see why the kind of staff at Papunya should not be able to run a pipeline even for miles across that country. I would resist the bringing in of outside contractors especially in view of the existence on the settlement of a large number of workers on training allowance.
Toilet Block-The taps and other fittings have been removed. Apparently the children behave like all children. It seemed to be one of the few water points available to many of the people round about and some of the methods described for obtaining water for cooking gave the impression that sewerage and cooking water are becoming synonymous. There was a pool of green scummed water around the spot.
I understand that drainage is a problem but I could not tolerate that place staying in such a condition on any place for which I am responsible.
I think that some imaginative person should visit the place and see what can be done about proper sanitation and hygiene,
I would regard the establishment of a health offensive unit at such places as urgent no matter what the Health Department does. I would like to discuss it with Dr Kirke as soon as possible.
I am sure that we should establish immediately some sort of managerial system which would grow into a town council operation in which the specialist services would be supplied as they are in every other community in Australia. We should take steps to disentangle our Aboriginal towns from the Administration of the Northern Territory. A senior officer of proven capacity with direct access to us here should be placed in charge straight away. (This is no reflection on the staff).
A large group of the men gave one the impression of being just as capable of thinking constructively about their own affairs as any other community.
I am sure that when the children are at school they are quite impressive. Even although they are grubby and in the most dreadful conditions in the camp they still have some style about them. What have we done to reduce the people to their present condition?
Footnote: Mr Cooke seemed to have a lot of ideas including one about the rearing of goats for mohair. Could we get hold of some of these ideas and examine them and see what is necessary to put some of them into action?
What emerges from all this is the urgent need for a Department with status and authority at the policy making level and numbers, initiative and empathy in the field officer group with a heavy accent on decentralisation to client locations.
-One of the questions I put in that memorandum was:
Are some of the things I saw at Papunya on the same continent and conducted by the same Government as controls Canberra?
So that was the situation in which we found ourselves. We embarked upon a program of trying to change it all. Our programs came under great attack. We were charged with spending public money like water as someone said on the television only last night. I recommend that honourable members look at the Hansard of 1 1 October 1973 to see the great list of programs and projects that we funded through State and private organisations in other areas, and see which one of those was a waste of money and ought not to have been carried out. We set out to involve the Aboriginal people themselves very closely in administration. I wanted to see them in the Department. I tried to establish a field force of at least 100 of them. We created the National Aboriginal Congress. I know that there was great debate about that. There was debate in our Party as there was in the Parliament. It was my estimation that this was the only way in which we would get the Aboriginal people involved at the proper level.
So in considering the administration, there were 3 areas that had to be involved which normally are not involved. One was the Parliament itself. I was instrumental in the establishment of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal affairs. Another area was the Party itself. So we had a sub-committee of the Party. The other area was the Aboriginal people themselves and that is where the NAC came in. I say that these were great and important developments, that the criticisms of those times are invalid and that the word ‘disaster’ as applied to them is totally irrelevant. We set out upon a program of change for the Aboriginal people of Australia which no one will put back. I do not believe that this Government will proceed at the same pace and in the same direction as I would Uke it to do, but I know that the force of circumstances has so changed Australian society that we cannot put back the clock in Aboriginal affairs. I had been involved in Aboriginal affairs for a long while. I was the campaign director for the referendum on Aborigines in 1967. I was a foundation member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. I had been a member of a select committee here. There was no excuse for anybody in the Department not to know what we were about. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an article which, honourable members might well say was prepared with a fair amount of prophetic insight but more in optimism than anything else. In 1967 I wrote an article which was published in Smoke Signals called ‘If I were a Minister’. I seek leave to have that article incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The article read as follows-
IF I WERE A MINISTER
As a result of the constitutional amendment carried out last May, the Commonwealth Parliament now has authority to do whatsoever it wishes in the field of Aboriginal affairs. It can do things that the States have not attempted to do. It can supercede the States. It can make State laws redundant or it can co-operate with the States. One would hope that it would do all of these things and would gradually develop a system which included the best of all present administrations with a lot that is new. Aboriginal advancement, as distinct from the administration of Aborigines is a virgin field. Very little effective work has been done in Australia by any Government or any administration. There has been a great deal of expensive work. But there is little that has been done which can be regarded as having produced advancement for the Aboriginal people of Australia.
I believe that very little will be achieved of a permanent effective nature until we have developed the self-reliance of the Aboriginal people themselves. That is that more of them are taking part in the administration of Aboriginal affairs and that their voice is continually heard and continually applied. Manpower, money, land, legislation are all important, but the most effective weapon for the advancement of the Aborigine will be the development of their own self-reliance.
Over the whole field of Aboriginal affairs Australia has probably performed worst of all equivalent nations. There can be no comparison between the position of the Maori in New Zealand or the Indian in the United States or in Canada, but as regards their material position or the amount of effort applied on their behalf by Governments with that of Australia, we are the worst performers on this planet. The Aborigine is the heir to 1 80 years of not exactly neglect, but one might say off-hand and perfunctory policy making. It has produced discriminations over a wide field of human endeavour. There are legal discriminations. There are civil laws which make life different for the Aborigine from that of any other Australian. There is social discrimination, whether it is the efforts of the people of Bega or of Kempsey to prevent houses being built in their street, or, the one more difficult to locate, the employer who refuses to give an Aborigine a job, or the proprietor of a hotel or a boarding house who finds he has no vacancies left if applied for by an Aborigine. But there is one less forgiveable, more easily removable discrimination. It is a fair statement that nowhere near the amount of effort administratively is expended on the Aboriginal people as on generally the white community. There are large communities judged by Australian outback standards in Arnhem Land which consist almost entirely of Aborigines. There is no telephone line to these communities. There is no full-time medical service readily available. The expenditure on schools and general public services in these townships is nowhere near comparable to the expenditure on an equivalent white township, and economic discrimination resulting from the poverty of their general surroundings and their own personal position, and there is one which I recall at the moment negative discrimination’. That which results from Aborigines not know their own rights or having the power to apply them, so that in the courts of the North many more Aborigines are arrested and charged with drunkenness and appear before the courts without adequate legal representatives, say, than is the case with the white community. This is just one example- many more can come to mind.
The new Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, or by what other title it may become eventually to be known, faces one of the most challenging tasks in Australian government. The Department must be launched with adequate resources. It has a Minister of known interest. The new Council has a Chairman of established and commendable reputation. What it will need in addition to this are the actual financial resources and the co-operation of Commonwealth and State Governments at all levels. It will take some time to determine exactly what ought to be done in many fields, although some of the needs are immediate and visible such as in housing. I would like to see a permanent, impartial and powerful watch dog established for the Aboriginal community. It is my belief at the moment that the best way to do this is for the Commonwealth Parliament to appoint a Standing Committee. This Standing Committee to watch the interests of the Aboriginal people of Yirrkala in Arnhem Land as recommended in the 1963 report of the Select Committee on the grievances of the people of Yirrkala was not implemented. I believe that a continuing Parliamentary Committee is the most potentially influential machinery available. I would establish the new Department on the Repatriation model. The Repatriation Department is Australia’s most experienced social service organisation. Although pensions of various sorts and social service benefits of various sorts pre-date the establishment of the Repatriation Department, no other field of activity in social services have had the same continuing experience with a specialised group of beneficiaries as the Repatriation Department, nor has it had the same powerful groups nudging it along to try to overcome anomalies and difficulties and new disabilities as they develop. The Repatriation Department covers such things as Soldiers’ childrens’ education, rehabilitation, business loans, land settlement, war service homes, to add several non-Repatriation departments. The Repatriation Department has a too complex system for the establishment of benefits, but of course with the Aboriginal field benefits can be established. They should be available to all people who can claim some Aboriginal ancestry or whose way of living brings them into the various definitions of Aborigine under the various State acts. For long enough there nave been definitions of Aborigines in order to bring people under the restrictive provisions of the various acts. It should be simple enough to reverse this process and give them the benefits and have an equally wide definition in order to give people the benefits of legislation. There are a number of fields for action. The first in my view is housing. There is some controversy about where one should begin. I should make it clear at this stage there is no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not begin in a number of fields in all those I numerate. But the housing position of the Aboriginal people of Australia is desperate and degrading. There are a number of Aboriginal families who do live in normal average standard housing. There are one or two who manage to make the distance into above average standards of living. There are not many. The number of families of Aborigines in Australia is unknown. It is probably in the order of 25 000 to 30 000. You could be assured that 80 per cent at least of these need some assistance with housing. That means that there are probably 20 000 families who need immediate and urgent housing. This housing, of course, won’t be standard throughout Australia. The housing for an Aboriginal family in Arnhem Land, is different from the kind of housing that is required at Port Hedland, and the housing in either place would be completely irrelevant to the houses of Aboriginal families who live in the capital cities. The general attack upon Commonwealth Acts in any field is by those who think that being a Commonwealth instrumentality the solutions are bound to be uniform from one end of the continent to the other. This is, of course, nonsense. The Commonwealth has had wide experience in building all kinds of housing, not that it has shown any great adventurous spirit in the housing of its own public servants in Northern Australia. There is a depressing similarity between the homes in Darwin, the homes in Melbourne and those in Canberra. Architects and Public Service Departments, Housing Commissions and private builders have shown very little regard for the differences in climate, but an Aboriginal housing authority would be facing a new kind of challenge. It would be apparent to anybody that the traditional approach to housing would not be good enough and that therefore new thoughts would have to be brought into the field. It is in the Australian tradition that when new thoughts are required, and there are not too many inhibitions applying from previous practice, that new thoughts will develop. There will be a need for housing for ownership and housing for rental and housing for itinerate workers. This will all require a different approach. There ought to be a housing home purchase system for the average needs at least equal to the War Service Homes system with its low interest rates, low deposits and long term repayments. There should be an immediate attack upon the housing of Aborigines, upon pastoral properties, and there should be immediate pressure brought to bear upon housing commissions throughout the country to make houses readily available in the metropolitan area. This should be done immediately.
In a number of fields the Aboriginal people of Australia are more unhealthy than almost any other group on earth. In some districts infant mortality is from 10 to 20 times as high as that prevailing in the white community. This will be a highly specialised field, largely called to cover preventive medicine, training for the Aboriginal mother and rehousing in many instances. But infant mortality is only one of many areas of which the average Aboriginal person is at a great disadvantage. Yaws, hook worm, tuberculosis, leprosy are much more frequent in the Aboriginal community than they are in the white community. There should be no efforts spared in bringing the health of the Aboriginal people up to the general Australian standard. A number of these deficiencies or diseases flow from deficiencies in diet- malnutrition. The standard diet in many areas of Northern Australia is appalling. The handling of food is disgraceful. The food preparation facilities for the average family are primitive to the point of being non-existent. An attack upon the nutrition of many Aboriginal families would solve some of the problems in other health fields.
Education is not just a matter of trying to pass university exams. Education continues from the cradle to the grave. No person is too old to benefit from training. The Aboriginal child starts with a heavy handicap. In many respects their experience of life is so restricted that as soon as they enter schools they are at a disadvantage with their contemporarieswhite contemporaries- who are two or three years in advance of the Aboriginal child socially. It is usual for them to fall further behind and never catch up. Kindergarten training will be important, also assistance in the home. Parents need friendly, good-neighbourly assistance as they feel they require it. The primary schools in any area where there is a significant Aboriginal community need special equipment. In secondary schools there has been a new approach to the question of keeping Aboriginal children at school. It is unfortunate that it is hardly relevant to talk of tertiary education of Aborigines. Only a handful are in universities, teachers’ colleges, or under nursing training. But this has to be attacked. A programme has to be developed to allow or to give the school more holding power on its Aboriginal pupils. But a good deal of this will be irrelevant unless there is a new attack upon economic development. Draw lines from Cairns to Carnavon through Alice Springs and almost half the population north of that line is Aboriginal people. In the Northern Territory just under 50 per cent of the people in the 500 000 square miles are Aborigines. At Cape York a great proportion of the population is Aboriginal, as it is in the northwest of Western Australia. There are no economic prospects for these people whatsoever. They have no opportunity of owning land, little training to handle the land if they did obtain tenure, and there is no industry which will absorb the growing population of young people who are left to waste away in idleness because there has been no approach to the economic development of the North.
A good deal has been done about extracting the resources of iron and bauxite and nickel, but nothing about extracting the resources in human capacity which lie with the Aboriginal people. Small factories should be established even if they have to be subsidised. If it is clear enough to subsidise the production of butter, it is fair enough to subsidise the production of shirts or shoes in Aboriginal communities. Until there is substantial opportunity for industrial employment there seems to be little point in taking children through the schools, so that in the end they have lost whatever they had of their Aboriginal culture and they have obtained no key to security in non-Aboriginal society.
Finally, there is the question of land. Land is the very spirit of the Aboriginal people. As it was described to the Yirrkala Committee they draw spiritual refreshment from their tribal lands, and these should be handled with the same tenderness with which the State government would handle the favourite sports grounds of the community- say, the Melbourne or Sydney cricket ground. It is most unfortunate that the Aboriginal people have no tenure of land. They have no rights whatsoever. All is earned under acts of grace. This must be altered. A new legal formula must be developed which leaves the Aboriginal reserve at present existing in Aboriginal hands in perpetuity. The question of how you develop this, whether you spread the profit from the products of these reserves individually, equally or whether you develop funds for development is a question to be resolved. But it is essential that steps be taken immediately to preserve the land of the Aboriginal people. This won’t be easy. It will run up against many vested interests and many mystiques. There are those who cannot see or hear of mineral finds without wanting to drag it out of the earth now. But this generation is a generation of vandals. Our grandchildren five and six times removed will inherit nothing but holes in the ground. On Aboriginal reserves it is no different from in the ordinary white community. But for the Aboriginal people there is no resting place. It will only be by a new approach to the question of land proprietorship by the Aborigine that we will give them the kind of spiritual contentment which will allow them to raise themselves out of the rut and despair and become effective social units.
Government Departments will have to be more adventurous in appointing Aborigines to executive positions and in appointing Aborigines to managerial positions on reserves, ensuring Aboriginal families do have the opportunity to live in houses in the same standard of living as the rest of us. None of this involves much in the way of resources compared with the wealth of this country. $20,000,000 would make a tremendous difference to the standard of living of thousands of Aboriginal people. The difficulty is not so much either to find resources- the physical resources- but perhaps find the will to get started. So many favourite beliefs have to be challenged, so many people have to be confronted vigorously on the question of discrimination of all sons that it will only be with the full support of all Parliaments, both parties and both Houses, that this will be attacked effectively in the next few years.
– There is one final document I should like to incorporate in Hansard to answer those statements that I was unavailable to the Department or to the departmental head. It is simply a list of appointments with departmental officers and a covering note from Mrs King, who was my private secretary at the time. The list sets out the dates on which I saw departmental officers by appointment between June 1973 and September 1973.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Hon. Gordon Bryant, M.P., Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T.
The attached record of appointments which departmental officers made with you over the period June 1973 to September 1973 is an extract from the diary which I maintained while I was your Private Secretary.
In addition to those appointments, the Permanent Head or one of his officers accompanied you on each visit you made to Aboriginal communities.
At all times I and other members of your staff observed your directive that the Permanent Head and departmental officers should have immediate access to you. There were occasions when departmental officers visited you without an appointment.
Yours faithfully, GERALDINE KING
RECORD OF APPOINTMENTS OF DEPARTMENTAL OFFICERS MADE WITH HON. GORDON BRYANT, M.P., WHILE HE WAS MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS. JUNE 1973-SEPTEMBER 1973.
28.6.73 N.T.-4.9.73 N.T.
3.7.73 W.A.-7.9.73 W.A.
23.7.73 N.T.- 18.9.73
– I finish my remarks as I started them by saying to this Parliament thatthe operations we are examining here today indicate an important and distressing malaise in Australian public administration. There was no excuse for the Department to place wrong information before the Committee. There was no excuse for the Auditor-General to repeat it. I think we should use whatever authority we have to ensure that it never happens again. It may well be that something ought to be done about those people themselves. Just before I resume my seat, I say that while the administration of Labor’s Aboriginal affairs policy came under fire and while I have been the customer or victim of enormous newspaper assaults and so on, no matter what anybody else has said, no matter how the rest of Australia voted the people of Wills stood steady on parade and there were no tents on the lawns outside Parliament House when I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
– It is with a great degree of regret that I participate in this debate. It is a contribution to the House that I wished I would never have to make. The inquiry which resulted in the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which we are debating, was a long and a very drawn out inquiry. It was an extremely difficult inquiry. It was one which caused a great deal of concern and problems to all those people who were involved in the Committee. I point out that this inquiry began on 7 March 1974, which is a little over 3 years ago. That inquiry was commenced by the Ninth Committee. Since then there was a double dissolution, in May 1974. The Committee was reconstituted as the Tenth Committee, following that election. Following the election in December 1975 the Committee was reconstituted as the Eleventh Committee. Only one member of the present Eleventh Committee was a member of the first Committee which looked at this matter, the Ninth Committee, and that is the honourable member for Banks, Mr Martin. I am sorry that he has not been given an opportunity to make a contribution in this debate.
The Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), and I were appointed to the Committee shortly after the inquiry started, in May 1974. Apart from Mr Martin, the Chairman and I are the only 2 members who have served through the bulk of this inquiry. All sorts of problems faced those people who were appointed to the Committee in the beginning of 1976, because they had to pick up threads of a very long, a very complicated and a very involved inquiry. They had to be party to a report which was based on evidence which, for the most part, they had not heard but had only had an opportunity to read. I think it is a tribute to the Public Accounts Committee that in the face of all the difficulties that existed it was able to present a unanimous report. I think it is very significant that the Australian Labor Party members were able to accommodate the views that they held with the views that members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party held and that they were able to present to this Parliament today a unanimous report.
A lot of very sensitive issues which are raised in the report gave the Committee cause for a great deal of concern. It is a matter of record now that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has taken a certain attitude to a lot of the statements in the report. I assure him and his colleagues that every attempt has been made by the Committee to treat this inquiry as fairly as possible. The Committee has bent over backwards to see that there could be no possibility of any fingers being pointed by anybody at anybody. The Committee was placed in an extremely difficult position in that in a lot of instances it had conflicting evidence from the then Minister, on the one hand, and from the Permanent Head of his Department at the time, on the other hand. In many instances the Committee was not able to draw firm conclusions as to where responsibility lay or where fault lay. It became a matter of judgment in a lot of areas. In most of those areas the Committee was not prepared to make judgments. For those people who are sufficiently interested to read the report- I hope people will read it- the Committee stated the alternative positions put by the Minister and by his Permanent Head, and did not draw conclusions.
I draw attention to one point made by the honourable member for Wills in his address to this House. It related to the position of the AuditorGeneral. He does not have an opportunity to defend himself in this House. I would not like anybody, either here or outside, to be left with the impression that the honourable member for Wills was treated in any unfair fashion or in any improper fashion by the Auditor-General. I quote firstly from paragraph 27 of the report of the Committee because it puts this matter into some sort of perspective. The report stated:
As the statements made by the former Minister raised some very important matters of principle relating to the autonomy of the Auditor-General, his method of reporting and his relationship with departments, the Committee held a private meeting with the Auditor-General to discuss the matters raised by the former Minister. The main points made by the Auditor-General during the discussions were as follows:
I think it is important that this is part of the record of this Parliament:
The Permanent Head of a department . . shall advise the Minister in all matters relating to the Department.’
In other words, he considered that the obligation in this case was on the Permanent Head to inform his Minister. It would then be a matter for the Minister to decide if the former Minister should be informed. He stated that he was not aware whether the Permanent Head did, in fact, inform his Minister.
I think it is important that that position be clarified. The Auditor-General must be in a position in which, regardless of the content of his reports, he is free to be able to make them. I think it is regrettable that the honourable member for Wills has taken the attitude that he was not fairly treated by that officer of this Government.
Another thing to which I draw attention is the fact that the honourable member for Wills took the view that this was the first opportunity which he had been given to express his views on this matter. It is important that the Parliament be aware that he made a submission to the Committee. It was an all-embracing submission. It covered in total some 300 pages. He appeared before the Committee and made a statement to the Committee. At that time he was free to make any comment and any statement that he wished. All the evidence from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, all the submissions from the Department and all the evidence that had been taken were available to the honourable member for Wills at that time. The Committee made a judgment that there was no need to question the then Minister. He had every opportunity to say to the Committee, in a public inquiry, all that he wanted to say or all that he felt that he needed to say. There needs to be a clarification of that situation.
I do not want to get involved in a point by point debate on this matter. It is a very delicate question. It is a matter which will be considered by a lot of people, both inside and outside of government, for a long time to come, because of the implications which are raised in this report as to the relationship which should exist between a Minister and his Permanent Head in particular. I repeat that this has been a very difficult inquiry for the Committee. I compliment members of the Committee for having handled the inquiry as they did and for bringing down a unanimous report in this Parliament.
The Committee stands by the report. I hope the honourable member for Wills will understand the extent of the difficulties that confronted the Committee and that he will accept the Committee’s report in the spirit in which it has been presented to the Parliament. I hope he will realise that there has not been, nor should there have been, nor could there have been, and specifically nor was there, any attempt to do anything other than justice in respect of this report. I now move: ‘That this debate be adjourned until a later hour this day’.
– Oh, that is contrary to the arrangement.
-I will put the motion. Then I will call the honourable member for Chifley.
– No. The honourable member cannot speak and then move that the debate be adjourned.
– That is completely contrary to the arrangement.
– It is quite out of order.
– Has an arrangement been made?
– You are just breaking it. If you break the arrangement you cannot expect to get anyone else speaking this afternoon.
-Order! The honourable member for Hume, having just spoken cannot move for the adjournment of the debate. For the debate to be adjourned I will be required to call the next speaker who can then move a motion to that effect. But prior to doing that the honourable member for Wills requires leave to table papers. I call the honourable member for Wills.
– During the course of my speech I mentioned that I would like to table the submissions that I made to the Committee. I did not do so at the time. I would be grateful if I could do so now.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. The honourable member for Hume did not take his full time when he spoke in this debate. I do not know whether the honourable member wishes to continue his remarks later. If the honourable member desires to continue his remarks he will have to ask leave of the House to do so. But if the honourable member has completed his speech another honourable member will have to move for the adjournment of the debate. Does the honourable member for Hume desire to continue his remarks?
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am in a difficult position. I understand that there is a program before the House which needs to be completed before the Address-in-Reply is taken to the Governor-General at approximately 5 p.m. An arrangement was entered into that this debate would continue until 3. 1 5 p.m. In view of the extension of time which was granted to the honourable member for Wills I understand that the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) asked that the debate be adjourned following my speech and that an opportunity would be given to other honourable members to speak in the debate after the Address-in-Reply debate was finalised.
-The honourable member for Hume cannot move for the adjournment of the debate. This must be done by the next speaker. The only thing about which I was not clear was whether the honourable member for Hume had completed his speech.
– Before my speaking time expires I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later hour this day.
– Leave is not granted.
-Leave is not granted. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
-In speaking to the One Hundred and Sixty-second Report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I want firstly to make it quite clear that I found myself in a very difficult position, when I joined the Committee at the beginning of last year. At that time all evidence in respect of the report had been taken. I would dearly have liked to have been in the position to cross examine some of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee. I could then have been in a far better position to make decisions. As it was I had to make decisions based on evidence that had previously been taken. This afternoon I draw attention to certain specific paragraphs in the report and comment on what they mean. Paragraph 669 at page 258 of the report states:
The Committee has no doubt that the former Minister, Mr Bryant acted with compassion in regard to the poverty and suffering which he witnessed among the Aboriginal people and that he believed that the ‘Public Service System ‘ was unable to respond quickly enough to such needs.
I believe that is a very important section of the report because I think that anybody who has known the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), as I have known him now for nigh on 1 5 years, would know that he is a man of great compassion and sincerity. One can readily understand that he would have felt very frustrated when he found that he had to go through the normal Public Service system to meet the challenge of what was undoubtedly a very big job to improve the lot of Aboriginal people. For that reason, I think it important that attention should be given to that section of the report.
