30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the House that His Royal Highness Prince Tu’ipelehake, Prime Minister of Tonga, is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honourable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members Hear, hear!
The Serjeant-at-Arms conducted His Royal Highness into the chamber and he was seated accordingly.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
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 publicof 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 William McMahon, Mr Armitage, Mr Bradfield, Mr Connolly, Mr Dobie, Mr Fife, Mr FitzPatrick, Mr James, Mr Keating, Mr Lucock, Mr MacKenzie, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Sainsbury and Mr E. G. Whitlam.
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 1 980-8 1 . of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr Carige, Mr Katter, Mr Kelly and Mr McVeigh.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for the funding of rural local roads and urban local roads in New South Wales for the triennium 1977-1980. by Mr Bradfield and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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 our strong opposition to the establishment of casinos in Canberra and at International Airports.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government reject attempts to establish casinos in Canberra and at International Airports.
And your petitioners as in duly bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier.
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 Highlands.
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. by Mr Braithwaite.
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 Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Street.
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 Antony Whitlam.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. He will have noticed that the Queensland Government has awarded the rights over the Oakey Creek coal area in the Bowen Basin to a foreign company, apparently without considering the claims of other companies, including Australian owned and managed ones, and has stipulated that the foreign company must allow a 20 per cent Australian equity in the project. Does the Australian Government still insist, as he told the House on 1 April last year, that a new project involving investment by foreign interests of $1 m or more will be allowed to proceed only provided it has a minimum 50 per cent Australian equity together with at least 50 per cent of the voting strength on the board held by Australian interests? Has he, or have the authorities for which he is ministerially responsible, yet been consulted in this matter?
– This matter, I understand, has been subject to discussions between the Queensland Government and the Deputy Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for National Resources. The guidelines which have been set down are as the honourable gentleman mentioned. However, I draw to his specific attention that the project, as I understand it, in the first instance will obviously relate to the exploration stage. The honourable gentleman would be very much aware that these projects must come before the Foreign Investment Review Board. They are then subject to recommendation to the Treasurer in terms of the action or attitude which the Federal Government would be taking.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Women’s Affairs. Is it a fact that all States, except Queensland, are funding women’s refuges from Commonwealth grants under the community health program? Is it also a fact that the Brisbane and Townsville women’s refuges and the Brisbane Women’s Health Centre are short of funds? After the initial refusal by the Queensland Government to fund such refuges from Commonwealth grants, did the Prime Minister again raise the matter with the Queensland Premier, seeking reconsideration of his State’s decision? Is there any likelihood of women’s refuges being established and funded in Queensland by the Commonwealth Government?
– It is a fact that under the block grant under the community health program of the Federal Government the Queensland Government decided not to pass on any Federal funds to the women’s refuges which were mentioned by the honourable member. It is also a fact that they are in need of funds and that the Prime Minister raised the matter with the Queensland Premier last September. The Queensland Premier later indicated that he was adhering to the decision of his Government of last July. As a result, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Security asked the Prime Minister whether they could examine alternative sources of funding. The Prime Minister asked them to do that. I expect that the Prime Minister will make an announcement appropriately in due course.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the survey published in the Sydney Morning Herald today in which 52 per cent of Australians said that they thought his Government did not know what to do to improve economic conditions and 75 per cent thought that this time next year they would be either no better or worse off economically? Will he now concede that there is virtually no public confidence in his Government’s policies? Does he agree that he has kept at least one promise- namely, to become the most unpopular Prime Minister in recent history?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now arguing the issue.
– I am well aware that the survey shows that 80 per cent of the people polled believed that they would be as well off or better this time next year under this Government.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. What has the Government done since coming to office to improve equality of opportunity and quality of life for women.
– In the short time that ought to be available at question time obviously only a small part of the Government’s policies could be mentioned. Otherwise far too much of question time would be taken up and I do not think that would be fair to members of the House. The reform that was introduced last year, to change the basis of family allowances, I believe, was probably the most significant single social welfare reform since Federation especially to help women. It was of greatest benefit to low income families from wherever they may come. In many cases it has given women in the Australian community a degree of financial independence which they never had before. It is a wonder that the previous Administration did not think to make a reform of that kind if it had real concern in these areas.
In addition to that, of course, the Government is showing much greater concern for and giving much greater attention to the provision of child care facilities where there are very real areas of need in the Australian community. Some people say that this approach encourages women to go out to work and that that kind of encouragement ought not to be provided, but I think that kind of criticism is utterly missing the point. There are many women and single parents in the Australian work force and unless there are adequate child care facilities, in a great many cases children are not properly looked after when their parents, whether they come from a 2 parent or a single parent family, are working.
It is estimated this financial year that $27m, I think- an amount approaching $30m at any rate- will be allocated for the provision of child care facilities. That amount is about equal to the total sum that was provided for this particular purpose over the 3 previous years. This again was an area of need which was largely neglected and largely ignored by the previous Administration although it made a great noise and trumpeted about what it had done. The previous Administration did virtually nothing in spite of the establishment of the Interim Children’s Commission. The programs under that Commission were not properly directed as the programs are now being properly directed.
There are many other initiatives of lesser significance. These include the examination of problems in certain areas; the establishment of an advisory council; advisory committees established by my colleague Senator Guilfoyle in respect of social security matters; and the examination of the feasibility of employment based child care facilities. Many matters of this kind are being pursued. I think that the Government’s record in these matters is without equal.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Has the honourable gentleman seen a report that a law lecturer in Western Australia is of the opinion that the complement of the New South Wales and South Australian members to this House was unconstitutionally elected at the general election and that he is proposing to ask the High Court to declare those members’ election void and to order new elections in those States in elections to be held at large? Should such action eventuate, will the Attorney-General give an undertaking to provide legal assistance to each of the 57 members who might be affected by such litigation? In view of the high constitutional importance of this issue and the need for the Parliament to be structured in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, will he be willing to meet the costs of the plaintiff if the action proves unsuccessful?
– I have only seen a report about this matter in, I think, the Bulletin this week. May I say that at this stage the question is hypothetical and therefore it is very difficult for me to offer an answer to the honourable gentleman. The honourable gentleman asked whether I would pay the costs. I can assure him that I am not going to pay them personally. However, I should also say to the honourable gentleman that should any proceedings of this character be instituted, and should they be proceedings which are capable of being taken- having in mind a question as to the rights of people to bring proceedings of this character in the High Court- then no doubt if applications are made to me in relation to legal assistance I will give those requests careful consideration. Until then I suggest that honourable members from New South Wales and South Australia take it quietly and get on with the job of legislating. The High Court has been asked in the past to declare seats vacant en masse and so far it has not been prepared to take that step.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Is the honourable gentleman aware that the New South Wales Government has recommended that additional remissions be granted to prisoners undergoing sentences on 1 1 March 1 977 to mark the occasion of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and that the recommendation was approved by the Governor of that State? Does he agree that this anomalous situation could create tension among inmates, with Commonwealth prisoners feeling deprived of an important remission entitlement? Will he make a similar recommendation to the GovernorGeneral in respect of Commonwealth prisoners?
– The question of granting remissions or recommending to His Excellency that such remissions should be granted by virtue of the royal visit was considered by me. I think it has been the practice in New South Wales to grant remissions. In the Commonwealth area, except I think in 1973, it has not been the practice. I think Senator Murphy recommended it in 1973 when the Queen visited Australia. I formed the view that these remissions should not be recommended. It seemed to me that the parole system is there to deal with questions of remissionto take into account good conduct and matters of this description. I feel that the time for remissions of this character, which are really gratuitous, has passed, because the parole system is there to deal with the matter. I can understand that there might be some element of dissatisfaction amongst prisoners, but that would have occurred many times in the past when the Commonwealth did not take the step that New South Wales had taken.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and it concerns reports that the Government has decided to establish a committee to inquire into trade union training. I ask the Minister: Has such a decision in fact been made? If so, has the committee been appointed and who are its members? Is it a fact that, as reported, the committee’s terms of reference require it to consider the budget allocation of the Trade Union Training Authority, the control of curriculums in the trade union training courses and whether trade union training should be integrated with management training? Will the Minister also inform the House whether the Australian Council for Union Training was consulted or notified about the inquiry?
– I draw the honourable member’s attention to a Press release which I issued on this subject yesterday and which requires -
– That is what I want you to tell the House about.
– I will if the honourable member wants me to duplicate it. Yes, the Government has decided to institute such an inquiry. Yes, the Director and Council of the Trade Union Training Authority have been informed. The members of the inquiry will be Mr Alan Paine, Commissioner of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission; Mr John Menz, Deputy General Manager of Arnott Motterham Menz Pty Ltd of South Australia; and Mr Harry Hauenschild, President of the Trades and Labour Council of Queensland. The terms of reference of the inquiry have also been made public. I could read the terms of reference now which, as I have said, have been made public. Mr Speaker, could I seek your guidance? Could I seek leave to incorporate the terms of reference in Hansard, or would the honourable member like me to read them?
– The Opposition will not give leave to incorporate them. While the Minister may have informed members of the Press Gallery, members of the Parliament are not privy to that information and will not get today’s Hansard until next Tuesday.
– I will read them. I am quite happy to read the terms of reference of the inquiry. They are as follows:
Bearing in mind the Government’s support for the concept of trade union training, to report on the future development of trade union training in Australia, including:
the desirability or otherwise of:
integration in a general system of industrial relations training, which would include training for representatives of employers in the industrial relations field;
closer integration with the general education system;
the role, membership and staffing of the statutory authority;
the cost and methods of financing trade union training; and
) other matters covered in existing legislation on which changes might be required.
-Mr Speaker, I now ask that the Minister table the Press release so honourable members also can see it.
-The Minister is entitled to table the document if he wishes.
– I table the document.
– I address my question to the Minister for National Resources. Is the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, on record as pressing the Commonwealth Government for the establishment of a major uranium industry in South Australia? Has the Minister noticed a certain knock-kneed ambivalence creeping into the Premier’s current position on uranium development?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not reflect on a person in that way in asking a question. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
– I read a rather extraordinary report in a newspaper today that the Premier of South Australia is, like his federal colleague, pre-empting the debate on the uranium question prior to the presentation of the final Fox report. The Premier has said that South Australia will not support the mining or the enrichment of uranium in that State. That is a rather incredible statement for him to make because last year he wrote to the Prime Minister and to me at the time when he presented a report on enrichment- a study that had been carried out over 2 years in South Australia. He had taken great pride in being in advance of the other States in doing this sort of work and I give him full credit for that. In the letter to the Prime Minister he said:
While the committee will continue its study on the locution of a plant in South Australia no firm negotiations of any kind will be entered into until the final report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry has been made public.
Apparently the Premier of South Australia has completely reversed that position by his statement yesterday. It is rather hard to understand his decision. The South Australian Government presented a report on 2 years of work. Consultations on an enrichment plant were held with the previous Minister for Minerals and Energy. The study had the support of that Minister. In those days honourable members opposite had a policy of encouraging enrichment and they even promoted a study between Australia and Japan on the whole question of enrichment. But this report presented by the South Australian Government accepts the mining of uranium and the development of a hexafluoride plant in South Australia as well as an enrichment plant. Yet today, after having carried out 2 years of work, all of a sudden the Premier says that there will be none in South Australia.
I think that those people who have been exploring for uranium in South Australia and who have discovered some very good deposits, one at Lake Frome and the other recently at Roxbury Downs- in conjunction with a very extensive copper body- must be somewhat disappointed. In the case of Roxbury Downs the copper cannot be mined unless the uranium also is mined. So I suppose that this decision means that there will be no development of the copper deposits at Roxbury Downs. I think that the Premier is completely confused. He is acting in an expedient way because of pressure being put on him by either his federal colleagues or left-wing unions in South Australia. What is obvious is that the Australian Labor Party is completely confused on the question of uranium. The Leader of the Opposition comes out with some policy points of view and the shadow Minister -
-Order! I ask the right honourable gentleman to make his answer relevant to the question that was asked.
-Mr Speaker, I think that I ought to quote what the Premier of South Australia had to say in a debate on 27 July last year. In answering the South Australian Leader of the Opposition he said:
The Leader has said that, because of the report-
That is the report to which I have referred- the Government has had, there is a grave community concern about the dangers of radio-activity in the mining and milling of uranium. I do not know what grave public concern there is. Apparently the Leader has not studied the history of uranium in South Australia, which was a major producer of uranium. In the past we had the State-run mine at Radium Hill and a treatment works at Port Pirie. A former South Australian Minister of Labour and Industry was a miner at Radium Hill, and the proponent of the whole program was Sir Thomas Playford. Radium Hill was an extremely successful State project, for which we gave Sir Thomas great credit. Where was the great difficulty about the danger of radioactivity in the mining and milling of uranium then, and what case can the Leader cite of lack of care or medical problems that arose out of that mining and treatment project?
That is what he said in the House.
– Who said that?
-That was the Premier of South Australia, the man who yesterday said that there would be no future mining -
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the Deputy Prime Minister is virtually giving a statement here today and is not answering a question.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. You have continually warned Ministers to keep their answers short. We are aware that there is, on the notice paper, a matter which will allow a debate on uranium today. The Minister responsible has not spoken in the House yet and has not been prepared to make a statement on uranium to the House. Therefore I ask you to rule on that matter, Mr Speaker. I ask you to request the Minister to make his reply short. If he wants to make a full statement he should make that statement in the debate later today.
– There is no substance in the point of order. However, I ask all Ministers to bring their answers into the confines of the time available as much as possible. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
– I do not think one should take lightly the statement made by the Premier of South Australia, because it will have a tremendous bearing on the economy of South Australia, on whether an enrichment plant, if one is to be developed, should be developed in South Australia and on whether the mining of uranium should be allowed in South Australia. Those things would have a very significant bearing on the development of that State, but I think that one must acknowledge that a study was carried out on an enrichment project for South Australia and that if that project became a reality it would be by far the largest single project in South Australia and obviously would provide employment for a good many people. But for the benefit of the -
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the right honourable gentleman is deliberately misleading the House by virtue of the fact that since the Dunstan report was published -
-Order! There is no point of order involved.
– Yes, there is because there is radio active waste at Port Pirie.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I thank you for your indulgence, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table the report from the South Australian Government which was presented to the Commonwealth.
-The right honourable gentleman does not require leave to table a document. The document is tabled.
– I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs to a reply he gave to a question on notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition last year concerning a visit which he made to Bali in September 1 975. In the reply the Minister referred to discussions with 2 Indonesian officials, Mr Harry Tjan and Mr Lim Bian Kie. I now ask the Minister: Did he convey to those gentlemen, firstly, that President Suharto was regarded as a wise statesman and was much admired by the Liberal leadership which gave high priority to relations with Indonesia; secondly, that it was planned to deny supply to the Whitlam Government in November 1975, which would probably lead to the fall of the Government and that the present Minister would then become foreign minister; thirdly, that if that happened the new Government would not obstruct Indonesia in its takeover of Timor and that the Minister hoped Indonesia would act swiftly and efficiently? Finally, would it be true to say that as a result of the Minister’s discussions with these 2 gentlemen the Indonesian generals were able to overcome objections -
-Order! The honourable member is now asking the Minister to say what somebody may have done with the information. The first 3 questions are in order, but the final one is not.
-I cannot recall all the detail of the answer I gave about that visit on return from a conference in Persepolis in Iran in 1975. 1 do recall, however, that without my knowledge there were in fact 2 Indonesian officials waiting for me at the airport when I put down there. I do recall that I attended a monkey dance with them and that I was then taken to a motel. I cannot recall -
– Did they accompany you?
-I will come back to that in a moment. I cannot recall all the details of the discussion. I may at some stage have said that the
Australian Opposition had great admiration for President Suharto’s leadership. If I did, that would reflect the attitude that our Parties in coalition, either in Government or in Opposition, still hold and it was of course the view of the previous Prime Minister. He has been very quiet on this matter for some time but I do recall that the Leader did indicate that this was his view. I certainly would not have discussed anything regarding Supply.
As to the other matters referred to, I have absolutely no recollection of raising them at all in September 1975. As I say, the visit was a brief break on my way back from Iran and my recollection is that apart from dinner, I attended a monkey dance which probably was appropriate if one had in fact discussed Timor. I think I am entitled to put this back on the record. That would probably have been a fair summation of what was transpiring in the Government Party of the day at that time. I hesitate- in fact it is quite some time, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, since I have referred to the background of events in Timor- but let me just say that the first person to issue a statement of concern in regard to events in Timor was I in September 1974. The first person to raise the matter in the Parliament by way of debate was I in a discussion on a matter of public importance in this chamber in February 1975. The first person -
– Give the man a kewpie doll.
– Or a toy monkey.
-You were personifying that at the time. There is no need to give it to us. The Australian people rejected you.
– You see no evil, hear no evil but speak it.
-Order! The Minister for Foreign Affairs will resume his seat. The question has been asked. The Minister is replying. I ask the Minister to address his remarks through the Chair and I ask the Leader of the Opposition to cease interjecting.
-So it would not have been discussed in any way like that by me because what I said consistently, privately, both in discussions that the honourable member knows I had with representatives from East Timor when he himself would talk with them, and publicly with the calls and the statements I made on behalf of the Opposition in 1974 and 1975, would indicate that what is implied in that question is quite the antithesis of the viewpoints we were putting forward, except for our high regard for the President of Indonesia and to that extent it would be true. Any other allegation would be totally contradictory of all the views and concerns I was expressing at the time. I simply say in conclusion that if in fact endeavours made by these Parties in opposition had been not only listened to but responded to then, there may have been some means of preventing what occurred in the latter part of 1975 in Timor. I will say no more on the matter. It probably does no good to those who suffered in East Timor for Australian politicians to be engaging in some form of political harangue. This happens from time to time, and I get a little sick of nearing that the Government has been abjectly silent when -
– So you have.
-Here he goes again.
– I have been here a long time and I will be here after you have gone.
-Yes. You have been here a long time. I recall your comments about Cambodia and you were shut up the moment you got back.
– A point of order, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– I draw my answer to a conclusion by saying that what is contained in the question is the very antithesis of the views I held and the statements I made throughout 1974-75. Other than the reference that I recall was made to President Suharto, the question does not reflect views that I was putting to anybody at that time. All I wish to add is that the Government’s record is not the sorry record of connivance. What is implicit in the question can more accurately be attributed to somebody else in this Parliament.
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Resources. What is the situation regarding development of coal resources at Norwich Park in the Bowen coal basin in Queensland?
-Norwich Park is one of the big potential coal mining projects in the Bowen basin area. It is basically owned by the Central Queensland Coal Associates, with Utah being the principal shareholder. Discussions were held at the beginning of last year about the equity arrangements so that this project may go ahead. In discussions with myself and the Treasurer, agreement was reached in about April last year clearing the way for the project to proceed. The agreement was that there be at least 50 per cent Australian equity in the project, or else for total Australian equity in the Queensland Coal Associates to be lifted from 1 1 per cent to 20 per cent, in other words, spreading the 50 per cent equity in one mine across the other 3 mines. This was agreed to by the Commonwealth. Since then, however, there have been protracted negotiations with the Queensland Government on extending the coal recovery rights from the field, and also on the freight rates for carriage of the coal to Hay Point. I am led to believe that yesterday the Queensland Government finally concluded these negotiations to allow Utah to proceed with the development of the mine. There are some small formal environmental questions still to be answered. I believe that these can be cleared up in a matter of days so I am pleased to say that this very large project which will have an investment of over $250m will be proceeding immediately now that the Queensland Government has finally completed negotiations.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has he noted that Professor Fred Hollows, the leader of the national trachoma and eye health program, whose work has been mentioned during previous question times by the Minister for Health, whose birthday we celebrate today, reported to the Annual Scientific Congress sponsored this week by the Australian College of Ophthalmologists that trachoma had declined dramatically among the 1800 Aborigines at Moree in the last 10 years since they began to get houses with hot and cold running water? As this evidence suggests that improved housing is a major factor in removing the scourge of trachoma which afflicts Aboriginals so much more than other Australians and, indeed, so much more than most of the world ‘s peoples, I ask the Minister: Can he assure the House that adequate funds will be allocated in this year’s Budget to reduce the backlog of Aboriginal housing that has grown since funds for Aboriginal assistance programs were reduced by 14 per cent, in real terms, in the last financial year?
– I have seen the report by Professor Hollows. Like my colleague the Minister for Health I am very keen to see his national trachoma campaign continue and extend throughout Australia. Indeed, it started in Central Australia and has now moved into Western Australia and Queensland and, I believe, into
New South Wales as well. It is correct, as Professor Hollows has pointed out and as has been recognised before, that basic elements of hygiene and living conditions are a pre-condition of success in eradication of eye disease and other diseases which are affecting Aboriginals. Simple things like running water, as the honourable gentleman has mentioned, are fundamental. As he also pointed out, the standard of housing is directly relevant to health conditions of that kind. As the honourable gentleman will recall, the Government was concerned to see that the Commonwealth housing program provided houses to Aboriginals.
Regrettably, under the former Administration there were too many examples of unfinished houses- houses without roofs or without wallswhich of course did not benefit anybody and were a waste of the Commonwealth’s money. Since the reviews which we undertook we are now satisfied that the money is being effectively spent and we are in the end really getting more houses for the amount of money previously provided. The honourable gentleman also ought to know that I am not in a position at this time to give the guarantee for which he asks in relation to next year’s Budget. However, I can assure him and the House that the Government is concerned to maintain the momentum of our housing program. Adequate funds certainly will be provided to ensure that result.
– Can the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade say whether there has been any improvement in the coal industry over the past 12 months? Are any new developments taking place in this important industry?
-There has been very considerable activity in the coal mining industry. Much of that activity surrounds the honourable member’s area of the Hunter Valley. The new coal loader at Newcastle has been completed and this will double the capacity out of that port from about 10 million tonnes to 20 million tonnes per annum, which will rival Hay Point in Queensland. Some very encouraging prospects have been opened up, one of which is at Boggabri which apparently could be a very extensive coal mining area; another is around Warkworth where the Lemmington Mine is reaching completion. It will have a capacity of over 1 million tonnes of coal. Other areas are also being prospected. There is a good deal of activity all round New South Wales in expanding the mining industry. One encouraging area is the sales of steaming coal that we are making. In the last 6 months contracts have been signed for 1.4 million tonnes of steaming coal. This compares with nil exports for the previous 6 months.
The reason that we are now starting to export steaming coal is that we have removed completely the export levy which made it impossible to export. The devaluation of the currency has also helped this industry. It is encouraging to know of the interest that is being shown in the Australian coal mining industry. At the moment 3 high level missions are in Australia looking at the coal mining industry- from Japan, South Korea and from the European Economic Community. Other missions will be here shortly from Finland, West Germany, Spain and France.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Again I have to draw your attention to the Deputy Prime Minister using question time for long replies containing information which he could give in statements after question time. Long replies are also a direct insult to you as the Speaker because you have warned the Ministers time and time again to make their replies short.
– There is no substance in the point of order because I do not have the capacity to contract answers or to order them to be contracted. I ask the right honourable gentleman’s co-operation in confining the answer as much as possible.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is quite understandable that the Opposition is sensitive to the progress and development that is now taking place in the mining industry after that sector was completely stalled for a period. But I do -
-Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The right honourable gentleman’s claim that the Opposition is sensitive in this area is quite unfounded. We are prepared to give him leave after question time to make ministerial statements on matters of policy which he is now announcing at question time.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
– I think I have answered the question by saying that there are a lot of encouraging signs. I am glad that the honourable member’s electorate is getting some of the benefit.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. By way of preface I refer to the previous decisions taken by the Fraser Government that will severely restrict growth in revenues for 1977-78, such as the indexation of personal taxes, stock valuation adjustments and investment allowances, and the Government’s desire to reduce the deficit in 1977-78 to a level around $ 1,500m. Can the Treasurer explain how a zero real growth rate can be achieved, or is it more likely that there will be a strong decline in real terms in the Budget sector of capital outlays in 1977-78?
-The honourable gentleman would well know that these are not matters upon which I seek to speculate at this stage of the parliamentary proceedings. They are matters that will of course become clear to the honourable gentleman when the Budget is brought down. As regards the loss to revenue during the period ahead, the honourable gentleman appears by inference to be critical of the decisions taken by the Government. I remind him that this Government takes considerable pride in being able to say that if one has regard to the figure of approximately $1 billion in tax forgone during the course of this fiscal year and to the $2 billion in terms of tax forgone during the period ahead, we are the greatest tax reforming government in Australian history. The honourable gentleman might regret that because, after all, his Government was the greatest tax harvesting government in Australian history.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Within the Government’s federalism policy, does the Prime Minister see a willingness on the part of State governments to accept the role of varying personal taxation? What will be a State government’s capacity to vary taxation? Will each State be able to increase or decrease personal income tax and to what extent? How would such a capacity influence the Federal Government’s economic planning?
-Under stage 2 of the federalism proposals, States will have the power to increase or reduce taxation collected from their own citizens. Some States have indicated that they are unwilling to pick up this responsibility. They prefer still to be able to blame somebody else if there are particular expenditure items that they feel they are not able to afford. One of the remarkable things about some States is that they give priority to the matters for which they wish to provide incentives, or benefits or increased allowances, or in respect of which they wish to abolish certain taxes and rates. They meet their own priorities from their own budgets as they have done to a marked extent over the course of the past year. Then they come to the
Commonwealth and say: ‘It is the highest priority item that this should occur’. But this is something that they have ignored completely themselves. In other words, they wish the Commonwealth to pick up the matters to which they did not give priority in their own budgets.
Stage 2 of the federalism proposals will give them the capacity to pick up that responsibility themselves, if they so wish. It will not affect the Commonwealth Government’s capacity to manage the affairs of this Commonwealth or the economy of the country properly, effectively and firmly. But it will mean, for example, that if Premiers say that there ought to be tax cuts now, they will have the capacity to introduce tax cuts now at least for their own citizens. If stage 2 of the federalism proposals had in fact been operating through 1976-77, it would have been interesting to note how many Premiers would have followed their own advice. My guess is that not one of them would have been game to do so.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of a message sent to the American Congress by President Carter on or about 22 March in which he sought extensions to the electoral laws of that country? The amendments that he sought would in effect mean that the public purse could be used to subsidise all House of Representatives and Senate elections, in addition to presidential elections, and would mean that a ceiling would be placed on the amount which any candidate could spend. Is the Prime Minister also aware that President Carter put as his reason for such changes that ‘public financing is workable and widely accepted by the American people’? In view of this, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will now accept the need for the setting up of a joint committee of this Parliament to look at such questions in Australia?
– I fail to see why the taxpayers of Australia should pay for the honourable gentleman’s political activities. I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– This is a corrupt Government.
– I take a point of order.
– You are out of your place.
– I will take a point of order from wherever I like.
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh will take the point of order from his seat. When he returns to his seat I shall call him.
– While the honourable member for Hindmarsh is returning to his seat, I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, I draw to your attention that today we had some of the longest answers to questions for quite a long time. You have pointed out that answers should be relevant to the questions. I ask you to draw to the attention of Ministers the desirability of cutting short their answers, to give members of the House an opportunity to raise questions adequately.
– There is no substance in the point of order, although I understand why the matter was put. I call upon Ministers to confine their answers as much as possible.
– My point of order is that when the Prime Minister was giving his reply that it was not proper to ask the taxpayers to finance the cost of elections the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) made a remark which I believe was quite unparliamentary. He claimed that the present Government was corrupt.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. Quite often the honourable member for Hindmarsh takes an opportunity to re-state publicly and loudly something that was said but could not be heard. I must warn the honourable member that if he persists with that tactic I shall have to deal with him.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do I understand your ruling on the attempt of the honourable member for Hindmarsh to take a point of order is that a member must be in his place to take a point of order? I understand that is not what the standing order states. It certainly is a practice which cannot always be conformed with in the House.
– I shall consider the matter raised by the honourable member for Corio.
– I lay on the table for the information of honourable members the text of a message of Her Majesty to the Australian people as she left Australia. I ask for leave to have the message also incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? Leave is granted.