I also think it important to trace through the report what we could say was the beginning of the misunderstanding between the head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It is interesting to note the Committee’s comments on pages 240 and 241 of the report because they throw a great deal of light on the matter. Paragraph 625 on page 240 refers to the fact that Mrs King, a member of the former Minister’s staff, sent a memo to Mr Dexter on 12 January 1973, just after the honourable member for Wills had become the Minister. Paragraph 626 outlines the reaction of Mr Dexter. It shows that at that point of time Mr Dexter already had great resentment. Even at that early stage he was resenting any instructions, particularly the instruction in question which had not been signed by the Minister but by an officer of his staff. Paragraph 626 reports Mr Dexter as saying: . . The functions of my Depanment have already been determined by the Government. Its organisation, establishment and duties are matters for resolution between myself and the Public Service Board in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Act and Regulations. I am not aware of any arrangement between the Minister and the Prime Minister limiting my responsibilities in this field . . .
I would say that was the genesis of the misunderstanding between the former Minister, now the honourable member for Wills, and the head of the Department. I cannot help but feel that a great deal of responsibility for that misunderstanding rests with Mr Dexter.
I think that we should also look at paragraph 650 on page 252 of the report. It gives even further evidence in this regard and again shows the point at which this whole matter began. In part paragraph 650 states:
It may also have helped to achieve a better understanding of the respective roles of the Minister and the Permanent Head regarding the Department’s organisation if Mr Dexter had discussed the whole question with the Minister at the time.
Instead of sending back that note, if he had any concern about it or any strong feeling about it the obvious thing for him to do was to have seen the Minister himself.
I refer to the allegation by the honourable member for Wills that Mr Dexter had refused to discuss policy in the presence of the Minister’s staff. This is dealt with in paragraph 634 on page 244. It is important to note also four other sections of the report which I will detail so that members can look them up. They are examples of incorrect evidence given by either Mr Dexter or departmental officers. The references are: paragraph 322 on pages 122 and 123 regarding the NACC elections; paragraphs 415 and 416 on page 164 concerning Captain Benson; paragraphs 593 and 596 on page 226 concerning the purchase of blankets; and paragraphs 60 1 and 605 on page 228 regarding the purchase of exarmy landing craft. Those paragraphs refer to incorrect evidence which was given by Mr Dexter or officers of the Department.
I refer to other sections which could be said to indicate some financial incapacity on the part of the Department and, of course, Mr Dexter as the responsible head. I refer firstly to pages 36 and 37 and paragraphs 9 1 and 93, which relate to 3 adult officers who were appointed to the Department in July 1973. In August 1973 the former Minister, the honourable member for Wills, raised a query with the head of the Department as to what arrangements had been made by the
Department to establish an internal audit section. In November 1973 in an explanation to the Auditor-General the head of the Department said that because of understanding and unexpected pressure arising from the NACC operation the Department had no alternative at the time except to divert officers from the internal audit team to assist in processing accounts. In other words, even though those audit officers were appointed in July 1973, they were not carrying out internal audit operations.
I refer, too, to paragraph 89 on pages 70 and 71. It refers to Aboriginal housing and what amounts to a disregard of the Minister’s terms of approval. It points out that a far better position would have been obtained had the Minister’s terms of approval been followed. I refer also to paragraph 491 on page 189, dealing with the Commonwealth capital fund for Aboriginal enterprises. It points out that more caution was needed in funding new ventures such as Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd. I mention these sections of the report deliberately as examples of what could be termed some financial incapacity on the part of the Department.
I turn to page 259, paragraph 674. It makes the point that one of the major reasons why the Department did not always know of the Minister’s decision was that departmental officers in the field did not advise the Department when the Minister advised them of a decision he had made. That is also a very important aspect to bring before the Parliament. In other words, the departmental officers who were with the Minister when he made a decision did not telegraph that decision back to the Department and accordingly the financial arrangements were not made. As I say, I think that is very important.
I refer now to the turtle and crocodile projects, which are dealt with on page 72. Let me make sure that the position is fully understood. I do not think that any lay person just looking at the report quickly would fully appreciate the facts. These projects were commenced, I think, in 1970 under the administration of the previous LiberalNational Country Party Government. I think the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was the Minister at the time. In fact, it was the honourable member for Wills when he was the Minister who set to clean up the mess. Due credit should be given to the honourable member for Wills for his part as the Minister in setting to to clean up what was undoubtedly a very great mess.
Finally I revert once again to page 258, paragraph 669, which refers to the compassion of the honourable member for Wills as Minister in setting to on a might task, an extraordinary task, of overcoming a very great problem, a very great blight on our society. The facts are that Australia has not done, and successive governments had not done, the right thing by the Aboriginal people of Australia. The honourable member for Wills being the man we know- as I say, I have known him for 15 years- and being a man of very great compassion, it is fully understood that he must have felt very frustrated. Paragraph 669 in the report is of very great importance because it gives in the cold pages of the report some insight into the humanity of the honourable member for Wills. I am glad to be associated with him as a man.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wentworth) adjourned.
– I support the motion of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) concerning the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen. The privilege of honourable members of both Houses of this Parliament and of the people of Australia in seeing Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh on their visit to Australia is something that I will long remember and I am sure all people will long remember. We in this country- and in particular, I as a member of this House- are pleased to support the system of a constitutional monarchy. I believe it is a system that will continue forever. Those who tend to knock the system in favour of a republican era will fail dismally. I have great pleasure in supporting the motion of the honourable member for Braddon. I oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition.
I was always of the opinion that when an amendment was moved to a motion a substantive case would be put forward to support the amendment. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who moved the amendment here today did not put forward one ounce of support for his amendment. There was nothing to support the amendment. I recollect that in 1975 when the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), brought forward his Budget the then Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in opposing that Budget, put forward for the first time in many years an alternative, a proposal that could be enacted. But in this weak amendment nothing of a substantive nature has been put forward. There have been just words upon words.
– Sheer hogwash.
– It is, as the honourable member for Bowman interjects, sheer and utter hogwash. In moving the amendment the honourable member for Adelaide seems to have been a little confused. For example, when he spoke to the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party on 27 February this year he called for the control of profits amongst other things and he even suggested that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission could have some justification for passing on an increase of less than 6 per cent of the consumer price index increase. He was prepared to say that outside, to the Victorian branch of the ALP, yet he came into this House and took another tack. I suggest that the honourable member for Adelaide and other honourable members opposite who have spoken thus far in this debate have had but one thing in mind, and that is the same theory, the same philosophy that guided them, or misguided them, through 3 years of government. That was the increase in public sector spending, the screwing down of the private sector, which just happens to employ 70 per cent of the work force of this country, and additionally the reduction in profits.
I am sure that the great economists on the Opposition benches would at least agree with one thing, that profits pay wages. No company in this country, no private employer, is prepared to put money, time and effort into expansion and development if he is not going to get a fair return and a reasonable profit. I am not supporting the concept of unreasonable, excessively high profits. If the employer is not going to get a fair return on his investment he will not invest. When that occurs, when we go from a profit situation into a loss situation, the result is a wind down in that industry, a closure or a complete lock-out of the employees. During the reign of the Labor Government we saw constantly measures that were taken to increase spending. The printing press did roll forth and we had massive increases in expenditure. We had an increase of 75 per cent in one year. What did that do? Money does not grow on trees, unless of course a little bit of grafting goes with it. If the cake is to be divided up, the ingredients must be put in and the cake must be cut up into portions and served out. When the cake is gone, that is it. The Government cannot bake another quarter of a cake. That is exactly what the previous Government tried to do in 3 years. It tried to spend more and more without getting in the necessary revenue. It turned the tap on fully and could not turn it off. We inherited the mess. It was not just a question of gently turning the tap. It was not even a question of getting a wrench because a wrench would have pulled the tap right off the water pipe. The massive expenditure by the previous Administration cannot be stopped.
The Budget of 1976-77 at least made an attempt to restrain the deficit. In February 1976 Treasury indicated that, had Labor remained in office, the true deficit would have been $4,800m, not the $2, 800m that was indicated in the then Treasurer’s Budget of 1975-76. What would have happened? Where would the money have come from to meet the deficit? Would inflation have reduced itself? Would it have been achieved by the waving of some magic wand? Of course it would not. It was a mess that was brought about by 2 things- an explosion of the expenditure by the Government to the extent of 75 per cent and an increase in the wages Bill in that period of about 60 per cent. I do not think there is any credibility in any member of the Opposition saying in this House what they would do, because their record is a proven record. They have failed at every attempt, with 3 Treasurers, to make a success of the economy. What we have heard in every single speech in this debate from members of the Opposition has been back tracking to the same silly philosophy that they had in the 3 years that they were in office.
I ask the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) who will follow me whether he would care to explain how as a government they would increase dramatically spending on education, social welfare, housing, local government, and grants to the States, and how they would give indirect and direct tax cuts. I ask him to explain how they could do that and still come up with some sort of sane budget balance. I challenge the Opposition and I challenge the honourable member who follows me to spell out his policy. Perhaps the honourable member for Oxley will return to the chamber and spell out in clear detail how he sees the economy recovering. Maybe I can be taught a few things. I am sure that the honourable member who is about to follow me could teach me a few things. In his speech earlier the honourable member for Oxley constantly talked about the crack-down on expenditure. I ask honourable members opposite: ‘Why not?’ Do we want this country to go completely and utterly bankrupt? We could appoint a receiver. Companies that have collapsed because of economic mismanagement have a receiver appointed. Again I challenge the
Opposition to give us the answers. If the honourable member Oxley has such a tremendous secret weapon let us hear about it. He should spell it out clearly for the people of Australia. Let the Government have the secret weapon and save the economy. There is no secret weapon and we are not likely to see it.
I make one final point on the years of gloom and the prophets of doom. In Labor’s last year of office we had decline in company profits of 7 per cent and we had an increase in the wages spiral of 28 per cent. That is notwithstanding that Labor turned the press to full speed, to total production, and said: ‘Let us go. Let us not worry where the money is coming from. ‘ Had they been in office for two more years the economic mess of this country, the inflation rate in this country and the unemployment rate in this country would have been the figures which the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, had predicted, of 700 000 people out of work and an inflation rate of about 30 per cent. But the Opposition need not worry about that. The people will never be fooled again. The Opposition has no economic policy and no economic manager. The honourable member for Oxley is probably nervous about taking over the leadership of the Labor Party as well he might be. Then he will know that the screws are on. Let us look at what the Government has done. I do not recollect having heard anything from the Opposition, certainly as regards praise, for the family allowances that were introduced by the Government in the Budget.
– Labor is against them. That is why.
– Of course it is. This is a measure that the Opposition would have liked to have introduced itself. I do not have any recollection of any mention being made of the indexation of taxation.
– They were not prepared to.
– The Opposition was not prepared to introduce indexation of taxation. Trade unions asked for it and I am sure that honourable members on this side of the chamber will recollect the praise that the Government received from the trade union movement as a whole when taxation indexation was introduced. What will indexation mean next year? How much will it cost the Government?
-About $ 1 , 1 00m.
-The sum of $ 1 ,300m.
– The odds are increasing a little but none the less it is a real and positive measure in taxation reform. Taxation reform was supposedly the great masterpiece of the honourable member for Oxley. I ask my colleagues on this side of the House whether they recollect that masterpiece. What about the pensioners and their provisional taxation?
– They fixed them up.
– Yes, the Opposition fixed the pensioners. The honourable member for Oxley did such a magnificant job that in my electorate I have received some 50 or 60 written complaints, to say nothing of verbal complaints. The honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) has received one hundred or more, to say nothing of the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), concerning the Hayden tax scheme- the brainstorm.
– It was a rip-off.
– It was a rip-off of the aged and infirm, those people who could ill afford to pay for the tax burden. I am sure that the Government is giving serious consideration to putting some sort of a stop to the rip-off that was brought about as a result of the Hayden Budget. I would like the pensioners of Australia to know, if they do not already know, that the reason that their tax bill this year is the highest it has ever been is not because of Government policy but because of Labor policy in the Budget introduced in 1 975 by the Honourable member for Oxley, the aspirant to the position of Leader of the Opposition. He will probably get it too.
– Stop repeating yourself. You are boring everybody.
– I am quite sure that when the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) speaks in this debate he will do the same. He will probably send everyone to sleep. There has been a lot of talk about what the Labor Party would do as regards the means test for aged pensioners. My colleague, the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), has raised this matter constantly. I seem to recollect that in 1972, in the policy speech of the Labor Party, there was a distinct and clear promise to abolish the means test.
– It was a joke.
– It was certainly a big joke because in 1974, without having done one solitary thing until that time, the Labor Party echoed the same policy for the abolition of the means test. What measures did the former Labor Government take? I will be honest and tell the House that it was prepared to lower the age, for the assessment of means, from 70 years to 69 years and that is all. In the last Budget, this Government took the first step towards the abolition of the means test and it is now an income test. Is that unfair or unjust? Surely, if an aged person of say, 65 to 71 years has a house and $25,000 in the bank or $2,000 in the bank or owns a car, he should not be penalised. These people have paid their taxes and they should be entitled to the pension. That is the measure that has been introduced by the Government. These people are entitled to receive the pension. They are not deprived of the pension because they have money in the bank but I am quite sure that the Opposition would seek to change that.
– Labor is against that.
– My colleague the honourable member for La Trobe interjects. I believe that the Labor Party is against just about every measure designed to help those who cannot help themselves. Despite the rantings and ravings of the Opposition that its policy is to help the elderly, I believe that the aged persons in this country have been used constantly as a political football by honourable members opposite. The Labor Government threw fear into them before the 1975 election. I remember the fear tactics that were used, suggesting that this Government would reduce pensions and cut back their true income. I do not know any pensioner who will complain about the increase of $3.80 a week in the single rate that will be payable on the first pay period in May. I have not heard any complaints from the Opposition about the pension rates that are being paid by this Government but I am quite sure that given the opportunity it would use fear and scare tactics all over again.
– Their silence is deafening.
– As the honourable member says, the silence of the Opposition is deafening. I conclude by saying that the Government, in the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen, indicated the concern that it feels for the people of Australia. It is concerned that business should return to sound and reasonable profits. It is concerned that unemployment should be reduced. Honourable members should make no mistake about the unemployment situation. Since this Government came to office on 13 December 1975 there has been -
– A record level of unemployment.
– The honourable member will be delighted to know the percentage increase in unemployment. When the Labor Government came to office unemployment went from 137 000 to 246 000. The percentage increase was not miniscule. When the Labor Government went out of office the number out of work was 300 000. The former Labor Government can take the credit for that increase because it created it and it can take the credit for the increase in the inflation rate from 4 per cent to 16 per cent. This Government is a concerned government. The prosperity of the Australian people depends on the strength of Australia’s productive private sector and on its manufacturing, mining and rural industries. The Government is concerned to ensure that these sectors continue to employ people. The Opposition is not concerned about these sectors because, quite simply, it is opposed to business, the private sector and mining. It is opposed to anything except the printing of money. I support the motion and I oppose the amendment.
– I rise as the seconder of the amendment, a very timely amendment at that. The speech that was imposed on Her Majesty the Queen to deliver at the opening of this Parliament was nothing short of a disgrace and reflects the shallow and irresponsible attitude of the Government. Regarding the remarks of the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), might I say that it is not the role of the Opposition to tell the Government how to get out of the mess that it has created. The Government will never get away again- the honourable member will be one of the people who will go by the board- with the array of broken promises that now decorate this Government ‘s wonderful effort. I remind the honourable member that the deficit is now $1 billion higher than when the Labor Party was in office. Further, the wage and salary earners are paying $ 1,800m more in pay-as-you-earn taxation. This is another great effort on the part of the Government. All the Government can do is scream, yell and rant and continue its policy of union bashing. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) rightly said this morning, when he resigned from the Liberal Party, that he could not take it any longer. He said that he could see that wage earners are the victims of this Government and that the Government is bashing the wage earners day after day to carry the responsibility of inflation
The irresponsible contribution made by the honourable member for Evans was probably worse than any speech I have heard him make to date. The amendment which has been moved by the Opposition at least poses questions and highlights the weaknesses in the Speech delivered by Her Majesty on the occasion of the opening of the second session of the Thirtieth Parliament.
I want to refer to a few matters that really go to the point of the failure of the Government to keep its promises, firstly, in the area of immigration and ethnic affairs which is the area of my responsibility. The Government has failed completely to meet the needs of migrants or of any other section of the Australian community. Although the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), in stating a policy on immigration and population, is laying the groundwork for bringing more migrants into this country, the Government cannot take adequate care of the people in the country at the present time. We all know that the Government loves migration. It is another matter whether it has any real regard for individual migrants and for ethnic communities and the difficulties they face in an increasingly difficult Australian society. We all know that the Government would like to see, say, 70 000 migrants come to Australia each year. That is a figure which has no regard for the present economic and employment situation in Australia and which certainly has no regard for the way in which we will see to their welfare once they get here.
We know that the main rationale of the expansionist migrant policy of the Liberal-National Country parties over the years has been ‘growth for growth’s sake’ and what they perceived as being an overwhelming need to stock the country’s assembly lines. It had very little to do with the people themselves. It was largely based on the unacceptable principle of using migrants as cheap labour in unsatisfactory working conditions for the purpose of improving the economy. Even though times have changed drastically, with hundreds of thousands of people out of work, there has been no change of which I am aware in the Government’s commitment to large scale immigration. If that is not the case then the Minister ought to declare at some time what is the Government’s present policy. Whatever may be its strange attitudes to future immigration, or even to the future of Australia, the Government is demonstrably at fault in its attitudes to existing communities of people born overseas and the children of parents born overseas.
When in government the Labor Party initiated programs to help these people. Certainly we did not do enough but we were working on significant new directions in migrant welfare and community relations when the present Government conned its way into office on the pretext that it could run everything much better. The programs that Labor started have been allowed to fall into disuse or to starve to death. The Migrant Community Resources Branch of the Department of Social Security is being dismantled. That was the real ethnic affairs branch of the
Public Service and the only institution capable of developing specific programs for the migrant community.
The Government is going through a public relations exercise of establishing concurrently 2 experimental migrant resource centres, one in Melbourne, which is to be operated under contract by the Australian Greek Welfare Society, and one in Sydney. Those centres are supposed to provide all sorts of services to migrants, to assist social workers and welfare officers, and to draw attention to the particular problems of ethnic communities and individual migrants requiring government action. That is all very well as far as it goes and it would be praiseworthy if it were not just another token effort to distract attention from the fact that the Government is doing very little to meet the real needs of migrants.
The Government has also transferred the office of Commissioner for Community Relations, which Labor set up, into the area of the Attorney-General’s Department where legalism is likely to become the order of the day rather than the compassionate, ombudsman type of operation which is necessary to deal with the real and continuing needs of migrants. We have seen that sort of thing happen before. It is turning the clock back. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission took on its new look, as it were, the emphasis was put on conciliation. That is the sort of principle on which the office of the Commissioner for Community Relations should operate rather than getting bogged down in a heap of legalism. While all the litigation is going on the individual is being discriminated against. That will continue to occur and he or she will suffer.
Lip service is paid within the concept of community relations to the matters of community education and migrant education. There are plenty of advocates to be heard in favour of the notion that the total community should be educated into acceptance of diversity and multiculturalism. But where are the special funds which should be made available for that purpose? Where is there any precision in regard to what is needed to meet the fundamental needs of migrants, ethnic groups and many other groups of alienated Australian citizens? The tragedy of that position lies in the fact that many of these needs have been identified and reported on by a variety of investigating committees and inquiry groups, but little or no action has been taken.
Let me give an example of the dire results of the failure to set up structures to meet a basic need of ethnic groups. I refer to the need for them to understand what they are getting themselves into. Seven or eight years ago citizens of Turkey were enticed here in sufficient numbers to constitute a recognisable ethnic group. They were Muslim. They were largely rural workers. They tended to form tightly-knit communities but they were diligent and thrifty, and they had an uncommon regard for the welfare of their children. In conformity with the attitude of the times they were placed in factory situationssituations which were entirely alien to them- in the big cities of Melbourne and Sydney. Many of them managed to accumulate some property and some savings because they worked hard and were careful with their money. However, they found that in the factory atmosphere and in their strange urban environment their culture was being destroyed.
Many of them were looking for a way out. Many went to the Goulburn Valley area of Shepparton to pick tomatoes in their holidays during last year’s season. They saw a way out- a rural environment in which they could bring up their families in their traditional way. It was at that point that their legitimate aspiration for a way of life appropriate to their needs, and their ignorance of the English language, contracts and legalisms, led them into a fatal mistake. They were persuaded by those who had something to gain that there was a living to be made from growing tomatoes in the Goulburn Valley outside the prevailing contract system operated by the canners. They were persuaded to that effect by the multinational canners who had much to gain because they were interested in creating a buyers’ market and having surplus produce from which to choose. They were persuaded by the sellers of agricultural machinery that contracts could be obtained for them if they bought tractors, trucks and implements. They were talked into taking up tracts of land on leasehold at exorbitant annual rentals. About 100 families sold up their homes and moved into the Goulburn Valley to grow tomatoes. When harvesting time arrived they found themselves with nowhere to sell their crops. The promised contracts did not materialise. They are in a severe financial crisis, loaded with debts, unable to sell most of their crops and facing a return to the factory floorsthat is, if they could get their jobs back, which is very doubtful.
It is all very well to say that they were mugs or, as some conservative party politicians in Victoria said, that they should not have allowed themselves to get into that position. But their basic problem, and the thing that led them into their present predicament, was that their knowledge of English was extremely limited. They had been given very little opportunity, even in the years that they had been in Australia, to learn English. Because their grasp of the language was slight, they had no chance of understanding the uncertain nature of the contracts, such as they were, that were offered to them. They had no chance of understanding the nature of the marketing of primary produce in Australia. They had no chance of realising that they were being made the tools of an implacable market society.
The fault lies in the facilities that are available to ethnic groups in our society. Rather than trying to improve existing inadequate structures, the Government is bent on cutting them back, on reducing those facilities still further. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and of the Government to ensure that proper and adequate facilities are provided for the purpose of protecting those people who are brought out here in the first instance as factory fodder and then forced into a situation where they are at the mercy of the scavengers in this society.
Instead of providing adequate facilities for their protection what we see now is a cutback for the purpose of making their positions even worse. The situation of the Turks can be repeated in other ethnic groups and in other communities. It is not good enough to say that times are tough. The problems of migrants rest at the community level where there should be migrant resource centres spread plentifully through the urban concentrations of various migrant peoples. There should be immediate legal assistance made available to them. The problem of migrants rests at the community level, as I indicated. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and others on the Government front bench would not make the mistakes these Turks made. They are all men interested in the land and country matters but they would not make the same mistakes because they are educated. They have the facilities and the background. Of course, one in particular is even protected further by the superphosphate bounty. I wonder whether the Prime Minister really needs it.
What I have related is just an example of what has been frequently pointed out- that overseas born residents are often ignorant of their rights in and the resources of the Australian community. Any conscientious person who has worked among migrants will tell you that the stresses common to all in our society are frequently aggravated because of the peculiar language and cultural differences of migrants. The plight of migrant children should be well known by now. Due to confusion in regard to teacher qualifications, as I said the other day, bureaucracy and indifference, a substantial number of children, many of them born in Australia, are receiving second class education which will condemn them and their children to being second class citizenry. The position of overseas born workers in the labour force is critical. The overseas born worker needs special education in the ways of achieving industrial justice. He needs special help in language study, especially when it reaches into crisis areas such as industrial safety.
I turn now to the question of the failure of this Government despite a report and questions by the Opposition, to come to grips with the problems that are related in a report from a committee set up in the Parliament, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. I am sure many honourable members of the House and members of the general community found the speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to the Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party of Australia most enlightening. The Treasurer quite correctly stated that the Government has an obligation to give adequate financial support to groups in the community that are genuinely disadvantaged. However, when we examine the Government’s legislation program as outlined in Her Majesty’s Speech it is impossible to find one new initiative that will assist the many thousands of Australians who are in genuine need. Among the many members of the community who will suffer because of this Government’s indifferent and callous approach to social justice are the many thousands of young Australians who suffer reading and learning difficulties. It is now some Vh years since the House appointed the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties and still we have not committed the resources that are necessary to remove this blight from our nation. Surely a country as wealthy as Australia can afford to adopt the proposition that every child has a right to read. The Committee concluded:
It should be the aim of our educational system to bring every person to a level where he can be at least a functional member of society. We believe that this objective would be shared by most Australians.
Unfortunately it does not seem to be the objective or goal of the Treasurer of this Government. Instead of a reasoned debate about the most appropriate allocation of resources to our many social problems, all we hear are allegations of dole bludging, waste and extravagance. Instead of some indication that the Government will assist the many children and adults with learning difficulties the Treasurer offers the prospect of further massive reductions in social welfare expenditure. How often do honourable members opposite rise in their Party rooms to challenge the Government to attack this problem? If they did they would go the way of all flesh. They would be instructed to go and get back into their apples. It seems that the only subject dear to the hearts of Government backbenchers is an attack on the growing number of unemployed Australians. We heard the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) during his last speech paying lip service to and shedding crocodile tears about the poor devils who are out of work. But at the drop of a hat the attack is switched to the areas of unemployment by our friends on the Government front bench, worthily backed-up by the people behind them.
Perhaps it is time that I refreshed the memory of Government supporters. It seems they have quickly forgotten the recommendations and findings of the Select Committee on which many of their colleagues served. The nationwide survey of literacy and numeracy in Australian schools carried out by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that 29 per cent of Australia’s 10-year old children and 27 per cent of 14-year old children are unable to understand written material which is no more difficult than the textbooks and reference books they use in their classrooms. Up to 20 per cent of 14-year olds are unable to comprehend either the literal or inferential meaning of passages taken from daily newspapers. Between 15 per cent and 25 per cent of children are passing from primary school into secondary school and ultimately leaving school altogether without even acquiring an adequate mastery of the basic educational skills which they need in order to function successfully as citizens and as members of the work force. These figures are stark.
There are 2 key elements in any successful attack on the problem of specific learning difficulties. They are parental education and teacher training. It is not widely recognised that parental influence plays a very important role in determining whether a child reads for himself. The introduction of television has had a profound impact on the patterns of family interaction. Not the least of these is the reduced time that many parents and children spend in reading. The United States of America National Government has long recognised the impact of television on family life and its largest single item in education outlays is now parental education. Unfortunately Australians are forced to rely on articles like those that appeared in the Sydney Sun on Tuesday last. Under the heading ‘The Disaster Area of Education’ an article entitled ‘How to Help your Child Learn to Read’ appeared. Surely Australian parents are not going to be forced to rely on newspaper articles in order to improve and develop their children’s reading skills. But all the Government can provide is this do-it-yourself kit which appears in the Press.
The Select Committee also found that teacher training programs contain an inadequate amount of compulsory course work in such subjects as the teaching of reading, basic numeracy and coping with learning difficulties. Surely it is time that the Government took action to implement at least some of the recommendations of the Committee and to commit itself to the long term objectives of the report. I hope that Government supporters will make representations to the Government and the Treasurer in the pre-budget period to ensure that the Government implements some of the recommendations in the life of this Parliament. I commend the proposed amendment to this House. It corrects the erroneous concepts that are contained in this shocking document, Her Majesty’s Speech. It was a disgrace and insult to the monarch to have her present it at the opening of this Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Those of us who sat in the Senate to attend the opening of Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen have gained a most unique experience and privilege because we have witnessed the fulfilment of the Constitution of Australia. The Constitution states that the Parliament of the Commonwealth is comprised of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. On that day we witnessed the living meaning of the words of the Constitution. I am sure we realised just how proud we were to be part of this Parliament and part of a nation that can live and work in the freedom that is this democracy. I am sure Her Majesty’s presence is something that we will never forget and I am sure others join with me in reaffirming their personal loyalty and the loyalty of their electorates as well.
In her Speech Her Majesty made special reference to the development of Australia since her first visit in 1954 and the commitment that the Government has to creating the correct conditions so that the people of Australia can continue to advance their social, economic and cultural achievements. There must be an increasing commitment to freedom, opportunity and equality so that people can make their own choices and live their lives in the way that they think is best. The opportunity in Australia is potentially boundless, provided that government creates the right conditions for people to realise their personal potential. But government can only create the conditions; it is up to the individual then to grasp the opportunity and exploit it to the full.
Australians traditionally have been a people who have been prepared to have a go. I believe that is the reason we are a nation which places a great reliance on our small businesses, the epitome of the purest form of capitalism. During the past 15 months the Government has created a vast improvement in conditions for the small businessmen. Initiatives by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) during 1976 will substantially assist them at the end of this financial year, especially through the stock valuation provisions, the distribution of profits and of course the investment allowance. I do not believe that small businesses are looking for Government handouts. As long as they have the incentive for expanding existing businesses and creating new ones and being rewarded for their efforts, they will prosper and provide the employment opportunities so desperately needed in this country. One could well ask just where our unemployment has come from. If one looks at the situation one would tend to think that it has come from the collapse of those small businesses, especially since the end of 1973.
Of all the social problems that the nation is facing at this time, surely unemployment must be the most pressing. Indications are that the peak has been reached and we must surely hope so. I am sure that all members eagerly await the Norgard report into the operations of the Commonwealth Employment Service. It would appear to me that a major investigation of job opportunities should be carried out throughout the nation, because although the nation does have most serious unemployment, a great percentage of the available jobs are not registered with the CES. The Government, I believe, must move more quickly in developing a real manpower policy. Really, this can be a criticism of post war administrations of Australia that no real manpower policy or study was ever seriously adopted. Despite the high unemployment rate, one hears almost daily of job availabilities for which there are no suitable applicants. The study of Australia’s educational system and its relationship to the needs of the work force until the turn of the century should play a vital part in solving some of our problems in the years to come. If the figures that indicate that 40 per cent of the unemployed are under 21 years of age and that 75 per cent have no dependants are established, it would seem that a deal of responsibility for the unemployment rate must in fact fall on our education system. Too frequently we hear of firms which just will not employ young people because they have not the qualifications to be able to produce the goods. Perhaps for too long we have concentrated on introducing initiatives into our system and have ignored what must be a basic of our education system- producing people who are qualified and confident to take their place in the work force. Surely this must continue to be the prime objective of our schools and colleges.
If 42 per cent of our employment is provided by small businesses, it is in our interests to encourage and educate the young people to take their place as entrepreneurs in the nation. I believe that we should be encouraging in our schools and colleges, the ideas and ideals of private enterprise as well as providing courses for management, accounting and professional skills. As well, there should be more and more provision to improve present business practices and techniques because small business needs these specialised managerial skills.
Productivity seems to be improving. But if we want this trend to continue, we must let small business thrive and give the incentive to the creation of new enterprises. Local governments, of course, do have a very real part to play in helping to support local business in their communities. I was pleased to hear today that the Queensland State Government is going to undertake an investigation into council charges in the Brisbane metropolitan area to try to help this situation along. This is a subject I spoke about last week during an adjournment debate. It is good to see that some action has been taken. Brisbane is a city which, I suppose, is typical of many areas in Australia. Recovery in some areas is spotty, but it is good to hear that a contract for something like two million pairs of work shorts have been granted in Brisbane for export to the United States market. This, of course, is a direct result of the Government’s decision to devalue the currency. On a sub-contract basis, this will provide a great volume of work for some time for seven or eight other factories in the Brisbane area. It is good to see that some companies are taking the initiative to get Australia back in the world market place. Another example is that a major spirit and liqueur manufacturer has once again begun to make inroads into the world markets. The primary industries of Queensland are eagerly looking forward to vastly increased sales overseas again. In the case of the small crop farmers in the Redlands area of my electorate, the devaluation does provide a form of protection for the local fresh and processed fruit and vegetable market. These men have been worried in the past few years that imports of passionfruit pulp, especially from areas such as Taiwan, Fiji and Sri Lanka, would affect substantially their livelihood. It is good to know too that the Queensland State Government is continuing its work at the Redlands Horticultural Station at Cleveland into new strains of fruit and vegetables to assist these growers in reaching not only new Australian markets but also the overseas markets with the best possible fruit and vegetables that they are able to produce.
What does distress me is the change in our society which was fired by the previous Government. It is that change which I see as being one of the major forces we have to reverse in Australia today. I think Prince Philip hit the nail on the head when he told a meeting of lord mayors and shire chairmen at the Brisbane City Hall recently that everyone today wants to eat his private cake at public expense. It is very easy today for the government to spend money. It is very easy for a government to win electoral appeal by increasing education spending, by increasing health spending, by increasing social welfare spending or by increasing subsidies to a number of industries and concessions to many employment areas in the community. But it is not very easy for a government to say: ‘Can we afford this?’ It is probably more difficult today for a government to be economically responsible than it was in any of the other 77 years of our independence.
Let us not kid ourselves. Just because a government increases spending in some areas, it does not necessarily mean that we improve the quality of service. There are many areas where we could improve that quality without spending another dollar. If a government is going to give something to someone in the community, then someone else has to pay for it. If a government is going to give increased health cover, then the community will have to pay for it. I suppose it boils down to the simple equation that if you expect the government to spend more money in a certain area, it has to either take money from another area of government expenditure or it has to ask your neighbour to give it that money. I personally believe that any society which becomes dependent on a government for its livelihood, or any society which becomes dependent on a government for initiative, for innovation, for assistance, is a society that is going to find itself in irreversible difficulties in the future.
There is a need today more than ever before for people themselves to be their own initiators, for people themselves to strive to become independent, for people themselves to become less dependent on governments, but at the same time, there is a need today for governments to keep out of people’s lives, except of course in those cases of extreme hardship where the society as a whole accepts a responsibility for welfare. We should be endorsing that principle because we, as government supporters, know that the rights of the individual must be preserved. What greater rights can there be than for that individual to go about his business to determine his life in his own manner with a minimum of interference from anyone else. To those who believe that this Government has not kept its electoral promises and has not put this economy on the right direction, I say this: Within the constraints of our present economic situation, we have made a significant number of moves in the right direction, in the direction that will help not only businesses, but also the average wage earner, the family man, the everyday citizen in our community.
There are a number of people today crying out for cuts in taxation and taxation reform. Indeed, we would all like to see that. But let us not lose sight of the fact that the present taxation system under which we are working is a Labor Government taxation system and, frankly, the rebate system which the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) put forward to this country has been one of the greatest rip-offs we have seen in the taxation system for a number of years. As far as I am concerned, the quicker it goes, the better. The Government has already made a number of significant financial moves in the area of taxation and in the financial year 1976-77 the Government will have foregone over $1,1 95m in revenue that would otherwise have gone into its coffers. In the next financial year of 1977-78 the Government will have introduced tax cuts and taxation assistance to the order of over $2,079m, making a grand total in those two financial years of over $3,274m. Although the previous Government was keen to introduce wage indexation, it gave with one hand and it took with the other, because it refused to introduce personal taxation indexation. What that meant to the community was that with every wage increase, most of it was taken in taxes. So, in effect, the Government had 2 bites of the cherry. It told the working man that it was appeasing his economic situation in the fight against inflation by giving him wage increases; yet at the same time it was helping out its own situation by increasing the flow of money into its own coffers.
In the period of the Whitlam Government, collections from individual taxes nearly doubled from $4,090m in 1972-73 to $7,7 14m in 1974-75. In the financial year just ended- 1975- 76- which again was based on Labor’s taxation scheme, there was a further increase to $8, 600m. There is no need for me to point out to honourable members the significance of those increases in taxes collected by the Federal Government. Let me detail those taxation cuts which the Government has already initiated, because I believe that those people who are now calling for further tax cuts can sometimes ignore the magnitude of tax reforms which have already been introduced. If there are to be further calls for tax cuts, we, as a government, have a number of choices. We can further prune our government spending, we can raise our own money- the effects of that are to restrict money on the open market and thus increase interest rates- or we can create a bigger deficit by printing money. I suggest to those present today that all those courses would be disastrous in economic terms for this country.
The indexation of personal taxes in the year 1976-77 will amount to more than $990m in forgone revenue. Next financial year that will mean a decrease in burden to the Australian taxpayer of over $ 1 ,050m. Personal income tax indexation is a reform that the Labor Government refused, and indeed feared, to introduce. It is a reform that we have taken the responsibility of implementing in an effort to preserve individual spending power, in spite of the side effects of inflation. I give an example in practical terms of what this tax indexation means to the average wage earner. The tax paid by a person receiving an income of $7,000 a year in 1976-77 is approximately $1,230. In 1977-78, under the tax indexation scheme, the tax will drop to $1,071. The annual reduction is $ 159. That means $3.06 in weekly terms. For the person on $12,000 a year the saving is $229 annually. Related to weekly deductions it is equivalent to $4.40. I think tax indexation will be something real and tangible that the wage earner will certainly appreciate.
I mention in more detail the taxation incentives which were passed on to the business sector, in particular to the small business sector. After all, small businesses employ 42 per cent of the work force. The Government introduced the investment allowance. I believe it is one of the most extensive and generous tax allowances ever offered to small business in Australia. This year it will amount to over $200m in terms of forgone revenue, and in the next financial year it will be over half a billion dollars in forgone revenue. Company tax indexation, the first stage of which will commence in July of this year, will relieve business incomes of the burden of taxation resulting from inflation. That will result in a tangible saving of over $400m to businesses. As well, we have introduced some taxation incentives for the mining industry and the petroleum industry. Also, we have, through Division VII of the Income Tax Assessment Act, given that very much needed assistance to smaller and medium sized firms by altering the distributional requirements for private companies. That alone will amount to a saving of $2 5 m next financial year. As well our easing of some of the provisions of estate duty, together with the income equalisation deposits given to those people on the land so that they can protect themselves from the fluctuating effects of income, will add to a total taxation saving of over $ 1 8m in 2 financial years. To state that this Government has not already undergone some taxation reform is plainly incorrect. This year our taxation savings have amounted to over $1 billion. Next year they will be over $2 billion. These reforms are tangible proof that this Government means business.
I can appreciate that there are some indicators, such as unemployment, which do not paint an impressive picture. I would like to deal with that in a few moments. Almost every week we can pick up a paper and see that one company has announced record trading profits for the year. On the next page we can read that another company is in financial difficulty and needs assistance. This, I think, points to one of the most striking features of the economic times in which we are living. Recovery is occurring, but it is patchy. It is occurring in certain industries but not in others. It is occurring within industries in one area but not in another area. So this is the type of situation which we as a government must analyse, which we are trying to assess and through which we are trying to make the economy recover. Above that there seems to be an overlying trend which indicates that things are picking up. For example, the real gross non-farm product between the December quarter 1975 and the September quarter 1976 rose by almost7½ per cent. This occurred despite the reduced level of government expenditure. In Queensland alone are signs of recovery in the building industry. Admittedly these are patchy at the moment- from suburb to suburb. There are buoyant levels of new motor vehicle registrations for the second half of 1976 in Queensland. This suggests that that State has shared in the strengthening of consumption which has become evident throughout Australia as a whole. In the year to January 1 977 these car registrations were 13 per cent higher than the figure for the previous year. The corresponding national figure was 2.6 per cent. Civilian employment in Queensland increased by over 3200 between November 1975 and November 1976, although this has not been sufficient to bring about a decline in the level of unemployment. It compares with no change in employment levels for the year to June 1976. The Government’s devaluation decision led to an investment in the area of natural resources. This will flow on to the manufacturing industry after the usual time lag. I think we can say that there are definite indicators which lead the Government to believe that we are on the road to recovery.
The consumer price index figure which was produced in February this year shows that the annual inflation rate, with the Medibank component removed, was 10.8 per cent in 1976. When one compares this figure with the 16.7 per cent for the first half of 1975 it shows that the rate of inflation is certainly on the way down. Let us look at 2 things in respect of inflation. In the fight against inflation all of us must be prepared to accept some restraint. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) told the Young Labor Conference in 1975:
Inflation today is undoubtedly and almost solely due to wage claims and increases.
That was the Leader of the Opposition speaking to his Party faithful. The same person today is supporting his colleagues in the Australian Council of Trade Unions who are pressing for further wage increases. The honourable member forOxley, in his 1975 Budget Speech, said:
It does employees generally no good to get higher and higher money incomes if the results are just higher prices, a severe squeeze on profits, a slump in new investment and a contraction of job opponunities.
Yet these are the same men who are leading the Australian workers foolishly into believing that wage increases will be their salvation. Therefore I have great pleasure in supporting the motion and opposing the amendment.
– It has long been a point of etiquette that if one has visitors in one’s home one tries to do nothing which would cause them embarrassment. The Government, as the chief host to Her Majesty and Prince Philip, has broken this cardinal rule and has embarrassed, indeed insulted, Her Majesty the Queen of Australia by offering her the poorly composed Speech which we are now debating, a speech completely devoid of imagination, foresight, confidence in this great country of ours or confidence in its people. I apologise to Her Majesty on behalf of the constituents of Lang. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) has done what a lot of other Government speakers have done. They recited in parrot fashion a supposed list of accomplishments of this Government. Having some knowledge of the previous career of the honourable member for Bowman, might I suggest to him that he should find a new script writer. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the Address-in-Reply motion. The amendment seeks to add the following words to the Address-in-Reply: but note that the Speech among other things-
Speaker after speaker on the Government side recited in parrot fashion words such as ‘the economy is now about to improve’ or ‘we are coming out of the slump’. They proceeded to quote certain figures to try to prove their point of view. They went back to the initial few months of this Government’s reign and told us some of the things they have done.
In the Speech we are discussing there is no indication of any imaginative program to solve any of our ills mentioned by Her Majesty the Queen. The Budget is only 5 or 6 months away. The Cabinet is already discussing forward estimates. If we look at the situation in Australia at the moment we find that the economy is still declining and that unemployment is still rising. I have, I suppose, the latest statistics that are publicly available. I refer to the document entitled Round-up of Economic Statistics, No. 50 of March 1977, published by the Treasury. I would like to go through a few of the figures contained in that document. When we look at consumer spending we find that provisional estimates, which are subject to substantial revision, indicate that the real value of retail sales decreased by 2.5 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms in January to a level of 10.2 per cent above a year earlier. In the 3 months to January, the estimates show, seasonally adjusted retail sales increased by 2.2 per cent following increases of 1.9 per cent in the preceding 3 months and 3.6 per cent in the 3 months to July. So over a 12-month period we had an increase in retail sales of 10.2 per cent. This is not sufficient to cover the inflation rate that is running at the moment.
If we turn to stocks, we find that after seasonal adjustment, the book value of stocks held by private enterprises increased by $63 1 m in the December quarter, following an increase of $466m in the previous quarter. This means that our private enterprise operations are buying in stock and putting it on the shelves but cannot sell it. This is a great indication of economic recovery! We have heard time and time again from Government supporters during this debate of the inordinate deficit brought in by the Labor Government in 1974 and 1975. I would like to again refer to the Round-up of Economic Statistics published by the Treasury, not by me. Under the heading ‘Government spending’ the publication stated:
Commonwealth Government budget outlays in February were 31 per cent higher than in February 1976. In the first eight months of 1976-77 outlays were $15,805 million, 13.5 percent more than in the corresponding period of 1 975-76.
This Government, this Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and members of this Parliament who sit on the National Country Party and the Liberal Party side of the House, have no reason at all to complain about the deficits of the Labor Government when their deficit is running at a higher level than we ever proposed. It is running at about $ 1,200m above their budgeted figure.
Under the heading ‘Exports’ the publication states:
Recorded exports in February totalled $9 1 1 m, almost 7 per cent below the January level . . .
If we require finance to come into Australia we need to encourage our businesses to export. But honourable members on the Government side of the House are saying there is an expansion in the Australian economy today. In February our exports fell by almost 7 per cent below the January level. It is of interest to note that there have been decreases in exports of sugar, nonferrous ore and metals.
The document points out that our major trading bank deposits, seasonally adjusted, rose by $36m in January following rises of $146m in December and $203m in November. Again this is an indication that the people of Australia are not spending their money. In the 5 weeks to 12 January new and increased lending commitments of major trading banks averaged $100m weekly, compared with averages of $1 16m in the 4 weeks to 8 December and $ 1 1 7m in the 4 weeks to 10 November. This morning’s Australian Financial Review contained an interpretation of the Treasurer’s remark that lending will be further restricted. How then can this Government, this Treasurer and this Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) expect the people of Australia to regain confidence in the management of the country? Australia is a remarkable country, we can afford to live well and we can employ our people but while the Government curtails lending commitments and does other things we cannot expect businessmen and workers to react with the confidence for which the Government is asking.
Further, the document points out that seasonally adjusted savings bank depositors’ balances rose by $70m in January compared with an average monthly rise of $ 137m in the December quarter. So less money is going into savings bank depositors’ balances. Total savings bank depositors’ balances have increased immeasurably over the last 1 5 months. The volume of money narrowly defined, known as Ml, increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16 per cent in the 3 months to January compared with rises of 7 per cent and 1 per cent in the 3 months to October and July respectively. Government supporters have said that the Labor Government used the printing press to put out money. But the present Government is increasing the volume of money by 16 per cent. The Labor Government perhaps at one stage or another increased the volume of money by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent. But the present Government is now riding at 16 per cent. Nonetheless, Government spokesmen have been spouting how the Government will achieve economic recovery and how the economy is already recovering.
Let us see what the publication had to say about industrial production which is related to jobs. We find that production of the 16 of the 32 items for which unadjusted statistics are available was higher in the 3 months to January 1977 than in the 3 months to January 1976. This compares with 1 8 of 34 such items in the December quarter and 17 in the 3 months to November when compared with the corresponding periods of 1 975. So again there is a decline in production. Where are all the signs that show an improvement in the economy about which Government supporters are talking?
The Round-up of Economic Statistics No. 50 of March 1977, published by the Treasury makes the following comment in respect of imports:
Recorded imports in February 1977 totalled S918m, 4 per cent higher than in January. In the 3 months to February recorded imports totalled S2,583m, 27 per cent above the same period a year earlier. Seasonally adjusted, recorded imports in the three months to February were 18 per cent higher than in the preceding three months.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I want you to note in particular these comments because I know that some of the industries mentioned in this publication are located in your electorate of Banks. The publication stated:
In recent months there appear to have been increases in imports of food and live animals -
The 2 members of the National Country Party should note that comment- petroleum, machinery and transport equipment, footwear and clothing.
Some of those industries would be in the electorates of Hughes, Sydney and Lang.
Supporters of the Government stand up and prattle out parrot fashion what the Government has done in respect of family allowances when in fact the Government has taken money out of the pay packet of the father and given it to the mother. In many other directions the Government has done nothing to improve the situation that supposedly it inherited in 1975. Bearing in mind the figures that I have quoted, if anything, the situation is a lot worse than it was when the present Government took office. It is of no use now for Government supporters to continue to say that they inherited this situation. It is of no use to say that industry has lost confidence. This Government has had since December 1975 to introduce an economic policy to improve the situation which exists in Australia today; but it has not done so. Everything is still declining. I am suggesting that Government supporters now have to forget about criticising the unions for not increasing production and perhaps for going on strike and forget about begging the private enterprise moguls to do something about the situation. The Government now has to set about talking to employers, employees and the lending institutions to convince them that unless we all work together, unless they are all prepared to play their part, our economy is not going to improve.
The point that I wish to make is that over 12 months ago, I think it was, the Jackson Committee brought down a Green Paper on the manufacturing industry. It was then decided that a White Paper would follow. There has been no real indication of that White Paper being produced. I, and other members on this side of the House, have placed questions on notice. Yesterday the honourable member for Port
Adelaide (Mr Young) made a long speech about it. If this Government relies so much on the private sector, on the little businessman, then surely it has to have the courage to tell the little businessman, and the big businessman for that matter, what the future of Australian manufacturing industry is. The Government cannot expect those so engaged to sit back and wait. It cannot leave them to wonder and wonder what they should do. When they finally take some step the Government then comes out with a policy that has disastrous effects on the manufacturing industry as our 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cut did in 1973.