The message read as follows-
I look back on the weeks we have spent in Australia with feelings of both pleasure and pride. I am proud to be at the head of this great nation and delighted to find that, in this age of doubt and conflict, Australians have remained the same freedomloving, vigorous and open hearted people that I first came to know 23 years ago.
On this occasion I have noticed a new air of self confidence and satisfaction in what has become a strong and distinctively Australian culture and way of life. And it is one which is now drawing added strength from those who have come here to be Australians from many different lands. I also sense that there is a growing realisation among Australians that their country has an increasing part to play in world affairs and particularly in the affairs of the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas.
Kindness, loyalty and friendship have been shown to us wherever we have been, and, if on occasions, there has been a note of dissent, that is what freedom of expression is all about- a freedom sadly no longer enjoyed in many other countries.
The welcome we have received has given us great personal happiness. It has also encouraged me in the belief that the Crown can be of continuing service to Australia.
Our thanks go to all who have made this visit an experience we shall always remember with gratitude.
– For the information of honourable members I present details of special flights by the Royal Australian Air Force for the period 1 September 1976 to 28 February 1977. Due to the limited number of the schedules available at this time, I have arranged for reference copies of the report to be placed in the Parliamentary Library and with the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on the meeting of the Australian Education Council at Hobart, Tasmania, in February of this year.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Defence Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977
Asian Development Bank (Additional Subscription) Bill 1977
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 19 April next, at 2. 1 5 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day or hour of meering.
– I would like to ask the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) a question. As it is proposed that the House is to adjourn until 1 9 April and in view of the fact that the pending referendums are to be put to the people on 21 May, can the honourable gentleman give an indication to the House whether the tentative program that the Government has laid down will be adhered to or whether the Parliament will adjourn from about 5 May until after the referendums have been held?
– in reply- Perhaps I could respond to the question asked by the honourable member. Several propositions have been advanced that there should be one less sitting week. At this stage no decision has been taken. The suggestion is that the House might not sit on the 1 7, 1 8 and 1 9 May which are indicated as sitting days on the present scheduled program. The Government will look at the program after Parliament resumes following the Easter recess and a decision will be taken then. Honourable members will be advised of that decision as soon as possible. In the meantime honourable members would be foolish to program on the basis of any deletion from the schedule.
There has also been a suggestion, which I might mention to the House, that the last 2 sitting weeks of the scheduled program might be 4-day sitting weeks, the House sitting from Tuesday to Friday on the first week and from Monday to Thursday on the second. Equally, no decision has been taken on that suggestion. As soon as any decision is taken, which will be immediately after Easter, I will of course advise all honourable members to that effect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That grievances be noted.
-One of the key principles of the Medibank program was, and is, bulk billing. This arrangement contributed enormously to the efficient functioning of a universal health insurance scheme. It gave the opportunity to apply effective utilisation control measures and, additionally, effective cost control measures. Let me quickly expand on each of those points. Efficiency was achieved because with bulk billing there was a more rapid turn around of medical and hospital claims and accordingly there could be a quicker settlement. It was far more efficient than any alternative system. The figures released in statistical data in this year’s annual report of the Health Insurance Commission establish that beyond any doubt.
Bulk billing provided an opportunity for utilisation control because it gave a precise effective recording of utilisation rates by the various medical practitioners in the community. It created a cost control mechanism because it meant that those doctors who were bulk billing were in fact not overcharging but were adhering to the schedule of fees as appropriate for the various services under the bulk billing arrangement. That is an important point because if medical practitioners charged more than the fee schedule the Government does not have to meet the cost but the public does. What is relevant here is that the total cost has to be borne by the community. I repeat that a key principle of the Medibank program was, and continues to be, bulk billing because of its efficiency and the utilisation control and cost control measures which it created.
It is reported reliably that the Government is considering at the very least scrapping bulk billing arrangements for pathology services. It is reported from usually reliable sources that the Government is considering going well beyond that, conceivably towards the total dismemberment of the bulk billing principle or at the very least allowing bulk billing for low income earners and pensioner patients alone. If the Government proposes to adopt the latter proposal as some small concession to community feeling on this issue, it is a totally inappropriate son of measure. It seems that the Government has an extremely short memory, because one thing which was proved beyond any doubt in the period up to 1 972 was that it is impossible to provide adequately some sort of special benefit system under health insurance for low income earners. It may well be done for pensioners with appropriate cards, although that becomes increasingly difficult with means test free pensions, which in any case are in jeopardy under this Government. Certainly the experience was that efforts to provide special benefits for low income earners and migrants were a total failure. The Government refuses to learn. It would seem that it wants to revert to the old principle.
The real point I make is that eliminating bulk billing will not remedy any of the problems about which the Government is concerned. It is concerned, and rightly so, that there may be over-utilisation. Broadly, there is certainly evidence of over-utilisation in some specific areas by medical practitioners, not by the community. Proposing to eliminate bulk billing as some sort of remedy for this problem is like trying to use a fork to hold back water. Not only is it an inadequate instrument for the purpose; it is also an inappropriate one. I remind the House of a point I made here last week. The sort of abuse which has become apparent by pathologists under Medibank is the same sort of abuse which was rampant under the old system of private health insurance. The independent inquiries on fee determinations which the Labor Government set up in 1973 and 1974, I believe first under Mr Justice Ludeke and under Mr Mcintosh in the second case, disclosed that pathologists were certainly abusing the then system of private health insurance to rip off from the taxpayer and to rip off from the public in a quite unconscionable way. There was clear evidence of overutilisation. Incidentally, that sort of overutilisation can arise only if there is knowing and willing complicity on the part of general practitioners. That sort of specialist procedure can only be undertaken on referral. So the point I am making is that abolishing bulk billing makes no difference at all because the abuse went on under the old system in which there was a total absence of any form of bulk billing.
With bulk billing there is the opportunity to monitor more effectively the utilisation rates of medical practitioners. In Canada, where there has been considerable experience of this sort of thing, the general principle established by the provinces- there may be variation in practice from province to province- is that statistical information is compiled on the basis of cost per patient, number of services per patient and total number of services as related to particular medical practitioners. From this a profile of information can be built up and where there is abuse appropriate action can be taken.
We have provided under the appropriate legislation authority for the appointment of medical services committees of review. That authority has existed for something like 12 months. To this point no committee has been established to review the practice procedures of medical practitioners. So we see a clear situation where the Government has not been sincere in its efforts to regulate more effectively in the public interest the practices adopted by medical practitioners. Medical practitioners are no different from anyone else in the community. They are as prone to abusing opportunity when it presents itself as anyone else is. It just happens that when they abuse the opportunity it is much more rewarding.
The defectiveness of these medical services committees of review is related to the absence of regulatory or punitive powers. If these review committees were set up and if they had regulatory and punitive powers, in the absence of any success of consultation with errant medical practitioners, they could be used as effective peer group instruments to bring under control the sort of abuse about which apparently the Government is concerned. All I can say is that this soft touch on the part of the Government is in distinct contrast with the bashing of unions in which the Government indulges so much. It is like feather dusting of the Australian Medical Association when there is outrageous abuse going on in the community.
About 45 per cent of doctors are bulk billing at the moment and the proportion is climbing. About 50 per cent of services are being bulk billed. It is in the community interest for these ratios to continue to climb because the higher the proportion of medical practitioners who are bulk billing the greater the capacity of the Government to monitor utilisation rates and the more effective the Government will be in ensuring adherence to the fee schedule; that is, the public will not be abused with excess fee charging by the medical practitioners.
Let us go through some of the cost implications of the Government’s proposal. If it wipes out bulk billing for pathology services it will do very little to nothing about damming the abuse but it will incur an additional administrative cost which I calculate roughly, which is the best I can do in my position on the Opposition side of the House, at between $ 1.5m and $2m a year. It will have to increase the staff ceilings of the Health Insurance Commission by between 70 and 80 persons. Talk of savings such as I have seen carelessly mentioned in the newspapers is nonsense. They would come about only if fee schedules were reduced. That has nothing to do with a more efficient system.
If there were total abolition of bulk billing I would reckon that the cost in increased administrative charges would be between $12m and possibly $ 1 4m to $ 1 5m a year. Additional staff of between 450 and 500 would be required by the Health Insurance Commission. Data entry terminals, microfiche viewers and a whole range of complex, expensive equipment would be required to allow the necessary additional servicing. The most distressing part is that the efficiency would go down. The average turnaround between the receipt of a bill by the patient and its settlement by the Commission under bulk billing is less than 29 days. Under cheque payments it is over 89 days. It will go to a much higher rate if bulk billing is destroyed. It will be a sad day if the Government concedes to the AMA pressure on this important point.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take the opportunity of this grievance debate to raise a matter that will be of particular interest to a significant migrant community within my electorate. However, it is an issue that will affect and be of interest to other migrant communities throughout the nation. I bring to the attention of the House the urgent need for an examination of the circumstances under which Australian pensions are payable to migrants. The completion of reciprocal arrangements on social security with countries such as Italy is a matter of high priority. Because of the over-generous conditions under which Australian pensions are paid to pensioners going abroad, the conclusion of these reciprocal arrangements is of far greater interest and importance to migrants resident in Australia than to those who after a short stay here have left the country.
We already have reciprocal agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand. They are based on the acceptance of the principle that the country in which the claimant is ordinarily resident accepts the underlying responsibility for providing pension assistance. They have ceased to be of much significance to former Australian residents living in the United Kingdom who, when they left Australia, were in receipt of the Australian pension, which they were able to carry with them to the United Kingdom. In fact it was recently necessary for the agreement to be amended to ensure that such persons did not receive 2 pensions- one direct from Australia and the other from the United Kingdom Government under the reciprocal agreement.
I understand that European countries have expressed interest in the possibility of negotiating reciprocal agreements with Australia. Such agreements are commonplace between European countries. They arose from the desire to protect the rights of workers moving between these countries. European countries such as Italy in their discussions with Australia have indicated that they do not wish to follow the pattern of our arrangements with the United Kingdom. They want to enter into arrangements that are in accordance with the basic principles followed by the agreements they have with other European countries. These principles include equality of treatment under the social security legislation of each contracting party, the transferability of accrued benefits and the aggregation of periods of residence, employment or insurance in determining entitlement to rates of benefit.
The difficulty that Australia faces in entering such negotiations is that a full Australian pension becomes an accrued benefit after too short a period. No one should dispute the right of those who have spent many years of their working lives in Australia to transfer their pension entitlements overseas if they choose to spend their years of retirement in the country of their birth or elsewhere. The manner in which general portability of Australian pensions was granted by the previous Labor Government is proving to have been most unfortunate for migrants who, though permanent residents of Australia, have not been here for 10 years. Under the portability arrangements introduced by the previous Government not only do those who have spent many years here have the right to transfer their pensions overseas, but so also do those who have spent only a small proportion of their working lives in this country.
To make all Australian pensions portable even though the period of residential qualification was only 10 years was not a sensible alternative to the negotiation of a satisfactory reciprocal agreement with countries with which we had no such agreement. Migrants would have been better served if they had been given entitlement to pensions after, say, 3 years residence in Australia so long as they continue to live in this country and if portability of pension entitlement had been granted to those who leave Australia permanently only if they had spent considerably longer periods of their working lives in Australia than the 10 years residence which now applies. The Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty found that there are some migrants who are unable to earn an income through employment and- to quote the Commission’s report- ‘who suffer lack of entitlement to age and invalid pensions in their early years of settlement’. All honourable members would be able to provide many illustrations of the type of hardship which these migrants suffer, and there are some illustrations contained in the Commission ‘s report. The following opinion of the Commission should be noted:
These arrangements are relics of an outdated philosophy that benefits must be earned. They cannot be justified on the premise that assistance should be given according to need. The needs of an aged or disabled migrant are similar to those of other aged and disabled Australians and we recommend that they be treated alike.
The Commission went on to say:
While aged relatives may not have contributed through taxes they are an important part of family and community life and the cost of supporting aged relatives of migrants is one which must be recognised and borne by the country inviting immigrant families.
I believe that we need to change our approach to the provision of pensions to migrants in Australia. The view that I have just expressed on the basis of the recommendations of the Poverty Commission was further supported in the paper by that Commission entitled The Welfare of Migrants. In the chapter on Italians in Australia attention was drawn to the sizeable proportion of Italians in the lower income groups and the consequent considerable strain on such families of bringing out elderly parents mainly because they do so under a system of maintenance guarantees which leaves them for a time ineligible for government assistance.
We need to define clearly our approaches, firstly, to pension eligibility for Australian residents and, secondly, to pension portability for those who cease to be Australian residents. It is my view that we need to apply different criteria in each instance. Australian taxpayers are already providing $20m a year to over 10 000 pensioners who have left Australia. How many of these pensioners in fact earned their entitlement as taxpayers in this country? I do not for a minute begrudge the right to receive those pensions to those who spent a large proportion of their working lives in Australia, but I fear that there are many who spent but a limited time here and become entitled to a full Australian pension. They placed a burden on the Treasury in a manner which now raises doubts as to whether those who are residents of this country and who have been here less than 10 years can be provided with an age pension. In any event, is 10 years- a quarter of the working life of the average Australiana sufficient period in which to confer entitlement to an age pension which can be taken overseas?
If a number of countries were to adopt an approach similar to that which we have in Australia at the present time it would be possible for people to move from one pension haven to another, accumulating in each the entitlement to a full pension after spending only a short period in each country. As a result they could end up retiring in the country of their choice, being entitled to an income equivalent to the full pension paid in 4 different countries while in each of those countries there could be resident migrants with insufficient incomes. On the other hand, pensions should be payable to those who are permanent residents in Australia and who have been here long enough to be entitled to become Australian citizens if they are otherwise qualified. In the case of permanent residents in Australia, Australian benefits should not be paid only to those who are deemed to have earned them. They should be paid to them on the ground that they are permanent residents of this country. Portability of those pensions to overseas countries should however be based upon the earnings principle. The eligibility period for a full pension should be extended and part pensions should be payable to those not fully qualified but who wish to go overseas after but a short period in this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It had been my intention to enter the grievance debate to speak on matters affecting the Department of Defence. However, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has raised the very important issue of Medibank bulk billing. It has concerned me deeply that the hysteria originally induced in the medical profession by the suggestion of a scheme to finance properly and fairly the cost of treatment of disease still continues. This Government made an election promise not to destroy Medibank. We have already seen how well that promise has been kept. The Government has even prevented Medibank Private from competing with other private insurance in the provision of paramedical services. Now it further attacks Medibank by attacking the basic reasonable and economic procedure of bulk billing, as if that were an ill of health insurance.
It is not. Fee for service and its abuse is the ill from which the disadvantages flow.
For many years before Medibank the medical profession had no difficulty whatsoever in bulk billing for a very substantial section of general practice- that is, for claims for repatriation and pensioner medical service. I refer those who read the Medical Journal of Australia to the editorial of 1 1 December 1976 headed: ‘A Tipple with a Local Flavour’: Social Medicine in Australia. It describes the first major text on social medicine in Australia. The fact that it has only been written now is a shocking reflection on this country. The author, Professor Douglas Gordon states:
That is one of the considerations we must take into account in the provision of health services. It goes on to say that a specific form of organisation for the variant brings a lot of specific consequences. We could transfer very well this specific attitude to the provision of medical services, particularly amongst the medical profession, because they are part of that variant. They operate with much greater freedom and much greater licence than any other medical profession throughout the world.
Rackets in pathology have given the excuse to attack bulk billing and to further weaken Medibank. On what basis is bulk billing blamed for the pathology rackets? It is not bulk billing that is at fault but the whole fee for service basis that allows it. It is clear that the medical profession sees bulk billing as giving some magical ability to control charges. The abolition of bulk billing will even further increase medical charges. It is said that abolition of bulk billing will give patients a chance to check whether they have indeed received the service. What nonsense! The language of pathology tests is a language of its own which doctors themselves have difficulty in continually updating. Why destroy the economies of bulk billing just because of the predatory attitude of a minority of doctors? It is indeed a minority who offend, who falsify and who split fees with referring doctors, either directly or by paying for maintaining a member of the staff of the referring doctor. That could be a nurse or a receptionist who theoretically handles the pathology tests. The medical profession itself can see that only a minority is involved, but for some inexplicable intellectual reason it wants bulk billing destroyed. Perhaps it wants maliciously to do that in order to destroy Medibank.
In support of these charges one could point to a recent development in Victorian Government hospitals which have employed salaried radiologists for years. Now the suggestion is made that those salaried radiologists can opt out- that they can do 6 sessions paid on a sessional basis and be paid on a fee for service basis for the other 4 sessions in relation to non-public patients. One estimate is that on a fee for service basis the radiologists would receive a return for those 4 sessions of something like $140,000 a year. I suspect that the same attitude will be taken in respect of pathologists in government hospitals; they will be charging fees for non-public patients. So the cost of health services would be hidden even further and the actions of those doctors would be a further rip-off from the community.
It has been suggested that Medibank leads to over usage of services and that bulk billing hides that fact. The opponents of Medibank then state the proposition that the abolition of bulk billing will reduce over usage. What do the facts show? The Budget estimate for medical benefits for this financial year is $7 10m, or 12.9 per cent above the 1975-76 figure. That does not indicate any escalation. Let us look at the per capita usage of medical services. The 1975-76 annual report of the Health Insurance Commission showed the usage figure as being 4.79 services per head of population. In 1974-75 the Director-General of Social Services put the figure at 5. 1 services per head of population and, with pensioners included, 5.5 services per head of population. Usage has not risen at all despite all the propaganda. The reason for that is quite clear. Being confident in their coverage of medical costs, people seek attention earlier and so their period of treatment is shortened.
Let us have another look at the reason for the attack on bulk billing. The Government is seeking any method it can, however short term, to say that it is reducing expenditure. The abolition of bulk billing would mean delays in payment which would give a short term benefit. Let us look at the efficiency of bulk billing. I remind honourable members that with the Government’s changes in Medibank the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria suggested that doctors bulk bill to that organisation. The cost of processing assigned benefits- that is, bulk billing -is much lower than any other claimant system. The Health Insurance Commission reported in June 1976 that the average cost of processing assigned benefits was only 34 cents per claim, compared with an average cost of 44 cents per cash claim and $1.14 per pay claimant or pay doctor cheque claim. In Medibank ‘s first year of operation 44.5 per cent of all medical claims were assigned benefits. That percentage figure represents 17.5 million claims. If we assume an average cost of cash and cheque claims of 79 cents, the increased cost of processing per claim would be at least 45 cents or $7.88m in a full year. That figure is most probably very conservative as only 18 per cent of medical claims were paid by cash in Medibank ‘s first year of operation, and the majority of claims could be expected to be pay doctor or pay claimant cheque claims, which is the most expensive method of processing. Then we have the delay which occurs between the date of service and payment of claims. If bulk billing is abolished that delay will greatly increase. The delay which occurred between the date of service and payment of claims was something like 89.2 days in the case of claimant cheque claims, 57.7 days for cash claims, and only 28.8 days for assigned benefits.
Let me deal with the subject of cost. Under Labor’s original Medibank proposals doctors who bulk billed were required to accept 85 per cent of the scheduled fee in full payment for their services. In October 1976 the Government abandoned that principle and permitted doctors to charge the additional 15 per cent gap between the assigned benefit and the scheduled fee. That decision undoubtedly contributed to increased costs, but it did retain some control over doctors’, fees and charges. The Minister appealed to doctors not to charge pensioners and low income earners that 15 per cent gap. If bulk billing is abolished there will be no incentive for doctors to charge less than the scheduled fee. If we assume that all doctors would in future charge the scheduled fee the minimum increase in costs to the public, if bulk billing were abolished, would be $94.45m.
One could go on talking about the problems of social justice that would occur if bulk billing were abolished. Because that would represent such a basic departure from the original concept of the Medibank scheme, it is with some disgust that we note any excuse, such as a minority of doctors racketeering amongst their patients, being used to attack Medibank and eventually to destroy it. That is the Government’s objective. We will recover it from the wreckage after next year.
– I should like to draw the attention of the House to a subject, the magnitude of which the large majority of Australians either ignore or fail to appreciate.
That problem is the cost to the nation of excessive consumption of alcohol. The time has come when the Federal Government must meet both its moral and financial responsibilities to combat this national tragedy. Figures are available on the financial burden which alcoholism is placing on the national economy. In February of this year the President of the Australian Foundation of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence stated that alcoholics employed in industry were costing Australia $532m a year. In a similar statement made in March the Director of the Victorian Health Department estimated that alcoholism was costing the Government $600m. Indeed, there are believed to be some 300 000 alcoholics in Australia. Thirteen per cent of the Australian male work force is included in that number.
But the financial cost does not stop at the level of reduced work force efficiency. In the last 10 years deaths related to alcohol have climbed by a staggering 54.8 per cent. Alcoholism is now Australia’s fourth major health hazard after cancer. Dependence on alcohol will cut the life span of a drinker by 10 to 12 years and can cause brain damage, ranging from momentary amnesia to a total collapse of the short term memory system. It causes liver failure and is believed to contribute to certain types of cancer. That in turn has created a massive financial burden on our health system. At a recent conference on assistance to employees affected by alcohol and drug usage, it was indicated that alcohol cost the N.S.W. public more than $3 10m through its public hospitals system this year. I shall also make brief mention of the nation’s road toll in this context.
Whilst arguments continue as to the significance of alcohol in the carnage on our roads the simple fact of the matter is that half the drivers killed have more than the legal limit of alcohol in their blood. This leads me to the immeasurable cost in human suffering from alcohol abuse. Apart from the loneliness and despair of the alcoholics themselves one cannot begin to contemplate the magnitude of the effect of their illness on their estimated 900 000 spouses and children. The human tragedy is greater than any of us can measure in personal monetary terms. It is startling also to look at what this nation spends on alcohol. In 1974-75 Australians spent $2,039m on beer, wines and spirits. This amount represents about one-third of that spent on food and 5.9 per cent of our total personal consumer spending.
Australians are the highest consumers of alcohol in the English speaking world with a current annual intake of 12.72 litres per capita of the population over 15 years of age. Each year we are consuming 5 per cent more alcohol. If this trend continues, by 1990 we will have achieved the dubious honour of becoming the top drinking nation in the world. Figures clearly indicate that there is every likelihood of that occurring. I am alarmed that more than 9 per cent of Australian children between the ages of 12 and 17 claim to get very drunk more than once a month. Thirty thousand secondary school children in Victoria and New South Wales are officially classified as having severe alcohol problems. Reports flow in consistently of a growing number of students arriving for school on Mondays with hangovers from the weekend and from drinking sprees. Similarly, students are found sleeping off the effects of lunchtime drinking during afternoon classes.
A recent survey by the Victorian Department of Health conducted in one country town classified 7 per cent of third-form students in a secondary school as being heavy or very heavy drinkers. Another survey conducted by the New South Wales Health Education Advisory Council found that although only five of the 1407 boys in the survey of 30 government and nongovernment schools throughout New South Wales were of legal drinking age, 19 per cent purchased alcohol personally from licensed premises. These figures connote that we may not have to wait until 1990 to become recognised as the world’s heaviest drinkers. In stark contrast to the crippling cost of alcohol to the nation stands the amount of Federal Government financial assistance to combat the problem. On 8 February this year the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) announced an additional grant of $100,000 to the Australian Foundation of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence under the Commonwealth’s community health program. This grant brought to $271,800 the amount being received by AFADD currently. I sincerely believe that financial expenditure in this area must be given a far greater priority. In his speech in this House in delivering the Budget on 17 August last the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said:
The cost to the taxpayer or health care in Australia has rocketed in recent years.
Even allowing for the Medibank changes, total outlays on health were then estimated at almost $3,000m for this financial year. Leaving aside the personal cost and the cost to industry of alcohol abuse, one is left wondering by how much this expenditure could be reduced if more substantial sums were channelled into promoting the prevention of alcoholism. Strenuous attempts have been made at Government, media and community level to warn the public of the dangers of drugs and tobacco. The efforts in the area of prevention of alcoholism stand in poor contrast.
In Australia above all other nations the concept of heavy drinking is not only socially accepted but glorified. Australians seem to have no real appreciation of the extent of alcoholism in the community much less of the damage it is doing. The image of the alcoholic as a skid row derelict is quite wrong. The skid row drinker is just the tip of the iceberg. Greater Government financial assistance is urgently required to promote a greater social awareness of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. The Government must act to reverse this social acceptance which has set in.
I note also from the Budget estimates that $775m in excise duty on beer and $71m on spirits will be collected by the Government this year. The recycling of some of this money back into the prevention of alcoholism would be money well spent indeed. The modern technique of rescuing the problem drinker is to get assistance to him early. I seriously suggest that the only way to assist Australia with its alcohol problem is to provide additional Government funds to fight it before the nation itself is on skid row.
– I rise today to speak on a matter which has been of great concern to me, to many of my colleagues and, I believe, to most Australians. I refer to the tragic disaster wrought upon the people of East Timor by the Indonesian armed forces which stand condemned in the eyes of the world including the United Nations. There have been recent allegations of massive atrocities and these have compounded the basic fears we have all had since that fateful morning in December 1 975- a morning when a despicable chapter was written in blood in the history of our region, a morning when tanks, guns and bombardment served as the curtain upon the basic rights of a people to self-determination. What troubles me greatly is how this invasion so close to our shores was allowed to occur. What policy failures in our approach to the East Timor question perhaps contributed to or failed to prevent such a drastic and brutal act of aggression?
Earlier this month I received information from a source which I believe to be credible and accurate. In this information are several charges which disturb me a great deal. The information I have received concerns the visit of Mr Peacock to Bali between 24 and 28 September 1975. Mr
Peacock was then the Opposition shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. Last year Mr Peacock referred to his visit in answer to question No. 488 by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). Mr Whitlam asked:
And Mr Peacock replied:
To the second question he replied:
It must be noted that Mr Harry Tjan and Mr Lim Bian Kie are closely associated with General Ali Murtopo, the architect of the act of butchery in East Timor. What is of deep concern to me is what was the subject matter of the discussion Mr Peacock had with Mr Tjan and Mr Kie on 24 September. The information received by me discloses that Mr Peacock, the then shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, said to the 2 Indonesian officials the following:
A Liberal Government would not complain about Indonesian incorporation of East Timor.
The Australian Liberal Party gave highest priority to relations with Indonesia.
Suharto was a wise statesman and much admired by the Liberal leadership.
He hoped Indonesia would act swiftly and efficiently.
He also said that it was planned to block Supply shortly and that the Whitlam Government would probably fall and that he, Mr Peacock, would then become Foreign Minister. The information I have received states that it was this information by the then shadow Minister that was used to persuade President Suharto to agree to an invasion of East Timor. It is argued that President Suharto had held out against the other more hawkish generals. This was due to the promise that President Suharto had made to the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, at Wonosobo in 1974 and at Townsville in 1975, that Indonesia would not militarily intervene in East Timor. I believe that these allegations concerning the activities of the Minister in Bali on 24 September 1975 require a detailed examination. My own close contact with the tragic events of that time lead me to believe that the information
I have received is correct. I ask: Are any documents held by the Department of Foreign Affairs which support the view I have given of the Minister’s discussions in Bali? If so, they should be tabled in the Parliament. I raise these matters in the spirit of seeking the truth. We all have little to be proud of in relation to East Timor. However, if we can finally get to the centre of how this terrible tragedy occurred, we can hopefully prevent this ever eventuating again. The very grave questions which hang over this matter concern me greatly. Did the Minister say these things and did he, in effect, give the green light to the Indonesians to invade Timor?
– I rise to speak in this Grievance Day debate to bring to the attention of the House, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) the situation that currently prevails in Queensland, which is commonly known as the crab war. In the Gladstone region of central Queensland there are now 12 operators illegally fishing for, catching and processing crabs to be sold in New South Wales and Victoria. Under the current legislation, the Queensland Fisheries Department cannot act because these crabs are being sold interstate. The reason I bring this matter to the attention of the Treasurer is that recently a gentleman named Mr Appo claimed in a Press release to The Sunday Mail that he could make $50,000 per annum out of this illegal trafficking. This same gentleman was apprehended in November 1976, taken before the courts and was fined the large sum of $30. He claimed that he would be prepared to pay that fine each and every day providing it did not interfere with his operations.