If this Government wants Australia to continue to develop it will need to have policies that are understood and that are clearly enunciated in relation to our mining industry, our petroleum industry, our manufacturing industry and our rural industry. This Government will have to give an indication to the working men and women in Australia what lies in front of them by way of taxation, what lies in front of them as regards improved working conditions, higher pay, better health, educational and other services. This Government cannot sit back any longer and say that the faults that now exist in Australia belong to the 3 years of Labor rule.
-Between Gunning and Gundagai, a distance of 1 50 kilometres, the Hume Highway runs through the electorate of Hume. For this reason the Hume Highway is of particular interest to me. Since the 1974 National Roads Act, which was introduced by the Whitlam Administration, the Hume has been classified as a national highway. Under the provisions of this Act all expenditure on the Hume is funded by the Federal Government. Prior to 1974 this Highway and other highways which are now national highways were classified as rural arterial roads and were jointly funded by Federal and State governments. Money was certainly spent on national highways prior to 1 974 but since that date the Federal Government has expended $123m for national highway construction and maintenance in the State of New South Wales. Of this amount, $103m has been allocated to the Hume Highway. In addition, an amount of $66. 6m has been allocated for national highway expenditure in New South Wales for 1977-78, of which about $46m will be spent on the Hume. This brings the total allocation for work on the Hume in the 4 years to $150m. It is also important to note that the Bureau of Roads has recommended the allocation of $90m on Hume Highway construction in New South Wales in the 3-year period 1979-81 at 1973-74 prices or $2 15m at 1979-81 prices. By 1981 the investment in the Hume Highway will have exceeded $365m.
The Federal Government has announced its intention to complete a 4-lane dual carriage Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne by 1984. It is obvious that the nation has a massive investment in this highway. It is proper that this should be the case as the Hume is the main Sydney to Melbourne road link and arguably the most important road in Australia. By comparison, the Moomba-Sydney natural gas pipeline cost $232m from start to finish and spans a distance of 1300 kilometres. The Hume Highway is 870 kilometres in length. Investment in the Hume will ultimately be many times larger than the investment in the natural gas pipeline which is generally regarded as being a major national project in terms of scope and investment. Although it is in the national interest that the Sydney to Melbourne road link be of a high standard I believe that much greater thought needs to be directed towards the use to which the Highway will be put and what the alternatives might be.
Between Yass and Gundagai- a representative section of the Hume- the annual average daily traffic in both directions was 3200 in 1974. The Bureau of Roads forecasts that this usage will rise to 7700 vehicles daily by the year 2000. The volume of traffic on the Hume will more than double by the turn of the century. In 1974, 57 per cent of vehicles on the Hume Highway were cars or utilities. The balance, 43 per cent, was heavy vehicles- transports, coaches and the like. Almost half the traffic is identifiable as commercial and no doubt much of the small vehicle traffic would also be in this category. In 1974 a vehicle travelled on the Hume every 27 seconds 24 hours a day. By the year 2000 a vehicle will travel on that Highway every 1 1 seconds 24 hours a day. If the heavy vehicle percentage remains the same as in 1974, a heavy vehicle will travel on the road every quarter of a minute in the year 2000.
The Yass-Gundagai section of the Hume is by no means the most heavily used stretch of that Highway. The section between Goulburn and the Federal Highway carries almost twice the volume of traffic at 5450 vehicles a day. The Bureau of Roads has reported that the Hume is not up to national highway standards to some degree for its full length. The Highway is structurally unsound, subject to flooding, the sight distances and curvatures are deficient and the pavements are too narrow. Carrying the traffic it does and being in the condition it is have arguably caused many of the accidents which have occurred on the highway. The Bureau of Roads states:
The rates for accidents and fatalities are considerably higher than the national average and the worsening trend on the Hume Highway has been against the national trend to improved safety. There is some evidence from the survey that the sections in the poorest condition have the worst safety records, particularly with regard to the number of accidents and their severity.
In each of the 3 years 1973, 1974 and 1975 approximately 1000 casualty accidents have occurred on the New South Wales section of the Hume. The number of fatalities in each of those 3 years has been in the seventies and the number of injuries has averaged over 1400. Trucks and semi-trailers have been involved in at least 200 of the 1000 casualty accidents in each of the 3 years referred to. The Bureau of Transport Economics has estimated that a 4-lane highway would save 200 to 250 lives between Goulburn and Albury alone over the next 30 years. The extent of the investment in this Highway and its commercial necessity must obviously give the Hume Highway a high priority in terms of the national interest. The fact that so many human lives are lost on this Highway and that this loss of life can be significantly reduced further enhances the argument for an upgraded Hume. I have referred to the expected increase in the volume of traffic by the turn of the century. It is interesting to consider the sort of highway that will be carrying that traffic.
The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) said last September that the design standards are aimed at ensuring that national highways are constructed to cater for the safe carriage of traffic at least to the turn of the century. Design standards under the National Roads Act confirm that the design of road works construction or reconstruction is for 20 years after completion. In the case of bridges the design is for 30 years. The National Roads and Motorists Association found that only 12 per cent of the Hume has dual carriageway and that 44 per cent of the undivided sections had a lane width narrower than the national highway standard of 3.7 metres. The standards require 4 lanes of 3.7 metres with shoulders of 3 metres, and 1.2 metres on each of the dual carriageways and a 15 metre median strip. The minimum overall width of the total strip is 38.2 metres if normal standards are complied with.
The NRMA stated that the Victorian section of the Hume was generally better than the New South Wales section in most respects. However, there is a much shorter distance of highway in Victoria than in New South Wales, and this finding is not surprising. A 60 kilometre per hour speed limit applies over 12 per cent of the Hume Highway. It passes through 17 separate zones which are classified as urban. There are 7 level crossings on the New South Wales section. Overtaking is illegal on almost 20 per cent of the length of the Hume, and there are 77 advisory speed signs indicating poor alignment or construction. Significantly, a high proportion of these advisory speed signs are 35 kilometres per hour or more below the prevailing speed limit in the area. The Hume has a long way to go if it is to measure up to national highway standards. The NRMA estimates that at the current rate of progress it would take 30 years to reach the objective. In this estimate the NRMA is greatly at variance with the official stance that a 4-lane divided highway will be completed by the mid 1980s.
Having considered the Hume as it is and the targets both in standards and time to be achieved, the question revolves around the economics of maintenance, the use to which it will or should be put, the role of government in influencing the use, and the alternatives. If in fact we have a traffic flow in the year 2000 at the rate of one vehicle every 1 1 seconds it will occur at a time when the designed time span of the highway is ending. The turn of the century will see the expiration of the 20-year period for which the road was designed and a volume of traffic more than double its present level. It will be a time when we can assume a further major investment and reconstruction will become necessary in addition to the required maintenance, which will arguably increase over the 20-year period.
The decade around the turn of the century would appear to be critical to the maintenance of the Hume as a national highway into the 21st century. It would seem appropriate to look at ways of extending the life of the Hume beyond the 20-year period and reduce the pressure which those who follow us will face. I believe the only logical way to achieve this objective is to reduce the rate of growth in the volume of traffic particularly the heavy commercial traffic. I would argue that nothing does more damage to the road than heavy trucks travelling at high speed. If this factor can be reduced the life of the road must increase.
Government already exercises some control over use of the Hume Highway. Economic factors also influence the use made of the Highway. There is a relationship between air fares, bus fares, train fares and private vehicle use. There is a relationship between air freight rates, rail freight rates and road transport rates. If the life and economics of the Hume are to be improved there must be variations in both the government and the economic factors.
In some cases I believe it is simply a matter of enforcement of existing legislation or regulations. If a truck is overweight at a checking station it is my understanding that, depending on his past record, the driver may be booked, but, unfortunately, the load is not diminished. Checking stations have become collectors of revenue rather than enforcers of the law. I believe the New South Wales Government should enforce the weight limits. If a truck is overloaded it should not be allowed to proceed until it conforms to the regulations. Similar comments apply to length. The commonly used 40-foot pantechnicon unit can only conform to overall length limits if it is hitched to a small prime move. Most are not and are therefore operating illegally. This regulation should be enforced.
In Victoria a speed limit of 65 kilometres per hour applies to vehicles weighing 3 tonnes gross. In New South Wales a speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour applies to vehicles weighing over 3 tonnes unladen. It is common knowledge to anyone using the Highway that a large proportion of the heavy vehicles do not observe the 80 kilometres per hour speed limit. It is simply not enforced. It should be. I cannot speak for Victoria in this instance. Drivers of vehicles with an unladen weight of over 2 tonnes must have one half hour’s rest and refreshment after 5 hours of consecutive driving. It is prohibited to drive more than 12 hours in twenty-four.
Other regulations concerning hours of driving apply. Under these regulations a driver must take 2, one half hour rests in a 12 hour trip, which is the maximum in a 24 hour period. He cannot drive more than 12 hours in stretches of 5 hours, 5 hours and 2 hours. Perhaps there are technicalities in relation to trips which take place before and after midnight, but the spirit of the regulations is clear. Although it is perhaps technically possible to drive a truck within the speed limit between Sydney and Melbourne in 12 hours it is only just possible. In actual experience I do not believe it can be achieved. The trip must take more than 12 hours. One major operator quotes 14 hours. For operators to be within the law as I understand it, trucks must carry 2 drivers, arrange for change-overs or wait for long periods along the route. Some do, many do not. If the time limit regulations were enforced the economics of many operators who operate single driver trucks between Sydney and Melbourne would be altered adversely. The regulations should be enforced.
Speed and weight are both important factors in both the deterioration of the Hume and in the safety aspects of travel on the highway. Driver efficiency is no less important. The New South Wales State Government has at its disposal the means of controlling to a significant extent each of these 3 factors. No new regulations or controls need to be introduced; they exist now and have done for some years. All that is required is for the New South Wales authorities to enforce the existing regulations. If nothing else were done I am of the view that the Hume would have a longer life, would be cheaper to maintain and would experience fewer accidents.
More needs to be done. There needs to be a greater effort directed towards encouraging freight to be moved by rail. Obviously the railway has a major task in front of it in this respect but the challenge must be accepted. Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, the major transport group, already operates its own train and has done for 10 years. This train operates on the Sydney-Melbourne run 6 days a week. TNT owns the rolling stock, handles its own loading and unloading, the railway does the haulage and provides the engine. Freight rates are the same on the TNT trains as they are on the TNT trucks, although the road service is faster. The significant feature of the train is that each trip it makes it carries a minimum 450 tonnes of freight, the equivalent of about 18 trucks. The fact that the train operates keeps over 100 trucks a week off the Hume Highway. This train can carry 600 tonnes of freight each trip. That is equivalent to keeping 1 50 trucks a week off the Hume. If TNT can do it, others can do it and the railways ought to be encouraging this soft of operation. Not only does it improve the position of the railways; it improves conditions on the Hume. If the road regulations are enforced or hardened operators will have to look more to rail.
Railway authorities should be looking to leasing goods yard space to commercial transport operators who could handle their own loading or unloading. They should be looking to improve the time delays which plague railway goods yard and shunting operations. They should be eliminating the damage caused to freight, which seems far more prevalent on rail than on road. They should be making the use of rail far more attractive. Little needs to be done to the main southern line to improve the efficiency of the line. A double track runs from Sydney to Junee and from Junee to Albury the line is single track. The
Bureau of Transport Economics has recommended the introduction of a series of extended loops and centralised traffic control between Junee and Albury. The Bureau puts the cost of this at $3. 92m, and those figures relate to the year 1973. The introduction of these improvements would give the equivalent of a double line facility for a fraction of the cost. In any case dual carriageways are estimated to average about $1m per kilometre as against $320,000 per kilometre for double line railway.
I have argued that the Federal Government is undertaking a massive investment on behalf of the nation in the Sydney-Melbourne Hume Highway project. It is in the national interest that this highway is put to optimum use. If it is used to excess the cost of providing and maintaining the Hume will become a burden out of proportion to the nation’s priorities. The State Government in New South Wales has at its disposal the means to effectively regulate the movement of heavy traffic on the Hume, and it is the heavy traffic that is the cause of so much concern. New South Wales has only to enforce the means which are already in existence.
I have argued for a greater and continually increasing amount of freight to be diverted to rail as an effective means of taking pressure off the Hume. I would like to see co-operation between the New South Wales and Federal governments on the determination of the optimum level of traffic appropriate to the Hume and directed towards the development of rail as a more significant carrier of inter-capital freight. I have sought to raise this matter in an objective and non-political fashion because of the importance I attach to the subject. I would hope that the question will be given full consideration and that the desired results can be achieved in the interests of the nation.
-The amendment to the Address-in-Reply states:
That the following words be added to the Address: but note that the Speech among other things-
fails to outline the Government’s program for economic management;
thereby adds to the mounting uncertainty and concern in the community;
accordingly leads to the belief that the Government’s policies will be totally inadequate to contend with worsening inflation, post-war record unemployment, business stagnation and declining living standards for millions of Australians, and
neglects to outline details of social reforms which are essential to reduce inequalities and to overcome hardships being suffered by so many in need.
In effect, the Fraser Government has turned the clock back on social reforms and is presently involved in a contemptible campaign to convey the idea that the poor are poor because of their own behaviour, that the unemployed are bludgers, and that supporting mothers are promiscuous. Medibank, the greatest social reform introduced by the Labor Government and the most important for a generation, has been destroyed by the Fraser Government. Medibank meant free automatic universal health insurance for every Australian, and enabled a great part of the worry and expense of illness to be removed. Before the 1975 election Mr Fraser promised that Medibank would be retained, but he has since proved to be untrustworthy. Under the pretence of giving the people a choice of health funds, Mr Fraser has made Medibank so expensive and unattractive that millions of people have been driven back -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
– The original question was that the proposed Address-in-Reply be agreed to, to which the honourable member for Adelaide has moved as an amendment that certain words be added to the Address. The immediate question is that the words proposed to be added be so added.
The House divided. (MrSpeaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply
-Prime Minister)- by leave- I wish to inform the House that the Government has taken a further step in implementing its Federalism policy with the appointment of Commonwealth, State, local government and citizen members to the Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations. Honourable members will be aware that the establishment of the Advisory Council, a basic part of our program of reform to improve the functioning of Australia’s political institutions, was provided for in the Advisory Council for InterGovernment Relations Act 1976, which received royal assent on 26 October 1976.
The Advisory Council will review and consider matters relating to the improvement of cooperation and co-ordination between the different spheres of government. The Government is committed to the protection and advancement of Australians’ political rights. This commitment has been demonstrated in a wide range of reforms:
The rapid advance to statehood of the Northern Territory, now under way;
The granting of a greater degree of selfgovernment for the Australian Capital Territory;
Active support for and participation in the Hobart Constitutional Convention;
The decision to put to the electorate the 4 referendums on 2 1 May;
Our undertaking to introduce freedom of information legislation;
Our fiscal policies of tax sharing and tax indexation which will render State governments and the Commonwealth Government more accountable to the electorate.
Central to this commitment is a determination to strengthen our federal system of government. The Australian federal system will be strengthened by the clear delineation of responsibilities between the 3 spheres of GovernmentCommonwealth, State and local government and by the promotion of effective co-ordination of activities and co-operation between them.
The Government saw the need for existing Federal institutions such as the Premiers Conference and the Loan Council to be supplemented by an independent body- a body more detached from day to day administrative problems, which could keep our Federal system under constant review and come forward with proposals to achieve closer co-operation and co-ordination within that system. The Advisory Council is such a body. It will be an important and independent source of advice on the most desirable allocation of government functions, responsibilities and revenues.
The Act provides for a Council of 22 members: Five representatives of the Commonwealth (3 Government members and 2 Opposition members), 6 State representatives (one from each State parliament), 6 local government representatives, and 5 citizen representatives. I am pleased to announce the following membership of the Council:
Representing the Commonwealth-
Representing the States-
The Queensland Government has declined to nominate a State Government representative. Queensland will be well represented by its local government representative.
Representing local government-
Representing the Community-
Professor Russell Mathews, who is the Director of the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations at the Australian National University, has accepted a 3-year appointment as Citizen Chairman of the Council. Professor Mathews is a distinguished authority on Federal affairs and his extensive experience will be of considerable value to the new Council. The Government is most pleased that he has accepted the important position of Citizen Chairman of the Council. The membership of the Council brings together a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience of the whole system of Australian government. The independence of advice from the Council will be preserved and strengthened by the appointment of a Citizen Chairman. Governments will not dominate the affairs of the Council.
The 3 members selected to represent the Commonwealth Government all have close knowledge of the impact on the general public of the activities of all spheres of government. They will also contribute informed views and experience of the functions of the Commonwealth Government. The States will bring their own individualities to the Council. Local government from all States will be represented by experienced councillors and aldermen. The citizens appointed to the Council reflect views from different sections of the Australian community. All are respected members of the community who have indicated their willingness to contribute to the work of the Council as a service to the community. A range of views will be presented and healthy interaction should take place. The balance of the membership of the Council should be a clear indication that no one sphere of Government will be predominant in the Council. The Commonwealth seeks, through the membership of the Council, the co-operation and improvement of communication between all spheres of Australian government.
By reference from the Premiers Conferenceand there could be nothing to prevent the Advisory Council from seeking a particular reference on its own initiative- the Advisory Council will examine problems which emerge between the 3 spheres of government. Local government, through their State Premiers, will be able to have matters brought to the Premiers Conference for reference to the Council for examination and report. The Commonwealth Government will consider possible references from local government in Queensland. The choice of Hobart for the secretariat is a further indication of the Commonwealth Government’s efforts for fair representation of the smaller States.
The Council will be able to draw on the varied resources and views of the whole community. The secretariat will be small and skilled in utilising the resources of government departments, instrumentalities, universities and other educational bodies and private organisations. Outside researchers will be employed where appropriate, and the secretariat will present well researched opinion for the Council’s consideration. All the resources of the Commonwealth will be available to the Council. I ask the States to declare their commitment to make their resources similarly available.
In addition to its annual reports the Council will publish other reports on inter-governmental problems. The costs of the Council are being shared by agreement among the 3 spheres of government. It was intended that the Commonwealth and the States each meet 45 per cent of the Council’s cost, the remaining 10 per cent being contributed by local government. Following Queensland’s non-participation in the Council the Commonwealth will contribute an extra 7 per cent. The Commonwealth Government has made funds available in its additional estimates for 1976-77 to establish the Council and secretariat. Much of the detail of the operation of the Council will be a matter for the Council itself to determine. The Council must decide whether it will hold public hearings, whether it will meet in committee, when and where in Hobart it will establish its secretariat and how it will draw on the many avenues of research and advice open to it.
The Council possesses only advisory powers. It does not exist to pre-empt the decisions of governments. It exists to provide an effective means of encouraging public debate on the practical resolution of problems facing governments in Australia. The activities of the Council will make governments fully aware of the options which face them. The governments concerned will be solely responsible for the decisions they make. The Commonwealth will be putting forward for discussion at the Premiers Conference next month possible references to the Council. I would expect the Council to convene its first meeting at the earliest opportunity after that Conference. I wish the Council well in its important task and look forward to receiving its first report.
-I suspend the sitting of the House until 8 p.m. in order that I may present the Address-in-Reply to the opening Speech of Her Majesty the Queen to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at Government House. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honourable members, accompany me.
Sitting suspended from 5.9 to 8 p.m.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I desire to inform the House that, accompanied by honourable members, the Speaker waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty’s Speech on the opening of the Second Session of the Thirthieth Parliament agreed to by the House today. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
In the name and on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen I accept the Address-in-Reply. It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Majesty the message of loyalty from the House of Representatives to which the Address gives expression.
-This report is a joint report, a bipartisan report from all sides of the House. I do not think that the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) should take it too much to heart as I felt perhaps he had earlier in this debate. He was in difficult circumstances and I think that this should be taken into account by the House. It is not possible, of course, for us to pass any opinion on the evidence with regard to the matter raised by the honourable member for Wills. False evidence may have been given; I do not know. Only the Committee could judge this. The Committee did judge this evidence and I think we must accept as the fact the conclusion of the Committee after examination of the witnesses before it. I speak, however, of the very difficult circumstances. The report concerns itself to some extent with the relationship between the Minister and the Head of his Department and the officers of his Department. Ultimately, of course, a Minister is responsible for his Department. He cannot be expected to oversee every detail but for the general policy and administration, by British Parliamentary convention, the Minister must and should bear responsibility. Again I remind the House that there were difficult and indeed extenuating circumstances. I use that word not in respect of the Minister alone but also in respect of the Department and its officers.
There was from the start some confusion here. I speak as the person who had the first ministerial responsibility in this field. I do not say that I was the Minister, because in truth I was not. I was the Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs as part of the Prime Minister’s Department. I had a full ministry in social services but in this area I had only a secondary and delegated responsibility. I found some difficulty because the late Prime Minister, Harold Holt, had set up some kind of organisation which was still in existence at that time and which conflicted with the ideas of parliamentary authority and responsibility. He had set up a council of aboriginal affairs, consisting of Dr Coombs, Dr Stanner and Mr Dexter. In his mind, as I read it, there was some idea that this council should be extra parliamentary and independent of the Parliament; it should be like the Commonwealth Bank or some other Commonwealth instrumentality. This council was not continued by the Gorton
Government, the McMahon Government or the Whitlam Government. Those governments thought that the responsibility should properly lie, as I think it should, in this Parliament. But there was from the beginning some kind of confusion of authority in this respect and the confusion was not made any easier by the fact that I, as the first Minister in charge, was not in this respect a full Minister as I was, for example, a full Minister in the field of social services. In this respect I was a Minister in charge as part of the Prime Minister’s Department. That confusion, I think, continued and it was not made any easier by the problems with trust funds and various other accounting troubles which were starting to occur even in my time. So I can understand that there should be this confusion in the matter and I can understand how it has developed into the difficulty in the relationship between the Minister and his Department to which the report draws attention. There was another factor in that very properly it was hoped that that Department would be staffed to a great extent by people of Aboriginal origin. This also implied a certain amount of confusion and difficulty. But, as I have said, I regard this as a very proper thing. It was not an easy thing but it was certainly a proper thing for us to attempt and to carry through.
I turn to a matter which has been referred to from time to time in the course of this debate, a matter in which I notice my name is mentioned. That is the venture for turtle farming and crocodile farming. This was started in my time. In fact, it was started just before I ceased to be the Minister in charge. It was started not as a large project but as a pilot project. I think that I allocated a maximum amount of $30,000 for experiments to be carried out. This was carried on in the following year when Mr Howson was the Minister and a small sum was thus given for experiments. I am not certain what happened in the third year and I am not certain whether the unwise expansion of these experiments before their impact was known occurred under the McMahon Government or the Whitlam Government. Whenever it was- and I am not trying to be partisan in this matter- it was a mistake to expand this venture before the experiments had led to any reasonable conclusion. Looking back on this venture, and having quite recently visited the Torres Strait Islands and seen the turtle farming as it exists there at the moment, I believe that the turtle farming was and could be a commercial venture, although I think that not only have very great mistakes been made but also the scale of the operation was extended before the various biological factors had been properly determined.
Last year we saw thousands of small turtles in their containers. The great problem here is changing the diet of the turtles. Young turtles are carnivorous; they are flesh eaters. Older turtles are generally herbivorous, they feed on what is known as sea grass which is found on the floor of the sea. As I understand and as I was told by the people in the area, it is not known quite how that switch in diet can or should be made, or really at what time it is necessary to be made, or to what extent there can be substitution of diet. Even at the present moment the amount of fish needed to feed young turtles, which are carnivorous, is relatively small in weight but is expensive in processing. Young turtles in their natural state feed on a multitude of very small animals. But the small fish that are being used now to feed them have to be filleted. The fish being used are larger than the fish that the turtles would normally eat and if they were not filleted the young turtles would strangle on the bones. The filleting requires very great and intensive labour. Whether that sort of feeding can be substituted for something else at a later stage I do not know.
As to what extent the turtles can switch to a carnivorous diet which does not have to be filleted or to an herbivorous diet, again I was told by the people in the area- I spoke to the people concerned- that there is still a great deal of uncertainty. Attempts were being made to cultivate artificially the sea grass or some other fodder for them. I do not believe that that is an economic process. There is some shortage of sea grass in the area because last year- I do not know whether or not this will be repeated- the dugongs were so plentiful in the area that they exhausted the natural resources of sea grass. So one does not know quite what is going to happen in regard to the supply of food. It may be that the proper use of the turtle farm would be to bring turtles to a certain degree of maturity and then to release them into the open sea. That may be; I do not know. I do not think the people who are concerned in the venture yet know that for certain themselves, although they may have certain ideas in that regard.