The situation is extremely serious. The bona fide fishermen are now arming themselves and the illegal fishermen are carrying a person in the front of their boats armed with a rifle. In recent reports it has been drawn to my attention and to the attention of the Minister for Fisheries in Queensland, Mr Claude Wharton, that one particular group of illegal crabbers has, in fact, shot at outboard motors and has shot holes in the bottom of aluminium fishing boats. This is becoming a matter of grave concern. Also, the legal fishermen claim- I think this is probably a very conservative estimate- that approximately one tonne of processed crabs a week is being shipped to the southern States. I have had discussions with the Queensland Ministers for Fisheries, Health and Primary Industries and the Federal Minister for Primary Industry. The crabmeat, which is considered a delicacy in the south, is being processed on the beaches of central
Queensland. The illegal fishermen are boiling undersized crabs and the jenny crabs, and processing the crab meat in the most unhygienic conditions one could possibly imagine. They are then packaging this meat in one kilogram and 3 kilogram packs and sending it to the south. The method of sending it south worries me also. There have been reports of one particular charter airline flying this meat to southern areas on a weekly basis. In fact, it has been claimed now that they have stepped this up to 3 times a week.
I appeal to Federal Ministers to intervene before there is bloodshed along the central Queensland coast. These illegal fishermen commenced their operations in northern New South Wales. They then moved into the Sunshine Coast area and then up to Maryborough. They have virtually completely ruined this industry on those 3 sections of the coast. They have now moved into the Gladstone, Tannum Sands, Rockhampton region and, considering the amount of illegal crabbing that is going on, it will not be long before this area is completely depleted as well. This raises another point concerning what happened to 2 fishing patrol officers who mysteriously disappeared off the central Queensland coast. It has been claimed in the official records that these officers met with a boating accident. This has now been questioned by the crabbers in this area. The Queensland Government has implemented new legislation to crack down on these illegal crabbers. We now have a situation whereby these crabbers will be fined $1,000 for fishing illegally. In fact, the Queensland Minister assured me this morning that as soon as the regulations are written into this particular Act, the Queensland Government will certainly tighten up in this area.
The Queensland Government intends to purchase a new patrol boat and to station more patrol officers in Rockhampton and Gladstone. However, I doubt whether a fine of $ 1 ,000 will in fact stop these people carrying on what is for them a very beneficial operation when they claim that they are making in excess of $40,000 to $50,000 per annum. I have not yet learned how to appeal to the Ministry in such a fashion -
– Which one?
– I would never be in the position of appealing to a Labor ministry.
– You will not be here for the next ministry.
– If the honourable gentleman continues, I think I will get some of the illegal crabbers to come down and deal with him. I do not know how to raise these matters with the
Ministry but I appeal to Ministers to take action immediately because the situation, as I have tried to explain, is extremely serious. It is so serious, in fact, that on Sunday evening a gentleman telephoned me at home and informed me that he was going to do away with one of the illegal crabbers. I told him that I wished he had not phoned me and that he had not told me because if this chap met with an unfortunate accident I would now feel duty bound to inform the authorities. This situation has now reached the stage where private individuals who normally enjoy the sport of crabbing are not game to go out from Port Alma or from areas such as Tannum Sands. It has also reached the stage where one legal crabber found on the beach last week an oxy-acetelyne set which is used for underwater cutting of certain materials. One can only assume that the illegal fishermen intend to cut the crab pots of the legal fishermen. I doubt whether this is a good thing even though the illegal crabbers are doing it all the time. This has been well documented in the Queensland press. In fact there have now been some 9 different reports.
I also draw these reports to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer. A Queensland parliamentarian by the name of Lamont is certainly agitating and trying to entice the Federal Government to intervene. The New South Wales Government has assured the Queensland Minister that it will implement complementary legislation to determine the size of the catch that can be sold in New South Wales. In fact the New South Wales Government has been promising this for some months now but not one solitary thing has happened.
So I am once again appealing to the Federal Minister to try to persuade the New South Wales Government that it ought to intervene and to introduce similar legislation. When we talk about the size of this illegal operation we are talking about a minimum of 1 tonne per week. When one thinks of the prices that have been cited, fluctuating between $2.80 a lb and $7.50 a lb, one sees the size of this illegal operation. It is running into thousands and thousands of dollars a week. One charter operator has insured his aircraft on these shipments for $300,000. This once again clearly shows the amount of money that is involved, the magnitude of the operation and the depths that these people will go to to be allowed to continue their illegal operation.
– I hope the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) did not think that my intervention meant that I have no sympathy with what he was saying. I had not got the message quite clear that he was not getting much response out of the people in the Ministry here. Perhaps that was the case with most of the other people listening in to this grievance day debate. I point up the remarks he made. I do not know why the Ministers here are not intervening correctly or adequately but I know through my experience in this Parliament, particularly during the period in which we were in government- I attended many ministerial council meetings- that it took some time before one got round to establishing an appropriate rapport between the Ministers representing Australia as such and the States as such. It is one of the great difficulties to which we are all heir. I only hope that honourable members in the National Country Party corner will recognise that it is one of the great difficulties in Australian administration and will apply themselves more effectively to the question of national government rather than the consortium of State autonomies that they are always supporting.
I rise this morning to speak basically about the attack upon the living standards of the Australian people that flows from some of this Government’s operations- the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission this morning and so on. But before I commence on that I want to support as eloquently and as strongly as I can the words of my honourable friend from Fraser (Mr Fry) about the situation in Timor and to make sure that this House continues its demand that the Australian Government stand up against the Indonesian Government, that we do not go in for the continuous sycophancy that goes on here towards the Indonesians. I can think of no reason why we should heap praise in this House upon the President of Indonesia. He is a militarist governor. He is in control of a government that has carried out an acute case of aggression in Timor. At question time this morning the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) mentioned my own intervention on behalf of the people of Cambodia, now the Khmer Republic, some 7 or 8 years ago. I did that. When I came home I continued doing that. I was as right then in my attitude to aggression against neighbouring countries, in that case by the forces of North Vietnam, as I believe I am correct now in my belief that the Indonesians are carrying out an act of great aggression in Timor.
I want to speak about the attack on living standards that is implicit in this Government’s policy. It falls into 3 major parts. First there is the denigration of the unemployed; secondly, the administration of the benefit; and thirdly, the attack upon real wages. First I shall say a few words on behalf of those people who are out of work. I think the word ‘dole ‘is most ungracious.
– You keep using it.
– I do not use the word. When I was quite young, immediately after leaving school in the 1930s, I was out of work for 3 years. I know what it is like. I know how disheartening it can be. Of course at that time one lived in a world in which unemployment was much more a fact of life, one of the parts of life. So many hundreds of thousands of people were out of work in deep misery. One of the great contributions of the last 30 years has been the taking of misery out of unemployment by making the unemployment benefit substantive enough for people to live on it, and making it readily enough available so that it is not an act of charity. One of the great disadvantages this Government is heaping upon the unemployed people is to make it instead of an act of right or a payment of right, an act of grace. We must oppose it. That brings me to the question of the administration of the unemployment benefit. I have here a letter from one of my constituents. I shall read parts of it. It states:
I enclose 2 letters from the Department of Social Security placed in my letter box on 9th and 10th March.
I think they speak for themselves. It is only of ironic interest that I had phoned the Department two weeks earlier to tell them that as my wife had found work we no longer wanted unemployment benefits, and that on the second day the officer called I was actually in the Professional Employment Office confirming the cancellation of the benefit. The more substantial implication of the letters is the contempt in which the unemployed are held by the Fraser government and the department and the overbearing attitudes they are expected to suffer. The unemployed, quite obviously, are expected to be home at all times- not out looking for jobs?and are to keep appointments which have not been made. They are to put up with harassment by anonymous officers, and if they are not too inarticulate or intimidated or both, their only recourse is to a poor bloke who answers the phone and says ‘Sorry mate. It ‘s not my fault ‘.
That arises from 2 letters I have here which were delivered to this gentleman ‘s home. One states:
With reference to Unemployment Benefits in your name, an Officer of this Department called at your home address -
It gives the date- but as you were not at home he was unable to interview you.
The Officer will call again on Thursday -
The officer called again on Thursday and the gentleman was not home because, as he said, he had an appointment at the employment office as it was. The second letter states:
An officer of this Department called on you … in connection with your unemployment benefit.
You were not in attendance so a request was made that you remain at home . . . to be interviewed.
As you Tailed to keep this appointment it will be taken to indicate that you are no longer interested in receiving unemployment benefits and it will be terminated accordingly unless you contact . . .
And so on. It happens that that person is articulate enough to know how to handle the situation. But I represent countless thousands of people who read no English, who do not understand these things. I do not think that is the way we should handle the situation. I recognise the difficulties of it. I know that in my electorate people have been found to be drawing 2 unemployment benefits and working as well and so on. But we must not make the individual the victim of administrative convenience. We have to solve that problem and we cannot solve it if we continue to reduce employment services and resources and the public servant numbers to man them.
I have dealt with the administration of the system; now I come to the question of the actual wage itself. One of the most depressing features of the last 15 months has been the consistent attacks upon real wages of the people of Australia on the part of this Government, using every force at its disposal. The judgment of the Commission this morning that wages were to be increased by, I think, $5.70 is another example of that. I do not think that meets the full indexation that is required to keep up the real standards of living. The trade union movement of Australia will not take that. I suppose, to use the vernacular, they are not going to cop it. Why should they? If profits are going up why should they stand by while real wages come down? So much nonsense is talked in this arena.
I do not think that there is any possibility of the private sector taking up all the unemployment. I think that productivity is rising through technical and technological changes in industry to such an extent that there is no possibility of achieving full employment through the private sector. That is where government comes in. I think that there is a misunderstading both about the productivity behind each worker and the wage factor in the cost of living. I cite 3 examples. The first refers to bricks. I know of a brickworks where 12 to 15 months ago 100 employees were producing 500 000 bricks a week. Now 35 employees are producing 700 000 bricks a week. At more than $100 a thousand bricks that is over $2,000 a week each of production capacity on the part of the workers- typists, managers and the lot. For that work they get perhaps $ 1 50 a week. If their wages were to go up by 100 per cent it still would not affect the cost of production very much.
– I am not suggesting that their wages should be increased, I am just putting the case to honourable members. I ask them to do the arithmetic. Those people are each producing $2,000 worth of goods a week. If they were paid $300 a week each it would still add only some small percentage to the cost of the bricks. In fact the cost of those bricks is basically made up of interest and other matters.
Then there is coal. I am informed that every person working in the coal industry produces between $300 and $400 worth of coal a day and gets paid about $30 a day for doing so. I have been in factories in my electorate where there has been an enormous increase in productivity. I went to one factory that makes cans. It cans that stuff that the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) was attacking with my support- beer. They now have 2 people producing material which it took 10 people to produce 5 years ago. The wage factor has fallen from $100 and hour to $20 an hour in that instance. The Government complains bitterly about the wage factor in the cost of production. I think it is time that the people of Australia woke up to the facts of life. They are being taken on. Profits are rising while real wages are falling. While the people of Australia are slow on these matters, the facts are that they will not take it much longer. The Government is heading for a very solid confrontation with the people at the work base.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to express very great concern at the attitude of the South Australian Labor Government to this Commonwealth Government. Ever since the Commonwealth Government came to office on 13 December 1975 with overwhelming community support, the Dunstan Government has continually misrepresented the position of this Government on a range of issues and then indulged in criticism of that misrepresented position. State Ministers from the Premier down have engaged in this sport.
The position is best exemplified by referring to the State Minister of Transport and Local Government, Mr Virgo. Throughout last year, he launched a series of ill-founded attacks on the Commonwealth Government. Not having learnt his lesson from last year, I see that recently he has been at it again. On the most recent occasion he was criticising the Commonwealth’s proposed allocation of funds for road works. In particular, he condemned the alleged reduction in funds for this area of government expenditure.
The total proposed allocation to South Australia by the Commonwealth for assistance for roads in 1977-78 is $40.4m. This represents an increase of $1.6m or 4.1 per cent over the $38. 8m provided in 1976-77. Allowing for some increases in costs through inflation, which is still a problem- it is a legacy of the spending sprees of the Whitlam Government- this represents a decrease in real terms.
However, merely to look blandly at these figures provides a gross misrepresentation of the real situation. Firstly, the Commonwealth Government has specific responsibility for management of the economy. It is responsible for providing an environment for the restoration of economic prosperity which Australia enjoyed before it suffered the devastation of 3 years of incompetent economic management by Labor. Of course the necessary pre-requisite for that is to reduce the level of inflation which was created by Labor. The policies of this Government have been directed to that end.
An essential part of this policy is holding Budget outlays next year within zero real growth to reduce the Budget deficit. The rapid increase in government spending and consequent horrific deficit created by Labor were a major contributing factor to inflation. The Commonwealth allocation to roads must therefore be seen in the light of this necessity to stop increases in government spending. The battle against inflation is and must remain the Government’s first priority and major objective.
Notwithstanding this, it should be emphasised that the roads which most people in South Austalia use in going about their everyday lives will receive an increase in funds in real terms. These are the roads which are covered by the Roads Grants Act, namely urban local, urban arterial, rural local, rural arterial and MITERS. The total proposed allocation of $22.2m to these types of roads in South Australia represents an increase of $3.4m or 18.1 per cent over the $ 18.8m allocated in 1976-77. After allowing for cost escalation, this represents a real increase of 4.5 per cent. If one looks at the total allocation to all States for these categories of roads we see that a money increase of 5.4 per cent will be provided compared with South Australia’s 18.1 per cent increase. So in fact South Australia is doing exceptionally well by comparison with other States in receiving funds for those roads which most people use from day to day. It is in the area of national highways that South Australia has suffered a reduction. While this may be regrettable in the short term, it is necessary in the Government’s overall budgetary context. However, it should be noted that this relates to relatively few roads, and they are not those which most people use in their everyday lives. I repeat that those roads which are serving local communities both in city and country areas will receive real increased assistance.
It should also be noted that within the total allocation there will be large increases for roads which come under local government jurisdiction. Proposed grants for urban local roads in South Australia for 1977-78 amount to $2.2m. This represents a 100 per cent increase over the $ 1 . 1 m allocated in 1976-77. The allocation for rural local roads is $6. 7m- a 26.4 per cent increase over the $4.3m provided in 1976-77. This shows clearly the Commonwealth Government’s determination to ensure that there is adequate provision for roads in local government areas. This allocation has been praised by Mr Andrew Walls, the Director of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. This increased direct allocation to local government is a significant policy initiative. It shows the real commitment of the Commonwealth Government to its policy of federalism and to bringing government closer to the people.
All these factors, of course, serve to emphasise the gross misrepresentation in which Mr Virgo has indulged.
However, the best is yet to come. State and local governments must share the responsibility with the Commonwealth of making funds available for road works. The Commonwealth ‘s share of total roads expenditure increased from 32 per cent in 1969-70 to 36 per cent in 1975-76. In the same period, the share of State government funding declined from 34 per cent to 32 per cent. That of local government did likewise- it declined from 34 per cent to 32 per cent over the same period. The lack of real concern by the South Australian Government and also by Mr Virgo for roads, except to use them as a tool for political point scoring, is shown by the most recent figures available which indicate the proportion of the total budget outlays allocated by the Commonwealth and State governments to roads. The South Australian outlay on roads as a proportion of its total Budget expenditure has fallen from 3.5 per cent in 1970-71 to 2.3 percent in 1974-75. This represents a decrease of 44 per cent. By comparison, the Commonwealth Government’s allocation to roads as a percentage of total Budget allocation has decreased from 2.8 per cent in 1 970-7 1 to 2. 1 per cent in 1974-75- a decrease of only 25 per cent compared with the decrease of 44 per cent in the State Government’s allocation. Preliminary figures available for the most recent years show that this trend is still evident. This gives the real lie to Mr Virgo’s criticism of the Commonwealth Government.
Notwithstanding the problems of economic management, the Commonwealth Government is giving a higher relative priority to roads than is the South Australian Government.
It is, therefore, time that Messrs Virgo and Dunstan and the South Australian Government got right behind the Commonwealth Government in its very difficult task of restoring economic stability, instead of misrepresenting and abusing the Commonwealth Government to cover its own inadequacies. It is time we saw some statesmanship on the part of the South Australian Government. The Commonwealth Government has adopted a very statesmanlike attitude. It is not easy to take away funds once they have been allocated to projects. It is not easy to take away benefits from people once funds have been allocated in previous years. The Commonwealth Government has taken that attitude. It has adopted that statesmanlike approach as a necessary basis for bringing about economic recovery in Australia. Yet the South Australian Government is indulging in cheap, political point scoring against the Commonwealth Government for the policies it has initiated in this area.
The South Australian people are getting sick and tired of the attitude adopted by Mr Dunstan and his ministerial colleagues in South Australia in continually misrepresenting the position of the Commonwealth Government on a range of issues and then engaging in criticism of that position. I am sure that the people of South Australia would be far more impressed if they saw a statesmanlike approach adopted by Mr Dunstan and his colleagues and saw them getting right behind the policies of the Commonwealth Governmentthe policies which are justified and necessary if this country is to fight its way out of the economic depression into which it was launched by the spending sprees and the economic incompetence of the Whitlam Government of 1 972 to 1975.
– I learnt something from listening to the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) for the last 7 or 8 minutes. The thing that I learnt was that after the next general election, whenever it may be, there will be another doctor in the
House. I think that Dr Gun, who ably represented that area from 1969 to 1975, will once again be ensconced in this chamber, sitting on the same side of the House as the present honourable member for Kingston. The honourable member could have used his time better by being critical of the Government that he supports rather than by trying to denigrate the finest Labor Government in Australia at the moment and certainly the most progressive government that his home State, South Australia, has ever had. The honourable member does not read newspapers or study public opinion polls. If he did, he would know that the majority of people in Australia do not share his views. He made a comment in the closing part of his address that the South Australian Government -
– We will wait and see.
-The honourable member for Barker, as usual, is out of his place and is opening his mouth, with little sense coming out of it.
– You should come and live in South Australia to see what the position is.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker will cease interjecting.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I know I have little time available to me. In the closing part of the address of the honourable member for Kingston he said that if the South Australian Government were to support the policies of the Australian Government it would be better off. I am quite sure that both Mr Virgo and Mr Dunstan would be pleased to follow and support the policies of the Australian Government if they could only find out what those policies are. They do not know, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) does not know, and those who sit on the back bench on that side do not know. Away with the rhetoric.
I think one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century is that this incompetent Government is seeking excuses for its unwillingness or inability to carry out the pre-election promises it made in 1975. It has a clear strategy to divide the country and to rule it. This is obviously the creed of the Prime Minister. To this end the Government has now started its attack. It has started its diversionary tactics to take the minds of the people away from th? depressing economic situation in Australia, caused not by 3 years of Labor Government but 1 5 months of Liberal Government. That has exacerbated the position and has done more harm to this economy than anybody else could have done. The Government’s diversionary tactics are, in the first instance, to attack those who cannot defend themselves- unemployed people, old people, ill people and ex-servicemen. These are the people who are not in a position to defend themselves. The Government’s prime tactic is to launch an attack on the trade union movement as if it were the cause of all the faults and ills in this country. The people of Australia are not as stupid as the Liberal Party would have us believe they are. They are very conscious of the fact that the deteriorating situation in this country must be sheeted home to -
-Order! As it is now 15 minutes to one o’clock, in accordance with standing order 106 the debate is interrupted. I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I present the report of the Committee on the management of Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report on the management of Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park, which has just been tabled, is the fourth report of the Environment and Conservation Committee established in the Thirtieth Parliament. The Committee’s decision to undertake this inquiry arose from reports that many recommendations of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation of the Twenty-eighth Parliament, on Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park, had not been implemented. The principal recommendation of that Committee was that the present village and airstrip should be located outside the boundaries of the park. To date this has not happened. Although an area of 104 square kilometres has been set aside for the new village site very little other action has been taken on the recommendations. The Committee finds it disturbing that so many of the unanimous recommendations made by a committee of the Parliament over 3 years ago have not been implemented. The present Committee has had to accept that even if immediate action were taken it would take many years before the village was moved. I am appreciative of the fact that there is certain restraint on government spending, but action on recommendations must not be deferred indefinitely. Priorities must be set, and funds made available.
The Committee therefore supports proposals made by the Northern Territory Reserves Board for essential interim expenditure on the park. The Committee accepts assurances that expenditure is essential for health and social reasons and that a portion of this money will be recoverable when the village is relocated. There is a recommendation that interim expenditure of some $3m be made available. This must not be viewed as giving de facto recognition to the existing village.
– You have been there.
– As the honourable member for Bendigo states, the Committee should look at the site. Indeed, a sub-committee went to Ayers Rock to view the situation only a matter of a few months ago.
I want to make a few comments in relation to the interim measures that are recommended because a number of these are quite serious matters. For instance, in peak periods the amenities blocks provided in the camping reserves are totally inadequate. The area set aside for the parking of vehicles and the erection of tents is in such a state that many people who go to the area are not aware that the situation is as it is. Unfortunately, over the last 10 or 15 years, since the increase in the number of visitors to the park has become more evident, money has not been made available. The water supply is inadequate. The garbage or solid waste disposal area, which is by the land fill method, needs attention. Measures should be taken immediately to ensure that the waste disposal by the land fill method is upgraded. Staff accommodation is sadly lacking, with a number of permanent employees not having their own accommodation. The sewerage system needs upgrading because at the moment it is a health hazard.
The present airstrip is inadequate and dangerous. During wet weather it becomes flooded, and its location interferes with natural drainage. The Committee agrees with the Reserves Board that the present strip should not be upgraded and has recommended that funds be provided to relocate the strip near the new village site. The Committee was told that parts of the road from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock are the most dangerous in Central Australia and that considerable damage is sustained by many travellers and coach operators. We were also told that some visitors who travel by road arrive in an irritable state which can make management of the park more difficult. Accordingly, the Committee has recommended that funds be provided to upgrade the worst portions of this road.
The Committee welcomes the proposals to declare the park under the Commonwealth National Parks and Wildlife Act. Once declared, a comprehensive plan of management must be prepared. In the report the Committee comments on the excellent work the Reserves Board has done in managing the park despite inadequate manpower and finances. We consider that the Board should have a continuing role in the management of the park.
I want to make particular reference to recommendation No. 10 of the first report presented to the 28th Parliament which deals with the restoration of areas that have been environmentally damaged due to the large number of visitors that visit the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga area. In my opinion the efforts that have been made in certain areas to reduce the damage that has been done is nothing short of amateurish. I believe that those responsible should have had some consultation with the ordinary engineers that one will find in any shire or city.
The sub-committee found that one sacred Aboriginal site had been lightly fenced or cordoned off. I am pleased to say that this area had been respected by the public. We were led to believe that the Aboriginal tribal elders in the area were extremely pleased with the progress that had been made in respect of sacred Aboriginal sites.
The proposal that the ring road be relocated is the cause of some conjecture. A number of proposals have been put forward by the Reserves Board. At this stage I believe it is true to say that no definite decision has been taken as to where any new ring road should go. A previous recommendation of the Committee was that the Aborigines should be involved to as great an extent as possible. This has been done. However, unfortunately they have a tendency to go walkabout and not to be as reliable as the Reserves Board would like them to be.
Another area that had the attention of the Committee was the sedimentary area which is proposed to be included in the national park. There seemed to be some disagreement from the tribal elders in the area as to whether they wanted this area included in the park. The Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park is important both as a national park and as part of the national heritage. The Committee believes that urgent action must be taken to prevent further deterioration of this unique area so that it can be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. I commend the report to the House.
-I seek leave to make a brief statement on the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the House. It is not my intention to review the recommendations in the report. I think that the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), the Chairman of the Committee, has quite adequately done so. This report represents a reasoned consensus of those members who carried out the investigation.
I want to comment on some other aspects of the report. The first inquiry carried out by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation was an examination of the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park. That inquiry was regarded as a trial run and it enabled members of the Committee to formulate guidelines on which to base their operations. I believe that some of the lessons that the Committee learned in its first inquiry have led it to being regarded as one of the most respected committees of this House. The guidelines drawn up by the Committee on that occasion have meant that the Committee has been able to talk in a sensible way about the various factors of the environment and conservation. The Ayers RockMount Olga National Park is a classical example of the relationship between national park usage and tourist pressures. The lessons learned from that first inquiry have stood the Committee in good stead.
We should appreciate the fact that no answer proposed by a committee is final. There has been a reappraisal and some general adjustment of thoughts in respect to the question of how this area should be treated from an environmental point of view. The report now before the House contains some of those factors. The Committee has looked at past recommendations and at what attempts were made to carry out those recommendations. It has been able to consider some of the conditioning factors that led to the recommendations. As a result it has been able to rethink and revise those opinions.
It would also be fair to say that in considering the temporary course to be followed we have had to pay some regard to economic policy and to try to achieve the best result within that policy. We have tried to do so even though the Committee is an all-party committee. One of the things that occurs in a discussion of the environmental aspects of a national park is the balance between the tourist emphasis and the national park aspect. The Committee discussed this matter when it was at Ayers Rock. I was about to suggest that the Chairman of the Committee sounded as though he was baying at the moon when he put his point of view there, but that is not quite true. However, there were some quite loud and vociferous discussions at Ayers Rock on the question of the balance between the tourist emphasis and the national park emphasis. Fortunately members of the Committee were able to arrive at a consensus with which we all agreed.
I must confess that I have been concerned about 2 recent suggestions in the Press by public figures that the area around the national park should be a repository for radioactive uranium waste. I view this suggestion with abhorrence.
– You could not take that, seriously.
– The honourable member for Mallee, who is a member of the sub-committee, says that one could not take them seriously. I know one of the gentlemen concerned and I have the very highest respect for him. I was horrified that the suggestion should be made, that nuclear waste could be put, not in the park area, but in this region. Any support for such a proposal shows a lack of knowledge of people in the Territory, and the environmental considerations that there are in that area. I believe that every member of this House should combat such a proposal.
The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) would like to make a few remarks on the report so I shall conclude by saying that this report illustrates the importance for parliamentary committees to go back from time to time to review the work that they have done. That has been done on this occasion and 1 am sure that our work will benefit that area.
-I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park is without doubt one of the world’s great national parks. It is the focal point of Central Australia. I am quite sure that all of us recognise it as a valuable part of the national heritage. The report of the Committee recognises that difficult economic situations presently face the nation. But the Committee sees the need for essential interim work to commence, and believes that the necessary finance should be provided in 1 977-78 to allow the Northern Territory
Reserves Board to commence interim work in the park, to allow the commencement of construction of a new air strip outside the boundaries of the park and to allow the commencement of the sealing of the Erldunda-Ayers Rock road. The Committee also recommends that the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service should devise and implement quickly a comprehensive management plan for the park.
This park is located in an arid region. There is a fragile environment, and the relationship between the flora and fauna and the environment is susceptible to change. The intent of this report is to preserve this environment by improving management while catering for the increasing and continuing use of the park by Australian and international tourists. This comprehensive management must involve the local population, particularly the Aborigines whose traditions and association with this region contribute to its cultural quality and its unique features. I believe that the Australian nation owes a great deal to the dedication of the administrators and staff of the park who have preserved, with severe restrictions and often under difficult living conditions, this region for future generations. Acceptance of recommendations contained in this report is essential if a serious breakdown in both the environment and scenic attractiveness of this area are to be avoided. I have pleasure in joining with the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) and the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) in recommending this report to the Government.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government ‘s decision to accord increased assistance to the automatic data processing equipment industry in Australia by way of a scheme for payment of bounty on the production of specified equipment and parts. The Bill provides, with several exceptions with which I will deal later, for implementation of the recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 96 of 18 August 1976 on ADP equipment and parts. The
Commission’s recommendation that the manufacture in Australia of ADP equipment and parts which, if imported, fall to item 84.53 and subitem 92.12.1 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Customs Tariff Act 1966 be further assisted by bounty has been accepted by the Government, except as it relates to cathode ray tube display terminals. Production in Australia of cathode ray tube display terminals is an area of high technology which has continued to develop under the existing tariff of 24 per cent and Australian producers have demonstrated their ability in the fields of manufacture and design by supplying the market with terminals specially suited to Australian requirements. Accordingly, the Government has decided to maintain the present tariff protection in regard to these display terminals rather than bring such manufacture within the bounty scheme on the same footing as for other ADP equipment as the Commission recommended.