Unfortunately at the present moment the scale of operations can scarcely be significantly contracted. The islanders have become accustomed to the operation and they see it as the venture upon which their future depends. The social effects of contracting the operation drastically would, to my way of thinking, be quite unhappy and might even be disastrous. So we are now locked into a situation which perhaps should never have arisen; but, having arisen, we have to follow it through. I urge that greater weight be given to investigations being conducted into these fundamental matters as soon as possible.
I turn now to the crocodile farming. Again I think there is a market for the skins but not for the curio crocodile on which, I think erroneously, hopes were placed in the earlier stages of the venture.
I believe that the experiment is well worth while and that it should be followed through. It may require the application of greater scientific resources than are being applied to it at present in order to determine certain of the fundamental facts upon which viability of the whole future of the exercise may well depend. I was glad to have an opportunity to go into the Torres Strait Islands recently and to observe at first hand, amongst other things, what was done in this turtle farming venture, and also to have an opportunity of speaking to the Torres Strait Islanders as well as to members of the staff who are controlling the venture up there.
I come back to what I was saying at the beginning. I do not think we should take too hard a line on a matter which the honourable member for Wills regards as a censure of himself. He was placed in very difficult circumstances, and I think every honourable member should realise how difficult those circumstances were.
– I want to speak not necessarily directly to the report but to the consequences of the report, the consequences of the investigation which led to the report, and some other matters which I think are of consequence to this Parliament. Obviously I have not had time to read the report. I did not hear the evidence or seek to read the evidence which was placed before the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. The members of that Committee who have drawn up the report would be in a far better position to deal with those matters.
One of the matters which concern me is that in its conclusions the report contains criticisms of individuals who were not in fact called before the Committee. The report also indicates that at least one officer, and possibly 2 officers, of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, including the Secretary of that Department, gave evidence before the Committee- not the Committee as it is presently comprised but one of its predecessors, I think twice removed- which was subsequently admitted to have been incorrect. I understand that under cross-examination at least one other witness indicated that information which he had given at that session was not entirely accurate. What concerns me is that in the instance of the Secretary of the Department and at least one officer of the Department the evidence which was given in good faith or otherwise- it is claimed that at least the Secretary of the Department did not know at the time he gave that evidence before the Committee that it was incorrectwas extremely damaging to the Minister as it was given at a public hearing. On admission by the Secretary of the Department that evidence subsequently proved to be inaccurate.
That is of concern to me. It concerns me in two separate ways: Firstly, that deliberately or accidentally an officer of a department can under privilege before a parliamentary committee undermine the position of his Minister- in this particular case the Minister had moved to another portfolio- or a Minister or a member of the Parliament. Unless, subsequently, new evidence comes to light, as it did on this occasion, the Committee is not in a position to ascertain the accuracy or otherwise of the evidence that has been given. I understand that the knowledge that some of that information was incorrect came to the Committee at a time immediately prior to the dissolution of the Parliament. That was an inopportune time for that to happen, because until the presentation of this report the Parliament had not been advised of the facts. It is my belief that parliamentary committees- this is especially so when they are dealing with subjects as delicate as the relationships between a department and the Minister responsible for that department at any given time- ought, in cases where evidence given by the Department is found to be incorrect and therefore damaging to the Minister or the member concerned, immediately report to the Parliament upon any refutation or withdrawal of that evidence.
In my opinion it is a very serious matter that an officer, no matter in what circumstances, can place his Minister in a position which could be untenable- this would have been the situation had the then Minister continued in his position throughout the hearings of this inquiry- when it is found that evidence of a damaging nature given is incorrect and that fact is not immediately the subject of a report to the Parliament by the Committee. The evidence is now a year, or possibly 2 years, old. The events are a cold trail and it could be said that if the then Minister, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), had been more vulnerable in his position in this Parliament he would be an ex-member. If he had a marginal seat the damage which could have been done to him by the evidence which subsequently proved to be inaccurate would at least have caused him serious political damage. It certainly would have caused him serious damage in his standing as a Minister. I think that is one of the serious matters about the report.
Another thing that concerns me is that in the report some blame, rightly or wrongly, is placed upon the then Minister’s staff at the time. I understand that most of the staff is available but these officers do not appear among the list of persons called to give evidence. I do not know whether they did give evidence or whether they were asked whether they wished to give evidence. Those are not facts known to me. But it would appear that in view of the decisions of the Committee, based on the evidence which was placed before it by other persons, some of whom may have been in conflict with the then Minister’s staff, the then Minister’s staff should at least have been called before the Committee and asked questions relating to that particular evidence. I find that that much of the report that I have read appears to attempt to deal fairly with all parties. But I repeat the criticism I make- I think it is some time removed from the present Chairman- that where damaging evidence is found to be incorrect that fact should be reported immediately to the Parliament. There appears to have been at least 3 cases- not all from members of the Department- where the Committee has found subsequently that evidence given to it was not correct. If that situation goes unchallenged then parliamentary committees inquiring into these sorts of matters will have little effect at all other than possibly to be used as vehicles by people seeking to damage others. That is not a manner in which I think parliamentary committees should be used. I suggest that it is important that where a member of Parliament is named- especially where a Minister is named- to his disadvantage that he firstly should be given the opportunity to give evidence as soon as possible after that evidence has been given. If the member declines that opportunity, which he has the right to do, the consequences are his.
Another matter that concerns me in this report is the Auditor-General’s position. In his report he has cited as facts certain statements which at least have been denied by the then Minister and I think have been proven subsequently to be not wholly correct. The Auditor-General’s reports have a very high standing in this Parliament and the community, and I think properly so. I make this criticism only in regard to the fact that if the reports are found to be deficient in any manner that deficiency will reflect on the standing of the total reports and the office itself. I would think that the Auditor-General has access to departmental files when those files are required. He certainly is in a position in which he can request verification. Where the secretary of a department makes statements which conflict with known statements of a Minister I do not think the Auditor-General can, as a matter of course, accept the accuracy of statements of the secretary of the department or the Minister if he is going to include them or use them as the basis of a report. I think that in such a case it is necessary for him to ascertain the accuracy of any statements prior to using them in a report which we would look on as being a factual document which is beyond reproach.
The whole build up and execution of the events which have led to the circumstances here are extremely unfortunate. I think the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) dealt with the sorts of problems which existed in the establishment of a department of state in an area where immediate action was required and in which quite obviously some conflict between the policy directives of the Minister, no matter how given, and the department which had the responsibility of carrying them out, had taken place. I understand that some difficulties also arose from the fact that the department did not have control over its own financial affairs in the early stages- I presume that has been alteredwhich must have made for an even more uncertain and almost untenable administrative position.
I find it hard to believe statements that the then Minister was not accessible. I would have thought that the honourable member for Wills is one of those people who, during his whole parliamentary career, had been accessible to people. He might not have been amenable to the things that were put before him, but that is not the question. The question is whether or not he was accessible. I have always found- I think most people who have had anything to do with him have found- that it was not difficult to gain access to the honourable member, whether he was Minister, back bencher, or just looking for someone to talk to. I seriously say that that allegation is very difficult for anyone who knows the honourable gentleman to take seriously, although the Secretary of the Department may well have thought that to be a fact. It would seem to me that there may have been some crossed lines in that particular circumstance.
What I have said I have said not as a criticism of the Committee but in order to seek to protect the position of honourable members and Ministers responsible to this Parliament. I believe that the hearings and the conduct of parliamentary committees are some of the most important functions that we can carry out. But I believe that where evidence is given or statements are made which can reflect on the character competence or good conduct of a member of this Parliament and those statements are subject to publication, as was the case with the former Minister, the honourable member for Wills, firstly he should be asked as soon as possible whether he wishes to refute those statements. It is important that they not remain on the record- especially the public record- for any length of time before they are refuted. If it is found on subsequent examination or admission that statements of that nature are incorrect I believe a report to the Parliament by the Committee indicating that incorrect statements, deliberately or otherwise, have been given to the Committee about a member of Parliament should be made even though the investigation is continuing because it is important that where incorrect statements are made deliberately or otherwise- I do not make any accusations in that area- the Parliament should be advised as soon as possible after that fact becomes apparent.
-One rises tonight to speak in this debate in a sort of agonised fashion because here we are dealing first of all with an emotional, political subject. We are dealing with the reputation of one of our most respected members in this House. We are talking on a subject for which a small number of speakers is listed. But I think it would be fair to say that amongst the speakers listed, in the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) we have three of the people who, by their actions and experiences in the past 2 decades, have shown a real and deep concern for the subject matter under dispute.
However, I believe that this is not the occasion on which to speak about the rights and wrongs or the details of the report. What we have before us tonight is a problem which faces all parliamentary committees. I have spoken in this House for some years on the desirability of Joint Committee of Public Accounts reports being the subject of earnest and serious debate in this place. I am saddened to think that we have had to wait for a challenge between a former Minister of the Crown and a departmental head, first of all to be given the time to debate such a report and, secondly, to have needed this situation to have developed the interest.
Now we come into philosophical problems. I do not wish to bore the House or anyone here on that part of the matter, but it should be mentioned because the previous speaker, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), if I read him rightly, impugned certain sincerities of the Auditor-General.
– No, I did not.
– Well, if the honourable member did not do so, then I apologise. I withdraw the comment. But this is one of the constant problems we face. We, as members of this House, have the right to discuss and talk on any matter political in this place. Public servants who appear before parliamentary committees are sworn witnesses and they, within their own conscience, have the problem of speaking in truth at all times to all questions. Knowing both the then Minister, the honourable member for Wills and the then Permanent Head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, I stand here in complete personal anguish because I know each to be a man of great sincerity. Though I was not here at the time- it was during one of the aberrations of the Australian electorate- as of course the honourable member for Hughes went through an aberrated period of the electorate not understanding him either -
– Sometimes the electorate is wise and sometimes it is not.
– Like Brylcreem, I came back.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to return to the motion before the House.
– I thank the Deputy Speaker for his guidance and direction. But the agony and the anguish of standing here tonight and knowing both people involved is that I believe quite sincerely- I know it to be a fact- that each man involved was dedicated and concerned about the Aboriginal people. I would have imagined that the problem of the tenth Public Accounts Committee which had to investigate this matter was having to meet in a mood of publicity- of having to face the fact that what was said at Committee was in the newspapers the next day. It is not easy. All members of this House who have served on parliamentary committees over the years, if they are honest will admit that it is not easy to discuss a public matter objectively or without emotion within a parliamentary committee. This has been the trauma and the tragedy of this investigation. When members of the eleventh committee met, I suppose I had some advantages over new members. Really, though I hate to admit it, I suppose that I am still the longest serving member of the Public Accounts Committee presently serving the Committee. I think that we do the Public Service a harm if we infer that all evidence tendered to that Committee is not given in complete truth. If we, as members of this Parliament, start to believe that the evidence is not said in complete truth, we are challenging the very fabric of government in Australia. So when comments have been made by certain members in this debate, I have not seen them as petty or small political matters or issues. They relate very seriously to the total relationship between this Parliament. I ask honourable members to remember that we are talking of a joint committee; we are not talking of a committee of this House alone. We are talking of a joint committee which represents the Parliament- both Houses. We have to be careful when in any judgments made in this place we challenge, as I have said before, the real sincerity of public servants who not only appear before committees but also sincerely serve this country. I repeat to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that members of this House have the right to raise all matters of politics in this place. It is a privilege which departmental heads do not enjoy. It is a problem that departmental heads can speak only as sworn witnesses before a parliamentary committee.
I do not intend to repeat the comments of the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher), who quite rightly reiterated the responsibilities and the practice of the Auditor-General in Australia. I must say that after something like 8 years’ close association with him and his Department, I have never had evidence of his having sought in any way to tell anything but the utter truth. It may well be that when things come forward in evidence before a committee, as has been suggested by the honourable member for Wills and others in this debate, the evidence may not have been quite as extensive or even as truthful as it might have been. But let us not quietly sit here and forget that the reason that the evidence may not have been put fully could well have lain at the feet of the Committee itself. I suggest to members who have spoken in this debate and particularly to the honourable member for Wills who performed the Herculean task of reading 1 100 pages in evidence- I can assure him that I did not- that it could well be that the fault lay not with departmental people or with ministerial staff or with ministers or whoever, but it could well have been that the Committee itself at that time was careless in its investigation. I put it to members of this House that perhaps some consideration should be given to this aspect of the work of committees arising from this place. Perhaps it is that with no publicity and with no debate in this place- and God knows I think I have presented as many Public Accounts Committee reports as any chairman in this place and -
– I am here.
– I am delighted to hear that the honourable member for Swan is here. But I suppose that it is fair to say that this is the largest audience we have had to hear anything relating to the Public Accounts Committee in the last 10 years.
– You presented the reports very well.
– I am pleased to hear the honourable member for Corio say that I presented the reports very well.
– It was after question time before anyone could get out of the chamber.
– Of course it was done superbly. But the point is serious. The serious point is this: If we have moved into a new era of asking that members of this place appear before committees appointed by this place, then we must ensure that those affected by the findings of such committees which have had our peers as witnesses must have the political right to total answer in this House. If this report has brought forward nothing more than this it has been successful. If it has damaged the reputation of the honourable member for Wills- which I believe on a total reading of the report it has not- he as a parliamentarian should take some satisfaction from the fact that he has achieved something new in the administration of this country and in the involvement of this Parliament in the finances of this country.
I do not want to speak at great length. However, I point out- I think I owe it to my friend the honourable member for Wills, and I am sure the Chairman will forgive me if I disclose one of the confidences of the Committee- that I was the person who raised the right and the need for the honourable member for Wills to be given full rights of reply both here and to the Committee. I do not agree with my colleague the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) that there was no way by which fresh evidence could be taken. As I recall the meetings, we decided, as a committee, that as this thing had drawn on for 3 interminable years, into its third Public Accounts Committee, no purpose was served in reexamining witnesses. To have started this again at that time would have meant a further 3 years of total agony. I do not wish to anticipate what may happen politically. Who knows, in those 3 years there may have been 3 more Public Accounts
Committees. I hope not. No committee of this Parliament could have tried harder, could have agonised more, could have sought to give a member of this place, namely, the honourable member for Wills, as fair a hearing as was possible under the completely unusual circumstances facing the Committee.
I hope that the future role of the Public Accounts Committee will be clearly established by this Parliament in the very near future. The Committee is looking into this aspect now. It will take a long time, I believe, to come to a meaningful conclusion. If the honourable member for Wills, by his involvement in the whole subject, has alerted people from both sides of this Parliament to the need for this Parliament to be involved in its committee, we have made great progress. I do not know whether we should move into the British system whereby departmental heads remain as the responsible auditing officers or whether we should move into the British system whereby the Public Accounts Committee uses the full facilities of the Auditor-General’s Department. I sincerely hope that we move into the British habit of having at least one annual full debate on the work of the Public Accounts Committee. I pay tribute to Gordon Bryant for his continuing concern and interest in the Aboriginals of this country.
Mr SCHOLES (Corio)-Mr Deputy Speaker, there was a point in my speech which obviously was misunderstood.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misquoted or misunderstood?
-Misunderstood. In my remarks about the Auditor-General I said that if it were possible, as it was, for remarks under the existing procedures to be damaging to an honourable member it may be that those procedures should be altered. The AuditorGeneral ‘s report is a document of record which is not subject to subsequent alteration. I cast no aspersions on the Auditor-General’s procedures which are set out in part of the report.
-The diligence, integrity and resourcefulness of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts is, in my view, effectively exhibited by the report which is being debated by the House at present. I pay tribute to all members of the Committee who pursued in such a conscientious way this marathon event to its conclusion. It is the duty, among others, of the Public Accounts Committee to examine each statement transmitted to Parliament by the Auditor-General. In the AuditorGeneral’s supplementary report for 1972-73 reference was made to ‘deficiencies in the financial and administrative control over the receipts and expenditure of public moneys by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs’. On 5 March 1974 the Auditor-General’s special report upon the Department was tabled in Parliament. It contained very strong criticism of the Minister and, to some degree, of the Department itself. The Ninth Committee thereupon launched its inquiry. Submissions were called. The extensive nature of the inquiry can be gauged from the very great response from witnesses. Fourteen officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs gave evidence to substantiate the view, I suppose, of that Department. The Treasury representatives were there in formal capacities. The Public Service Board had no fewer than 3 senior officers there. Such interests as Applied Ecology Pty Ltd and the Australian National University were represented.
There were 2 days of public hearings, on 8 and 9 April 1974. That was the start of this great marathon. Then there was the double dissolution on 10 April 1974. So the thing went into limbo for a while. On 16 July 1974 the Tenth Committee was constituted and the inquiry continued. There were a further 9 days of public hearings. Then there was the double dissolution of 1 1 November 1975. On 3 and 4 March 1 976, after a considerable delay, the Eleventh Committee was constituted. On 4 December 1974, I think, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) moved into the act after so much had been said and written about him. He wrote to the chairman and indicated that he would like to put his point of view. He appeared before the Committee on 6 December 1974. As the Chairman said, he made history in doing so. Every report of the AuditorGeneral is in respect of some Minister. For the first time a ministerial head appeared before the Committee to put his own point of view, after 26 witnesses, I think, had put their points of view.
Like the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) and other honourable gentlemen, tonight I am speaking in a spirit of reconciliation because I believe that this report is about 2 men- the honourable member for Wills and Mr Dexterwho, by their actions over a long period, have demonstrated their sincerity about Aboriginal affairs. As the honourable member for Cook said, for the best part of 20 years I have had some associaton with Aboriginal affairs. I regard the honourable member for Wills as something like the father of Aboriginal activists in this Parliament, along with the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I would not disparage him in any way in this context. In evidence to the Committee the then Permanent Head and senior officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs cast very serious aspersions on him. For the most part, as events turned out, they were without substantiation.
In part of the evidence presented the Permanent Head stated, and was given wide Press coverage as stating, that the Minister and his staff attempted to instruct the Permanent Head and pre-empt his responsibility. He was reported as saying:
I am not prepared to lead the Department which I do not control: therefore I stood my ground.
This was the comment made by Mr Dexter. This raises the very serious matter which this Parliament should examine closely as it is a matter of great importance for the future administration of the Public Service and the role and responsibilities of Ministers.
Just let us look at the question of the relationship between Ministers and Permanent Heads of departments because that is the essence of the whole debate. Although there is some vagueness regarding the relationship between the Minister and Permanent Head it is generally accepted that section 64 of the Constitution, under which Ministers administer departments, is subject to limitation only by the specific granting of powers under Acts of this Parliament directly to the Permanent Head or the Public Service Board and its delegates. In particular section 25 (2) of the Public Service Act must be read as subject to the Minister’s responsibilities under section 64. This view was expressed in 1944 in an opinion of the then Attorney-General and former High Court Justice, Dr Evatt, when he stated that section 25 (2)- a section under which Permanent Heads derive their responsibilitiesmust be read subject to fundamental and overriding principles that the constitutional head of a department of the executive government of the Commonwealth is the Minister of State. This view was confirmed by the Coombs royal commission after extensive review.
In addition, Mr Robert Parker, the recognised Australian expert on public administration wrote in 1960 that ‘at any level the Minister has the right and in constitutional theory the duty to know of impending decisions and actions and to have the last word in determining them’. He added that ‘public servants are in law mere extensions of the Minister’s own personality’. I will admit that this is a mind boggling concept. It is a unique challenge to any Permanent Head because the honourable member for Wills is one of the great personalities of the Parliament. He is one of the intrepid characters in this Parliament. But that, nevertheless, is the onus and responsibility so far as Permanent Heads are concerned.
Two other matters of grave concern relate to the role of the Auditor-General in this matter and the role and operation of the PublicAccounts Committee. First, I refer to the Auditor-General. As honourable members are aware the Auditor-General is a statutory officer whose obligation it is to report directly to the Governor-General and the Parliament on financial operations of departments of state. His reports and, in particular, any criticisms contained therein, are given wide Press coverage and of course, are privileged documents. However, one must cast very serious doubts on the investigative and reporting aspects of his report on the operation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which forms the basis of this report by the Public Accounts Committee. In his report the Auditor-General, formerly an officer of the Department of the Treasury concerned with the financial oversight of the former Office of Aboriginal Affairs expenditure, reported without comment the departmental claims that the noncompliance with established financial procedures was the result of ‘the Department becoming aware of ministerial decisions involving expenditure only when the accounts for the expenditure concerned were received by the Department’.
In later evidence to the Committee, the Permanent Head of the Department retracted and apologised to the former Minister for this Department’s previous comments, which the Auditor-General had accepted. However, the honourable member for Wills was not exonerated publicly by the Auditor-General nor were the retractions of the Department given his official imprimateur and the subsequent Press coverage. This should be a matter of grave concern for all honourable members as the powers of the Auditor-General, particularly those expressed in sections 13 and 42 of the Audit Act, give him almost unlimited powers to require persons and documents to be provided for his examination.
Similarly, the operation of the Public Accounts Committee itself must be challenged. When Mr Dexter and other senior officers of the Department gave evidence which reflected on the former Minister and his staff, their statements received wide Press coverage, yet it was only through the former Minister’s own diligence that he was afforded an opportunity to rebut the Department’s evidence. Of course his rebuttal appears to have been substantially accepted. But what has happened in the meantime? May I just mention cursorily some headlines of a defamatory and damaging nature which appeared in respect of the former Minister. A headline in the Melbourne Age states: ‘Bryant left me in mire: dept. head’. A headline in the West-Australian stated: ‘Aboriginal Department shortcomings due to Bryant’. Another Age headline stated: Bryant acted illegally, PS chief says’. A further Age headline stated: ‘Bryant in row on black cash’. That article carried the sub-heading: ‘Department places blame on Minister’. Another West-Australian headline stated: ‘Committee told of “illegal” act’. The article under the headline stated:
The article reports that this was said by the First Assistant Secretary of the Department. Another headline which appeared in the Australian stated: ‘ “Ignored normal rule” in grants to Aboriginals’. The article under that headline stated:
The Permanent Head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr B. Dexter, yesterday blamed a former minister, Mr Bryant, for irregularities in financial administration.
A headline in the Canberra Times stated: ‘Departmental head accuses Minister’. Another headline was: ‘Dexter in attack on Bryant’. So it goes on. Another was: ‘Department “left to flounder” ‘. Another was: ‘Aboriginal Department shortcomings due to Bryant’. Yet another was: ‘Bryant acted illegally PS chief says’. There are pages and pages of such headlines.
We all know what the essence of the case is as put by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. Mr Bryant now stands as being indicted, as with Mr Dexter, as I think lacking some liaison capacity, with not exercising sufficient contact, one with the other. There is some mutuality in the charges here. I suppose that Mr Bryant’s style of administration is another reference which is made in an indictable way.
In the minute or two left to me I want to say thank heavens there was such a style of administration that represented intrepidness, initiative and enterprise in the great desire to get something done in the area of Aboriginal affairs after 23 years of neglect and indifference. When I look at the period that the honourable member for Wills was the Minister-from 19 December 1972 until 9 October 1973-1 see that he was confronted with an enormous job. He had 975 officers. This was a lot of people. Clerks were transferred en masse from the Department of the Northern Territory and other departments. There were people from the Canberra bureaucracy. One would not have to be an expert to recognise easily that they were people who in many respects lacked the balanced team characteristic that was needed to get out in the field and tackle this job.
Just let me mention some of the things that happened in that short period in which the honourable member for Wills was in office. The Aboriginal Land Rights Commission was established. Mr Justice Woodward was appointed. The National Aboriginal Consultative Council was established. Then, of course, Aboriginal Hostels Limited was formed and 10 hostels were purchased and five were leased. There were initiatives in Aboriginal housing. Large amounts of money were allocated to the States and housing associations were formed. Aboriginal medical services were established in many parts of Australia as were Aboriginal legal services. There were great initiatives in education. So I think we can say thank heavens for the unusual style of administration of a former minister who has been much maligned but who in fact has contributed more to the wellbeing of the Aboriginal people than probably anybody else in the history of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
The purpose of this Bill is to repeal legislation enacted in 1964 to create the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. As honourable members know, a new professional research body is being created which will be responsible for coordinated research and advice to the Government on all aspects of the transport sector. This body will result from the amalgamation of the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. It will carry on the existing functions of both bodies but be more broadly based and capable of initiating additional and more comprehensive investigations. The new body to be known as the Bureau of Transport Economics will be more effective, we believe, in undertaking and co-ordinating this related work than the present two separate organisations.
In deciding to amalgamate the 2 bureaux, the Government has taken into account the changes that have occurred in the transport sector of this country in recent years and the background of the 2 bureaux themselves. The decision has not been taken lightly. There is growing world wide concern, shared by the Government at the enormous and increasing costs of transport. There is an urgent need to reduce those costs. To achieve this we need to employ the most efficient transport mode, or combination of modes, for each particular transport task in the most efficient way. There is a definite need to coordinate transport activities if the gains accruing from technological advances in industry are not to be eroded by the increasing costs of transport. As honourable members will be only too well aware, the cost of transport in a country as large and as isolated as ours is important to the welfare of the nation. As Australians, we must be prepared to use every opportunity to reduce transport costs while at the same time to improve our transport system.
The Australian transport industry has not only expanded rapidly over the past few decades, but has undergone almost revolutionary changes in technology and organisation. It is incumbent on us as a nation to adapt to and to profit from those changes; to encourage further innovation; to maintain and improve the efficiency of the industry. We must always be ready and prepared to restructure our institutions in order to meet best our rapidly and continuously changing transport industry scene. Policy decisions in regard to one transport mode must take into account the implications for other modes. We should not invest huge sums in one particular transport area without first ensuring that the investment is soundly based and is meeting the requirements of the community. In this regard it is instructive to consider the enormous increase in the level of Commonwealth funds provided to the States for road construction, maintenance and associated purposes since the first Commonwealth assistance grants to the States for roads in 1 922-23. In that year a sum of $500,000 was provided. Next year, 1977-78, a total of $475m will be provided to the States for this purpose.
Until the end of the 1950s, the actual needs for road works in the various States were not, in general, subject to any comprehensive analysis. Similarly, needs were not specifically considered when the total allocation of Commonwealth funds to the States was arrived at each year. By the late 1950s, with the great changes taking place in road transport, and the increasing level of roads expenditure, it became apparent that the methods of allocation were not satisfactory. There had in fact developed a need for an expert body to investigate and advise the Government on matters relating to roads and road finance. To cater for this need the Government established the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in 1964. The Bureau’s main function was, and I quote from section 14 (a) of the Bureau of Roads Act 1964:
To investigate and from time to time report to the Minister on matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connection with roads or road transport.
The Bureau was formed and constituted in February 1966 but did not become fully operational until 1967. By the beginning of 1969, however, the Bureau had reported to the then Minister detailing the road works it found to be warranted, the availability of resources to carry out those works and a resultant roads program. The Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1969 was based on those recommendations. Since its first report the Bureau has produced two further major reports on roads in Australia. The present structure of Acts providing assistance for roads is largely based upon those reports. The Acts constitute a radical departure from the previous Commonwealth Aid Roads Acts.
The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads has of course made a number of other important contributions to research in the transport field. It has been a leader and innovator in the fields of transport data collection and of analytical and evaluation procedures. It has developed and adapted these techniques to total systems of public works rather than the project approach which unfortunately is still predominant in many other public works areas. The Bureau’s aim and achievement has been to provide a framework for evaluation of the medium to long-term outlook for road transport. It has been a leader in seeking and gaining public participation in the evaluation of programs. With such impressive achievements, the decision to change the operations of the Bureau has obviously not been taken without very deep and careful consideration by the Government.
The other part of the new Bureau of Transport Economics arose out of the growing complexity of intermodal operations and the increasing importance of the transport sectors as a whole during the 1 960s. It became apparent that the Government required expert advice on all facets of transporting people, freight and raw materials and not just road transport. To provide that advice the Bureau of Transport Economics was created in 1971.
The BTE, like the Bureau of Roads, is a professional research body with staff drawn from a number of disciplines. It provides expertise on all aspects of the Australian transport sector. Its organisation is different from that of the Bureau of Roads only in that it is attached to the Department of Transport. It is important to realise however that the BTE has similar autonomy to the Bureau of Roads. For instance, the Director has direct access to me as Minister for Transport on all matters relating to the Bureau’s work. There is a considerable misunderstanding in the minds of some people who think that the BTE is a division within the Department of Transport and is thus subject to direct influence by the Department. It is true that the BTE receives administrative support from the Department of Transport. This allows for considerable cost savings but does not put the Department in a position where it is able to alter the professional advice the BTE gives. The BTE has no less and no more independence in this regard than the Bureau of Roads. The independence of the BTE’s advice and its Director’s free access to me as Minister are established facts. There will certainly be no erosion of these rights as a result of amalgamation. The new body will act as independently in undertaking research and supplying advice as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the BTE have in the past.
The principal role of the BTE has been to provide expert advice to assist the Government in formulating policy for the Transport area. Its advice has been related to the reduction of transport costs, the improvement of transport efficiency, the co-ordination of transport systems and the rationalisation of planning for future transport facilities. The BTE has carried out a large number of diverse studies of airports, harbours, railway and public transport systems and inter-regional transport flows. Its studies have covered a much wider field than that of the Bureau of Roads. I stress the important point however that those studies have inevitably involved assessments related to roads and road transport. There has been a necessary and inevitable transgression by the BTE into the Bureau of Roads field.
In its shorter life span, the BTE, like the Bureau of Roads, has attained an impressive record of professional achievement. It has been accepted both in Australia and overseas as a highly competent research organisation in the transport field. More importantly, neither the integrity nor independence of its operation has ever been challenged.
As I have already said, the Government gave very deep and detailed consideration to the ways in which the effectiveness of these 2 Bureaus might be further improved in order to meet changing industry developments and demands. For instance the Government sought and received advice from a number of sources including the staff of the 2 Bureaus before making its decision. Having regard to the nature of the work required to be undertaken, the related skills of the 2 staffs and the general scarcity of those skills and the high administrative cost of maintaining separate bodies, the Government concluded that the resources of the 2 Bureaus should be amalgamated to form a strong integrated transport research body. The benefits to be gained from amalgamating the 2 Bureaus are clear. The staffs of each Bureau will be able to gain a greater insight into the problems of the other, an insight and an understanding that is essential for the effective handling of transport problems and their optimal solution. The new BTE will enable the full weight of total available expertise to be brought to bear on specific, complex and vital transport problems areas. Scarce professional resources can be employed to the greatest advantage possible and considerable administrative savings can be achieved.
In considering the question of an appropriate title for the new research body it was decided that, in view of the nature of the work to be undertaken, the title ‘Bureau of Transport Economies’, should be adopted. I make it quite clear, however, that such a naming does not imply that the amalgamation consists of absorption of one Bureau by the other, or that the functions of the Bureau of Roads will cease to exist. The reverse is the case. The new body will continue the present functions of both the present Bureaus. Its primary function will be to assist and advise the Government. Its duties will in part be to:
Undertake evaluations of the Australian road situation as presently done by the Bureau of Roads. These will continue to be done, as in the past, by consultation in the broadest sense with State and local government authorites. It includes conducting investigations and reporting to the Minister on the matter of the need for financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
Advise and assist the Government in its consideration of financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
Advise and assist in the formulation of policies aimed at the reduction of transport costs.
Undertake research and advise on the improvement of transport efficiency.
Advise and assist on the rationalised planning of transport facilities.
Advise on the optimal allocation of resources in the transport field.
Assess and advise on transport planning and administration procedures.
A secondary function of the new BTE will be to assist State and local governments, Commonwealth and State instrumentalities and the private sector to identify and solve transport problems and to plan developments with regard to transport. To achieve these functions it is clear that the new Bureau of Transport Economics will need to engage in a wide range of activities. These activities will include:
The assessment of the performance of transport systems and equipment.
Carrying out feasibility studies.
Carrying out studies of resource use and availability.
Carrying out studies of pricing and finance.
The evaluation of proposed investments.
Such a work program will, of necessity, involve considerable research activity. It will also involve a heavy task of data collection, collation and dissemination and close liaison with other related organisations.
In addition to these activities, the new Bureau of Transport Economics will further develop the educational role of the old BTE by publishing papers and reports and conducting conferences and seminar courses. Such activities will ensure that the transport industry and persons working in associated fields are kept advised of all available information; that the greatest overall benefit will be obtained from the work of the new Bureau. As I have already said the new BTE will act independently of the Department of Transport in research activities and in giving advice to the Government. I repeat its Director will continue to have free access to me as Minister for Transport. That is the Government’s clear policy and direction on this matter. In addition the reports of the Bureau will continue to be made public to the same extent and in the same way as they are now.
There will be no restriction by the Department of Transport or any other Commonwealth department on the work or advices of the Bureau. Its offices will be as freely available to State, local governments, private enterprises and individuals as at present. There has been a degree of concern expressed at the Government’s action in amalgamating the 2 Bureaus. This is quite understandable given the success the Bureaus have both enjoyed in undertaking their respective duties. I repeat, however, that those same duties will continue to be undertaken, but we believe to an even greater degree of success. The Government is confident that practice will show the new Bureau providing an even better service to governments at all levels and industry than the separate Bureaus have in the past.
The purpose of this Bill is to repeal the 1 964 legislation which created the Bureau of Roads and I particularly draw honourable members’ attention to the fact that in conformity with the Government’s policies the rights of officers and employees of the Bureau will be safeguarded. I am sure that members of the Bureau of Roads who transfer to the new Bureau of Transport Economics will quickly appreciate the greater career opportunities available to them. There have been suggestions that the new BTE should be established by an Act of Parliament, that its powers, duties and procedures should be set out in legislation. The Government has given careful consideration to this question and has reached the firm conclusion that legislation is not required. The present BTE is not established by legislation but is attached to the Department of Transport. As I have already said, no one has ever questioned the integrity or the independence of the BTE. It has always operated with the same degree of autonomy that the Bureau of Roads has enjoyed. The new BTE will be able to react to changing circumstances. It will be able to move with the times rather than be rigidly controlled through legislation.
I want to pay a tribute to the staff and members of the Bureau of Roads for the invaluable contribution they have tendered to this and previous Governments. In particular, I wish to express our appreciation of the services rendered by Mr Harold Loxton, who has been Chairman of the Bureau since its inception and who continued past his date of retirement in order to assist with the amalgamation of the 2 Bureaus. Mr Loxton guided the Bureau to its present position of high regard by the transport sector and the community in general and the Government commends him for his dedication and successes as Chairman. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by MrMcLeay:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Defence Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977 is one of the more important achievements in the career of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) as a member of the Fraser Government. I would like to commend him for the signal achievement that it represents. It is probably more important than the other things which he has been able to present to the Parliament. He has not had many opportunities to present either statements or legislation to the Parliament. However, it is obvious from his comments that he regards this as a most important piece of legislation. Whilst the significance of the legislation may escape the attention of many members of the Opposition, nonetheless I am sure that because of their warm regard for the Minister they will encourage him in his enthusiasm. The Opposition endorses the legislation and has nothing more to say on it.
– I rise to support this Bill. I must say that I was surprised by the sarcastic comments of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) which ill become him. This is not an important measure. He knows it. He was trying to make political capital out of it. It must be one of the running shots in the current leadership battle which the Opposition is having.
– It is doomed to failure.
-I will not be taking a bet on it. This is a simple Bill. It removes an unnecessary requirement under the Defence Act that collectors of defence decorations obtain permission for that purpose. It is an unnecessary restriction and I am glad to see that it has been removed. However, I am sure all honourable members would agree that there must be some controls on the use of Service decorations, particularly the need to ensure that they are treated with respect. I am delighted to see that this has been taken into account. Accordingly, it will remain an offence for a person to wear a Service decoration, to falsely represent himself as a person entitled to wear such a decoration or to deface or destroy such a decoration. Of course there must be some changes to the present Bill and the Government recognises that fact. I am glad to see that some use of Service decorations is legitimate and that approval is given for them to be worn for dramatic purposes. I am glad to see this because many times throughout my Service career I loaned parts of my uniform, perhaps illegally, to members of dramatic societies for this purpose.
– Were they returned?
-I always got them back again. The honourable member is being facetious. I am also pleased to see that the Government has decided to retain a provision allowing a member of a family of the person on whom a Service decoration has been conferred to wear the decoration, provided, of course, that that person does not represent himself or herself as the person on whom the decoration has been conferred. Honourable members who have attended Anzac Day marches will know how proudly so many wives, widows, mothers and children of servicemen wear their decorations. I believe this Bill represents a proper balance between the need to encourage collectors of Service decorations who are contributing to the conservation of Australia’s military heritage and the need to protect Service decorations, whether or not they are in the hands of collectors, from any form of misuse. I support the Bill.
-in reply- Very briefly, I thank the honourable gentleman for his contribution to this debate. I feel that it is necessary to inform the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) at least that sarcasm in these circumstances is not appropriate. Obviously his mind is on other matters. I note that he feels so strongly about this issue that he has left the chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr McLeay) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 March, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Bill, which the House is debating in continuation of last night’s debate, is the sixth substantive Bill for funds from this Parliament to the Asian Development Bank, which, as honourable members know, was set up in 1966. Since then, of course, that Bank has added a great deal to that area which is so important to Australia, the area of Asia and in particular South East Asia. In this Bill Australia is contributing or will be contributing approximately $34m originally with a total commitment of $346m, all of which is conditional on a total contribution from other members of the Bank of $2.9 billion. Australia’s subscriptions to date in the previous 5 Bills have been rather difficult for many people to understand, as I discovered when I looked at the contributions Australia has made and the contributions that it is due to make. I thought it might be of interest to put on record some of the facts about Australia’s contributions because they are rather confusing. I think many sectors of the Australian public would probably like to know more about this matter.
There are 3 basic forms of contribution, as has been shown in the various Bills which have been enacted by this place. Major contributions are through the concessional lending contributions. A Bill was passed last year in this connection. Under the 1970 Act Australia committed $US10m. Under the 1974 Act the contribution was $US27m and in 1976, since the change in Government, another $US41.6m has been contributed. There is an interesting proviso in some of our contributions, that is, a value maintenance provision. This is something that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) should keep in mind, I imagine, because, as Australia’s contributions become due account is taken of currency adjustments over the period since the contribution was first approved by this Parliament. The overall commitments that I have just mentioned have a current value of approximately $US62m. Of that amount Australia has, in fact, only made payments to date of $US 11.6m, so there is an outstanding commitment, without the value maintenance provision, of approximately $US50m. At the present time this is equivalent to about $A45m. In addition to the concessional lending Australia is involved in taking up shares for ordinary lending. This is for lending by the bank at normal bank interest rates, as distinct from the concessional rates, which are, in fact, extremely concessional, in general over a 40-year period at a rate of interest of 1 per cent. Under the ordinary lending, the share subscriptions are also subject to value maintenance payments. Under the 1966 Act Australia committed $US42.5m of which $US2 1.25m was in cash and $US2 1.25m was in the form of promissory notes. In addition to that there is another $US42.5m on call, for which in total Australia has committed $US85m.
So far Australia has made 2 cash payments towards this end totalling $US3 1.45 m. These have been completed but not all the promissory notes have yet been encashed. With regard to the 1966 promissory notes $A5.6m will be encashed in this financial year and a further $A6.8m will be encashed in 1977-78. These will be the 2 final encashments of Australian promissory notes. In addition, it is envisaged that the value maintenance payment for which Australia is committed totalling $A9. 1 8m will be made in 1 977-78. This, of course, will have to be committed in that Budget although $ A3. 02 m will again be in the form of promissory notes. To summarise this mechanical money part of the contributions, Australia’s outstanding commitments- this does not take into account the present Bill- include shares at call to a value of $US144m, maintenance of value payments of $A9. 18m, outstanding promissory notes totalling $A27.1m- as I have said, these were for share subscriptions- and the contributions to the concessional lending through the Asian development fund of $A45m. In addition to this, Australia is committed to contributions to the technical assistance special fund, which is of particular interest to me because under that arrangement the work put through the Bank comes back to Australia automatically. It is not a large fund but it is important to me because the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, which is located in my electorate, benefits to some extent. The Asian Development Bank is a growing contributor to the South East Asian region.
As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said last night, Australia’s contribution to this region can only be good. In the speech he made last night and in speeches he made last year he has noted that it never seems to be enough. Honourable members will realise that Professor Myrdal has for many years been a great man in terms of the economics of undeveloped and developing countries. He pointed out quite some time ago that despite the fact that a great deal is being done and has been done by many of the great nations, such as the United States of America, towards the development of backward countries, we are still facing the position of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. That is an eternal problem, one which this Government is facing and one which this Government hopefully will be able to face even more squarely when funds from taxpayers’ pockets can flow in more liberally as the economy improves.
It has been obvious to me in past years from letters that I have received from my area which is in the country that there are people all over Australia who are tremendously concerned about the level of overseas aid we provide. Of course, the Asian Development Bank is one of the main channels through which we are able to provide funds for developing countries. Despite the fact that Australians are thought of by some people as being ocker and philistine, we are people who are concerned with the region. As I said, I certainly hope that the 0.7 per cent of gross national product, which the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) suggests as being our medium term aim in relation to overseas aid, can be met as soon as is humanly possible. Despite the fact, however, that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting relatively poorer, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, and that is so for various reasons. The increase in gross national product per head of population in *he underdeveloped countries is now running at about 3 per cent, and that is markedly different to the situation which prevailed 10 years ago. I emphasise that I am taking into account the fact that the population in those countries increases substantially each year. I am talking about the gross national product per head of population.
The Bank, as a contributor to the region, is important in terms of diplomacy. It adds to the hopes that we have towards achieving mutual co-existence in the area. It is not so many years since quite a few of the countries in South-East Asia were belligerent towards one another for one reason or another. Australia’s policy at present has been quite clearly enunciated. It was done originally by the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he was in Japan recently, and certainly it has been enunciated more clearly than it ever had been before. That policy of making trade a far more important part of foreign policy is tremendously important for us. The pattern of power in this region has shifted in the past few years from what could be described as the power of colonialism and imperialism. There is still a sense of that sort of power in some areas, such as the communist areas in South-East Asia. In general terms that pattern has shifted, however, to the point where we are all beginning to realise that we need one another, that we need to be friends because we need one another’s economies for trade and for mutual assistance.
Since 1966 the Asian Development Bank in general has been rather conservative, and I commend it for that conservatism. Its original president was a Japanese. I imagine that, in part, his appointment was an accommodation because I understand that the Japanese would have liked the headquarters of the Bank to be located in Japan. Frankly, I am very pleased that the headquarters are located in Manila. It is geographically more central and it is situated in a country which is struggling to develop. There have been 2 further Japanese presidents since the first. 1 pose the question: Why can we not have an Australian president in the near future? Australia is one of the countries that should be well considered to provide the next president of the Bank. We are the fourth largest contributor to the Bank and, after Japan, the next 2 largest contributors probably would not qualify- America, because it is well outside the region, and India because many of its contributions are in non-convertible currencies. I think that is something which the Government should look at when the presidency next becomes vacant. The Government should consider pushing forward an Australian to fill the position because it is important to us to show that we are very much part of this region and that we want to contribute not only our money but also our expertise in management.
I suppose when one looks at lists of contributions and details of lending in a body such as the Asian Development Bank one can find anomalies. I have examined these aspects in the last day or two. Despite the fact that some people have said that there are biases in one direction or another, it seems that basically because of what I imagine to be the Bank’s conservatism the deals it makes have looked pretty reasonable to those countries which most need the money. It could be alleged, I imagine, that Indonesia has had a little bit more than its fair share. Perhaps that is because the Indonesians are better negotiators than we are.
I would like to commend the Bank in relation to one matter in particular. In spite of the fact that Bangladesh has a very low gross national product per head of population- it is of the order $US1 10 per head each year- and in spite of the fact that Bangladesh has been able to contribute only 0.59 per cent of the total funds contributed to the Bank, it has received 1 1 per cent of the loans. Today happens to be Bangladesh’s national day. I think it is probably worth mentioning that it is one country which is of particular importance to us in the region, not only because we have close relationships with it but also because it is one of those countries which suffered such ravages in recent years and therefore is probably the country which needs more assistance per head of population than does just about any other country in the region.
If one were looking for other anomalies one might also note, without in any way trying to be controversial, that it would appear from the annual reports that quite high administrative costs are incurred. Perhaps that sort of expenditure can be justified in the operations of an international bank whose staff has to travel a great deal. But I also note that the average salary of the directors and alternative directors- I am not sure whether in fact the alternative directors work a full year- is just under $50,000 a year. Perhaps that is reasonable. Altogether there are 23 people holding these positions- 12 directors and 11 alternative directors.
There is another oft-stated anomaly which I probably should mention just briefly, and that is that Japan obtains about 40 per cent of the total procurement available through the Bank. I fully realise that Japan is a country which has tremendous expertise. However, I wonder why it obtains 40 per cent of the procurement while Australia receives only 2 per cent.
The Asian Development Bank provides benefits to Australia also. We must remember, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has mentioned, that the humanitarian reasons for the existence of the Bank are of prime importance. The benefits to Australia, devolve around the work that can be done by Australian construction services and by other Australian consultants. As I mentioned, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation is actively involved. It has carried out 7 projects commissioned by the Asian Development Bank and 4 other projects for clients of the Bank. In fact one project which is about to commence in April in Afghanistan involves some appraisal work for the Karma irrigation project I should mention also that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has had a little trouble with the Bank in one respect. The Corporation had carried out 75 per cent of its work completed when the war moved into Cambodia and all further work was stopped. I note that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation did not receive any payment for the work it had done.
As the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) said last night, there is still a great deal of scope for Australian private enterprise in the field of consulting work through the Bank. Australians are not known as being great public relations people in the international scene but we are known for our expertise, especially in the engineering field. It is in that direction that so much of the funds of the Asian Development Bank goes.
We are known throughout the world for many of the things that we have innovated in the field of engineering. We have carried out many projects in Australia where we have been able to teach the world how to do things. I urge all Australian consulting firms that feel that they are big enough to carry out work for the Bank to get themselves or an agent to Manila to register and to do some public relations work. We can stand up against the rest of the world when it comes to engineering expertise. Of course Australia in this sense will receive continuing benefit from the devaluation of last year. Nobody is saying that devaluation will help everybody. We know why it was done. We also know that we did not want to do it. Nevertheless, having had to do it, one of the good things is that it makes the cost of our engineering services overseas cheaper. I know that the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has already benefited from that.
Australia also benefits from the trade that some of the projects through the Bank have created. For instance, in South Korea the Pohang steelworks was largely built and extended through funds from the Bank and we have been able to export iron ore and coal to those steelworks. Perhaps most importantly the Asian Development Bank in its benefits to Australia has given us goodwill in Asia. For too many years we did not even go to Asia. But that is changing. We feel more and more these days that we are not so much part of Europe but part of Asia. I am pleased that Australia is continuing to pull its weight in the Asian Development Bank, putting more funds in, committing more to future budgets. At last we are realising our part in Asia. We are being increasingly involved through our people and through our trade. We have developed again good diplomatic relations and we have cleaned up some of the nasty parts of the Whitlam Administration in that respect in that area. I fully commend our contribution. It adds to our effort in this field. I look forward as time goes on to Australia contributing more and more because of the benefits to the area and to Australia.
– I do not intend to cover the specific details of the Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Bill but rather to make some general comments. Other speakers have gone into the Bill in some detail but I want to say something about our aid program generally and the policies that I think we might have to adopt in the near future. Few in the Parliament would not agree that Australia can afford to participate in aid schemes such as this. Even under our present economic conditions, Australia is a rich and prosperous country with an exceedingly bright future. Australia can come again. Our economy will revive, given a change of policies. I, and I would say, all members of the Australian Labor Party would not like to see any curtailment of our aid to developing countries. I am not always certain that in some of our aid programs in which we put money that our money is spent in the best manner, although we have been generally fairly careful concerning the projects and the type of aid to which we have granted money.