The Bill to which the House is now addressing its attention provides for the manufacture of eligible ADP equipment and parts, which are at present dutiable at 6 per cent, to be further assisted by bounty for 7 years on a decreasing scale which provides for each of the first 3 years of the scheme bounty equivalent to 20 per cent of the value added in Australia by ADP equipment manufacturers; for the next two years 15 per cent of the value added and for the remaining 2 years 7.5 per cent of value added. The production of ADP equipment is a high technology industry. Local production is currently confined to cathode ray tube display terminals and a limited range of certain other peripherals. Future production will probably continue to centre on peripheral equipment and small systems. The Government has decided that the industry should have the opportunity to develop further in these areas where it can operate with moderate levels of assistance. By proposing the bounty assistance I have outlined, the Government has accepted the view expressed by the Industries Assistance Commission that duty augmented by bounty assistance for these goods is preferable to a uniform tariff alone. This form of assistance should help maximise the use of computers in Australia, give local manufacturers the time and opportunity to identify and establish low cost production capabilities and obtain acceptance of their products. Because the ADP industry is subject to rapid technological change the Government has decided that the assistance accorded the industry be reviewed in 5 years, rather than in 7 years as recommended by the Commission, and that consideration be given to including the software sector in the review.
The action proposed by the Bill now under consideration by the House should provide assistance to the industry in planning for the future and will allow users access to the latest and best computer technology at, or near, world prices to the benefit of both Australian industry and the community as a whole. Clause 22 of the Bill continues the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance to the manufacture in Australia of printed polyester-cotton bed sheeting. Following advice received from the Textiles Authority in its report No. 89 of 18 June 1976 on sheets, curtains etc. and the Industries Assistance Commission in its interim report No. 97 of 27 August 1976 on fabrics for use as bed sheeting, pillow casing or bolster casing, it has been decided to accord assistance by means of a bounty scheme providing for payment to the manufacturer of a bounty of 20c per square metre on sheeting of cotton in admixture with not less than 20 per cent of man-made fibres which such manufacturer weaves, prints and makes up into bed linen in his own manufacturing establishment in Australia during a period within which the bounty scheme is in effect.
The bounty which this Bill proposes is seen by the Government as according short-term assistance only. The question of long-term assistance for the manufacture of sheeting and a wide range of other textile and apparel items is currently under review by the Industries Assistance Commission. It is anticipated that the Commission’s report in that regard will be made towards the end of this year. Because of the short-term nature of the bountry proposal, provision has been made for the scheme to operate on a yearbyyear basis, for the amount available for payment as bounty not to exceed $500,000 in any yearly period and for the bounty scheme to be able to be quickly wound up, as provided for in subclause 4 (2) of the Bill, by the publishing by the Minister of a notice in the Gazette fixing the date after which no further bounty becomes payable. Clause 2 1 of the Bill continues the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision to continue to assist the manufacture in Australia of wheeled agricultural tractors and their derivatives but under a completely revised structure recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 81 of 19 February 1976. This revised structure provides for the phasing in, over 5 years, of a bounty scale which, except in respect of tractors in the high engine output category, represents a substantially reduced bounty level to operate for a further 2 years by which time, it is proposed, a further review of the industry will have been completed. The Bill proposes amendments to the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act 1966, retrospective to 1 January 1977, to extend the terminating date from 31 December 1976 to 31 December 1984 or such later date as may be fixed by proclamation. Provision is made by clause 14 of the Bill whereby a tractor, the manufacture of which was completed on or before 3 1 December 1 976 but which is sold on or after 1 January 1977, will be eligible for bounty under the old scheme as if the tractor was manufactured and sold not later than 31 December 1 976.
The Schedule of amounts of bounty payable under the existing Act in respect of tractors from 15 kW engine output up to 67 kW output and over is, by sub-clause 6 ( 1 ) of the Bill, replaced by a new Schedule which provides for the ascending order of bounty entitlements to extend beyond the existing ceiling to take account of manufacture of tractors up to 105 kW engine output. The effect of the substituted bounty scale over the initial period of 3 years, as compared with the old scheme, will be as follows:
Lower bounty for tractors at the low end of the power scale ( 1 5 kW to 34 kW);
Higher bounty for tractors with engine output of 35 kW and higher;
Substantially higher bounty for tractors with engine output above 67 kW because of extension of the progressive ascending scale beyond 67 kW up to 105 kW.
The proposed scheme provides, after that initial period of 3 years to which I have just alluded, for the phasing in, in 2 steps, of a scale which specifies reduced levels of bounty, as compared with the old scheme, except for tractors with engine output of 67 kW and higher. The phased-in reduction of bounty at the low power end of the scale is substantial.
In order to preserve relativity between the amounts prescribed as bounty entitlements and import price levels, provision is made in clause 6 of the Bill for the scales of amounts of bounty to be indexed to take account of movement in import price levels. It is proposed that indexation be achieved by prescribing by regulation, from time to time, an appropriate factor by the application of which, amounts shown in the bounty scales are to be modified. Administratively, the factor to be prescribed initially will be ascertained by reference to the Reserve Bank of Australia Import Price Index ‘Machinery Except Electric’ Group. The amounts shown in the proposed scales in the Schedule in clause 12 of the Bill are those recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission as based on March 1976 price levels updated to first quarter 1977 values by application of that index. Provision is made by paragraph (b) of clause 6 of the Bill for bounty to be reduced by 1 per cent for each 1 per cent by which local content of factory cost of a tractor is below 100 per cent. A reactivated provision in sub-section 6 (4) of the 1966 Act provides that no bounty is payable where the local content of factory cost of a tractor is less than 55 percent.
The proposed revised bounty structure, by providing a more uniform level of assistance in respect of tractor size and level of local content and by providing increased incentive to the production of heavier tractors should ensure the viability of the industry in Australia. It is anticipated that bounty payments under the scheme proposed by this Bill will amount to approximately $5m per annum for the first 3 years of operation of the scheme. This is substantially similar to the amount that would be payable if operation of the previous scheme had been continued. The effect of clause 1 1 together with clause 13 of the Bill is to continue the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The New Zealand Re-exports Act of 1924 was introduced to provide, in relation to goods which after importation into New Zealand were reexported to Australia, a concessional basis of valuation for duty purposes outside the normal valuation provisions of Part VIII of the Customs Act. This is done by providing that, subject to proper certification, the value for duty of such reexports will, with some time limit safeguards, be the sum of the current domestic value of the goods in the country of original export and the actual re-export handling charges in New Zealand, increased by a statutory 10 per cent. The Act and the reciprocal New Zealand legislation in relation to re-exports from Australia to New Zealand each no doubt served its respective purpose well for many years. However, because of faster and more frequent shipping services and the advent and development of air cargo, the facility has been little used of recent years and is seen at present as providing, for a very small number of overseas suppliers, little more than an option for filling certain orders either direct or from stocks held in New Zealand or in Australia, as the case may be.
Since adoption by Australia last year of a modified Brussels Definition of Value there has been no requirement for import documents to show the current domestic value of goods in the country of export and, because of this, Australia is not able to fulfil its part in the scheme by providing the certifications required under the reciprocal New Zealand legislation. Furthermore the Brussels Convention on the Valuation of Goods for Customs Purposes, to which Australia intends to accede in due course, enjoins contracting parties to take all necessary steps as soon as circumstances permit, to conform to the provisions of the Convention which do not allow for bi-lateral agreements outside those provisions.
Because of Australia’s movement away from the system of valuation on which the arrangement between Australia and New Zealand depends, and because of duties and obligations which Australia accepts, or will accept, in relation to the Valuation Convention, the Government has decided, in consultation with representatives of the New Zealand Government, to repeal the Act. New Zealand has indicated in the consultations to which I have referred, that it raises no objection to the repeal of the Australian legislation and it is understood that the New Zealand authorities will arrange for the repeal of their relevant regulations to coincide with the coming into effect of the Australian repeal Act. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Insurance Act 1973- to strengthen its administrative machinery and to remove a number of anomalies. The Bill will up-date certain provisions and provide for the transfer of the appeals jurisdiction of the Insurance Tribunal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Since the Insurance Act came into full operation on I August 1974, the Insurance Commissioner has been processing applications from insurers seeking authority to carry on insurance business in Australia. I am pleased to be able to say that the task of processing these applications is nearing completion. The Commissioner has gained a great deal of practical experience in the supervision of insurance companies. As a direct result, a number of weaknesses and anomalies in the legislation has become apparent. This Bill will remedy these defects and the opportunity is being taken to improve the Act in other ways.
There are 6 specific points that I should mention. First, honourable members will be aware of the debate within and outside the accounting profession on the treatment of future tax benefits in the accounts of companies. The Government wishes to put this matter beyond doubt so far as the Insurance Act is concerned. The Bill provides for the specific exclusion of such contingent benefits from an insurer’s assets for the purposes of calculating its margin of solvency under the Act. Secondly, provision has also been made to clarify the situation with regard to the inclusion of guarantees in an insurer’s assets for solvency purposes.
Thirdly, it is proposed that insurance companies be able to omit from the calculation of their annual premium income for purposes of the Act amounts they have collected for onward transmission to the States or Territories in the form of fire brigade levies, stamp duties and other similar charges.
Fourthly, under the Act as it now stands, an insurer that has been refused an authority to carry on business cannot be properly directed as to the way it should run-off commitments previously entered into. It is now proposed to tighten this aspect of the Act by empowering the Treasurer to give directions to such an insurer in relation to the meeting of commitments under contracts of insurance previously entered into.
Fifthly, it has become apparent that a considerable amount of insurance is being sent to unauthorised insurers overseas through agents in Australia. Section 1 13 of the existing Act, which has not yet been proclaimed, prohibits such a practice. Following consultation with the industry, we have decided to allow exemptions from this prohibition, so as to increase the flexibility of the provision. The amendments make provision to obtain more information on business going to the unauthorised market overseas. The amendments also require those sending business to the overseas market on behalf of Australian clients to notify those clients that they have insurance cover which is outside the supervision of the Australian Act. I add that neither the existing legislation nor the proposed amendments to it unduly restricts the freedom of individuals or companies in Australia to obtain insurance cover overseas. The legislation regulates the precise way in which this can be done consistent with the general intent of the Act.
Sixthly, it is proposed to transfer the responsibility for having appeals under the Insurance Act from the Insurance Tribunal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
I should also mention one matter in respect of which we have decided not to amend either the Insurance Act 1973 or the Life Insurance Act 1945. The Labor Government announced in 1973 that it would introduce amendments under which proposals relating to the establishment of new insurance companies would be examined on the basis of national interest criteria. Arrangements to achieve that have since applied on an administrative basis without the backing of legislation. This matter has recently been reviewed in depth. We have concluded that these arrangements are unnecessary having regard to the effectiveness of existing legislation designed to ensure the financial soundness of insurance companies. I emphasise, however, that proposals by overseas interests will continue to be subject to examination under the Government’s foreign investment policy.
The various amendments effected by this Bill have been developed in close consultation with the general insurance industry. Although they are generally more of a machinery than a policy nature we believe that they will contribute in a significant way to the effective supervision of the industry. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Life Insurance Act 1945. More specifically the Bill will up-date and improve the existing supervisory machinery established by the Act, to take account of changes in money values and business practices. It will facilitate appeals against administrative decisions. It will bring the Act into line with the Government’s policy of divesting the High Court of its original jurisdiction under Commonwealth statutes and conferring it on other appropriate courts.
The Life Insurance Act since its introduction over 31 years ago has been singularly successful in preventing failures among life insurance companies in Australia. It has brought about a degree of stability in the industry which has few rivals anywhere else in the world. However, changing conditions, changing forms of policies and changing public demand and expectations have made it desirable to up-date some areas of the legislation. At the same time new problems have arisen which are not covered in the Act at all. With this in mind, the Government views the current set of proposed amendments to the Life Insurance Act as a forerunner to a much wider review to determine what kind of supervisory legislation is best suited to Australia’s life insurance industry in the future.
It is proposed to strengthen the supervision over registered life insurers. The Bill requires them to seek permission from the Life Insurance Commissioner before they commence a form of business other than life or general insurance. However, the Commissioner will not be able to refuse an insurer permission to enter a noninsurance area unless he is satisfied that such entry would be to the detriment of existing and prospective policy owners.
The existing legislation provides that a life insurance company shall not invest directly or indirectly in another such company. This is obviously unworkable as almost all companies listed on the stock exchange would have some link with a life insurer merely because life insurers are large investors in shares. It is proposed to relax this particular provision. New safeguards will, however, enable the Life Insurance Commissioner to oversight certain investment outlets where the investments of particular kinds exceed specified limits. Investments in companies related to life insurance companies, mutual funds and unit trusts will come under this provision.
The Bill also provides for an insurer to have a prospectus seeking investment in its debentures approved by the Life Insurance Commissioner before the debenture issue can be made. This is consistent with the existing provision which requires approval of the Commissioner of an insurer’s share prospectus before issue. Provision has also been made to have the Commissioner fully informed when a take-over is made for a registered life insurance company.
To increase the effectiveness of the Commissioner’s supervision and generally speed up the collection of data, it is proposed to shorten the period a company has in which to lodge returns. In future balance-sheets and other financial returns will be required 5 months after the close of its financial year. The period for the submission of the actuarial abstract and statement will be shortened to 6 months.
Provision has been made for the abolition of the requirement for a life insurance company to lodge and maintain a deposit with the Treasurer. The necessity for authorised general insurers under the Insurance Act to lodge and maintain deposits has been abolished. It has been found, both here and overseas, that the maintenance of deposits has served little or no practical purpose because of changes in money values.
Of considerable benefit to policy owners and their dependants are the proposals to amend money values referred to in a number of sections of the Act and to allow for the values to be altered by regulation in the future. I mention as a particular example the proposal that probate or administration on a policy need not be applied for until the total value reaches $6,000. The current amount is $2,000.
Clause 36 in the Bill has the effect of allowing the Fourth Schedule to the Act to be changed by regulation. This will enable greater flexibility in periods of changes in interest rates and has significant implications in terms of increased benefits to policy owners. I might explain that the purpose of the Fourth Schedule to the Act is to ensure that life companies calculate the liabilities that will accrue under policies in the future and the funds that will be available to meet them in an actuarially sound way. At present, the basis is based on interest rates and other factors applying many years ago. It is restricting companies in the benefits they can provide. The necessity to liberalise the minimum valuations basis in the Fourth Schedule and the concern felt in the industry that changes be made as soon as possible are fully appreciated by the Government. Priority will be given to drafting the necessary regulations.
It is proposed to transfer the responsibility for the hearing of certain appeals under the Life Insurance Act from the High Court to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. In addition, the number of administrative acts of the Life Insurance Commissioner against which an appeal can be lodged has been increased. The opportunity has been taken to divest the High Court of its original jurisdiction under the Act and to transfer that jurisdiction to other appropriate courts. There are also a number of formal amendments which will bring the Act into line with current drafting practices.
Because of the highly technical nature of life insurance and the effect any amendments to the Act are likely to have on the industry and policy owners, the amendments effected by this Bill have been developed in close consultation with the life insurance industry. We are confident that these amendments, although only a beginning to the major task of modernising the Life Insurance Act, will bring considerable benefits to life insurance as a whole. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
– I move:
The Proposal involves the construction of eight separate structures, seven of which will be occupied by the Antarctic Division and which will provide accommodation for offices, display and conference areas, laboratories, workshops and stores while the remaining one will contain separate offices and laboratories for the Hobart Regional Laboratory of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories.
The buildings will be constructed with reinforced concrete columns and precast concrete wall panels. The roof will be of insulated galvanised steel decking, and windows will be of tinted glass in aluminium frames. All occupied areas in the laboratories, administrative buildings, and instrument workshop will be air conditioned. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $7.3m at March 1977 prices.
I now table plans of the proposed work.
-This is a very important referral. I am sure it is going to mean a great deal to the people of Tasmania and will serve to put into sharp focus the importance of the work of the Antarctic Division. I just ask the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay): What is the reason for delaying this referral for so long? He might recall that this site was proposed by the previous Labor Government and, if my memory serves me correctly, some 1 8 months would have gone by without anything significant occurring.
– It is with some emotion and a feeling of personal pride, which is all too rare in parliamentary life, that I rise to speak briefly in support of the motion. This motion to refer to the Public Works Committee the proposed transfer of the Antarctic Division to Kingston in Tasmania culminates a lot of hard work and I must say gives me great personal satisfaction. The original idea to transfer the Antarctic Base to Tasmania was put forward by the previous honourable member for Denison and was accepted by the Department of Science back in 1973. It was confirmed by a Cabinet decision of the Whitlam Government in early 1974, but regrettably the matter had not even been considered by the Public Works Committee when the Whitlam Government went out of office in December 1975. The delays from 1973 to 1975 were extremely regrettable and whilst the previous Government promised to effect the transfer, it is the Fraser Government which will honour that promise by performance, What Labor promised and failed to deliver, the Fraser Government is now committed to delivering and will deliver. As all the documents required for the reference to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report are now to hand, it would be my hope that the Committee will be able to undertake its deliberations speedily and I would hope that upon a confirmation of the Fraser Government’s commitment an appropriation could be made in the August Budget to enable construction to commence in the coming financial year.
As the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) has said, this reference is related not just to the Antarctic Division but also includes the Hobart Regional Laboratory of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories. As the Minister has indicated in the motion, it involves the construction of a magnificent complex at Kingston of approximately 8 structures and as indicated by the Minister it will involve a total expenditure of $7.3m.
– Is Kingston in your electorate?
– I was just about to come to that. I know the site extremely well. It is very interesting that both my predecessor, Mr John Coates, and I have worked very hard for this base. The irony is that the new complex is going to be constructed about 600 yards inside the boundary of the electorate of Franklin, that is, on the present boundaries, and that of course gives my colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) much pleasure. I need only say that the plans for the complex are most impressive. A model has been prepared. It has been on public display and it will be on public display in the future. The injection of $7. 3m in capital funds into the Kingston area will have substantial short term benefits for the building industry and for the community of Kingston and the long term employment potential for Tasmanians desiring to work at the Antarctic Division and for the many from mainland States who will be coming to Tasmania and will find our State a most delightful place in which to live. These long term prospects are extremely pleasing.
I am indebted to Senator Wright for a comment which he made in the Senate yesterday and which I commend to the Minister, that is, that this complex may have some very significant tourism potential and it would be an interesting proposition if the Government would consider the establishment of a small museum or display centre for the public to visit when the Antarctic Division complex is completed.
I would be less than gracious if I did not publicly thank the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for putting up with my persistent representations over the past 16 months; the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) who has been extremely patient in the face of many submissions and public comments by me, some of which may even have indicated some degree of hostility to Senator Webster; the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) and his Tasmanian departmental head, Mr Max Windsor, for their assistance and co-operation; and last but by no means least the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) and his staff whose attention and enthusiasm for this project have been nothing short of magnificent. To my Tasmanian colleagues, particularly my friend the honourable member for Franklin, for their support and encouragement go my sincere thanks.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) raised the question of the delay and without in any way pre-empting what the Minister may say, I think the honourable member should know that- if he does not know and if he had checked in Hobart he would have found out- - following the change of Government alternative sites which had not previously become available did at least appear to become available. In fact 4 alternative sites were looked at. The Government acted properly by properly investigating these sites to ensure that the taxpayers’ money was not misspent. There were ministerial inspections accompanied by Tasmanian members and senators. It was a matter of considerable importance in view of the present economic situation and the great need not to waste taxpayers’ money. The Government has made a proper decision. The best site has been chosen and the best value will be given for the money which is to be expended.
I hope that the House will unanimously pass this motion and that the deliberations of the Public Works Committee will open the way for the speedy implementation of a commitment to the people of Tasmania made nearly 4 years ago and now about to be honoured to the intense delight of all those associated with it.
– The Australian Labor Party obviously welcomes this move because, as the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) was generous enough to acknowledge, the idea of concentrating and consolidating the activities of the Antarctic Division in Hobart was that of Mr John Coates. The honourable member for Denison has also been generous enough to admit that the commitment was made 4 years ago by my Government. It might also be noted that 16 months have been lost in the process in referring this matter to the Public Works Committee. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was asked a question on this matter by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) on 16 March. The Prime Minister, in a manner to which we have become accustomed- that is, not being utterly factual, if one may put it in parliamentary terms- said:
It only made sense to review the matter when the Government came into office because, although an earlier decision had been made by the previous Administration, no attempt had been made to process that decision or refer the matter to the Public Works Committee up to the time of the 1975 election.
In fact, the matter had been processed by my Government and we had in train the reference of this matter to the Public Works Committee in November 1975.
– It was referred.
-My colleague, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) reminds me that it was, in fact, referred. That is, it is not correct to say that no attempt had been made. The attempt had been made; the attempt was aborted by the putsch of November 1975. It has taken 1 6 months since then to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee. Admittedly, there was some resistance to the idea of moving from Melbourne to Hoban on the pan of the staff. Honourable members must acknowledge the fact that when public servants enjoying permanent tenure are to be moved, or when it is suggested that they should be moved from one pan of the country to another, they put up a very redoubtable resistance. Those of us who were concerned with building up AlburyWodonga -
– You cannot compare Hobart to Albury-Wodonga.
– Insofar as the movement of public servants is concerned- that is the point which I am making here- I do compare them. If there is to be another significant inland city built in Australia- Canberra is now the largest inland city in Australia- it will be built by Federal Government initiatives. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) nods his agreement with that. If Albury-Wodonga is to be built, clearly it will be built, as Canberra has been built, by Federal Government initiatives. I know that there are difficulties in building inland cities in Australia because there are not many significant rivers. Albury-Wodonga is astride the largest river in Australia. But when it has been suggested that steps to build Albury-Wodonga should be taken, such as those which succeeded in building Canberra into the biggest inland city in Australia, public servants very often resent it. One must concede that there was some resistance and even resentment when it was suggested that the scientists and others employed by the Antarctic Division in Melbourne should move to Hobart. They resisted and, in some cases, seemed to resent it.
I would concede that Hobart is a very pleasant place to live indeed. It is a very agreeable size for a city and is in a superb setting. Furthermore, for the purposes of the Antarctic Division, it has all the tertiary and academic backup from a long and well established university. Just as with the Maritime College in Launceston, if one is to have the greatest variety of maritime experience it will best be gained in Australia in the vicinity of Bass Strait. That legislation, which has been passed by this Government, was an initiative of the former Labor Government. The transfer of the Antarctic Division to Hobart was the idea of John Coates. The decision was taken by my Government. I notice that the Prime Minister gave, on the occasion to which I refer, the excuse that having announced on 18 May 1976 that the decision would be followed by this Government, it did not make sense for him to say, as he did, that ‘the Kingston site that had earlier been chosen was the best possible site as others had apparently become available’. We now know, of course, that the Kingston site is still the best site available.
That is what my Government thought and, whatever might be said by the Prime Minister, this was an excuse. This matter had been referred to the Public Works Committee over 16 months ago. Obviously, the Opposition still supports the idea. We lament the fact that it has taken 16 months to proceed with this reference to the Public Works Committee. It would seem that the Public Works Committee would have no difficulty in confirming the site and the project in general. Hobart is clearly the best site in Australia in which to study Antarctic conditions. Geographically, that is clearly the case. The scientific backup is there too. Hobart is a good port and has been acknowledged as such for nearly 200 years.
– I rise to speak very briefly on this motion to congratulate the Government, the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) and particularly my colleague the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) for his tireless and dedicated efforts, on behalf of his electors, to ensure that this important base is established in Tasmania. 1 speak sincerely because the honourable member has worked very hard. He has worn a track to the offices of both the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) and of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). This base will benefit not only the people of southern Tasmania, not only the people of Hobart, but also the people of other parts of Tasmania, in fact the whole of Tasmania. It is a matter of some regret that the previous member for Denison was not able to convince his master, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the previous Labor Government, to get on with the job of building this important base. I am delighted that there is now a firm commitment to build the base, involving expenditure of over $7m.
– If this was not a serious subject I think the remarks of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) would be laughable. The former member for Denison in fact convinced the former Labor Government not only to transfer the base, against the strong opposition of senior personnel in the Antarctic Division, but also against the normal trend of moving this type of operation outside the major capital cities on the mainland. It is probably the first major operation to have been transferred to Tasmania. It is one of at least two which have been transferred, the other being the Maritime College. I want to make one other point. There has been a delay of 16 months in this matter. This project was referred to the Public Works Committee in 1975 prior to the fall of the Whitlam Labor Government, the coup. The time for the hearings had been set but the hearings were not held because of the deferment of Supply in another place and because funds were not available to the Parliament to finance travel by any parliamentary committee. I was one of the people responsible for making the rather difficult decision that parliamentary committees could not spend money on travel during the period in which the Parliament did not have funds available to it, like other government services, because of the doubt about the passage of Supply.
– That was 2 1/2 years after the first decision was made. You delayed it for 2 ‘A years and now criticise us for delaying it for 16 months.
-The first decision that was made was merely a decision on a piece of paper. It is then necessary, before a matter can be referred to the Public Works Committee, for the necessary drawings, documentation and other decisions to be taken. This was completed in 1975, including the choice of a site. The honourable member for Denison, during the period of the blockage of Supply, made a feature of complaining in Tasmania about the absolute urgency for the hearings to take place. When he was a member of the Opposition, the hearings had to take place immediately but since this Government has been elected it has taken 16 months to refer the matter. With regard to alternative sites, it is within the ambit of the Public Works Committee, if requested, to examine suggested alternative sites. That could have been included in the hearings had the Government wished. I wish to make one other point. The reference to the Public Works Committee does not necessarily mean the construction of the base. The Public Works Committee some 2 years ago concluded its hearings on the National Animal Health Laboratories which are to be constructed at Geelong. I understand that the Government has not changed that decision but to date funds have not been allocated for that purpose and until they are the decision of the Public Works Committee is just that. It is an approval so it may well be another 2 years or more before funds are available. It may not be. I hope it is not.
The other thing I put before the House is that the attitude of the Prime Minister in answers to questions on matters such as this has been that he does not believe in the transfer of public servants compulsorily, although I notice he is now transferring them to Canberra and AlburyWodonga compulsorily. But in respect of areas where projects have been allocated to nonmetropolitan areas almost without fail they have been cancelled on the basis that transfers to those areas are undesirable. Transfers to Canberra continue. Transfers of public servants to AlburyWodonga, which is the only non-metropolitan area which is getting a go at the moment, also continue. I hope this project goes ahead quickly. I do not believe that expenditure of the type which is necessary for such a project is a drain on the capacity of the Treasury to meet costs, and in many cases it is a saving. In the case of the National Animal Health Laboratories the cost of the project is going up by at least $ I m per month while the project is delayed. So the Government will pay anything up to double the originally proposed cost because of a couple of years delay. The cost to the Treasury in the early stage will be $5m to $10m a year, which is not a great deal and not more than is spent on some things which are far less urgent.
– in reply- I thank honourable gentlemen for the interesting debate. Although it is not really relevant to what is happening in Tasmania, the design work on the National Animal Health Laboratory is proceeding. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) introduced this matter into the debate. The work is proceeding in the early design stages. There is quite a commitment of professional people. As the honourable member said, no funds are yet available to proceed with the project any further than that stage. I should like to make a brief comment as a result of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) said in reference to the Public Works Committee. I note that the Deputy Chairman and, I think, the Chairman are both in the chamber this afternoon. I believe there is a tendency for people- the honourable member for Corio obviously is one- to assume that simply because a reference goes to that Committee it will be agreed to. In fact there is a tendency to assume that the Public Works Committee will be just a rubber stamp. I think that is highly undesirable and in fact it would be something of an irritation to people on that Committee and perhaps might encourage them to be difficult on some projects. I hope that does not become too much of a general practice.