I feel that the Asian Development Bank is a relatively safe way of granting aid. On the first page of the second reading speech of the Minister assisting the Treasurer, the honourable Ian Viner, he said:
To the end of December 1976, the Bank had lent about SUS3.4 billion to its developing member countries for projects covering all the major sectors of economic development with emphasis on the development of infrastructure facilities in the transport and communications industry and electric power sectors as well as projects for agriculture, education, water supply and urban development.
I have been to many of these developing countries in Asia and East Asia. I always count my blessings when I come back to Australia after witnessing some of the things in these countries. My main impression in lots of these developing countries is that the population is divided into 2 classes- the rich and the poor. The rich are divided into 3 classes- the millionaires, the very rich and the richer. The poor are also divided into 3 classes- the poor, the very poor and the poverty stricken. What we are devoting our aid to for infrastructure and for general improvements in the conditions of these countries is certainly doing something to help the people in these countries from the humanitarian point of view. I feel that Australia can and should help developing countries, particularly those to our near north and in the near islands in the Pacific Ocean. In the next few years they will need our material, our technical skills, our finances and, by the year 2000 I would suggest, our markets.
I wish to quote from an article written by Dr Clive Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Australian National University. I shall not bother to paraphrase it because I think that Dr Edwards has said it succinctly and straightly. He said:
The lack of a continuous coverage of political events in Asia together with some thoughtful interpretation is serious enough. But when one considers the coverage of economic developments in Asia, one recoils in horror. There is little appreciation in Australia of major economic developments occurring in Asia and there is little desire to unravel the potential impact of these developments on Australia. Asian developments are considered to be external to the main stream of events affecting the economic future of Australia. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What then are the main economic developments in Asia which have implications for Australia?
The first point which deserves to be stressed is that, with the exception of Japan, population growth rates throughout Asia are high. In most Asian countries, the population growth rate is above 2 per cent a year. Most of these countries have experienced high population growth rates at least since 19S0. More recently, fertility has fallen in some countries, rapidly in some instances (Taiwan, the Peoples’ Republic of China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore), less rapidly in other instances (Malaysia, Thailand. Sri Lanka). But for most of the countries, population growth rates will remain around 2 per cent a year for the rest of this century. A population growing continuously by 2 per cent a year will double within 35 years. Thus Indonesia, with a population of 120m. in 1 970 growing by just over 2 per cent a year, will have a population of 240m. shortly after the year 2000. Thailand, with a population of 40m. in 1970 growing by more than 2.5 per cent a year, will have a population of 80m. around the year 2000. Most other Asian countries can expect their population to double between 1970 and 2000.
High population growth rates are a relatively recent development. Before 1945, the population of many Asian countries grew by 1 per cent or less a year. After the war, the eradication of malaria and improvements in medical health led to a sharp fall in mortality, and especially in infant mortality. Much of the population growth that occurred between 1950 and 1965 was accounted for by a sharp increase in the child population as a higher proportion of infant births survived the early days of life. Since 1965, this swollen child population began to spill into the early labour force ages. As a result, the rate of growth of the labour force jumped in most Asian countries from between 1 to 1 .5 per cent a year to between 2 and 3 per cent a year. Because fertility remains high, most Asian countries will experience labour force growth rates of between 2 and 3 per cent a year for the remainder of this century and for still longer if fertility does not fall markedly over the next decade (labour force growth rates follow fertility changes with a 1 5 to 20 year time lag).
Labour force growth rates of this order extended over a lengthy period of time are unprecedented in human history. In many of the Asian countries, the available labour force will double within the next 25 years. Table I provides estimates of the world labour force from 1950 to 1980. It highlights two points. First, Asia housed almost half (46 per cent) of the world labour force in 1970. Second, of the expected increase in the world labour force between 1970 and 1980- 200m- Asia will provide 1 12m. It is this labour force explosion, largely occurring in Asia, which has direct significance for Australia today. In the context of world resource endowments, labour is becoming relatively still more abundant in Asia.
That is the point. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the table to which I have referred.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The point that I am making is that in giving developmental aid to these countries we must also realise that increasing populations in those countries will require employment opportunities. Unless we look at the development in Asia from our own economic conditions we are going to find that we will be facing increased competition from Asia. Perhaps, unless we develop certain types of export industries, we will not be able to move into those Asian markets at the time when they are becoming available. I wish to finish my remarks on a suggestion that is often made, that is, that our aid to Papua New Guinea should not be included as part of our total aid program. I cannot accept that suggestion. Papua New Guinea has been the foster child of Australia, in the case of Papua since about 1908 and in the case of New Guinea since 1914.
– We have a moral obligation.
-We have a moral obligation to Papua New Guinea. Because we have that moral obligation we are entitled to include our aid program to Papua New Guinea towards the target for which the United Nations aims- 0.7 per cent of gross national product. At the moment I think our aid is running at about 0.5 per cent. We are entitled to include that aid to Papua New Guinea in our aid program. If our aid program needs to be cut in future years- and I cannot see why it should be- then I suggest that we should be looking at cutting our aid to other developing countries and assisting Papua New Guinea for as long as we need to assist it. I think that we will need to assist Papua New Guinea for a great number of years yet, first, for the reason that we have been Papua New Guinea’s foster parent and, secondly, because it is essential that we should have a viable and friendly neighbour in Papua New Guinea. I conclude by saying that Australia needs to review constantly its aid program from a political and economic development point of view in Asia and the other countries I have mentioned.
-The Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscriptions) Bill which is before the House this evening is, I am pleased to say, not a controversial Bill. The Opposition supports the concept of it. Of course, the Government is very pleased that it is able to assist the countries which benefit from the Asian Development Bank, by subscribing additional capital in that institution. The Bill seeks to provide additional capital to the extent of $US346.1m of which $US34.6m is to be paid up and the remainder is to be on call. The purpose of the Asian Development Bank which has its headquarters in Manila is to provide funds to promote investment and to provide technical assistance to developing countries which are members of the Asian Development Bank in an effort to foster economic growth and to co-operate in trade and development in the Asian and Pacific region. Australia has been a strong supporter and indeed an active supporter of the Asian Development Bank in the past. We believe as a Government that the Asian Development Bank is an effective and efficient means of promoting co-operation and development in the region.
Australia was a foundation member of the Bank when it was originally commenced back in 1966. Over the years it has supported the Bank’s operations consistently. In fact at the moment, Australia is the third largest donor country, in terms of subscriptions, to the Asian Development Bank, after Japan and the United States. The Bank is an efficient and effective institution. Its principal operations are in the South East Asian area and the South Pacific area and those areas are, of course, of particular interest to Australia in its overseas aid activities. It is interesting to note that statistics from the Asian Development Bank show that the loans approved last year- this is, the financial year 1975- 76- amounted to $US660m which compared with $US548m the previous year, an increase of approximately 2 1 per cent.
I was interested to see the sort of loans that the Bank was making. In the previous year they were made to 12 developing countries. The Philippines was the largest receiver of assistance from the Bank. It obtained loans to the amount of $106m. South Korea arranged loans to the amount of $10 1.5m. Pakistan received $97m; Indonesia, $78m; Thailand, $77m; Bangladesh, $51m; Malaysia, $48m; Burma, $31m; Sri Lanka, $30m; and Hong Kong, $20m. Countries such as Nepal and Western Samoa received smaller amounts. It is an interesting spread of operations for the Asian Development Bank. The loans that the Bank is providing to these countries are of great assistance to them in their national development programs. By the end of that year, the Bank had lent in all $2, 584m for 228 different projects in 2 1 of the member countries. Of that amount, $ 1 ,925m or 74 per cent was from the ordinary capital resources of the Bank and $659m or the remaining 26 per cent came from other resources.
It is again interesting to see that there is a fair amount of sense in the way in which these loans are directed. Food is obviously a major problem in that part of the world and 37 per cent of the total approved loans - an amount of $245m- went to agricultural and agricultural industry sectors in the various countries which received loans. An amount of just over 19 per cent went to other industry. Including contributions to national development banks in the member countries that amount was $ 128.5m. Public utilities received 28 per cent or 29 per cent of the loans provided- an amount of about $190m. Transportation and communications as a group received 12 per cent or $82m. Education, which was lower on the list of priorities, received about 2 per cent of the loans or about $ 14.5m. It is interesting to look at the experience of the Asian Development Bank and see what sort of projects it is supporting. I think there is general agreement in this Parliament as to the sort of priorities which the Bank is determining, such as the ones to which I have just referred.
Another interesting thing about the Bank is the role that it is playing in the reconstruction of Vietnam. A group from the Asian Development Bank visited Vietnam. It was a very well received delegation. It was the first delegation into Vietnam from the non-socialist world since the communist take-over of South Vietnam in April 1975. The delegation confirmed that the newly unified country was very anxious to receive development assistance which would help the war damaged economy to get back on its feet. Unlike a lot of other official delegations which have gone to Vietnam since the take-over, the Development Bank team was allowed to go to Saigon, which is now known as Ho Chi Minh City. It was also allowed access to the Mekong Delta area. Most other delegations have been confined to Hanoi and the northern areas of Vietnam. According to the report received after that delegation’s visit, it was given access to whatever it wanted to see.
The Development Bank had 9 projects under way in what was South Vietnam at the time that Saigon fell to the communists in 1975. There was $40m of loan commitments involved, the majority of which was at concessional terms from the special fund of the Bank. Only $5m had been handed over at the time that the regime began to collapse and the communists siezed control. Last year the new Vietnamese administration renewed its membership of the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Since that time it has indicated that it has a significant interest in gaining assistance from the outside world- from organisations such as the Asian Development Bank- to reconstruct the economy. Obviously there is a lot of reconstruction to do after the damage of the last decade or so.
The National Country Party is very pleased to be associated with this Bill. We think it is another significant step in the Government’s foreign aid and financial assistance to other countries. We believe that it is a proper way to give foreign aid in that we do not necessarily define the directions that the investment takes. We are prepared to entrust to an effective organisation such as the Asian Development Bank the decisions as to exactly who will receive funds, what sort of projects will be supported and so on. On behalf of the National Country Party, I offer our full support for this Bill. I am very pleased that the Australian Labor Party is able to support this legislation. I wish it a speedy passage. I hope it will not be too many months before the funds which Australia is providing as a result of this Bill will find their way into useful projects in those countries in South East Asia which will benefit from those funds.
-The Opposition supports this Bill, although I think I would be expressing the attitude of most members of the Opposition if I were to say that there is a feeling that Australia could still do a great deal more in regard to overseas aid to developing countries. We have a commitment which could only be called a philosophical commitment- a commitment that is based on hard facts. We believe that the more we assist those countries to overcome their very great problems of development, the better it will be for Australia in the long-term. We believe that it is good insurance for Australia to assist these countries to obtain a far greater understanding between nations than previously existed, particularly between Australia and its Asian friends to the North. We support this measure as a measure which moves in that direction.
Before dealing with the actual Bill, I quote one passage from the Asian Development Bank’s annual report of 1 975. It states:
The various means discussed above would help mitigate short-term balance of payments problems. In the longer term, the solution to the growing trade deficits on the DMCs lies in the expansion of exports to meet their import requirements -
The DMCs are the developing member countries. The report continues: which warrants higher production in the DMCs on the one hand and access to markets of the developed countries at equitable prices on the other. An important achievement in 1975 was the practical recognition given by both the industrialised and the developing countries to their interdependence and also their general understanding on measures that place greater reliance on trade as a vehicle of growth. Various schemes were under consideration in international forums to increase the exports of the developing countries.
I think this is the important thing:
These included stabilisation of prices through various international commodity agreements, creation of buffer stocks, and removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to exports from developing countries. Also, a proposal was made to create a new development security facility in the IMF, with substantial resources, to stabilise export earnings of developing countries.
I think the important thing to remember is that when this report was brought down there was a $12 billion deficit in the balance of payment of the DMCs. Over a 10-year period the Bank will provide only $3.4 billion.
– It is a pretty big gap.
– As the honourable member for Banks said, it is a pretty big gap indeed. As the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) said earlier tonight, at present Australia is providing about 0.5 per cent- a very small amount indeed- of the gross domestic product. I believe that we should be at least moving into the area of providing about 1 Vt per cent of GDP. One has only to visit various countries to see the great need for this. For example, I was in Indonesia in the middle of last year. I will not canvass various other issues in respect of the relations between Indonesia and Australia at present. I do not think this Bill provides the opportunity to canvass them. I came back shocked by 2 things- the health standards and the lack of assistance that we are giving to overcome the very great problems so far as those health standards are concerned. I was equally shocked by the great extremes of rich and poor.
– Complete poverty.
– Complete and utter poverty on the one hand, and very great wealth on the other.
– There are 2 extremes.
– As the honourable member for Hughes said, there are 2 extremes. I was deeply concerned at the population situation. I think the honourable member for Lang said that the population was something like 120 million in 1970. Last year the population institute at Jakarta was quoting to me a figure in the region of 130 million to 135 million at present. It could not see zero population growth coming to that country until well after the year 2000, on the most optimistic estimates. By that time we will be talking about something in the vicinity of 200 million people. We should consider this population increase in the context of the great problems that still exist in this region- problems such as the various tropical diseases, tuberculosis, blindness brought about by the lack of vitamin B in diets and so forth.
The Indonesian Minister for Health pointed out that the health authorities have only one coaster- that is a small boat or ship capable of carrying about 3 people. This vessel is used to take a bare foot doctor and a sister from island to island in order to bring modern medicine to the people of those many many Indonesian islands. When I talked to the Minister about what type of aid Australia could give, he said: ‘Give me more coasters; we only have one for all these islands ‘. He maintained that that was the greatest need that his country has at the present time if the deplorable health standards of Indonesia are to be improved.
I have seen the health standards of other countries, as no doubt have other honourable members. But Indonesia brought in its first bare foot doctors only 2 years ago. Papua New Guinea has had this type of health service for many years. This practice operated in the days of the Australian Administration in that country. The standards of health care in China are far better than the standards in Indonesia. China has largely overcome the major problems of malaria, tuberculosis and so on. Venereal disease is rife in Indonesia.
– It was once rife in China.
– Yes, it was rife in China at one stage, but that is not so today. The Chinese have done a very good job in respect of this disease. One person- I will not give his name because sometimes the Indonesian authorities do not appreciate people putting different viewsmade the point very clearly to me that Indonesia did not want aid for defence, for arms or for aeroplanes but it needed aid to improve the health standards of its people. I think there is a lesson to be learned here- where there is a balance of payments deficit of $12 billion. Yet- I am not denigrating the Bill- we are to give only $3.4 billion over a period of 10 years. This contribution really makes one wonder what we are doing because it is only a flea bite compared with what ought to be done. Despite our standard of living and our health standards, which are the envy of other countries, we are still giving only 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product. I believe that 1.25 per cent of GDP would hardly be noticed. Such a level of assistance would make a tremendous impact upon the living conditions, the health and the future expectations of the people who live to the north of us. Also, it would be a very good insurance policy for Australia against the future. Whether we like it or not Australia will be the subject of great resentment and other countries will finally demand that we be a little more generous in our attitude towards assistance, particularly in the areas of health and of developing industry.
– We would benefit if we lifted their purchasing power.
– The honourable member for Hughes makes a very good point. It is common sense to argue that there will be a greater demand for our products if the standard of living of these countries is increased. If this were to happen the terms of trade between ourselves and these countries would be very greatly expanded. I have outlined the reasons for our support of the Bill. We support it knowing that it goes a little of the way towards achieving the objectives of the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party. But we make the point that a great deal more has to be done. We cannot allow the degradation and despair which exists in many of the countries that surround us to continue in the belief that finally this will not have an impact upon Australia. We have the resources, we have the living standards and we have the facilities to do something about the problems faced by other countries. We should be prepared to move out and to give assistance to all the other countries which need help so greatly.
– Is it any wonder that they turn to communism. We will not help them.
– The honourable member for Banks made the point that it is no wonder that so many of these countries are turning to communism.
– The honourable member for Banks is always here.
– That is a very good point. The honourable members for Banks, Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) are in this place far more regularly than most honourable members. The honourable member for Banks made a good interjection, namely, is it any wonder that countries with these conditions turn to communism. That is something to which any thoughtful person would have to give credence and great thought. Unless we help these countries their future will be very bleak.
I was pleased to see in the Minister’s second reading speech that Australia’s present subscription of $US256m, of which $US82m is paid in and the balance on call, is exceeded only by the subscriptions of the U.S.A., Japan and India. I am glad to see that Australia is far ahead of many other countries, but so it should be. The honourable member for Lang made a good point when he said that we should exclude from our figures for overseas aid subscriptions which we make to Papua New Guinea. After all, Papua New Guinea is almost morally part of Australia. It is our moral responsibility. We owe a great deal to that country for what it has done for us in years past. Unfortunately many Australians have reaped a great deal from that country- far more than should ever have been allowed. For that reason we have a moral responsibility to assist Papua New Guinea. As I have said, our assistance to that country should be something quite apart from our subscriptions in overseas aid. In other words, our assistance to Papua New Guinea should be something quite separate. I believe we should then go on to build up our overseas aid to at least 1 V> per cent of gross domestic product. We support the Bill. We are pleased that it involves an increase of $346. lm in the capital subscriptions to the Asian Development Bank, of which $34.6m is to be paid in and the remainder is to be at call. Finally, I impress upon the House that $34m is very small compared with the great development needs of all of the member countries concerned.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Bill. It is a fairly technical piece of legislation and one that is not likely to stir the emotions either of this House or of the nation. But it does provide us with the opportunity to outline briefly the rationale and the functions of the Asian Development Bank and the reasons for and the extent of Australia’s participation in the past, at the moment and in the future in the activities of this Bank. As all honourable members know, the Asian Development Bank is an international development finance institution which is owned by its member governments, of which we are one. It was established mainly for the purpose of lending funds and providing technical assistance to developing member countries in the region of Asia and the Far East, including the South Pacific, and for promoting investment and generally fostering economic growth in the region.
The Bank’s lending program has been directed towards increasing the productivity potential of all developing member countries. Between 1968 and 1975, 35 per cent of loan approvals went to public utilities, 23 per cent to agriculture and agro-industry, 22 per cent to industry, and 1 9 per cent to transport and communications. So there has been a heavy emphasis on infrastructure development. This kind of investment activity is totally in line with the comments of the head of the World Bank- the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development- Mr McNamara, who stated:
Policies aimed at diminishing income inequalities through direct redistribution of wealth will not be sufficient to end indigence- what is required are policies that will enhance the productivity of the poor.
There is no question that the Bank’s activities have been directed to this end. For that reason, Australia has historically been an active supporter of the Asian Development Bank, and it has provided a useful agency through which we can engage fully in regional co-operation and development. I am therefore pleased that Australia agreed to support the resolution to increase by 135 per cent the authorised and subscribed capital of the Bank, a resolution which was recommended by the board of directors in view of the Bank’s projected lending program for the period 1976 to 1981. It has been noted that member countries are not obliged to subscribe to the authorised increase; they are merely entitled to. But in view of the function of the Bank, our place in the region, and the important role the Bank plays in our overall aid program, I am pleased that the Government has agreed to take up its entitlement.
There is no question that the developed countries of the region must play a role in the activities of the Bank I say this because the developing member countries of the Bank account for onethird of the world’s population, they have the highest rates of population growth and the lowest per capita incomes- not to mention their low health, housing and other social conditions. It is for this reason, that the developed countries of the world have an obligation to help those who live in these deprived circumstances. I would therefore point out to those who would question the way Australia quite regularly increases its subscription to the Bank, that the Asian Development Bank is not just supported by the developing countries of the region, or by the developed countries of the area such as Australia, Japan and New Zealand, but it is also supported by developed nations throughout the world including the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, the Scandinavian countries, France, Denmark and many other industrialised nations. So, it is not just an Asian development bank; it is a world bank so far as its membership is concerned, although of course the funds are solely utilised in this region.
I am pleased to say that in terms of the statement of subscriptions to the capital stock of the Bank, as reported in the Bank’s annual report for the year to 31 December 1975, Australia stands out as a major contributor to the ordinary capital resources of the Asian Development Bank. Of the 27 regional members of the Bank only Japan and India contribute more than Australia, and of the 14 non-regional members- all industralised nations- only the United States makes a higher contribution than Australia. If this comparison was made on a per capita basis, I would suggest that Australia would be the biggest contributor of all members, both regional and non-regional, and I therefore congratulate this Government upon that.
I would ask honourable members opposite, who always seek to criticise our foreign aid programs, to take account of that per capita contribution to this institution. It should also be observed, in view of the comment of the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), that Australia’s official development assistance of about 0.5 per cent of gross national product is well above the average for the developed nations of the world. The par value of Australia’s subscribed shares in the Asian Development Bank amounts to $US256.3m. The instalments which have matured amount to $US82m. I would submit that this is a very significant contribution.
I emphasise that quite apart from the humanitarian obligations which all developed countries have to participate in multilateral institutions of this nature, it should be recognised that there are certain benefits which accrue to the developed nations by virtue of their participation. I think it is essential that Australia have an effective voice in the decision making process and activities of an international development finance institution which serves the largest developing region of the world, which is also the poorest developing region, and a region of the world in which we are one of a very few developed countries. The political necessity of such participation goes without saying.
The Asian Development Bank also provides Australia and other developed countries with an opportunity to co-ordinate their own programs of bilateral aid to the developing member countries with the activities of the Bank. There is no question that the Bank’s technical assistance activities which totalled nearly $US6 billion in 1975, and which cover project operations, institution building and sectoral studies and several of the Bank’s other development functions, including its assessment of country performance, are of particular relevance to developed countries in making their own aid programs more effective and worthwhile. Of course, we benefit from reciprocal business. I would like to mention a little more about that later in this speech. But the essential point to make is that Australia, through its participation as a regional member of the Bank, is playing its part, and a very significant pan, in supporting the Pearson Commission’s statement that the purpose of such aid is: to help the poorer countries to move forward in their own way into the industrial and technological age so that the world will not become more and more starkly divided between the haves and the have-nots, the privileged and the less privileged.
No other country in the world has a greater obligation in this regard than Australia. The realities of the situation are clear and were expressed by the Minister for Foreign affairs (Mr Peacock) when he presented the Government’s foreign policy statement to the House last Tuesday. He said:
For at least the next decade, we will still be a sparsely populated and richly endowed country in a world which is going to be increasingly overcrowded, short of food, energy and other essentials, and seized of the importance of how the world ‘s resources are distributed and utilised.
These are the political and humanitarian realities that Australia is presently facing. I am satisfied that the Government, by virtue of its past association with the Asian Development Bank and because of the present action it is taking under this Bill, is discharging its responsibilities to the region in a proper manner.
Citizen Band Radio- Sales Tax on Foods for Diabetics- Religious Persecution in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics- Overseas Aid-Television Services-Legal Proceedings- Resignation of Government Printer- Refugees
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977,I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The matter I raise tonight is one which I think should be of concern to the Parliament and certainly is one on which in my opinion, the Government has been extremely lax. Every honourable member is aware of the various problems regarding citizen band radio. I do not intend to canvass this subject tonight. But I propose to canvass the fact that at a time when the use of the equipment is illegal, at a time when there is much discussion whether this type of radio operation or communication will be legalised, the Government has taken no action to use the powers available to it to restrict the imports of this equipment. At the moment thousands upon thousands of radio sets which have become obsolete in the United States are being dumped on the Australian market. They were purchased at something like $10 but are sold in Australia for up to $200.
– Are you talking about DSB sets?
– These are sets which are not licensed at the moment or sets for which it is extremely difficult to obtain licences. I said earlier that I do not intend to canvass the merits or otherwise of a decision which I understand the Cabinet will take in the next fortnight. But I do suggest that it is within the Government’s powers to place bans on the import of this equipment. I believe also that it is incumbent on the Government while these sets require licensing, as they do at present, to carry out advertising campaigns warning people that they must have licences to operate them. At the moment there are many thousands of people in Australia who have purchased equipment- possibly in good faith or in ignorance which is no defence to the consequences of the law- whose entry into Australia the Government has facilitated and in respect of which the Government has taken no action despite its quite definite powers to restrict the entry of this equipment. Even if it is decided to legalise CB radio, many people will find themselves with equipment which is useless. They will be in the position of operating that equipment illegally or they will have to get new equipment to replace the equipment which they have already purchased.
– You are talking nonsense.
-I do not think the honourable member for Kalgoorlie understands the point I am making. But if he buys any of the Melbourne and Sydney newspapers he will find reams of advertisements freely offering these sets for sale when in fact it should be incumbent on the persons advertising the sale of this equipment to advise purchasers that licences are required to operate the equipment, otherwise that operation is illegal. It is most likely too late now, but I believe it is incumbent on the Government to use its import powers to restrict entry into Australia of equipment which at this stage it is not prepared to licence for use.
– Do you want to ban it? What do you want to do?
-I have already said that I am not canvassing the issues of banning CB radio or otherwise.
– That is called ‘two bob each way’.
-I am not talking about the merits of the situation. I am saying that there are thousands of sets available which will not be able to be used.
– One cent each way.
-I remind the honourable member for Kalgoorlie that this is an adjournment debate and the honourable member for Corio is entitled to put forward his own opinion in his own way.
-I think I have said what I set out to say, that is, that it is quite improper that these sets are freely allowed to enter Australia without restriction. I think that most honourable members who think about this subject will agree with what I have had to say.
I raise one other matter briefly in the time available to me in this debate. It has been brought to my attention that the diabetic associations of Australia and other organisations are concerned about very strong suggestions that the Government is about to place sales tax on the sale of special foods for diabetics. I would hope that this is not true. If it is true, ask the Government to reconsider the matter.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Due largely to the approach made to members of the Parliament during the week by members of the Committee for the Freedom of Soviet Jewry, the House will be aware of the recent reintroduction of the ban by Soviet authorities on the import of flour products into that country.
Government supporters- Shame!
– Thank you. I am convinced that this ban was deliberately conceived to prevent Jewish observance of the festival of Passover which lasts for 8 days this year from Saturday evening 2 April next. This traditional Jewish festival of freedom is held in celebration of both the Hebrew exodus from enslavement in Egypt and the subsequent formation of the Jewish people. My belief, as mentioned earlier, is fortified by my recent visit to the Soviet Embassy when I requested its officials at least as a sign of goodwill to forward to the Moscow Synagogue a packet containing Matzah bread. Whilst I admit that my request was not flatly refused it became apparent after discussion that an embargo had been placed on this commodity for ulterior motives.
The prohibition by the Russians against the importation of Kosher unleavened bread which is the basic sacramental item in the observance of the Passover will be condemned by all men of peace and goodwill. If there were any doubts in the minds of the peoples of the world who may have been confused by the avalanche of Russian propaganda that may have descended upon them from time to time referable to their treatment of Soviet Jews, I say to them here at least for public scrutiny is real, outward, solid and unmistakable evidence of an unremitting and devilish desire to crush the Jewish people. Thus there can now be no doubt as to the real intentions of the Soviet as it once more puts the Russian jackboot into Soviet Jewry, but this time at the very core of Jewry’s religious beliefs.
-Today in this Parliament a spirit of mutuality has been abroad on the question of overseas aid. I think all honourable members would concede that there has been a great deal of agreement and common accord on this general question of providing assistance to underprivileged people around the world. I want to put into today’s Hansard an account of a contrasting point of view- the voice of dissent on this subject; the voice of one prominent Australian who appears to disagree with all the honourable members who have spoken in this Parliament today. On 1 October on the AM program Hamish Robertson dealt with the subject of overseas aid. He commenced by saying:
The Queensland Premier has launched another savage attack on the Federal Government, this time because of their foreign aid. Mr Bjelke-Petersen has sent a stinging letter to the Prime Minister complaining that aid money is being spent overseas while there are poverty-stricken Australians.
So, the interview went on; I certainly will not have time to quote everything that was said. But here is a comment from Mr Bjelke-Petersen on this matter. He said: . . when I read what Mr Peacock said in the United Nations yesterday that we are going to help to build in a practical way a brave, bright, new world, that’s all very well, it’s big thinking but charity begins at home and we mustn’t run away from our own problems, and we have got very real problems here and we can’t get a cent for many of these things because they say they can ‘t pay for them, they haven ‘t the money- next year probably- and then you read and you see in the Federal Treasurer’s Budget they are going to spend $S31m on foreign aid and Foreign Affairs Department around the world in helping other people but what about helping our own people.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not want to interrupt the Opposition Whip but today we discussed the Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Bill which covered the question of international aid. I am trying to find the appropriate standing order -
-Order! The honourable member for Griffith will resume his seat. I know the Standing Orders. The honourable member for Hughes stated when he commenced his speech that the subject had been debated this afternoon. He then went on to comment about what had been said by the Premier of Queensland which had no relationship to the subject matter under discussion in that debate. The honourable member for Hughes is perfectly entitled to mention that.
-The Executive Director of the Australian Council of Overseas Aid had something to say about Mr Bjelke-Petersen ‘s statement. He said:
I think that Mr Petersen is probably trying to get another couple of million dollars from the Federal Government and he is really taking it from the mouths of starving women and children. He quotes a figure of $531 m as though that’s the amount given in overseas aid. It’s not. That figure includes the whole cost of running the Department of Foreign Affairs.
He went on:
I don’t see how a Christian country can do anything else but increase the amount of aid it is giving to developing countries.
So here is one voice, the voice of the Premier of Queensland, that is out of tune with this Parliament. It is out of tune with the Queensland coalition parties and it is out of tune with all those people in Australia who seek to alleviate the plight of suffering humanity in our region.
-On 14 February the Australian Broadcasting Commission station at Newcastle changed its channel over from Channel 5 to Channel 5 A. As a result of that change, as you will know, Mr Deputy Speaker, television viewing in the Hunter Valley- and in Newcastle itself- as far south as Gosford, as far north as Taree, as far to the north-west as Murrurundi and as far west as Merriwa has been severely interfered with. Representations have been made to me by hundreds of people and by local governing bodies in the area to seek a correction of the situation that exists at the present time. It would appear that the Telecom technicians did not do their homework when the changeover was made. If they had done so, ABC television viewing in this huge area would be like it was prior to the changeover.
Representations have been made by me and by other members of this House to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) to correct the situation. He has informed the honourable members that he is sending a special officer into the area to carry out an investigation of the problems. Up until tonight no correction has been made, and the situation is very poor indeed. Surely something can be done by the Minister to correct the situation. The people in the area who have television sets are entitled, as other people in Australia are entitled, to receive proper television from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Channel 3, which is the commercial station in Newcastle, has also offered to improve its television viewing in this area by seeking authority to establish a translator station at Merriwa. It is having difficulty in getting permission and authority from Telecom through the Minister to install this translator station which will improve viewing in the Hunter Valley. The people in this area are very dissatisfied indeed. I ask the Minister to do something through Telecom to correct the situation and to give the people in this area proper Australian Broadcasting Commission television to which they are entitled.
– I do not intend to engage the House for more than 2 minutes unless I am interrupted.
– Only one.
-Order! If the House does not come to order I will take action to make sure that there are no interjections during the rest of the adjournment debate. I will not warn any honourable member again.
– I want to read into the Hansard record the text of an agreement signed by Mr Laurence Gruzman, Q.C, and Alexander Barton before Alexander Barton and his son were advised by Mr Gruzman, their then advising barrister, to leave the country. The agreement provides the following for Mr Gruzman:
This refers to the Bartons.
The initials ‘ L.G. ‘ refer to Laurence Gruzman.
The initials A.B. refer to Alexander Barton.
The agreement was signed by A. Barton and L. Gruzman and was witnessed by Thomas Barton. I have a copy of that agreement in the handwriting of Mr Gruzman for any honourable member to see.
-This morning Mr Speaker made a short speech informing the House of the resignation of the Australian Government Printer, Mr Frank Atkinson. I believe that he quite rightly spoke in glowing terms of the ability of Frank Atkinson and of the reforms he had intitiated at the printing works. I concur with Mr Speaker’s remarks and those of subsequent speakers, the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). I did not speak this morning as I wanted to take a little more time to examine the reason why this talented person has ceased employment with the Commonwealth to take up the position of Victorian Government Printer.
As Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Publications I have had the opportunity on numerous occasions to speak with Mr Atkinson. He recently gave evidence to the Publication Committee’s inquiry into the parliamentary papers series. It is my impression that Frank Atkinson is a dedicated, loyal, deeply concerned and highly skilled key employee. This Government has lost a valuable employee. The Victorian Government can only gain from his ability and expertise.
The reason why this competent person has resigned is attributable to the low salary paid by the Commonwealth in comparison to that paid to his counterparts in all States. It is an appalling state of affairs that we are witnessing a brain drain of highly skilled Commonwealth public servants to the States because of marked discrepancies in salaries paid for like work. I advise the House that efforts have been made by me personally and by the Publications Committee to retain Mr Atkinson by endeavouring to have his salary increased to a competitive level. My approach to the former Chairman of the Public Service Board revealed that the salary classification of the Commonwealth Government Printer had recently been reviewed but that the status quo was to be maintained. I was informed that the Commonwealth could not be a salary pacesetter. The position was also discussed with the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) but to no avail. I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard a table showing the relative positions and salaries of the 7 Government Printers in Australia.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-It can be seen that the Commonwealth Government Printer is the lowest paid officer; he receives $2 1 , 1 1 6 a year. With 768 employees he is second only to the New South Wales Government Printer who has 990 employees under his control. Obviously, it is not going to be possible to retain men of high calibre at a salary of $21,000 a year when, as in Mr Atkinson’s case, there is a similar position offering $29,000 a year. Not only will Mr Atkinson receive $8,000 per annum more, but he will have provided a car which must be worth an extra $3,000 annually. The New South Wales Government Printer receives $10,240 per annum more than his Commonwealth counterpart plus a car and $450 expenses. Even the Tasmanian Government Printer, with 153 employees, is $ 1 ,700 per annum better off.
The question that arises is: Who is right- the Commonwealth or the States? What distresses me greatly is the repeated calls by the States that they are not receiving sufficient funds from the Commonwealth. Yet this is a glaring example of a complete lack of restraint in the fixing of salaries. Not only are the growth rates of the State Public Services outstripping the Commonwealth, but the salaries paid, if this is a typical example, are out of hand and indeed far higher than they should be. I restate my support for the
federal system with the States enjoying autonomy of government; but I ask them to take a long hard look at their Public Service growth and salary rates and suggest that if they are not prepared to curb these they ought not to come bleating to the Commonwealth about not receiving enough of the taxation revenue. Most members in this Parliament are sick and tired of listening to State governments calling for more funds when they are not prepared to indulge in selfrestraint.
Insofar as the salary of the Commonwealth Government Printer is concerned, I appeal to the Minister and the Public Service Board to review the position again with a view to increasing the salary to at least somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, which is about $27,000. I believe Frank Atkinson would have been retained if the salary had been around this level. I am aware that at the time his application for the Victorian position was being considered another very senior officer from the Printing Office was also considering applying for a vacancy in another State. This raises the serious question: Can any vital department such as the Printing Office afford to lose senior staff in this fashion? How long will it be before the newly appointed Commonwealth Government Printer is lost to one of the States?
-This morning we heard a member of the Liberal Party tell the House he was tendering his resignation as a member of that party. He gave a number of reasons for taking that action. One of his reasons was that he did not agree with the Government in its attitude towards the Australian Assistance Plan. As we all know, the Australian Assistance Plan was an initiative of the former Labor Government to bring social welfare and so forth into the hands of the people. This initiative was well received in the various pilot areas in which it was implemented. Throughout Australia 37 regional councils were set up to carry out the proposals of the Australian Assistance Plan. Two of those councils were in South Australia. One was called the Western Adelaide Regional Council for Social Development and the other was called the Northern Spencer Gulf Regional Council for Social Development. These projects are now in jeopardy because of the attitude the Government has taken in that as from 30 June these particular activities will no longer be financed by the Federal Government but responsibility for them will be handed over to the States. The action of the Government is placing in jeopardy all the work that has been done in this field by these organisations over the last couple of years.
Recently correspondence has been forwarded to South Australian members about the Western Adelaide Regional Council for Social Development. I am sure all South Australian members would have received the brochure I have before me, which gives a clear description of what the Western Adelaide Regional Council for Social Development was able to do, what bodies it was able to assist, and what it will mean if that funding is cut out for it does appear that the funding is going to be cut out. My particular concern is about the Northern Spencer Gulf Regional Council for Social Development which operates in my area and in the area represented by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I certainly hope that he is concerned about this matter too. This Council covers 21 councils in regional areas. A lot of these councils are in the electorate of Wakefield. But the major local government bodies are, of course, in the Spencer Gulf region. I mention a few matters relating to the Northern Spencer Gulf Regional Council for Social Development. This council, unlike the Western Adelaide Regional Council, operates without a capitation grant. It has been in existence since June 1975. Its area covers 40 000 square kilometres or 4 per cent of the State, and comprises 21 local government bodies. The character of the region varies dramatically with a resident population of approximately 82 000. In addition, there are additional pockets of population living in unincorporated areas to the north of the region and along the east-west railway line. The north of the region, of course, would be along the railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. The people from these areas utilise the urban facilities that are provided by the 3 northern industrial towns of Spencer Gulf; that is Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie. The Northern Spencer Gulf Regional Council for Social Development is staffed by 3 community development officers operating from the 3 industrial cities. There is an administration clerk cum community development officer and a project officer operating in the area east of the Flinders Ranges.
During its 2 1 months of operation the Council has succeeded in obtaining community participation which has led to the establishment of a homeless persons shelter, an emergency shelter for women and children, various self help groups and projects throughout the area. The Council was also instrumental in attracting the Remote and Isolated Childrens’ Committee into commencing operations in the remote areas north and west of Port Augusta along the Transcontinental line and the north-south line to Alice Springs. Important gains have been made in breaking down local isolation and encouraging the growth of regional consciousness. The task has not been made easy by the uncertain future of the Australian Assistance Plan. Unless the Government changes its mind it appears that as from 30 June those organisations will not receive any more funding. Very progressive work has been done in this field by those organisations. Unless the Federal Government is prepared to change its mind on this matter, the Council will go out of existence.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Caring for refugees from brutality and murder around the world is a major problem for all free nations. Australia is making a significant contribution towards helping to solve this problem. This is shown by the announcement during the week by the Government of details of the number of refugees who have come to Australia in recent times. These facts effectively counter the unfair criticism from some people whose proper concern for the welfare of refugees has led them to the wrong conclusion that Australia is not doing enough. The facts show that in the last 2 years the number of refugees or people of similar status arriving in Australia as a result of crises around the world includes about 6000 Lebanese, 2550 Vietnamese, 2580 Timorese, 6500 Cypriots, 1020 Chileans, 600 Laotians, 400 Cambodians and 600 Russian Jews, White Russians and other groups. The world situation is such that international crises involving oppression and the resulting refugee problem will continue. So it seems clear that there will be a continuing need for Australia to provide for further refugee groups in the future. But one cannot solve the refugee problem by simply bringing them to Australia and dumping them here. They provide a far more difficult immigration problem than normal migrants.
Most migrants to Australia come here either because they have families already here and as a result can integrate into the Australian community relatively easily, or have job qualifications that ensure that they will be readily employed and whereby able to sustain themselves in their new home. But for refugees the situation is totally different. Many of them have escaped from their homelands with only the clothes they stand in. Most have no relatives or even associations of any kind in Australia. Most do not speak English. Many of them, particularly from South East Asia, do not process job skills that are needed in Australia. Many of them have lived a totally different life, particularly those from peasant farming communities and simply do not weld into the Australian environment the way the bulk of our normal migrants have been able to do so successfully. As a result, a major backup service is needed to cater for refugees when they arrive here. In the main this is being provided by the Federal Department of Social Security, backed up by valuable assistance from State and local governments and welfare organisations and service clubs.
There has been a lot of comment from the Labor Opposition suggesting that the present Government’s intake is not large enough. This is an extraordinary statement from a Party which, when in office, had a deplorable record on refugees. For example, the Whitlam Government’s proud refugee intake from Vietnam was only 76 people. The rest, including workers at the Austraiian Embassy and others who had shown their loyalty to Australia, were left to be imprisoned or slaughtered. The present Government has not only significantly increased the refugee intake but also is improving the nation’s capacity to cope with the special requirements of these refugees. This has been helped by the findings of last December’s report by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the plight and circumstances of Vietnamese refugees.
-The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 2. 1 5 p.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Does he personally know of any case in which the Secretary of a Department has directly or indirectly sought to prevent an officer of his Department from giving advice or information to, or of carrying out the constitutionally lawful instruction of, a Member of the Executive Council commissioned by the Governor-General to administer that Department.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Not that I can think of.
Overseas Travel by Public Servants (Question No. 63)
asked the Treasurer upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Will he consider taking steps to have Treasury Regulations altered in such a way as to ensure a stricter control over public servants travelling overseas who seek to avoid using their own national airline for overseas travel paid for by the Australian taxpayer.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Treasury Regulations now known as the Finance Regulations, do not refer to the making of bookings for the purposes of official travel.
However, Finance Directions issued under the Audit Act and Finance Regulations provide as follows:
in arranging international air travel Qantas services shall be used unless available Qantas flights do not coincide with departmental requirements and departmental requirements shall not reflect personal preferences for a particular routing, airline or stopover point;
whenever Qantas flights are unavailable or unsuitable, the services of airlines with which Qantas has revenue pooling arrangements shall be used as first alternative on ‘ pool ‘ routes; and
bookings shall be made at a Qantas Sales Office where available and the recommendations of that office about alternative flights shall be accepted whenever practicable.
In addition, departments proposing overseas travel are required to submit detailed itineraries, including information on proposed flights, to the Oversea Visits Committee for scrutiny prior to departure from Australia. The Oversea Visits Committee does examine travel proposals to ensure that they accord with the Finance Directions.
I believe that these requirements adequately ensure that public servants travelling overseas utilize the services of Qantas to the extent this is possible, having regard to all the circumstances of each travel proposal.
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) (b) and (c) In regard to the first three loans mentioned one Second Division officer travelled to Europe in February 1976. He departed from Sydney on 17 February and returned on 7 March. He stopped over at Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Zurich and Singapore.
The Third Division officer departed from Sydney on 13 September and returned on 28 September, He stopped over at Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris and Singapore.
The officer from the Second Division travelled to the United States on the return journey. He departed from Sydney on 13 September and returned on 29 September. He stopped over at Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris, New York and Honolulu. (0 For the loan raised in New York in November 1976, two officers, one from each of the Second and Third Divisions, travelled to the United States. They departed from Sydney on 6 November and returned on 22 November, stopping over at San Francisco, New York, Washington and Honolulu.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 9 March 1977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)20 December 1976.
) On the basis that this pan of the question relates to the requirement set forth in section 9 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942;
See answer to (2).
Devaluation: Profit from Money Transfers
– On 1 December 1976 (Hansard, page 3026) the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) asked me a question without notice concerning details of the loss incurred by the Reserve Bank on forward exchange cover as a result of devaluation. The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details of forward exchange transactions on the books of the Reserve Bank at any particular point of time are confidential. In any case as profits or losses on the Bank’s forward exchange contracts outstanding at the time of devaluation depend in part on subsequent exchange rate changes, it would not be possible to isolate the effects of the intitial 1 7.5 per cent devaluation.
Reciprocal Agreement on Social Security (Question No. 6)
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
(a) age pensions and widow’s pensions.
Pensioners in Division of Perth (Question No. 9)
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The following reply is provided in answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
How did the rate of a full age pension for (a) single pensioners and (b) pensioner couples compare in percentage terms with the (i) minimum wage and (ii) average weekly earnings for adult males in the Budget of each year since 1969.
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following table in answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Anthony Paul, a condensed version of which is published in the February 1977 edition of Reader’s Digest at pages 158-190.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the circumstances I am not able to confirm whether the particular atrocities described in Murder of a Gentle Land did occur, but I have said that if reports of atrocities were true- and the growing volume of evidence leads us to believe them to be true- no government could condone them.
Contestants in National Sporting Championships (Question No. 139)
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Task Force received and reviewed a number of submissions concerning sport before arriving at its conclusions which indicate that, at this juncture, it was not able to support the recommendations of the Recreation Ministers that the Commonwealth assist with fares for national championships and that, for the time being it accepted a more concentrated focus for Commonwealth assistance for sport.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 9 March, 1977.
What percentage of the CSIRO ‘s budget is allocated for research into
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
CSIRO has no budget allocation for and is not carrying out any research into
the effects of waste products of nuclear reactors on organic matter, or
b) methods for the disposal of nuclear waste products.
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Can he yet give statistics of the population of each electoral division from the Census of 30 June 1976 (Hansard, 14 September 1976, page 1033).
– The Australian Statistician has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Preliminary population figures for the various Australian Electoral Divisions as enumerated at the 1976 Census of Population and Housing are as follows:
It should be noted that the Census enumerates people on a de facto basis, i.e. where they were on Census Night, 30 June 1976, and therefore not necessarily where they are usually resident.
Because of the de facto nature of the Census, a certain number of persons are enumerated whilst travelling on long distance trains, buses, or planes or on vessels in or between Australian ports on Census Night. These persons are shown as Migratory.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
I ) Did the Ministers for Labour at their meeting on 25 February 1977 agree on an order of priority for ratifying International Labour Organisation conventions (Hansard, 16 September 1976, page 1 193); if so. with what result.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) I am advised that no advice has been received regarding the outcome of the examination by the Queensland Treaties Commission of ILO Convention No 107.
Representation in Lebanon (Question No. 232)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– Apart from some ten countries in respect of which the information is not yet available, the answers to the honourable member’s questons are:
Argentina, Austria, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chad, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Ghana, India, Iran, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kuwait, Netherland, Oman, Qatar, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, Yugoslavia.
The following countries have subsequently re-opened their missions in Beirut:
Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Finland, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Oman, Qatar, Switzerland, Tunisia, People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, Yugoslavia.
Immigration from Friuli Region (Question No. 253)
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
How many persons have come to Australia from the Friuli region as a result of the special arrangements made after the earthquakes in 1 976. (Hansard, 4 June 1976, page 3100 and 2 1 September 1 976, page 120 1 ).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As at 15 February 1977, 30 persons had travelled under the special arrangements made after the earthquakes in 1 976 in the Friuli region
Visas had been issued to an additional 6 persons who have not yet completed their travel arrangements and applications covering an additional 32 persons are under consideration. People in the latter group have not indicated an interest in completing travel arrangements urgently as they were not seriously affected by the earthquakes and their applications will be determined after completion of the usual migrant formalities overseas.
am asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1977.
What projects under the Area Improvement Program for 1975-76 fell within the electoral divisions of Macarthur, Macquarie, Mitchell, Parramatta, Prospect and Werriwa (Hansard, 7 December 1976, page 3449).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following projects fell within the Electoral Division of
The following projects fell within the Electoral Division of Prospect:
The following projects fell within the Electoral Division of Werriwa:
The following projects were grants to the Sydney Western Regional Organisation of Local Authorities and affect all the preceding electorates:
The following projects fell within the Electoral Division of Macarthur
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)and(2)No.
I pointed out to the deputation that this was clearly not a matter for the Commonwealth but properly for the Victorian Parliament. I informed the responsible Victorian Minister, Hon. D. G. Crazier, MLC, Minister for State Development on 2 December of this deputation, as I explained to the honourable member in replying to his Parliamentary Question of 17 February 1977.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What are the latest changes to the Consumer Price Index.
– The Australian Statistician has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The ninth series of the chain of short term indexes comprising the Consumer Price Index was introduced with publication of the index for December quarter 1976. The new Series incorporates components and a weighting pattern derived from the Household Expenditure Survey 1974-75. A description of these changes in further detail is contained in the Appendix to the Consumer Price Index bulletin (ABS reference No. 9. 1 ) for the December quarter 1 976, published on 22 February 1977.
Assistance to Employers in Respect of Apprentices (Question No. 394)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770324_reps_30_hor104/>.