Some announcements have been made recently in which it has been assumed that the Public Works Committee will adopt a certain procedure. I think that is a dangerous assumption. I refer briefly to the 16 months that have been lost’. That is the word that people have used. I make the point again- my colleague the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has already said this-that the Government has been looking at other sites. It would be foolish not to find the best site available. This is the reason for the delay. The client department, in this case the Department of Science, wishes to be sure it has the best site. The Leader of the Opposition also mentioned Albury-Wodonga. This gives me the opportunity to refer to a project at AlburyWodonga which did not even go to the Cabinet, as far as I am aware, much less to the Public Works Committee.
– What was that one?
-That is the Clyde Cameron Trade Union Training College.
-Yes, it did.
– It was built by the Authority; it was not built by this Parliament.
– I think honourable members will find that there are unusual circumstances surrounding the reference of that project. The reason for this project not going to the PWC has been referred to a couple of times. An election interrupted the procedures. We must pay tribute to the present honourable member for Denison. If it had not been for the constant and persistent representation from that gentleman the period might have been longer than 16 months. I echo the sentiments of everybody who spoke in this debate. I hope the Public Works Committee will approve the project and consider it a good project and that it will be recommended to proceed without any further delay.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, by the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay). I was chairman of the Committee at the time referred to. The Minister made play of the Clyde Cameron Trade Union Training College at Albury-Wodonga not being examined by the Public Works Committee. It is a pity he does not understand his own Act, the Public Works Committee Act. For a start the Public Works Committee examines only matters referred to it by the Parliament. Secondly, the Public Works Committee is excluded from examining buildings by statutory authorities. It examines only buildings constructed directly by the Australian Government. The Clyde Cameron Trade Union Training College was constructed by the Australian Council for Trade Union Training, a statutory authority.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by Mr Peacock:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– If ever there was a shameful and sheepish speech from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock)- and there have been plenty- it was his attempt to justify the destruction of this Australian Development Assistance Agency. The Minister’s second reading speech on this Bill was as ignoble and deceptive, as furtive and hypocritical as everything else we have had from the Fraser Government. The Minister had to justify one more broken promise by his leader; he had to justify the destruction of an agency that he himself had supported; he had to cloak and justify all the meanness and inhumanity of his Government’s policies. Is it any wonder his speech was riddled with specious arguments and overlaid with the glutinous rhetoric which passes for the Government’s policy on foreign aid?
I wish the Foreign Minister would be honest with us. I wish for once he would take the House into his confidence and say exactly what he means. If he had said that the ADAA is being dismantled because the Government is running down Australia’s foreign aid program his statements would at least make sense. His Bill would contain an element of rationality. Instead we are asked to believe that a Government that runs down the aid program, that fails to spend even the meagre funds on foreign aid allocated in its own Budget and dismantles the expert, independent body set up to administer foreign aid is somehow committed to the welfare of our neighbours and the needy countries of the world. No one believes it. No one in Australia believes it and no government in the world believes it. The Minister may kid himself but he will not kid Australia’s neighbours; he will not kid the countries of the Commonwealth, the members of the United Nations, or the world community. And he will not kid the Australian people.
Let us first be clear on the distortions, the shifts of policy and broken promises involved in this decision. As usual the Fraser Government is playing fast and loose with its undertakings to the Australian people. That is par for the course with this Government. The coalition’s policy statement on international development assistance, issued before the last election, contained this promise:
Where possible we would direct project aid budgeting into a rolling program to ensure that both ADAA and recipient governments were able to forward plan on the basis of commitments.
Whatever that graceless jargon may have meant, it certainly did not mean that the ADAA would be abolished. You do not help an agency plan more efficiently by getting rid of it. Even the coalition’s undertaking to review the activities of the Agency related only to matters of administration. So there is one more broken Liberal promise to add to the list. But what of the Foreign Minister’s role in this affair? When the Bill establishing the Agency was introduced in 1974 the present Foreign Minister spoke up bravely for the Liberals, for the Opposition. On 2 April 1 974 he told the House:
The Opposition supports the Australian Development Assistance Agency Bill.
And indeed the Liberals voted for the Bill. They voted for it in the Senate, too. The Minister not only supported the Labor Government’s foreign aid program; he wanted more of it. He lamented the disastrous situation in the developing countries, the ‘miserable and paltry’ assistance as he said, given by Australia, the ‘inadequacy and ineffectiveness’ as he described it of our aid program. The world, he said, was ‘crying out for assistance and is faced with impoverishment’. Noble words, spendid sentiments! In those days, of course, the honourable member’s claims to be a progressive and enlightened Liberal were taken more seriously than they are now. Trendyism was having its little day. But times have changed. Within a year, the fine words and lofty promises were forgotten. Within 2 years, in February 1976, the Fraser Government announced that the ADAA would be abolished; it was another symbol of waste and extravagance.
It is interesting to look back on the justification for that announcement at the time. It was framed entirely in the context of economic stringency. The ADAA, which the Liberals had supported, was held up as an example of waste and extravagance. Never mind that its operating and administrative costs were minimal in terms of overall government expenditure. Any agency, any body which the Government could axe would give a semblance of credibility to its economy measures. The Government had just proclaimed expenditure cuts of $350m; they were largely illusory. The abolition of ADAA was intended to make the cuts look more convincing. The fact that the transfer of the Agency’s functions to a bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs meant that no real economies- not even minimal economies- would in fact be achieved was apparently of no account. Even so, it has taken the Government more than a year to get round to this legislation. This monstrous example of waste and extravagance has remained on the statute book for another 12 months! And the reasons for getting rid of the Agency have changed. Wc are now told that our aid policy requires- in the Minister’s words- ‘close working relations’ between the aid officers and the Department of Foreign Affairs. It also requires- in the Minister’s words- ‘the professional approach to aid administration and the opportunity for career specialisation which was being developed in the Agency’. One may well ask: If the Agency was providing these opportunities and developing this professional approach, why abolish it?
The reasons have nothing to do with efficiency or streamlining or co-ordination or any of the other specious justifications given by the Government. The Fraser Government’s objective is to make foreign aid an arm of its reactionary foreign policy. The only way it can run down foreign aid and get away with it is by abolishing the specialised aid agency and smothering its operations in the workings of the Foreign Affairs Department. In that way they will be under the control of the Minister and, inevitably, and more significantly, the Prime Minister. Let there be no doubt that our aid program is being wound down- and wound down in defiance of the Government’s promises to the people and in defiance of Australia’s obligations to the world community. In December 1970 the United Nations adopted a program of action for the Second Development Decade. Although the conservative Australian Government had expressed hostility to the key aims of the program it could not ignore a program which had won universal acceptance. So it joined the other members of the United Nations in adopting it. A crucial and basic part of that program, to which all developed countries were then committed, was to meet within a decade the aid target adopted by the United Nations; that is, each donor country should give 0.7 per cent of its gross national product in official development assistance to the developing countries. Australia was, and is, committed to that target.
Despite this solemn, binding and unqualified commitment the coalition Government provided net official development assistance to developing countries of only 0.59 per cent of GNP in 1970 and even less- 0.53 per cent of GNP- in 1971. The new Labor Government acted immediately to accept Australia’s aid obligations. Between 1972 and 1975 the Labor Government increased Australia’s overall aid Budget by 35 per cent. In the calendar year 1975, Australia made 0.61 per cent of GNP available as official development assistance to developing countries. It was the highest percentage in any calendar year in our history. It placed us fifth amongst the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development donor countries.
It has proved remarkably difficult to extract clear figures from the Government or the Minister about aid expenditures. The Minister has repeatedly sought to muddy and distort the situation by confusing the figures for calendar and fiscal years.
– I thought you were just talking about calendar year figures.
-Yes, I cited some and I shall be citing fiscal year figures. The figures in each case will be authentic and from public documents.
– But you are engaging in selfindulgent praise by citing calendar years.
– If the honourable gentleman will listen, I think he will find that there is very little praise for him in what I have to say because he will have to cop the facts. On 9 September last, the Minister, answering a question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), asserted that ‘during the period of office of the Labor Government- in the calendar year 1973 ‘-the proportion of aid to GNP fell to 0.44 per cent. This statement was misleading. Allocations for the first half of 1973 were the result of the last Liberal Budget- the one introduced in August 1 972. The true comparison was given in Budget Paper No. 8 of last August. If one wants to deal with calendar years one can see all the calendar years set out in Budget Paper No. 8 which came down with the Budget last August. This showed that in the first full calendar year for which Labor was responsible, that is 1974, the proportion of aid to GNP rose to 0.55 per cent. In the following year- the second and last full calendar year for which Labor was responsible- it rose to 0.6 1 percent, the highest level ever.
It will be noticed that in answering a question on 9 September last, the Foreign Minister cited the calendar year 1973. He omitted to give the figures for the calendar year 1 974 or the calendar year 1 975.I shall bring them together. In the calendar year 1973 Australia’s proportion of GNP to overseas aid was 0.44 per cent. In 1974- the first year for which Labor was fully responsibleit was 0.55 per cent. In 1975- the second year for which Labor was fully responsible- it was 0.61 per cent. So if one wants to deal with calendar years let us look at the successive calendar years. Let us draw the conclusion from them. Still the Minister tried to dodge the obvious conclusion. Even if we consider fiscal years, the Fraser Government’s efforts are niggardly compared with Labor’s. On 1 1 November, in answer to a question on notice, that is in an answer which had to be deliberated, which he had time to consider, where he was on record, where he had to answer to the public, the Foreign Minister conceded that the allocation for overseas aid in the current Budget represents only 0.49 per cent of the estimated gross national product in 1976-77. On 7 September, in answer to another question on notice, he had stated that in 1 970-7 1 , the first financial year after the United Nations General Assembly set the target of 0.7 per cent, Australia had spent 0.56 per cent of the GNP on overseas aid. That is, in a Liberal year- 1970- 7 1 -Australia had spent 0.56 per cent of GNP on overseas aid. In the present year- a Liberal year- it is expected to spend 0.49 per cent of GNP on overseas aid. Now that is on the figures which we have been able to extract from the Minister. Since then, there have been some further cuts, but of course the Minister will not say what the effect of those cuts will be.
Nor has the Minister been candid about aid to the South Pacific countries. A considerable number of Prime Ministers from the South Pacific countries visited Australia last week, are visiting Australia this week and will be visiting Australia in coming weeks. They have noticed the Government’s niggardly attitude in this respect. There has been here the same confusion between calendar and fiscal years, designed to conceal the Government’s stingy allocations. In November the Foreign Minister promised aid worth $60m over the 3 financial years 1 976-77 to 1 978-79 to the countries of the South Pacific and a special grant of $500,000 to voluntary agencies for the same 3 financial years, 1976-77 to 1978-79. It emerged from an answer which he gave me on the 10th of this month that the voluntary agencies will not receive a single cent in the first of those 3 financial years, the current year, and that the grants to them will cut out throughout the second half of 1978. The Minister boasted that the Fraser Government had increased aid to the South Pacific by 400 per cent over the payments made by the Labor Government. The fact is that when Labor took office aid to the South Pacific had been a mere $ 1.1m. We immediately doubled it. The total increase by my government in bilateral aid to the countries of the South Pacific from 1972 to 1975 represented an increase of 400 per cent over the level of aid which we inherited.
None of the figures on aid given by the Fraser Government takes account of the further cuts in government spending totalling some $300m announced last November. It will be noticed that the figures which I gave from the Minister’s answers to questions on notice were given on 7 September and 11 November last. On 17 December the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced cuts of $300m. He announced further cuts in expenditure but he refused to disclose what areas would be cut. Is our foreign aid program among those cuts? Let the Foreign Minister tell the Parliament, the people, the South Pacific and the rest of the world whether Australia’s development assistance is being further reduced. We know that the Fraser Government is not allocating all the aid for which it budgeted last year. Is this part of the Treasurer’s secret economies? The hard fact of the aid performance of the Fraser Government is that in the 8 months beginning last July and ending in February, that is, after two-thirds of the current financial year has passed, Australia’s aid allocation is running $15m below two-thirds of its allocation for the whole financial year. The Government is stalling programs and is cutting allocations. The unilateral action of the Fraser Government has resulted in our aid recipients as a whole receiving markedly less from Australia than they did under the last Labor Budget. This takes no account of the effects upon recipients of Australian aid of the Government’s decision to devalue.
The Minister, in his answer to my question on 10 March concerning aid to the South Pacific countries, stated that recipient governments sometimes had difficulty in taking up aid at the time and in the way it is offered. He asserted that this accounted for some of the shortfalls in Australian aid disbursements. There is no doubt that the so-called shortfalls have occurred, chiefly as a consequence of the substantial staff reductions in Canberra. The cuts in staff working on the Australian aid program have reduced its quality and efficiency. The difficulty has not been among the recipients. It has been in Australia. It is not the sparsity or the incompetence of the public servants among the recipient countries. It is the sparsity enforced upon the Australian public servants by the Fraser Government.
Under the new arrangements the aid program will also find it harder to engage expert assistance overseas. The Minister stated in his second reading speech that the Public Service Board would give the new bureau the necessary delegations to enable it to obtain and’ place experts overseas quickly and effectively. These delegations have not yet been given. If and when they are given they will signal the removal of one of the vital elements of flexibility that enhanced Australia’s aid activities under the ADAA Act. Section 3 1 of the Act gave the Minister power to engage experts to work on the aid program. That power was exercised responsibly and with unqualified benefit to recipient countries. We must now start again. We must hope, almost certainly in vain, that the new arrangements will not restrict the scope and flexibility of the aid program.
What is to become of the Development Assistance Advisory Board established under the Act? The Board was an important adjunct to the work of the Agency. One of its objectives was to provide a link between our aid policy and the wider community, to establish a source of independent advice and to expose our aid policy to the outside knowledge and humanitarian concerns of a range of community interests. The Advisory Board was set up under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir John Crawford. Under the Fraser Government, it has never been allowed to meet. It has not met once since 11 November 1975. Insistent requests for a meeting have been denied. It is in the light of that record that we should judge the Minister’s undertaking that the future of the Board and the question of its replacement by a new advisory mechanism will be considered by the Government. The Minister undertakes to make an announcement on this subject. When will it be made? He says: ‘At an appropriate time’. Not just the philosophy but the phraseology of the Foreign Minister’s leader have been dutifully absorbed by the Foreign Minister.
The establishment of ADAA gave the Australian Government, for the first time, a dedicated professional staff with skill and expertise in development assistance. Their accumulated experience and dedication will be lost. Their knowledge, and the objectives which ADAA supported, will be subordinated to the Government’s foreign policy and defence policy. As the Minister put it, the reintegration will provide for a better overall appreciation of the importance of development assistance in Australia’s foreign policy. In other words, the conservatives have returned to one of their deeply felt prejudices. Only countries politically acceptable to the Fraser Government can expect Australian development assistance. How long must we wait before the Liberals learn the lessons of post-colonial history? The Minister claims:
We are not seeking to achieve narrow political objectives through the provisions of aid.
Once again the Government is proclaiming a policy which its own actions negate. Even the decision to increase aid to the South Pacific countries was a response to the visit to the South Pacific by a Soviet aid term last year. It took the Soviet to stir the Fraser Government to take an interest in the South Pacific.
This Bill makes it clear to the world that overseas aid under the Fraser Government will be dictated not by the needs of the countries concerned but by political events. The aid will be motivated by the political and ideological assumptions of the Fraser Government. The Bill is typical of the Fraser Government’s legislative priorities. The Parliament has spent most of its time either dismantling Labor Government reforms or enacting reforms which the Labor Government initiated. For instance, we have already had demolished the Road Safety and Standards Authority, vital elements of the Grants Commission and the scheme for the deductibility of mortage interest payments. The Children’s Commission Act and the Inter-State Commission Act have not yet been proclaimed. By contrast, look at the Fraser Government’s reforms. Any creative or useful legislation which this Government has brought forward originated with its predecessors. Take our international obligations. Look at the legislation on extradition, biological weapons, psychotropic substances, Christmas Island, Nauru appeals, historic shipwrecks, the Asian Development Fund and the Australia-Japan Foundation.
Look at domestic reforms: The public lending right, insurance deposits, Aboriginal land rights, Aboriginal councils and associations, the maritime college, the family allowances and the simultaneous elections referendum. Look at law reform, in particular: The legislation on the Ombudsman, on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, on criminal investigation, on the Federal Court and associated courts. All these pieces of legislation had passed one of the Houses in the last Parliament, or were on the notice paper for one of the Houses in the last Parliament or were in the legislative pipeline in the last Parliament. The ADAA is another casualty of the dishonest and destructive Fraser
Government, another monument to its negativism and reaction, its penny-pinching and shortsightedness, its bitter and obsessive view of the world. What a blow has been dealt to Australia ‘s reputation among its neighbours, among the developing countries and among the nations that had looked to us as a steady, generous and helpful friend. The tragedy is that so much of the progress made in our foreign relations over the 3 years of the Labor Government can be so quickly destroyed. The setback to those relations is confirmed and symbolised by this Bill. I can do no better than quote from the speech which the present Foreign Minister made 3 years ago when he said, on behalf of the Liberal Party and presumably the Country Party as the spokesman on foreign affairs for the then Opposition that he supported it. What the Foreign Minister said 3 years ago is the ideal summation of his own Government’s policy. He said:
Its philosophy was outdated decades after it wrote it into its platform. It might also recognise that its attitude towards aid programs also is out of date. It is about time it informed this House and the Australian people of the way in which it is going to approach the provision of assistance to developing countries at their time of greatest need.
Their need is even greater now. The response of the Australian Government is paltry and remote. The Government’s insensitive and inadequate policy on foreign aid has been condemned out of the Minister’s own mouth. The Minister now has the ignominious task of guiding through the Parliament a Bill to destroy an Act which he welcomed and supported. Quite clearly the Act should be preserved, the Bill should be rejected.
– I am pleased to rise in support of the Government on this occasion. The numerous assertions made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) lead me to conclude that he is like the Bourbons, referred to by Talleyrand- he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. He has given us, with no doubt his accustomed attention to detail, a list of the achievements of his Administration. In that sense he has forgotten nothing. What he has not learnt is that a nation ‘s capacity to give either to its own people or, through its foreign assistance programs, to others is fundamentally dictated by the size of the national revenue and by the wealth of the nation. I do not wish on this occasion to talk about the regrettable economic shambles which we inherited, but it would be absurd for me to continue in defence of the Government’s foreign aid policies unless I emphasised once again, that our inheritance in December 1975 made it essential that all areas of government expenditure be very carefully examined and, where necessary, reduced.
Much has been made of the allegation that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) allegedly supported the establishment of the aid agency when he was the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs. Although that is correct he in fact said that adequate consultation and in particular co-ordination of aid programs caused him some concern and he doubted the AADA would improve this. On the same occasion when I had the privilege of leading for the then Opposition in the debate I am reported in Hansard as saying:
I am seriously concerned that the proposed aid agency will become little more than a body responsible for the implementation of aid programs that are decided upon by other agencies of government. If this should be the case it is questionable whether the establishment of a separate agency is really justified, lt can be justified only if it has an effective co-ordinating role. I doubt whether the Agency as presently planned and staffed is able to carry out such as important function.
Events have proved without any doubt that the fears I expressed on that occasion were justified. I also on that occasion castigated the then Government for the vagueness with which it had tried to enunciate its foreign aid intentions. I might just make a point in terms of staffing. The aid agency at its prime, if I may use that expression, had a staff of 730. The new organisation has a staff of 550. But we must also recall that when the original concept of the agency was put forward, I believe by Dr Wilenski, the private secretary to the then Prime Minister, the intention was not for the Government to establish some massive organisation but rather that there should be a small group of expert and dedicated people who could advise the government on the best manner in which to carry out its aid programs. For various reasons, no doubt now lost in the various files of the Public Service Board and other places, it was decided to add to the original organisation virtually the entire staff of the then Department of External Territories because nobody knew what to do with them as Papua New Guinea approached independence. That is a fact of administrative history. Surely nobody in the Opposition apart from their leader would attempt to assert that by merely adding personnel to an aid agency we will necessarily have a more effective aid policy. Nor can anyone in the Opposition today assert with any justification that by attempting at all costs to reach an aid- to be in dollar terms 0.7 per cent of gross national product the figure quoted rightly by the Leader of the Opposition as the target for the second development decade- we will have a more constructive, better organised and a more efficient system of aid distribution. What is abundantly clear is that when the decision was taken on the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP to be reached over a decade there was no indication that the world would enter the economic malaise that has befallen most countries over the last 3 years. I am sure I can say that on the basis of the present international situation, it is highly unlikely that any country will achieve the target contribution of 0.7 per cent. Despite this, the present Liberal-National Country Party Government has emphasised on many occasions that our intention in this regard remains clear. It is our objective to increase our aid commitment as far as we can possibly do so, keeping in mind the fact that we have to run the Australian economy, deal with the numerous social welfare problems that we have in Australia, as well as pull our weight internationally and assist those countries, many of which are far worse off than ourselves. It is a question of competing interests. The objective of government of any political colour must always be to come up with the best formula to meet competing ends available at the time.
As I said in my opening remarks, we had no part in the creation of the economic situation that we inherited, but it is certainly our fundamental responsibility to see that the funds of Australian taxpayers are spent as efficiently as possible, both in terms of our domestic policies and our foreign assistance policies. In fact the Government has a very positive attitude to development assistance.
The major Australian aid programs since 1949 were created by Liberal-Country Party governments. We have continuously recognised Australia’s responsibility to assist the economic and social development of the Third World countries. We believe that this can best be achieved through the transfer to those countries of Australian resources and technology on the best concessional terms available and that we are able to achieve. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has emphasised on numerous occasions the unquestionable right of all human beings, regardless of their colour, creed or where they live in the world, to a life free of poverty and a decent standard of living. I might add that they are also entitled to a fair share of the world’s resources. The gap between rich and poor is growing day by day. It is worth remembering that the vast majority of the world ‘s population has an annual gross income of less than $200. This remains one of the central issues of international relations. It is for that reason that a new world economic order has been proposed through the United Nations. It has been put forward and accepted in principle by all countries, rich and poor alike. What we have yet to see however is whether the acceptance in principle will in the years to come result in an effective transfer of resources.
Our aid programs represent a real transfer of resources from Australia, from the Australian public, from the taxpayers of this land to those people and countries far less well endowed than ourselves. But as I emphasised before, there are competing demands, and it is utterly irresponsible for the Opposition to stand up in this place with its shocking record of 3 years in government and tell us that we are not meeting any of these requirements to a satisfactory extent. In fact in the last financial year in monetary terms we increased our aid by nearly 15 per cent to around $400m. Of course that is not enough. Of course we want to give more aid, but if we give more international assistance it means less funds for Australian projects and it means less funds for all the other competing needs which have to be met in the Australian community.
Nevertheless Australia’s aid as a proportion of gross domestic product remains around 0.5 per cent. That compares more than favourably with the average of other Western countries, at only 0.36 per cent. We can hold our head up high. We have certainly nothing to be ashamed of in this field. Nevertheless the Government is well aware of the fact that Australia’s geographic location at the southern end of the South East Asian chain means that we must face the reality that our surrounding neighbours live with extremely low gross domestic products, low per capita incomes and high population growth rates. The low foreign exchange earnings of those nations and the huge foreign debts which they have regrettably had to run up since independence will continue to remain a major difficulty in their overall economic welfare.
It is for this reason, and a most commendable one at that, that all parties in this Parliament have consistently abided by the concept that Australian aid should remain untied. We do not wish it to be said that in giving assistance to these nations we necessarily expect something in return. We are certainly not asking for a rate of interest, which in fact would only increase the total loan commitment upon nations, many of which are unable to meet the capital, much less the interest repayments.
Nevertheless among our special achievements since taking office no doubt pride of place must be given to the major increases in our bilateral aid to Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific in particular. In the first case our commitment to Papua New Guinea guarantees to that nation that we will spend over a 5-year period commencing in 1976-77 at least $930m. That is our commitment and that is our intention. In addition we have made a commitment of some $60m in bilateral aid to the countries of the South Pacific also over a 3-year period commencing in 1 976. That represents about 4 times what we spent in the previous 3 years. Yet the Leader of the Opposition had the audacity to say that we have not been pulling our weight in this area since we came into government.
It is a fact of history that successive Australian governments did not in my opinion give enough assistance to the South Pacific, but that must be seen within the context of the historic circumstances of the time. Most of those states were colonies. They are now emerging to or have reached independence. Our relationship with them is therefore fundamentally different. As they reach independence Australia, as the major country in this part of the world, under this Government will most certainly be prepared to accept its full responsibilities in that regard. In per capita terms Australian aid to all our recipients remains at a very high level. Indonesia, for example, our nearest and most populous neighbour, will receive no less than $86m over the next 3 years on a rolling fund basis. This will facilitate forward planning both by the Indonesian Government and by the Australian aid authorities. As 1 have noted, our South Pacific assistance is also on a rolling fund basis. The advantages of this are quite clear. It means that the recipient governments will know in advance of their projects precisely how much financial assistance will be available to assist them in this regard.
The basis of the bilateral aid program under this Government is essentially to use Australian resources, know how, training, consultancy services etc. as it is important both in terms of our impact on recipient countries and to assure the world that what we are doing is identifiably Australian. I must emphasise that Australian aid is directed to making an effective contribution to the economic and social development of all recipient countries. That remains and must always be our first consideration. Consequently some 97 per cent of our aid has been in grant form, and that is how it should be.
We believe that our aid will be of greatest benefit if it is concentrated on sectors that are critical to the development strategy of the recipient governments. This, in our part of the world, represents the rural sector. We must make sure our aid is wide-ranging in terms of the activities it covers and that it covers infrastructure development, agriculture, animal health and nutrition; the areas in fact in which this nation over the years has managed to achieve a pre-eminent position in the world. It is obvious that countries with a considerable degree of expertise in technology, scientific achievements and agriculture should be in a position to transfer their technology to developing countries. This is one of the fundamental objectives of our aid policy.
We recognise that in the long term the world food shortage will be overcome only through increased agricultural production. The people of the developing world cannot achieve a reduction in the rate of their births in relation to the rate of their deaths until they have some expectation that they can have employment, security and sufficient food. Many millions probably do not have a full meal in an entire week. Until those objectives can be achieved it is very difficult to expect that there will be a fundamental reduction in the birth rate of the world and that the developing countries will be able to overcome their fundamental problems. Let it be noted that the Australian Government under the present Administration will do all in its power to make sure that Australia continues to pull its full weight in helping to overcome the major development problems of our fellow human beings.
-No advocate however eloquent, can be convincing if he has a bad case. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) has done his best with a thoroughly bad case. I repeat that it is a thoroughly bad case, as I shall now show. The Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill should never have been brought into this Parliament. It gives effect to a retrograde step which displays the short-sighted, counterproductive attitude of the Fraser Government to matters of Government spending. The Australian Development Assistance Agency was established by the Australian Labor Government following a recommendation from the subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs which had heard evidence in 1971. 1 believe this sub-committee had a Liberal-National Country Party majority and it was made up therefore of people who made a special study of the matter of delivering aid. It was a committee which did not divide on party grounds in any way in coming to the very wise decision to set up this separate agency. This initiative was designed to bring all the aid dispensing activities of the
Australian Government under one administrative unit. It had the potential for bringing a new dimension of professionalism to Australia’s aid program. The Agency’s premature demise has meant that its promise has never really been fulfilled. It existed for all too short a time to demonstrate its real worth.
When the Labor Government introduced legislation setting up the Agency it met with no opposition from the Liberal and National Country parties. The present Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) then said:
The Opposition supports the Australian Development Assistance Agency Bill.
The present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and sometime Minister for Foreign Affairs, as he hopes, said that the then National Country Party Opposition had ‘reservations about the character of the proposed Agency’. He went on:
Less than 2 years later the Liberal and National Country parties have decided that there is not a place for the Agency. Six weeks after coming to government they abolished it. It is interesting to note that the decision to abolish the agency was taken by the Economic Sub-Committee of Cabinet, a group of which the Minister for Foreign Affairs was not even a member.
– You would not even know. I was in attendance at that meeting. I can attend whenever I wish. I was in fact a participant in the decision. Instead of relying on newspaper articles, get some facts.
Mr Young Stop interjecting.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! I remind the honourable member for Port Adelaide that the Chair will take whatever action is necessary.
– I have decided to respond to the Minister so that his remarks will be recorded in Hansard. I wondered whether I would let them go by as a mere interjection which did not deserve to be recorded in Hansard but I am glad to hear that he was present. It makes him even more culpable for being the front man and allowing this to happen when so few years ago he was responsible for his Party’s supporting the setting up of this agency. I thought that there might have been an excuse for him in his not being present at the Economic Sub-Committee meeting. As I have said, he is not a member of that sub-committee but now we have it on record that he attended the sub-committee and we can say that he is as culpable as everybody else for this retrograde step having been taken.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will not now take any notice of interjections, as I see that you wish this. The rationale put forward by the Government for this decision was that it was part of its drive to achieve greater efficiency and economy in the Public Service by minimising the number of commissions and statutory bodies. In reality, of course, motives of efficiency had nothing to do with the decision. It was simply part of the Government’s ideological obsession with cutting back the Public Service. I am sorry to find that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is part of this group which has this ideological obsession. Any concern for efficiency was sacrificed to the preoccupation with deficit cutting.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has gone to considerable pains to claim that the new bureau operating within the Department is performing all the functions previously carried out by the agency. It is difficult to imagine how that claim can in any way be substantiated. The former aid agency was subjected to particularly savage staff cutbacks when it was subsumed into the Department of Foreign Affairs. A case can be made out for its being one of the sections of the Public Service hardest hit by these cutbacks. The Canberra Branch Secretary of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, Mr Geoff Blunden, pointed out last December that ‘government staff cuts were preventing a truly effective Australian aid program for developing countries’. He was speaking as a representative of those who work in this field. Despite assurances to the contrary from the Government, it seems obvious that Australia’s aid budget for 1976-77 will be underspent due to administrative constrictions cause by staff shortages.
Australia’s aid performance under the Australian Labor Party Government lifted us to a highly coveted fifth place on the international aid ladder during the calendar year 1975. The Sydney Morning Herald of 23 December carried a report which described the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economists as believing that our performance during 1976 under this Liberal-National Country Party Government will drop us to about tenth, eleventh or even twelfth place on that ladder. It is easy to see overseas countries beginning to question the sincerity of this Government’s commitment to the United Nations’ target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product for aid donors.
In deciding to abolish the aid agency the Government has had scant regard for the attitudes of our aid recipients. The decision to set up the aid agency was warmly welcomed by Papua New Guinea, for example, yet despite the great emphasis Australia places on relations with Papua New Guinea the agency was abolished without any consultation to ascertain whether our chief aid recipient would be seriously disadvantaged. The decline of the agency into a bureau and its placement under the authority of the Department of Foreign Affairs will create difficulties in differentiating aid policy from foreign policy. We would be deluding ourselves if we thought that at all times our foreign policy was genuinely aimed at selflessly promoting world development. On the other hand, aid should be seen to be doing just this. It should not be administered in such a way that it can be suspected of being an instrument of foreign policy. I see no value in placing the aid agency under the control of the Department of Foreign Affairs and subjecting our diplomats to the temptation of using aid for purposes for which it was not intended. Those non-government bodies and the general public interested in evaluating how decisions regarding aid are made will not have the same access to information as they previously enjoyed now that the agency is within the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is unlikely that the very secretive Department of Foreign Affairs will make an exception to its necessarily secretive general rules of operation with regard to the activities of the aid bureau.
Now let me turn to some aspects of aid generally because the debate has been widened to cover them. One of the aspects of our current aid program that has received little attention has been the impact of devaluation. To the extent that our aid is given to donor countries to spend as they determine, devaluation reduced our effective aid by 17W per cent. The Government has made no recognition of this fact and has certainly not moved to keep the real value of overseas aid intact. The lack of concern which this Government has had for our overseas economic relations is summed up in the statement made by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announcing the devaluation. The international ramifications of the decision were conspicuously ignored. No matter how unimportant the impact of devaluation on our neighbours may have been to this Government, others did not see it in quite the same fashion. Influential journals such as the Economist and the Far East Economic Review condemned the decision to devalue in no uncertain terms. Devaluation has more than the obvious effect of reducing real aid levels to our aid recipients. Devaluation can be regarded in some senses as an attempt to offload some of our problems on to our trading partners, including those underdeveloped countries with which we trade. With the exception of Brazil, Egypt and Hong Kong, Australia already has a favourable balance of trade with all our developing country trading partners. To the extent that balance of trade motives for devaluation are successful, these imbalances are exacerbated.
The decision to devalue thus must be regarded as the imposition by Australia of a burden on the economies of the developing countries, yet the Government fails to recognise this and continues to pay hollow lip service to Australia’s concern for underdeveloped countries and for the establishment of a new international economic order. We heard the previous speaker, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), say this. I make this point because I believe that devaluation was a disastrous decision from the point of view of the management of our domestic economy. So the adverse effects on our neighbours increase the error of the decision to devalue. Many questions remain unanswered about the present Government’s attitude to overseas aid and about its attitudes to all aspects of international economic relations. In the foreign policy statement of the Liberal and National Country Parties prior to the 1975 election it was stated that a Liberal-National Country Party government ‘would encourage direct investment by the Australian private sector preferably on a joint venture basis’ as part of its aid program.
During an address at Swinburne College last November the Minister for Foreign Affairs said:
The Government is actively promoting involvement of the private sector in the aid program.
The Government is yet to spell out the practical implications of this statement of intent. It has been expressed in many circles that maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of the aid program will be subjugated to the Government’s desire to dismantle the public sector. The Minister for Foreign Affairs announced during his Swinburne College address that the Government was looking at using some aid money for loans to developing countries as trade credits. This appears to run counter to the views of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who has somewhat disparaged the use of tied loans as a form of aid. He pointed to the type of aid Australia had given to Papua New Guinea, which has not increased that country’s debt burden, as being closest to the ideal. The Fraser Government has not yet clarified its attitude to that question.
While I am speaking on the subject of aid in general and especially its implications for the Australian domestic market, I should like briefly to make reference to the comments made on Tuesday of this week by the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson). When closing the debate on the Asian Bank (Additional Subscriptions) Bill the Minister inferred that I had suggested that overseas aid expenditure should not be subject to constraints within the Budget context as it does not add to the domestic Budget deficit and does not affect domestic liquidity. He then went on to demonstrate that approximately 75 per cent of Australia’s overseas aid involved direct demands on Australia’s resources and thus should be treated as any other Budget item is treated. I am well aware of that reasoning and of the fact that Treasury is pushing that argument very hard. However, the Minister missed the central point of what I said in that debate. The point in brief is that if our overseas aid is directly influencing domestic demand then that aid is rather less effective than it would be. We are to a large extent tying our aid. The very fact that it is said that it has that effect on the domestic economy means that it is very much tied to our domestic economy. The alleged fact that 75 per cent of Australia’s overseas aid places direct demands on domestic resources is not an argument for cutting aid; it is rather an argument for changing the form of our aid. In an editorial in the 2 1 March issue of the Canberra Times entitled ‘Robbing the Poor Box’ that was recognised. The editorial said that requiring aid funds to be spent in Australia ‘imposes on the recipients high costs that diminish the value of the aid received ‘.
The foregoing argument is not meant to deny the fact that overseas aid does ultimately mean a transfer of resources from Australia to the recipient country. However, it need not be done in a way which subjects that transfer to the vagaries of the concern of government for the domestic impact of government expenditure levels. Overseas aid given through a completely untied process affects the level of our overseas reserves, but neither the Government nor the Treasury has given any indication that it is concerned on that score. If either of them is concerned then the reasons for that concern should be spelt out. I am aware of the impact of aid on the overall deficit and the need to fund that deficit. But that argument does not impress me greatly at the present time either, because I believe that, with more careful management, a greater value of government loans can be sold at existing interest rates.
Anyhow, the money supply growth should be at a greater rate than it is at present if we are to avoid a damaging credit squeeze.
Another outstanding issue relating to the Australian Development Assistance Agency concerns the report of Dr Helen Hughes on development research in Australia. The report was commissioned by the ADAA to examine the general field of development studies in Australia and to recommend ways in which the Government and the Agency, as it was at that time, might further promote that field through several alternatives, including the possible establishment of an institute of development studies. The report was completed and presented to the Government on 3 1 December 1 975. On 7 September last year the Minister for Foreign Affairs said in answer to a question that the Government had still not made decisions about the recommendations made by Dr Hughes. Such decisions are long overdue and the present would be an appropriate time for them to be made. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is not in the House, but I hope that the officials who are here will draw that matter to his attention.
Although Australia has given substantial and increasing amounts of aid to developing countries, the attention given to the intellectual activity of research and teaching about development has been relatively slight. Also, Australians have generally been isolated from the debate about the nature of development. There has been little discussion within Australia about the problems of aiming simply for economic growth without regard to the effects on, for example, income distribution and the nature of society within developing countries. There has been even less research in regard to the interface between Australia and the developing world. Study is needed of the impact of the policies of industrialised countries on developing countries as well as on the problems of the developing countries themselves. I hope that the Minister will comment on Dr Hughes’ report when he closes the debate on this Bill.
I apologise to the Government Whip. I must say that because of interjections from the Minister I have spoken for longer than I had intended. I conclude by saying that there is an unfortunate tendency amongst many people to regard aid as a strictly one way process in which the donors make the sacrifices and the recipients receive all the benefits. Far too little attention is focused on the potential benefits for the donors. Aid in its very best form will alleviate the poverty and suffering in underdeveloped countries through the process of promoting economic and political stability. All countries in a region benefit when their neighbours enjoy that stability.
The economic and political stability of the South East Asian region is of vital concern to Australia. Our national security will be enhanced as the economies of our Asian neighbours are strengthened and the processes of government in those countries achieve maturity. To the extent that our aid can help to achieve those aims, it becomes as effective a defender of our security as of some of our defence spending. As one of the few countries in this region capable of mounting a substantial aid effort, Australia has a special responsibility towards South East Asia. But that responsibility should also be recognised as an opportunity- an opportunity to promote the regional stability which is in Australia’s own long term interests. This Bill, which puts an end to the aid agency, certainly does not move in that spirit. The Opposition opposes in every way this Bill which repeals the aid agency.
Debate (on motion by Mr Dobie) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill I am introducing to the House today provides for major amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The proposed legislation represents the second stage of the progressive implementation of the employment and industrial relations policy of the Government. The first stage was implemented last year when the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act providing for secret postal ballots for elections of office-bearers in organisations was introduced. Those amendments, it will be recalled, were designed to encourage greater participation by individual members in union elections and, therefore, more democratic control of those organisations.
The Government’s employment and industrial relations policy was put before the Australian people prior to the election in 1975. That policy, together with the many other facets of the Government’s blueprint for a better Australia, received the most overwhelming mandate given to any Commonwealth Government in Australia’s history.
Our industrial relations policy is based on certain fundamental principles which provide the cornerstones for the legislation we are introducing today. Those principles are: Each member of our community has both rights and obligations; individual rights must be protected; equally, obligations must be met.
These must apply no less so in industrial relations than in other facets of community life. Industrial relations affect all of us and we, as Government, accept that it is our responsibility to develop an industrial relations framework in which the rights of individuals are protected, for example the right to choose employment and to join, or not to join, industrial organisations; labour and management can communicate and settle differences in a manner which recognises the rights and responsibilities of both; and the community at large is protected from harsh and disruptive effects of industrial disputation.
This framework cannot be achieved unless proper rules are made and observed. This is not a new concept. It is inherent in any rational society. It was recognised and accepted in the establishment of the Australian industrial relations system over 70 years ago. Since shortly after federation Australia has had a system of conciliation and arbitration which was designed to settle, by peaceful means, industrial disputes between employers and unions- a system which has provided many advantages for employers, unions and the community.
It will be recalled that a major reason for the original conciliation and arbitration legislation was the belief that employees were at a disadvantage in the industrial relations bargaining process and needed protection. Over the years the system has assisted in providing for Australian workers a standard of living which is amongst the highest in the world. Awards made under the Act impose on employers obligations, enforceable by law, to provide their employees with prescribed standards of wages and working conditions. The system has also given to organisations of workers and employers a status and protection, guaranteed by the law, that does not exist in most other comparable industrial countries. It has provided the impetus for the growth of large and powerful trade unions. It has given these unions a monopoly over membership in the industries and callings they cover against rival organisations. It has thus placed unions in Australia in a very powerful position.
Many trade unions have recognised that the privileges granted to them by the community, and the protection that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has afforded their members, also have placed an onus on them to behave in a reasonable manner and, in pursuing their industrial claims, to have regard not only for the interests of their particular members, but also, for the well-being of the community in which they operate and in which their members are citizens. Regrettably, some unions have tended to disregard their responsibilities to the community and, indeed, to their own members. In some instances, the blame for this can be placed on those union officials with certain ideological beliefs. But the problem is more fundamental than that: The Government believes that it is basically a manifestation of the phenomenon we have all witnessed from time to time when an organisation which sets out initially to serve the interests of its members and the community becomes so large and powerful that it loses sight of what it should be doing; self-interest takes over, and its original purpose is lost in the pursuit of selfinterest. Industrial disputation affects the whole community. Australia’s deplorable record of time lost through industrial disputes in recent years has been a significant factor contributing to our current economic problems.
In the years since the previous Administration took office, more man-days have been lost than in any comparable period during the current century. What is more disturbing is that although the number of man-days lost on disputes which have an industrial basis has diminished since the present Government has been in office, a significant amount of working time has been lost through stoppages of a political character which have no industrial basis. In 1976, 2.1 million man-days, representing 55 per cent of all time lost in that year, were lost in stoppages over the Medibank issue. Moreover, in relation to this particular issue, trade unionists who believed that it was wrong for their unions to call stoppages over a political decision and who refused to engage in industrial action caused by their unions were victimised by those unions. Let us not ignore the fact that an individual wants to retain his freedom and dignity and free choice is essential to this objective. This is evidenced by public opinion polls and opposition by individual workers to wanton calls for strike action. The current situation cannot be permitted to continue and the Government does not intend to allow it to continue.
Let me now outline the main features of the Bill:
First, there are a series of amendments designed to strengthen the protection of individual employees and persons against unfair actions by employers and organisations.
Second, the Bill establishes the Industrial Relations Bureau, an independent statutory body, as the third arm of the industrial relations machinery.
Third, it extends the range of consequences available to the Court for breaches of the industrial law or of awards, thus providing greater flexibility for that body in these situations.
Finally, the Bill includes a number of miscellaneous amendments which have been shown to be necessary to ensure the better working of the Act.
The Government regards the protection of individual rights as fundamental and inalienable. It believes that every employee should have the right to join a union and it encourages employees not only to join unions but to participate fully in their affairs. On the other hand, it believes that an employee should have the right not to join a union where he or she has a genuine and conscientious objection to so joining; and that this right shall not be dependent upon the existence of a preference clause in an award. The Government does not accept that unions should have the right to seek to force self-employed persons and employers who work on the tools to become union members. The Government does not believe that members of organisations should be subjected to intimidation or should be disadvantaged because they choose to abide by their contract of employment and refuse to engage in industrial action initiated by their union. There is clearly a need to prevent a repetition of the actions taken by a few unions in relation to the Medibank stoppages last year when they sought to penalise members who refused to take part in what was a blatantly political strike and also sought to have employers discriminate against them. Similarly it believes that persons should be protected if they decide to have recourse to the processes of the legislation. Therefore, this Bill will amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to protect individual employees and persons seeking to become employees from intimidation or prejudicial action either by employers or by organisations.
Section 5 of the Act will be amended to prevent an employer disadvantaging or threatening to disadvantage an employee who refuses to join a union on conscientious grounds; who has notified a matter to the Industrial Relations Bureau, or who has given information or other assistance to that Bureau; or who refuses to take part in an industrial action called by his organisation. The Government recognises, however, that many employers who take such action in the circumstances mentioned do so only because of pressure by the industrial organisations concerned. Clause 5 of the Bill will insert a new section 5a designed to prohibit both trade union and employer organisations from seeking to induce employers to disadvantage employees or other persons for the reasons stated. It will also be an offence for such an organisation, itself, to attempt to penalise any such employee or person. Finally, these particular sections will prevent unions from attempting to force independent contractors and employers who work on the tools to be become members.
There is one further amendment relating to this important issue of individual rights. At present section 45 enables the Commission to order a secret ballot where a work ban exists or is threatened and where it believes that such a ballot will assist in settling the dispute. It is a discretionary provision and, although in the Act in various forms for many years, has been used very rarely. In the Government’s view, the Act is deficient because it does not provide any means by which members of organisations can indicate to the Commission that they disagree with industrial action which their organisation proposes or engages in. We recognise the major problems of providing for mandatory secret ballots on strike action. In the circumstances, we propose to insert a new Section 46A which will enable members of an organisation who disagree with industrial action, or proposed industrial action called by that organisation to notify the Industrial Relations Bureau of such opposition. The Bureau, after satisfying itself that the notifiers are members of the organisation, will pass the notification to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Commission will then convey the report to the organisation and make public the opposition of the members to the industrial action. This provision could provide the Commission with some indication of the views of members in some disputes which will enable it to determine an appropriate course of action. These provisions are designed to ensure that the basic rights of individual members of organisations are enhanced.
Industrial Relations Bureau
The establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau is a major feature of the Government’s policy. It will take over the functions- in greatly broadened form- of the Arbitration Inspectorate and will, by virtue of its status, the Government believes, ensure they are carried out more effectively. The Bureau will be the third arm of the conciliation and arbitration machinery, acting in conjunction with the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Federal Court to ensure the general supervision and observance of federal industrial law. Our industrial relations policy statement pointed out that while the Arbitration Inspectorate has ensured that employers observe the terms and conditions prescribed in awards, it has really applied one section of industrial law against employers only.
The Bill before the House gives effect to that policy. Clause 18 repeals sections 125 and 126 which presently provide for the appointment and function of inspectors. Clause 19 introduces a new Part VIA to the Act which establishes an Industrial Relations Bureau as an independent statutory authority headed by a Director with the status of a Presidential Member of the Commission. Its role will be to secure the observance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the regulations made under that Act and of awards. It will be responsible for ensuring that employers obey the terms and conditions of awards to which they are respondents. It will also be responsible for ensuring that the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the regulations are observed, not only by employers but also by employer and employee organisations and their officials. The Bureau will not be involved in the dispute settling processes under the Act. The settlement of industrial disputes is the prime function of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The functions of the Bureau in the industrial relations area will commence at the point where awards have been made in relation to the settlement of disputes. It will have responsibilities also in relation to those provisions of the Act which do not involve the making of awards but the functioning of organisations. The Bureau will not, as some propagandists would have it, be an industrial policeman. It will be an independent body whose basic aim will be to secure the observance of the Act, regulations and awards in a reasonable and amicable manner. In effect, the Government sees the Bureau as a type of industrial relations ombudsman. In particular it will provide a focal point for non-English speaking workers to obtain assistance when they are concerned about their rights as employees and union members. The Bureau will seek to secure correction of breaches of the industrial law without recourse to the legal processes of the Court. Where the Bureau is unable to have the breach remedied, it will have the responsibility of pursuing the necessary action in the court.
The Government believes that its amendments to a number of sections of the Act not only provide a more effective way of assisting individual union members in maintaining their rights, but also will cut out excessive legalism. For example, the only way in which challenges to rules and complaints regarding the proper observance of rules, respectively, can be resolved has frequently involved long drawn out and expensive litigation. It is proposed by clauses 23 and 24 that, in future, a person will take a complaint under sections 140 and 141 of the Act to the Bureau which will be required to investigate it. If it believes a complaint is justified, the Bureau will seek to have it rectified. If the organisation or official fails to rectify the matter it will be taken, not by the individual, but by the Bureau, to the Federal Court. However, even where the Bureau believes there is no substance in a complaint, the individual member will still retain the right to pursue the matter, personally, before the court.
In a similar way, the Bureau will be used in the preliminary stages of enquiries into irregularities in election ballots. The Government believes that this new concept will provide more readily available means of protection for individuals- not only for members of employee organisations but also for members of employer organisations. I have stated, and reiterate, that the Government accepts that it has the responsibility to provide the means by which parties to industrial relations can settle their disagreements in an amicable fashion but with least disruption to the community at large. This objective was basic to the establishment of the original Conciliation and Arbitration Act- seen by Mr Justice Higgins as ‘a new province for law and order’. The Government believes that the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau will restore and extend the authority of this long established machinery.
The strengthening of the authority of the industrial relations machinery requires the observance of rules- the rules contained in the Act itself, in the regulations and in awards. The Government believes that these rules must be observed and that failure to observe such rules must carry consequences. There have been, ever since the inception of the Act, consequences for breaches of the rules in some form or another. In recent years the consequences embodied in the Act have fallen into disuse. The Government believes that it is impossible to maintain the authority of the Act unless there are consequences which are appropriate to the particular breaches of the rules. In essence, those contained in the Act at present are monetary penalties and deregistration. These are not necessarily appropriate in all cases. For example, a monetary penalty of a fixed amount can be inappropriate when some continuing action violates an individual right. On the other hand, the penalty of deregistration is too drastic for many of the offences that may occur.
The Government, therefore, proposes that there should be a wider range of options for the court when breaches which cannot be remedied by the Industrial Relations Bureau come before it. Matters may come before the court in relation to breaches of the Act or Regulations- section 109- for breaches of awards- section 119- on applications for deregistration of organisations under section 143 and for offences under a number of sections of the Act. In clause 15, it is proposed that, in dealing with such cases in the future, the court be enabled to fix a monetary penalty, to deregister an organisation or to suspend all or any of the capacities, rights and privileges of an organisation or its members. Furthermore, it will, in considering any of these matters, be empowered to order a secret ballot of the members of the organisations where it considers that such a ballot will assist in relation to its decision in these matters. The matters I have outlined represent the major amendments proposed in this Bill.
There are, in addition, a number of miscellaneous amendments. In clause 6 it is proposed that the Act will be amended to ensure that the President and Deputy Presidents of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have the same salaries as the Chief Judge and Judges, respectively, of the new Federal Court. A further amendment- clause 20- is designed to restrict the right of organisations, through their State branches, to enrol as members only those nonemployees who are eligible, under legislation of the relevant State, to join a union. This amendment is related to amendments introduced by the previous administration as a result of the Moore v. Doyle case and which went too far. In clause 7 it is proposed that the Commission be empowered to include dispute settling procedures in an award, even though the parties cannot agree on their inclusion, where it believes that to do so would encourage the achievement of industrial peace.
Finally, 2 amendments are proposed to section 170 of the Act which deals with officially conducted ballots. They are that a branch be entitled, like the organisation itself, to apply to have the elections of the branch’s Federal Conference delegates office officially conducted, and that the Chief Electoral Officer be empowered to allocate other officers of the Australian Electoral Office to conduct officially conducted elections. In conclusion, I would again reiterate that the Government is pledged to protect individual rights, and the rights of the community, in industrial relations matters, and ensure the observance of the obligations labour and management have to each other and the community at large.
Let me re-state briefly the main thrusts of this Bill. The Government proposes the strengthening of provisions relating to the protection of the rights of individuals against unfair actions by employers and organisations; the establishment of an Industrial Relations Bureau as a focal point for securing the observance of the industrial laws; and the extension of the range of consequences available to the court in dealing with breaches of industrial law. It believes that with the co-operation of the community, the measures proposed will prove successful.
However, the Government does not purport to have found the perfect answer. For this reason, and because of the fundamental importance of the legislation, it believes that there is a need for time to be given not only for the members of Parliament to give the proposed legislation their objective consideration, but also for the principal parties to industrial relations- the peak councils of the employer organisations and trade unions, individual trade unions and individual employers and, more importantly, the community at large- to examine the contents of the Bill and to be able to make their views known to the Government. Accordingly, it is the intention of the Government that, in order to afford proper time for this consideration, this Bill will now lie on the table of the House until at least the middle of May, when it can be fully debated. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
– I strongly support the Bill before the House, namely, the Australian
Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill 1977. When the Bill establishing the agency was introduced into the House back in 1974 1 was not a member of this Parliament. However, I did not then approve of the creation of the Agency for practical reasons. I am happy that the Fraser Government is now taking this action to repeal the Bill and to transfer the functions of the Agency to a bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has carefully spelt out in his second reading speech that with the creation of the new Australian Development Assistance Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs there has already been a closer relationship between the staff of the whole Department and the staff of the Bureau. In time this will bring a broader outlook towards aid within our foreign policies generally.
I note that staff of the new Bureau will act with certain autonomy. My original objection to the creation of the Agency in 1974 was that it isolated all staff concerned with aid programs away from the main flow of governmentcumdepartmental policy making decisions with foreign countries. I therefore welcome the decision to integrate not only here at the home base in Canberra but very much more importantly also at all of our posts overseas. I believe it was at all of our overseas posts that the Agency just did not work in bringing back information as to what our aid programs should be all about. However I believe it would be appropriate to pay tribute to such men as Max Loveday who performed excel.lently to get the old Agency under way. I am sure all members of the House, irrespective of their views on this legislation, have no doubt that there will be equal dedication and application by those who are now charged with the responsibility of integrating our aid program with our general foreign policy making processes.
I was pleased to note that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has advised that arrangements are currently being made with the Public Service Board so that experts can continue to be engaged to work on special projects. However, I should like some further assurance from the Minister that discussions between his officers and those of the Board are not revealing any serious impediment to a solution of this technical staffing situation. Obviously we must employ as far as practicable such research experts under the Public Service Act. This is Government policy and I support it. But I am alarmed that we may face some impediment from the Public Service Board when we come to employ, on a short term basis, specific skills and expertise. I hope we do not face a future of compromise in this regard. I take some reassurance from the Minister’s second reading speech when he expressed his confidence that the new arrangement will allow the new Bureau to place experts overseas quickly and effectively. However I remain concerned that as of today we still do not have final arrangements between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service Board as to what conditions shall apply to employment of such experts and researchers whose skills are necessarily required on a short term basis only. I am certain that the Minister is determined in this matter and I look forward to his advice revealing success in negotiations with the Public Service Board.
As with the excellent speech that has just been given by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), this Bill also shows the gaps that exist between this side of the House and the Labor Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) had the temerity to say that times are changing or times have changed. I shall resist the temptation to list the way things have changed for that honourable gentleman from Werriwa at present both in foreign and domestic affairs. I notice that the honourable gentleman from the Opposition sitting at the table is expressionless in this situation. What the Leader of the Opposition managed to show was that economies of administration still have no recognition in his mental processes or his political assessments. I should like at a later stage of my speech to correct a total misstatement of facts as he put them forward with regard to aid to the South Pacific countries.
As we all know, aid must not become a form of outside economic control of developing countries. There are some sorry examples of large countries trying to dominate the countries to which they are offering and giving aid. It is certain that Australian aid has not moved in this direction- certainly not under Liberal-National Country Party governments. I said in a recent debate on the Asian Development Bank that no criticism can be made of the form of foreign aid, or its intention. The level of our aid program is often under fire, perhaps with occasional justification. I have no doubt that from the long list of Opposition speakers to be heard in this debate we will hear further criticisms in this regard. But the straightforward facts are that in comparison with other Western donors the proportion of our research allocated to foreign aid remains high. We have been consistently among the top four or five major aid donors.
The Minister has confirmed in unequivocal terms that the Fraser Government remains firmly committed to achievement of the internationally accepted target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product being provided in aid. If one cared to measure our aid program as certain other overseas donor countries sometimes do and included voluntary contributions as well as private investment, export credits and other financial transfers, we could show a figure far in excess of the target. But I believe this method of assessment is not an honest measurement and we must accept the fact that 0.7 per cent remains and ambition which as an ardent foreign aid supporter I hope will not be too long in being realised.
I turn to our aid program as it relates to regional co-operation. I was glad when the Foreign Minister announced last October that it had been decided to increase our aid to the island nations of the Pacific region fourfold. As the Minister knows, that area has been of great interest to me both while a member of Parliament and while not a member of Parliament. The announcement by the Minister last October was a highlight in what really has been an otherwise less than exciting improvement in our aid program. The significance of this increase in our aid to the Pacific region has been its innovative nature. I should like to quote from the Minister’s speech last October. He said:
Another innovation in our aid program will be our willingness to provide grants to Pacific island governments to strengthen development banks and related financial institutions.
This is a most forward thinking move and follows closely the work and the decision by the Asian Development Bank to finance the operation of the development bank in Tonga. I hope that the Government continues to press for support of development banks throughout this area. One has started in Fiji and is doing very well. I shall now spend a few minutes regarding Australia’s involvement in the Pacific region and spend a moment or two completely denying the allegations made by the Leader of the Opposition. Earlier in this debate he had taken the present Minister for Foreign Affairs to task for saying that we had increased the aid to the Pacific area fourfold. He claimed that in point of fact when he was the Prime Minister, and presumably when he was the Foreign Minister, aid was increased fourfold during the Labor Government’s term of office. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me state quite categorically that it was the McMahon Government which in May 1972 declared a $15m grant program lasting till the end of 1975. This was the figure about which the Leader of the Opposition made such emphatic statements. He mentioned that we had given only $1.5m in aid in our last year of government. The cold hard fact remains -and every nation in the South Pacific area knows it, remembers it and is aware of it- that the Labor Government, while it was in power, did not increase its aid to the Pacific region by a solitary cent. It lived on and stayed with the policy brought down by the then Liberal Government in 1972.
Today we have the Minister for Foreign Affairs going on to state quite properly that one of the things of which this Government should be very proud is the fact that we have again increased fourfold the aid program to the South Pacific countries. It is complete balderdash for the Leader of the Opposition to make statements such as he made today. If he likes to hold on to the incredible statement that he was one of our greatest Foreign Ministers ever, perhaps he would do well to go back and check occasionally some of the figures he uses in debates in this House.
I believe it is understood that this Government does seek to work closely with out neighbours in the Pacific region and to meet and overcome the many problems which face the region. We seek to share what skills and experience we possess. Above all, we must seek a true and full partnership on a firm basis of friendship, understanding, equality and trust. Have we gone close to meeting these criteria? I believe we have. It is a sobering thought to realise that only 200 years ago there was little or no contact between people in our part of the world. It is difficult to conceive the extent of this isolation in the past when it is realised that I can fly from Sydney to Nadi in roughly the same time as it takes me to drive the 190 miles from my electorate to Canberra, lt is also worth remembering that at the close of the 19th century, only 80 years ago, 6 metropolitan governments from the northern hemisphere were separately administering 19 territories in the region. The past 30 years have been incredible in the emergence of so many independent sovereign nations in this Pacific region. It is obvious that Australia has wanted to become involved in this area and its changing status.
One criterion by which Australia’s interest in the region can be gauged is the extent of our official representation in the area. We have had a High Commissioner in Wellington since 1943; a Consul in Noumea since 1940; a Commissioner in Fiji since 1964, becoming a High Commissioner in 1970 and accredited to Western Samoa and Tonga, and an official representative in Nauru since 1968. These representatives regularly visit the other territories in the region where as yet Australia is not formally represented. Through them the Australian Government is provided with a regular flow of first hand reports on development throughout the region. But just as important, these official representatives are able to keep the governments of the region in close touch with Australian thinking and attitudes on matters of common concern. I believe that the creation of this new bureau within the Department and the Bill which is repealing the Agency will help our representatives in this area to report back much more effectively to the Government the aid needs of these many emerging and existing island nations of the Pacific.
I think it would be rude not to talk on the trade problems of this area. Trade relations are always a complex matter, particularly in the Pacific area when a country such as Australia produces many goods in demand in other parts of the region while other countries of the region generally do not produce the equivalent quantities of goods which are in demand in Australia. It becomes even more complex when one of Australia’s most important trading customers is the Pacific area. As a major producer we have become an important supplier of a wide range of products to our neighbours. The significance of the area becomes clear when it is realised that New Zealand is our fourth largest market, Papua New Guinea our fifth largest market and the Pacific Islands the twelfth largest market for Australian exports. Australia must remain conscious- I am confident the Fraser Government will be keeping to this policy- of the difficulties some of the island countries are facing in trade matters. We have always made known our desire to assist where possible in the development of import substitute industries. I am most hopeful that the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation will continue to play an important role in rationalising the long established trade patterns of the region and in stepping up the flow of trade within the region and between it and the rest of the world.
We count ourselves fortunate to live in an area which retains as much of the value as well as the romantic aura of its traditions and customs. But tourism can destroy valuable aspects of the past. Controlled, as it has been in these parts so far, it can make a great contribution to a growing sense of identity amongst the people of the region as well as bringing a knowledge of our region to those outside it. Tourism is an area which calls for the closest possible regional co-operation so that all may benefit and so that adequate steps may be taken to ensure that what we value in our cultures is properly protected. The economic and financial rewards of tourism can be immense. Our duty as Australians is to gain the maximum benefit without permitting any undermining of these values which all of us regard as important.
What then of our aid? An important element, in fact a vital element, in regional co-operation at present and always is economic an technical assistance from more developed members of the region to those who are seeking to provide for the rapid economic and social advance of their peoples. We in Australia have long recognised this and the relative advantage which we have in terms of economic development. I should like to remind the House of what Prime Minister McMahon said some years ago. He said:
The main purpose of Australia’s aid program is to assist with the economic development of other countries. We do not want recipients to tell us of their ever-lasting gratitude and friendship for Australia. We do not use it as a substitute for trade promotion. Our aid should always maintain the primary characteristic of being humanitarian and moral.
He went on to say:
The 1970s, designated as the Second Development Decade, provide the opportunity for the rich countries collectively to do more and to provide the imagination on which our future patterns of development and progress can be based. Australia will not stand back from this challenge.
It would be my pleasure to read the history and the details of our aid to the Pacific area. Strangely, time does not permit. But as far as the South Pacific area is concerned Australia has met the standards that were set by our Prime Minister back in 1972. I believe that we can hold our heads high. I believe that the Bill before the House is another example of a practical application, of a practical regard for what is right and what should be appropriate when thinking of any aid program. I hope that in the remaining speeches in the debate we do not hear unbecoming, cynical remarks from any members of this House on what is really an issue that should go beyond party politics and personal feelings.
-We are discussing the Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill. To put matters in their proper perspective, I think it is important to go back to 12 March 1974 when the Australian Development Assistance Agency Bill was introduced by the then Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). In looking at this measure today which repeals the Bill which was introduced by the Prime Minister in the days of the Labor Government, I think it is important also to take note of some of the remarks which were made by the then Prime Minister when he introduced the Bill. I quote from page 278 of Hansard of 12 March 1974. He said:
The purpose of the Bill is to establish a Development Assistance Agency to have responsibility for the administration of all of Australia’s bilateral aid and our participation in all programs of multilateral aid to developing countries.
He also said:
The Agency to be established under the legislation will complete this process of unification by absorbing aid functions carried out by other departments including the Department of Education and the Treasury.
The decision to recognise the administration of our economic aid programs is based on the view that improvements in aid must be affected in almost all aspects of our aid endeavours- in the machinery for formulating policy, in ensuring greater attention to the welfare and distributive effects of our aid, in evaluating the effectiveness of our various schemes, in bringing greater expertise into our staffing arrangements and in more directly associating the community with the program.
We then go to 2 April 1 974. The then spokesman for the Opposition on Foreign Affairs, the present Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) said, as reported in Hansard.
The Opposition supports the Australian Development Assistance Agency Bill.
He further said:
We do not want a bureaucratic morass which bogs down the implementation of our aid programs. We want to see that aid becomes more effective than it has been in the past.
He then spoke of the problems of the developing countries. Remember that the present Minister for Foreign Affairs was at that stage supporting the Bill which we, as a Labor government, had introduced. He said:
After all, developing countries in the world have never faced a greater crisis than they are facing at present, not merely because of the energy crisis, not merely because of oil prices, not merely because of oil inflated prices, but also because of the difficulties that many countries have with nitrogenous fertilisers.
He also spoke of what was then a real tragedy, and still is, in the world. He referred to the situation in Ethiopia and the countries of that region. He said:
There are stark photographs of the effect of the famine in Ethiopia . . . The famine in Ethiopia and the appalling situation extending beyond Ethiopia have attracted miserable and paltry assistance from the Government.
He was then referring to the Labor Government. Still referring to the Labor Government, he said:
The Government’s stance is even less creditable when it proclaims concern but it is not accompanied by sufficient assistance, which this country can afford.
I would like the House to remember those words because the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in his second reading speech on 1 7 March 1 977, made statements which are completely foreign to the statements he made then. He suggested that a country such as Australia must pull in its horns on overseas aid. Later I shall read more of what he said in his second reading speech.
As the Leader of the Opposition said today, it was a shameful exercise for this Government to dismantle the Australian Development Assistance Agency. I make the statement that once again this Government has shown its complete hypocrisy. When the Bill to introduce this Agency was debated in this House the Liberal and Country Parties, then in Opposition, not only supported it but voted for it. They were elected to government on a lot of specious promises. One of them was on overseas aid. At the time of the election in December 1975 the conscience of the people of Australia had been pricked by the situation in the developing countries. There was a large measure of support forthcoming to any government which would offer to do what could be classed as the right thing by these less developed countries. Consequently, it probably made good political sense for the Liberal and Country Parties, which had then not been elected to government, to support a much greater measure of assistance by way of overseas aid to the developing countries.
One must look at the facts in all situations, particularly the situations applying at present. When one looks at the figures on overseas aid, it is important to look back a little before 1 972, when we became a government, to see the extent to which one can place any credence on the words the Government expressed during the election campaign in December 1975. Compare that with what it has done since it has been in government. These figures are factual. They are taken from replies by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to 2 separate questions by the Leader of the Opposition, which were printed in Hansard on 7 September 1976 and 11 November 1976. The figures relate to financial years. Even in the days of the McMahon Government, in 1970-71 the percentage of gross national product devoted to overseas aid for developing countries was 0.56 per cent. In 1971-72 it was 0.55 per cent. In 1972-73 it was 0.53 per cent. That was not our Budget year. In our Budget year, 1973-74, we maintained the figure at 0.52 per cent. In 1974-75 the Labor Government increased the figure to 0.56 per cent. In 1975-76, in the year of the Liberal-Country Party Government, the figure had dropped to 0.5 per cent. In 1976-77, which is the present financial year, the figure has dropped to 0.49 per cent of the gross national product. Bear in mind that when comparing these gross national product percentage figures we need to look to the target figure set by the United Nations General Assembly, which is 0.7 per cent. Certainly other countries do not have as good a percentage figure as Australia has, but the point I am making is that the present Government is not doing all that it could be doing for the people of these less developed countries.
I have no wish to hear any specious arguments from the Minister or other members of the Government. Some specious arguments were voiced before I spoke today. Excuses were made as to why additional moneys cannot be granted for overseas aid. We have heard comments by various members of the Parliament who have spoken so far. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) said that the gap between the rich and the poor, in the less developed or developing countries, has been growing. He also said that Australia has nothing of which to be ashamed. We are a developed country. But compared with other developing countries Australia is a rich country. I am afraid that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is indicted by statements he made when he was in opposition in regard to developing countries in Asia in particular, and in Africa. I referred earlier to what the then Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs said on 2 April 1974 about the famine in Ethiopia and his reference to the stark photographs of the effect of the famine- no doubt a very histrionic statement. But let us look at the facts. In his speech he said:
What is the present situation in developing countries? I have touched on some aspects of this. To put it bluntly it is disastrous.
He also said:
The gap between the living standards of the developed countries and the developing countries as well as the gap between the living standards of the rich and the poor in the developing countries continues to widen, despite the efforts so far directed towards closing it.
But what do these people who mouth such pious platitudes when in opposition do when they get into government? That is the real test of their sincerity. If the Government wants to put its sincerity into action I suggest that it does a little more for the developing countries than it has done up to date.
The Australian Labor Party when in government certainly had no reason to hang its head in shame for what it did for the developing countries. Assistance by the Labor Government to developing countries in the South Pacific region increased by 400 per cent during the period 1 972 to 1975. Compare that contribution with what happened under previous Liberal-Country Party governments. As I have pointed out, less money has been spent on overseas aid by this Government than was spent by the previous Government even when measured as a percentage of gross national product, and that is not putting the amount in real terms.
I noted that the Minister seeks to blame the recipient countries for the fact that the allocated moneys are not getting to them. What are the real reasons? I suggest that one of the reasons the allocated money- I am not referring to the money that is expended- has not been getting into the recipient countries has been the staff cuts which have been made in what is now the Australian Development Assistance Bureau which is taking the place of the Australian Development Assistance Agency established by the Labor Government. This point was raised earlier this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. The Department of Foreign Affairs official publication Backgrounder of 18 March 1977 draws attention to this problem, and frankly what it states is nothing to be proud about. The publication states:
The new structure -
That is the Bureau- has resulted in substantial savings. Staff numbers were reduced from 439 to 335.
Let us get our priorities right. Is it more important to have a cut in the staffof the Agency, or the Bureau which now administers our foreign aid programs, or to get our priorities right and ensure that money that is allocated finally finds its way into the hands of the recipient countries? I think that all reasonable thinking people would come to the one response on that, namely, that every avenue should be used by the Government to facilitate the transfer of the money which is allocated by this Parliament, small as it is, into the hands of the recipient countries, particularly in our region, some of which are almost on the point of starvation. I refer in particular to Bangladesh. I made a speech in this House on Wednesday of last week in which I made pointed reference to the millions of cattle that are being shot and buried in Australia. It is an indictment not only of this Government but also of the people who shoot and bury cattle that this practice should be allowed to continue when the people of the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are crying out for cattle and for food.
I am concerned that there seems to be a tendency possibly in all parties in this place to play politics on an issue which should be beyond party politics. We should remember that we should not be playing politics when people’s lives are at stake. In particular I refer to the people to our far north, in Asia and in the Indian sub-continent. Most of us who have seen documentaries of conditions in these areas must shudder when we realise that society could allow this to happen. I have said before in this Parliament, and I will say it again, that even if we do not give aid to these countries out of pure Christian charity and nothing else we should do so out of self-interest. If we as a developed country do not assist those developing countries we will find that the communist bloc will fill the vacuum. In particular, the proponents of the Government who are firm believers in the capitalist system will find that they will be destroyed because of their lack of assistance to those developing countries.
I would like to direct some criticism to developed countries, some of which I do not think should be exempt from criticism. Developed countries have many shortcomings. Quite frankly, I am sickened by the fact that economic aid given by developed countries such as the United States of America and others is paltry compared with the money that they spend on armaments. I think that the amount of money allocated by the United States in overseas aid works out at about 0.27 per cent of that country’s gross national product. This is a very small percentage compared with the percentage that that country spends on armaments. The same criticism applies to the developing countries. Countries such as Indonesia in particular would be far better served by spending what money they have on developing their own economic aid programs rather than on armaments which will lead to their own destruction.
-In entering this debate I do not intend to get into a discussion on or make very many comments about aid to developing countries. I wish to talk about another facet altogether of the Australian Development Assistance Agency. Before making my remarks on that matter I must try to correct one of the points made by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) which I am sure he made in serious good faith. He asked why cattle that were being destroyed were not sent overseas as aid. I realise that the honourable member comes from the city and he is unaware of the real situation. The cattle that were destroyed- I think he was referring to those in Victoria- were destroyed simply because they were absolutely useless. Had we given them to people overseas it is most doubtful that they would have survived one or two days on a ship. They were not suitable for use as meat. They had poor condition. They were destroyed purely because of the poor economic situation facing the cattle industry as well as the added problems of drought. That was the main reason for that situation. I hope the honourable member will look at what he said and perhaps in future do a little investigation to make sure he is in possession of the facts.
The matter of sending cattle overseas was taken up by members of the Government side. They were not concerned about the cattle that were being destroyed because they were of no use in feeding people but more importantly about cattle that could be used to feed people. Two things stood out that would make this a non-viable proposition and certainly hardly one of economic worth, even though there would have been some worth in the fact that we would have been funding the project. The first factor was that the cost of shipping cattle, even if they were given free, would have made it prohibitive to give the cattle to other countries. Secondly, we would have had to get over the problem that unions would not have loaded the ships. They would have prevented the shipping of cattle from this country.
Another thing I always notice about members of the Opposition is that when they talk about world powers and the way they are not doing enough of one thing or another they refer to only one country, the United States of America. It is a remarkable thing that they do not bother to do a little homework and check on the country to which they seem to lean a little, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which has a very poor record in the field of foreign aid. That country is also heavily involved in the arms race. I hope that when the honourable member for Banks makes statements in future he has the decency to mention a couple of countries instead of picking on one, which is his wont.
In speaking to the Bill, I point out to honourable members that it is for the repeal of the Australian Development Assistance Agency, but it does not mean that its work has suddenly come to a dead halt, that it is finished and that everything closes down, as members of the Opposition seem to be trying to put across. That is not true. What is in fact happening is that the Agency’s activities will now be carried on by the Australian Development Assistance Bureau under the control of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Members of the Opposition might well say that this is an incorrect move; that it is a backward step. Let us look at other countries, as the honourable member for Banks and others are wont to do. Certainly one country of note has a separate agency, and that is Canada. The United
States operates its aid agency under the State Department. In France and Japan there is no single authority. In the Netherlands it come under the Foreign Affairs Department. I am sure honourable members opposite would support the view that the Netherlands is supposed to have very liberated views on these types of things and has a very progressive attitude to aid to developing countries.
We are really talking about restructuring the Agency under the control of the Department of Foreign Affairs, but surely the most important point is the effectiveness of whatever transpires out of this move. Contrary to what the Opposition keeps saying, there is no reason to believe that the new organisation will be less effective. Under the Foreign Affairs Department it should be more effective. I know that is the belief of the Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock).
What does the Australian Development Assistance Bureau, as it will now be called, do in this country? Many people are unaware of its actions. One aspect of its operations is the care and service it provides to visiting students from Asian countries now staying in this country to advance their studies. The Bureau provides assistance to the sponsored students in various matters relating to their education, training and welfare. It guides them in all aspects of the Australian way of life, and helps them with queries in relation to health, taxation and other matters. It assists in relation to marriage guidance, setting up seminars and social functions where the students can meet and mix with Australian people. These are some of its activities to assist the sponsored student. Similarly, it co-operates with service organisations throughout the country in organising various functions for private students visiting Australia.
These are some of the things that the Australian Development Assistance Agency has been doing since its inception. There is no sign that this service will wither on the vine. This serviceI believe it is a very important one- is an aid in the real sense of the word. It is to continue. If any honourable member wishes to check with the Department I am sure that the Department would be happy to invite him along sometime to join in some of the activities going on. This is an opportunity for us, not only the members of this Parliament but also Australian citizens, to meet students from other countries, learn something of their way of life and at the same time help them, not so much with their studies here, which obviously they will do themselves, but more importantly with meeting the people of this country.
The Opposition talks about the wiping out of the Agency and the tragedy of it. If we consider what the Bureau under the Department of Foreign Affairs will achieve and the service it will provide to students visiting this country, we will see that it is a worthy organisation to continue under the control of the Department. There is not doubt in my mind that the Bureau will carry out more effectively the work previously carried out by the Agency. If there has been some cutback in staff through the reorganisation, there has certainly been no sign of a loss of effectiveness. I support the action of the Government in introducing this Bill.
– I shall be fairly brief but I want to speak particularly about our involvement in East Africa, about which very little has been said and about which any mention was notably absent from the recent speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) on foreign policy. The Labor Government went to considerable pains to develop relations with East Africa and we made some very significant contributions there about which I want to speak, but unfortunately the present Government tends to be turning the clock back on the small advance that we made. Generally placing the new aid bureau directly under the control of the Department of Foreign Affairs introduces the opportunity of making aid an instrument or a weapon of foreign policy. This is the thing that really concerns me.
Under the old system the Government had to make the decision. Under the Labor Government when we had a separate aid agency the aid agency could put up a point of view, the Department of Foreign Affairs could put up a point of view and the Government made the decision. They may have been quite conflicting points of view. I think it was quite appropriate that the decision was up to the politicians. But now we have a situation in which it is not at all certain that a separate point of view of the aid agency will come to the Government. It will tend to be subsumed into the foreign policy point of view. It will be argued within foreign policy but may never be seen by the eyes of the Government. The Government will have the foreign policy point of view to look at and will not be able to make the same sort of balanced decision that it could have made under the old arrangements.
I believe also that there is a tendency within the Department of Foreign Affairs to see money which is budgeted for aid programs as money which is not available for defence programs and for foreign affairs programs. I suggest that money spent on aid is much more conducive to the peace and future welfare of this nation than money spent on defence in many respects. I would like to quote very briefly an author for whom I have great respect, Mr Malcolm Booker, who recently produced a book called The Last Domino. He says in his introduction:
A realistic foreign policy is not an unscrupulous or unprincipled one.
That is an interesting statement when applied to our sorry record in Timor. He continued:
Genuine goodwill between peoples is one of the few elements making for international stability.
Of course that is what aid is all about. Genuine aid programs produce genuine goodwill between people of different nations and make for international stability. He goes on to say:
The more vulnerable the country the more it needs such goodwill and if it sacrifices it by intolerant or fraudulent policies it will find itself without friends when it needs them most. Any aggressive government must still persuade its people that a war into which they are being led is a just one, and it is easier for it to attack a country which can be presented as morally deficient.
I think that these are very wise words. What Mr Booker, who is a Foreign Affairs diplomat of 35 years experience, is saying is that our best defence is to develop good relations with our neighbours, particularly with the developing countries with whom we have an opportunity to develop good relations through aid programs. I would like to see that emphasis continue but I have no confidence that, under the present policies and by the way in which the Government has reacted in situations such as Timor, this sort of policy will be pursued even though it is one recommended by a very experienced diplomat who is generally considered to be a conservative diplomat and not a radical one.
I believe that in placing the Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs the Government is making it more difficult for the public to be made aware of the reasons behind aid decisions. As we well know, the Department of Foreign Affairs is normally one of the most secretive departments. This secrecy will tend to stifle public debate, and the Australian community will not be aware of the policies from which Australia’s aid programs emanate. Development assistance should not only be removed but should be seen to be removed from foreign policy influences. The best way to do this is to have a strongly independent and autonomous aid administration such as the Australian Development Assistance Agency. I agree with that part of the Minister’s second reading speech in which he said that effective administration of our foreign policy requires that officers concerned with aid should be given opportunities to make an appropriate input into thinking about our foreign relations as well as being fully conscious of the manner in which those relations bear upon their responsibilities. Our aid organisation was developing those skills. It was reaching the stage where it could make positive contributions to our policy. But now the career structure has been broken down and severely stifled. It is interesting to recall that on 10 February this year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in speaking about the new international economic order, said:
Governments that purport to give aid but do so in the form of tied loans are in reality providing an indirect subsidy to their own industries. If all the developed countries had followed the lead provided by the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship the enormous Third World debt burden would not have emerged. If our lead were followed now the magnitude of the debt problem would be substantially diminished.
It is disturbing therefore that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in a major address at Swinburne College last November announced that the Government is looking at using some aid money for loans to developing countries as trade credits. Loans not only add to the debt burden of developing countries but also give an incorrect picture of the amount of aid given by donor countries as the repayments of the loan go straight back into Consolidated Revenue while the loan itself is shown in the Budget as aid. It is also rather alarming to see that the Government intends using the aid budget for trade credits. It seems that this Bill indicates not only the absorption of the Australian Development Assistance Agency back into the Department of Foreign Affairs but that its operations will now be highly influenced by the Department of Overseas Trade as well.
With the increasing solidarity of the Third World and the strengthening and acceptance of concepts inherent in the ‘new international economic order’ donor countries which subvert their aid programs for short term diplomatic benefit over long term development objectives will become increasingly isolated and subject to international derision.
I now want to refer to our aid projects in East Africa. I had the opportunity of making a short visit there last year. One of the most lasting impressions on my memory of that visit was the tremendous impact of the village well program in Tanzania which was initiated by the Australian Labor Party Government and which I hope is still proceeding. The people who came from the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation were great ambassadors for Australia. As soon as one mentioned one came from Australia the people would say: ‘They are the people putting down our village well’. The village well is the lynch pin of the program for bringing people into the villages. The governments want to give them health care and education but cannot do so unless they can get water to start a hygiene program. Water is the focal point for the village. These programs are very impressive, very important but they are not very expensive. They involve the local people. Our men go in, take their shirts off and work with the local people. They train the Tanzanians to operate the wells and to install the wells themselves. It is a very rewarding aid project.
What concerns me is whether, if we were asked to provide that sort of aid to a country such as Mozambique which is not a former Commonwealth country and which has a marxist government, our Department of Foreign Affairs would agree to devote $ 1 m for a village well program in Mozambique. I suggest that it would not agree. I hope that it would but certainly there is no indication that it would agree. When I was there the Mozambique government officials were most insistent that they would accept aid from any country but they would not accept tied aid irrespective or whether it came from China, Russia or anywhere else. These countries all maintained that they had non-aligned foreign policies irrespective of whether their governments were socialist, marxist, military dictatorships or anything else. What I am suggesting is that the aid which we normally provide on a needs basis may now be subsumed in political considerations of whether a political regime fits our vision of what a legitimate government should be. We may now make political decisions which do not consider the real needs of the people and the way in which we can help them.
The ground water project in Tanzania is proceeding. I understand that more money is wanted now to keep it going. It has been very valuable. The program requires an additional 135 pump sets- diesel pumps and windmills- to be installed over a 3-year period. It requires an additional Australian technical officer to supervise and train Tanzanian crews in the installation and maintenance of pump sets, the existing training program to be extended for a minimum of 2 years, and 3 project awards to be provided for training in the planning and logistical aspects of drilling programs. This is the way in which we can really help people to create an infrastructure around which very rewarding programs can be built.
These people do not want handouts of food. They do not want our surplus wheat, milk powder or anything else. They do not even want our livestock. They want the technical knowhow to develop their own livestock. They want to be able to establish research farms. They want geneticists to set up breeding programs so that they can develop their own productivity and not be dependent on food imports from other countries. I suggest that that should be the direction of our aid. We should be developing stronger relations with African countries. I was very disappointed to find that in the 40 independent nations in black Africa the Australian Government has representatives in only four of them. In other countries we have no presence at all. Those countries know nothing about Australia.
It is significant to note also that wherever we have developed aid programs and have established a presence through our high commissioners we have also developed trade. Such countries tend to trade with those countries which help them. They do not necessarily trade with the cheapest supplier. They develop very close and friendly relations with those countries which seek to supply aid, on an infrastructure basis, without strings. I should like to suggest that we should pursue those sorts of projects. If we did we would win many friends in black Africa. There are 1000 million people living around the Indian Ocean. Traditionally we have looked across the Pacific towards America or to the north towards South East Asia. Of course, South East Asia also is an extremely important area. However, I think that we should be looking further to the west across the Indian Ocean. Those countries are coming much closer to us. They look upon us as being a source of great resources and a source of technical aid, and we should embrace the opportunity of contributing to their progress.
The other thing that concerns me about the Minister’s second reading speech is the suggestion that the private sector should become more involved in the aid program. He did not indicate just how that involvement should take shape, nor did he indicate the reason why that added to the force of the argument that the Australian Development Assistance Agency should be incorporated in the Department of Foreign Affairs. I do not see any reason why the private sector could not be involved just as effectively or possibly even more effectively if the ADAA had been retained. I understand that the private sector had already been considerably involved. It always has to be considered, of course, that the private sector is legitimately concerned with the profit motive, but that does not disqualify its involvement in aid programs. I am not against the suggestion in principle but I just make the point that it should not be used as an argument for the incorporation of the ADAA into the Department of Foreign Affairs. The further involvement of the private sector could have been carried out just as effectively under the old program.
I do not want to say anything further in the debate, except to reiterate the point that the writings of Mr Booker have very strong appeal for me. He says that we cannot hope to defend our country militarily; in many ways it would be quite beyond our means to do so. He says that it would be a much more effective contribution, both to the development of the third world countries and to our own security, if we were to concentrate on developing friendly relations with those countries. One can see from the extent of our defence budget and our aid budget that that policy has not been followed in the past by any means whatever. I would like to see a shift in our policy away from token expenditure on military hardware, which is terribly expensive, and a substantial move towards establishing constructive aid programs such as that which we have in Tanzania. By doing so we will be building long lasting bridges with the new developing countries of the Third World.
– It is my wish to use the opportunity provided by the debate on the Australian Development Assistance Agency (Repeal) Bill 1977 to deal with a particular aspect of our program. From time to time when we have the opportunity to consider the resources that we make available to the developing world we should review the past programs in terms not only of the quantity of aid provided but also the quality of that aid. We should ask these questions: What did it do for the developing countries? Did it assist them? Did it assist them as much as it could have done? Whatever the flow of aid we should always be prepared to look at the quality of the results that we achieve. I recognise that the aid program must necessarily include a wide range of different programs, lt must include aid of an emergency type; it must involve trade aid; it must involve technical aid; and it must involve education aid. It is the question of education aid to which I want to refer this evening.
When we look at education aid in particular we need to ask ourselves: What are the purposes that we wish to fulfil? Are we aiming to cure a problem or do we seek, through providing aid that can be described as education aid, to prevent problems and difficulties from rising in the future? I believe that the emphasis in relation to any education aid that is given should be on the prevention aspect. Such aid should be long term in its character. I am reminded of a story told to me by a minister in a country that could be described only as a developing country. He said: If you have a one-year program, you grow rice. If you have a ten-year program, you plant trees. If your program is for 100 years, you educate people. ‘ I think it is important that in providing aid to the developing countries under the heading of education aid we should recognise that it will take time to achieve results. So what we should be looking to is not only the benefit to a particular student and what he will do with his life so far as that aid affects him personally, but also what he will do for his country and his people with the skills that he gains as a consequence of the education aid that we provide from Australia.
We have an extensive education aid program. That program has continued over a period of a quarter of a century. However, I think it is time that we took stock of that program and asked ourselves whether we should give it a new directionwhether we should change the emphasis in order to achieve a greater result for the developing countries.
The Bureau which is being established under this legislation will have responsibility for the international training and education program. It is an integral and important part of the total aid activity of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In the current Budget some $ 16.5m has been allocated to that program. It covers the training and education which we in Australia give under various programs. I shall cite some of them: The Colombo Plan, the Australia-Papua New Guinea Education and Training Scheme, the South Pacific Aid Program, the special Commonwealth-African Assistance Program. Under those programs we finance in any one year the training of between 3000 and 4000 students here in Australia. The program also covers assistance in building up the education and training facilities and capabilities in the regions to which our aid is principally directed. We provide aid to the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok and to the University of the South Pacific in Suva. We co-operate with universities in their mutual development assistance effort through the Australian-Asian University Aid and Co-operation Scheme. Part of that program covers projects being undertaken in Indonesia and Malaysia. 1 urge that more emphasis be placed upon that aspect of the program- that aspect which provides aid to the capacity of the developing country to train and to educate its own students.
In recent times the Government has reexamined the guidelines that apply to the education aid program. The program is aimed at building on the goodwill that has been established in the past, but I think we need to look at the cost effectiveness of its implementation. In relation to the training given in Australia, I think that emphasis should be placed upon special group courses that involve mature students, who come from developing countries and who have responsible positions, in being trained in a wide range of practical and managerial skills. We should co-operate with universities and tertiary institutions generally and this co-operation should be expanded so that the Department of Foreign Affairs has some concern and influence in the allocation of places to students who come here from overseas. I think that the Bureau within that Department should be concerned both with the sponsored students and with the private students.
We have these 2 programs under which there are in Australia at any one time between 1 3 000 and 14 000 overseas students. Of that number 3000 to 4000 come in under the sponsored student program at a cost, as I mentioned earlier, of about $16. 5m. This is a massive investment in the future of the countries from which those students come provided the students return to the countries from which they come. I am told that it is a relatively small percentage of the sponsored students who seek and are given permission to remain in Australia, it is running, I am told, at approximately 2 per cent, but that is a 2 per cent wastage. What I am concerned about is that that percentage is likely to rise because of the pressures upon those sponsored students created by the opportunities that are currently available to the private students to remain in Australia.
I think that it is important that in the sponsored area we continue the criterion of eligibility based upon the developmental potential that a student will have on return to his country of origin. But I think it also important that that criterion be applied to private students. The previous Government changed that criterionremoved it. As a result, the private students who come to Australia come here on a totally random and ad hoc basis. If one looks at the distribution of source countries from which these students come, approximately 10 000 of them, one finds that there are certain countries and certain groups of people which provide by far the greatest proportion of them. If that is the case it is wonderful for those students who come here and one cannot in any way become upset about the opportunities that become available to the students once they are given permission to enter Australian universities, colleges or other educational institutions. But what one can criticise is the way which the Australian taxapayers’ money is being used because we are not getting the maximum developmental benefit from providing the particular group of students with the education facilities that are now available; we are not getting the maximum benefit from the dollars that are spent in terms of overseas aid.
I believe that the developmental criterion should be reintroduced. I believe that if places are to be made available in Australian education institutions to students from overseas there should be a sensitive allocation to developing countries of the places in those institutions. After all, if we look at the implicit costs of private students from overseas in our universities and other educational institutions and add in the implicit costs of the sponsored students we will find that the Australian taxpayers are spending $30m a year on these students who are not necessarily in Australia because of the developmental potential they have for the countries of their origin. It is for that reason that I believe that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau within it should have the responsibility of the total overseas student program within Australiathe sponsored program and the private program- because at the present time a significant number of private students are using the education facilities offered them as a gateway to application to remain here in Australia. So we put a huge investment in terms of overseas aid into these students and then find that large numbers of them seek to stay in Australia. On an individual basis one cannot in any way object to the choice that those students make when they apply to stay in Australia permanently. We have as a result gained many fine citizens, but I am concerned that we are not getting the maximum value in terms of overseas aid.
I want to make one final point, that is, to urge that the emphasis on our education aid be changed. I believe we should give serious consideration to establishing what could be described as an Australian overseas university. Instead of providing as many teachers as we now need to provide to educate 14 000 students in Australia I believe that the teachers of some of those students should be made available on overseas secondment so that when they go overseas instead of teaching the number of students that they now teach in Australia they may have a far greater multiplier impact in the contribution they make to our education aid in the developing countries. We should for example have a school of community medicine that can be sent to developing countries; a school of agriculture that can go into developing countries on a secondment basis. I think this could be achieved by a small university type administrative structure within Australia so that it draws off the staff of our existing home based universities and on a secondment basis, preserving leave and status entitlements, schools or sections of schools within our universities and our colleges of advanced education could be moved overseas to countries of need there to teach in the countries where the students will themselves pursue their future careers. As a result of the money expended in that way, I believe, we could educate a substantially higher number of students in developing countries than we are now able to educate by bringing them all here to Australia. Necessarily it must be a policy of balance.
What I am urging upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is that the situation be reviewed to increase the proportion of our aid that involves us in providing teachers for the countries that are developing rather than bringing their students here to Australia where so many of them, particularly in the private sector, now seek to remain. I urge that in this area we pay particular attention to ensuring that the quality of our aid is such that even on limited budgets we are achieving more for developing countries than is being achieved under the present distribution of resources going into education aid.
-The discussion this afternoon has illustrated the vagaries of debate in this House. The matter before the House is a Bill to appeal the Australian Development Assistance Agency Act. In fact, we have had a very general debate on overseas aid .in much the same way as we did when the Asian Development Bank legislation was being discussed. I suppose I will have the same opportunity to speak generally as other honourable members have had but before entering into the more general area I would once again like to voice the same sorts of criticisms as I made yesterday on the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill. It seems to me that many of these agencies that have been set up and do give some flexibility, that do some investigating, that do give some advice and are easily seen to be functioning are now being abolished. Some of the reasons given are for economy in the conduct of the Agency and for economy of staffing. My real fear is the hidden reason. This is the attempt by the Government to avoid oversight of its actions in these matters. We see agencies, which should be open, restricted in their activities by perhaps, being starved of finance by the Department, not being fully available to examination and not having the autonomy that they have had before. Having said that, I address myself to some of the matters that arise with regard to aid. In recent years, major international conferences and intensive studies of world crises have made it very clear that the problems of food, population, unemployment and the environment all have roots in poverty and inequality within and between nations. We have all heard the high sounding resolutions put forward at places such as the United Nations. We have seen World Food conferences, the establishment of aid and credit agencies, the Common Fund. We have seen meetings of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development- UNCTAD- in various spots where there has been talk about how it will help the developing nations and overcome the inequality that occurs in those nations.
The developing nations rightly believe that the division of the world into rich and poor is largely a function of the international economic order and that a new international economic order is now necessary in the interests of the international community as a whole. On 1 May 1974 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a ‘Declaration on the Establishment of a new International Economic Order’. The Declaration concludes by saying:
The present Declaration shall be one of the most important bases of economic relations between all people and all nations.
Kurt Waldheim has said:
The new Economic Order is the price of peace.
The Common Fund is one of the major areas of debate in discussion of a new economic order. Of this, President Nyerere of Tanzania has said:
The objectives of the people of the underdeveloped countries can, I think, be summed up in trade union phraseology- fair pay and conditions for a fair day ‘s work.
All honourable members know that the Government, and particularly its conservative backers, have little faith in the United Nations. We have only to witness the wicked campaign whipped up by Government supporters on aid given via the United Nations to refugees in Africa. The cynical propaganda line was that Labor was supporting terrorists. But, lo and behold, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said something about the new economic order. He did not say it in
Australia, in Parliament or in his radio broadcasts to the faithful of Wannon but in Port Moresby on 1 0 February 1 977. He said:
There is a need for change in policies between nations, sometimes for significant change. To the extent that the call for a new international economic order is a call for practical and viable change in economic policies affecting the international economic system, it should have the support of all nations.
I do not know who wrote that speech for the Prime Minister. Admittedly, he qualified his remarks so that they meant very little but they were fine words because this is the man whose Government cut aid by 25 per cent in its first Budget and whose Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) is now supervising the submergence of the Aid Agency established by the Labor Government in 1974. This is the Government which, in erecting higher and higher tariff barriers, has already provoked retaliation from the Philippines, and which is transforming the Industries Assistance Commission into a tame cat organisation. International goals for one per cent of the gross national product of the developed nations to go towards aid have now slipped to 0.7 per cent. In Australia people are petitioning the Prime Minister to raise the goal for the sake of humanity.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Before dinner in addressing myself to the repeal of the Australian Development Assistance Agency Act I had referred to my fears of how the Australian Development Assistance Agency would lose its identity. I had made some remarks about the needs and the goals in international aid. Of course our fearless but trampled on Foreign Minister eloquently supported the aid Agency when it was introduced, but at the time he criticised the Australian Labor Party when the BDI was being debated. He waxed cynical about the tragedy in Ethiopia, trying to extract every emotional response from the electorate. He criticised the then Government because aid principles were not stated in the tabling of the Bill by the then Foreign Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, knowing full well that an advisory board was to be set up and that the staff of the Agency would nearly all come from the Department of External Territories and that in the early days the Agency would be overwhelmingly concerned with the phasing out of Papua New Guinea.
What do we say about the present Foreign Minister’s fine principles when he now scuttles the Agency and is embarassed by being reminded of his own words? He argued that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
This is not the case with the ADAA. He had a victory insofar as he has still been able to gain some identity for the Agency rather than see it totally absorbed into the Department of Foreign Affairs. But the real problem is that the autonomy is gone. The advisory board is gone and the Bureau will now be subservient to Treasury and predominantly Foreign Affairs’ attitudes. For example the Treasury has coincidentally released figures in the last few days showing that less than 30 per cent of the aid budget is spent overseas, hence people cannot argue that more aid will not be inflationary. But the answer to this is to untie our aid; that is to insist on measures that mean a maximum of our money is spent in the recipient countries. But the Department of Foreign Affairs argues against untying our aid and using as an argument that the Treasury will fight to lower the aid budget further if it sees more money actually being spent overseas and not in Australia where our industry will benefit. This is the sort of bind the new Bureau will be in. I could cite other examples.
There has always been a selfish motive in Australian aid policies but now that the Philistines have taken over in the Liberal Party our aid policy will be totally self-directed with perhaps the exception of our aid to Papua New Guinea, which should be regarded as a special case. The fact is that the aid agency was only just finding its feet, carrying out self-examination, and arriving at intelligent policies. It seems to me that too many of the Agency’s resources were directed towards the supervision of overseas students in Australia. Of course, as Treasury ignores, this is the reason why so much of our aid money was spent in Australia. But here again this is not a reason for attacking and decimating the Agency. It may well be more logical to transfer the educational supervision of overseas students into other departments. If this is not sensible the aid agency must be clear and show the large portion of its budget that goes to student supervision and Papua New Guinea and the minor part that goes to the rest of the world.
Of the rest of the world Indonesia, even in terms of self-interest, must rank highly. Although I am critical of military aid going to Indonesia and the reasons for it, our policies in this area must be constant, consistent and be thought through. Australia has much to offer particularly with respect to the delivery of agricultural technology at a level that will be of great benefit to Indonesia. If we forget the politics and cynicism of the Government in the Bill before the House we must recognise that it is a fact of administrative political life in developed countries that during times of economic downturn aid will be turned off. Foreign Affairs budgets are notorious for being cut in such times when Treasury dominance is at its highest. As a generalisation, examination of the administration of aid in Development Assistance Committee members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that when a country or government is taking aid most seriously it sets up a separate ministry with autonomy to act untrammelled by day to day inter-departmental rivalry. Hence the British Labour Government set up a separate department in 1964. Japan has aid administered by 14 departments where the aim of aid is more donor directed.
Time does not allow me a full canvassing of the administrative and bureaucratic problems of aid. Aid is an ideological beast and bureaucracies in general have tended to try to locate the control of aid within the context of existing bureaucratic arrangements and the considerations of power on which those rest. The administrative choice is between centralisation of policy and implementation or dispersion. As I have said, if policy control of aid is being taken seriously it is centralised. This is what Labor did. Worse than dispersing the control of aid, the present Government is maintaining central control but at the same time submerging aid administration into a bureau where not only will money for aid be more easily switched off but also there will no longer be in Australia the facility for a continuing debate on aid. The Government should be censured for the dreadful action it is taking in repealing this Act and in fact for taking this sort of action in so many other areas.
– in reply- I wish to reply briefly to some of the remarks that have been passed in the debate. I thank honourable members, to some extent on both sides of the House, though I would have to say that the sheer hypocrisy, cant and indeed illiteracy that have been evident in the remarks of the Opposition lead me to conclude that it has no conception of what has been transpiring in the administration of aid programs over the greater period that we have been in power. The decision to abolish the aid agency was taken within a few months of the election of the current Government. To all intents and purposes the aid programs have been administered formally by the Agency in the sense that legislation is applied until this Bill has passage. In fact aid has been administered by a group of people operating as they did in the Agency, in the way in which they will function as a bureau.
I was intrigued to hear speakers on both sides of the Parliament say that aid should be above politics, but in the case of the Opposition the moment such sentiments were uttered they were forgotten. This came from an Opposition berating the Government for reducing the percentage of gross national product devoted to aid which was precisely the percentage the Opposition gave when it was in Government in its last Budget in 1975, brought down by the then Treasurer Hayden. On the forecast and estimates of the Treasurer’s Budget Papers, in the Budget Speech and the documents accompanying it in 1975, Labor’s aid commitment as a percentage of the gross national product was cut from 0.56 to 0.52 per cent.
– A big cut.
-A very substantial cut. I shall come back to that in a moment. I am glad that members of the Opposition now recognise the fault at that time. The momentum, the downward turn of the economy had become even worse by the time we came into power. As I shall reiterate later, the real effectiveness that can be engendered by a government in the amount of money forwarded for aid programs will in fact depend on the strength of the economy at home. Even Labor recognised that. But those who indulged in what I refer to as cant and hypocrisy and wearing flowers and hearts on their sleeves today proclaiming the importance of aid programs would do well to recall that under the aegis of a special relationship with Papua New Guinea, it was Labor that slashed aid programs to that country, and not just in any year but in the very year in which independence was to be reached by Papua New Guinea- the most sensitive period of her development towards nationhood. What did we do? Instead of just increasing aid for one year we gave a 5-year rolling program of such magnitude that the Finance Minister of Papua New Guinea went to international forums and said that Australia’s program of aid and development assistance to Papua New Guinea was a model for all other countries to follow. So it seems to me that those who would hector and lecture ought to reflect on not merely their own inadequacies but the nature and the delinquency in the administration and nature of aid programs when they were in power.
In my second reading speech I referred to the fact that we have increased our aid programs to the Pacific nations by 400 per cent. However, underlying it all, what is really the test is not the nature of the administration of aid programs, nor indeed the percentage of gross national product- - people can have a fixation about both amounts and percentages- but the nature of those programs whether they are relevant to the needs of the people to whom they are supposedly applied. That is the real criterion, the real test. If that is the criterion, then I think that during our period in government we have been singularly successful. I am aware that the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) at one stage in his speech said that he would like assurances that there would be no problems with the Public Service Board in regard to experts. All I can say in that regard is to reiterate the reference in my second reading speech on this Bill that the Government is seeking delegations from the Board. I have no reason to believe that the changing nature of aid administration will adversely affect the Board’s decision.
I should now like to deal with some matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and touched upon by other members of the Opposition. I know that the appearance has been created that I personally and indeed this Government have cause for shame in dissolving an agency whose creation we supported in Opposition. I have listened to the constant regurgitation of my own words when speaking on the Bill to create the agency in 1974. A thorough reading of that speech ought to be well recommended to members of the Opposition. If they were to read the theme of that address perhaps their illiteracy regarding aid programs and their administration might be removed.
– Do you want to see a copy? I have a copy of it here.
– Well, do not just hold it in your hand, read it and digest it. If you had read it perhaps you would not have made the speech you made tonight.
– Hypocrisy is engraved on my heart.
-Oh, the honourable member has been listening to himself. Do not read my speeches and reach those conclusions. I do not know why he is bringing such subjective premises to bear on speeches that I prepare.
– Engraved on his heart is writ on water.
– What was that?
– I said: Engraved on his heart is writ on water.
-Would the honourable member like to keep going for a moment?
– Can you not think of anything to say?
-No, I am always greatly cheered by interjections from the honourable member for Mackellar. There is hardly any need for me to say that I really do refute the charges made by the Opposition in regard to the change in the agency itself. If members of the Opposition were actually to read the speech that the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) has been waving in the air tonight, they would see that I qualified my support for the agency- albeit that I spoke in favour of it- in a number of ways. My recollection is that I did emphasise then the importance of co-ordinating programs and of the relationship of aid policy and foreign policy. The Leader of the Opposition certainly cannot complain about that link since the burden of his speech was that the abolition of the agency would harm Australia’s foreign relations. Of course the primary aim of aid, as I have touched upon tonight, is to help poor countries on the path to self-sustaining economic growth. Its impulse is thus fundamentally humanitarian. But it is also in Australia’s national interest that we give aid. In 1974, in the very speech referred to so frequently this afternoon and this evening and which the Opposition claims represents an about-face on my part, I said:
There is, of course, more to our external relations than involvement in development strategy but in the long term there are few other single issues more compelling or of more peculiar significance to Australia than the development issue in its broadest perspective. It carries implications for the whole range of our external relations in the long term. It may be as some observers have pointed out that foreign aid has not always promoted national well-being and stable political conditions. But the proposition that the development issue and Australia’s security are quite unrelated and therefore our development assistance efforts will have no impact on our long term security is misleading, if not untenable. The proposition should really be that ineffective development assistance does nothing to promote Australia’s security interests in the long term. The fact is that if the efforts to promote development had fallen short of their objectives, it is not the idea of development assistance that is at fault but the inadequacy and the ineffectiveness of the approach to the problem by both the developing countries and the donor countries. An effective aid program will help to promote national well-being and stable political conditions and, as such, an improvement in such a program can only enhance regional security.
In professing to see something reprehensible in the dissolution of the Australian Development Assistance Agency, the Opposition unquestionably is confusing means and ends. Whether Australian aid is administered through a statutory body or through the Department itself is not the critical question. What is important is that our development assistance be generous and effective and that it be administered economically.
I take up the last point first. The facts are that experience has shown that substantial staff savings were possible by integrating the agency into -the Department. In practice, that situation, as I said earlier, has existed virtually since the beginning of last year. The staff of the bureau is some 180 fewer than when the agency was at its maximum size. Integration within the Department means that administrative services can be provided on a common basis, therefore leading to substantial staff savings. This is not to say that the bureau’s staff resources necessarily are adequate for an expanding aid program. The facts are that under this Government Australia’s commitment to help its neighbours has expanded. My Department has submitted proposals for staff expansion in areas of the bureau concerned with the fulfilment of the Government’s commitment. I touched on that a little earlier. That there is nothing inviolate about the forms of aid administration is in fact shown by the reality that independent statutory bodies, independent statutory aid agencies, are a very rare species.
The man who wrote the speech of the honourable member for Scullin which he regurgitated tonight did not recognise something about the reference he made to the United Kingdom. I think he said there was an untrammelled role of a separate aid body. He did not recognise that the very Minister who administers that is not even a member of Cabinet and indeed, to the best of my knowledge and recollection, the Minister responsible for development in the British Cabinet has his matters handled by the Secretary for Foreign Relations. So when I say that even independent statutory aid agencies are a very rare species, even within that rare category, there are great restrictions. In almost all major donor countries, the administration of aid one way or another is linked with the administration of foreign policy. There is nothing anomalous internationally about the administration of aid through a bureau such as we are proposing by transferring the agency into such a body. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) cited the 1972 Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee’s recommendation as if it justified the administration of aid solely through an independent aid agency. In fact, that Committee considered that there were other suitable options, including a bureau such as now exists.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that the Bureau is to be smothered by my Department. The facts are that the Bureau will exercise all the functions of the Agency. It will be headed by a director with the rank of Deputy Secretary, responsible only to the Secretary and, through him, to me. Moreover, with one exception, all the present senior managerial staff of the Bureau were the senior managers of the Agency. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) has given the lie to the Opposition’s claim that Australian aid is now markedly less than it was under Labor. There were a few charges by the Leader of the Opposition that should not go unanswered. He seemed to be under the misapprehension that aid to the South Pacific has been reduced and that he will not fulfil the $60m pledged over 3 years, including the current financial year. We most assuredly will. It is true that there has been some small slippage this current year, in terms of the target set, but when a major expansion of this order- some 400 per cent over 3 years- is planned there are inevitably difficulties in the earlier stages.
– Beware of your enemy, the Treasury.
-Just listen. The honourable member was busy preparing his speech on uranium for the debate that is to follow. He missed the reality that the Treasury, in the final year of office of the Labor Government, slashed the aid programs. That must be what is weighing heavily on the honourable member’s mind. I was saying that when a major expansion of some 400 per cent is planned it is inevitable that there will be some difficulties in implementation in the early stage. I think it is important to point out that some of the difficulties are on the side of the recipients- changing their priorities, for example, so that planning for certain projects has to begin again. Some difficulties are due to the problems that arise in Australia. However, overall expenditure on the South Pacific is rising extremely rapidly. This year it will easily be the highest on record. The commitment, which is not to expenditure in any one year, will be met.
Furthermore, the Leader of the Opposition sought to make some cheap charge that our commitment to the South Pacific was made only after a Soviet aid team visited the region. I know of no such team. Perhaps he was referring to Press reports that the Soviet Union might give aid to some South Pacific countries. Let me assure the House that work on the aid commitment to the South Pacific was well advanced long before those reports appeared. The fact is that the expansion of Australian aid to the South Pacific which took place between 1972-73 and 1975-76 referred to by the Leader of the Opposition for which he mistakenly took credit, was the result of a Liberal Government pledge, I think, to give more than $15m over those 3 years. When that commitment had been fulfilled we had returned to office, and we took a decision to make the new fourfold commitment. Far from winding down the aid program, as the Leader of the Opposition alleged, this Government has increased aid expenditure and has made major innovations which I have outlined in speeches outside the House. In particular I refer honourable members to one delivered to the Swinburne Institute of Technology on 8 November last year.
However, aid expenditure cannot be isolated from overall government expenditure, which itself must have regard to Australia’s economic circumstances. The best foundation for a growing Australian aid program is a healthy Australian economy. The first priority of this Government is to get the economy moving again on a sound basis.
Dr JENKINS (Scullin)-Mr Deputy Speaker-
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). He misrepresented my speech by attributing the writing of it to someone else. I correct him by saying that I accept responsibility for my speeches. Unlike the Minister, I will still stand by them in 3 years’ time or at any future time, without dodging their contents.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Order! Honourable members on my right will cease interjecting. When the House comes to order we will proceed with the business. There are far too many interjections. I will ask the Clerk to read the Bill a second time so that honourable members will know that the correct procedure has been followed.
Bill read a second time.
-Is it the wish of the House to proceed to the third reading forthwith?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order.
– Put him on the breathalyser.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, that remark will not go unchallenged.
-The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat for a moment. I do not want to have to stand and call the House to order again. I suggest, as has been suggested on previous occasions, that honourable members remember that they are members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Hear, hear!
– You would not know about that.
– Well, I -
– The honourable member for Holt is -
-The honourable member for Burke will resume his seat.
– He would not know. He comes from the House of Commons and nobody could be more common that he is.
-Order! The House is not assisted by comments from members on either side of the chamber relating to the behaviour of other members. Does the honourable member for Newcastle wish to raise a point of order?
– Yes. My point of order is this: Does the vote that was just declared indicate that 32 Government supporters were absent from the Parliament tonight?
-I would suggest that the honourable member for Newcastle knows that a point of order of that nature will not assist. Is it the wish of the House to proceed to the third reading forthwith?
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I still wish to raise my point of order. The honourable member for Denison interjected that a breathalyser should be placed on the honourable member for Newcastle. The same behaviour in the Senate resulted in a member of that place being suspended for a week. I would suggest that if that sort of remark is to go unchallenged in this House, no order can be expected from either side of the House. In any event the honourable member for Newcastle is a teetotaller.
-In circumstances such as this a very famous and distinguished Speaker of this House applied former standing order No. 303, and frankly I think it was most unwise of the Standing Orders Committee to delete that standing order from the Standing Orders. If a remark of the kind drawn to my attention by the honourable member for Corio is used again, the member using it will be suspended from the precincts of the chamber even though standing order No. 303 no longer exists.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I must take a point of order against the comments made by the honourable member for Newcastle. I wish to point out to the House- I hope that you will bear with me, Mr Deputy Speaker- thai every member from this side of the House who was absent when the vote was taken was absent with leave but was not paired. They were absent without pairs because we were refused pairs by the Opposition Whip. When I made application for a pair for a member who was to see a medical officer it was refused. The tradition in this place has always been for a pair to be granted in those circumstances.
-I would suggest that the honourable member has made his point of order. I would suggest that my ruling on the point of order taken by the honourable member for Bendigo is just as valid as my ruling on the point of order taken by the honourable member for Newcastle. I would suggest that we now proceed with the business of the House, which is the third reading of the legislation.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. The honourable member for Corio named the honourable member for Denison as the member on the Government side who said that a breathalyser should be put on me. As a non-drinker I find that remark most objectionable and I ask for an immediate apology from the honourable member.
-I did not hear the remark because of the level of noise in the chamber. If the honourable member for Denison did make that remark I would suggest that he might withdraw it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I did make the remark and I do withdraw it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. The honourable member for Bendigo who, as Government Whip, is my counterpart has indicated to the House very unfairly and quite unjustifiably that I have refused to pair Government supporters who are sick. Let me say quite unequivocally that on no occasion since I have been Opposition Whip have I refused any application for a pair on the grounds of sickness. There could possibly be a point of ambiguity about an application for a pair for an honourable member who wanted to see a specialist. If the honourable member for Bendigo is incapable of indicating that sickness is involved that is his fault. The Opposition is prepared to accommodate people who require a pair for reasons of sickness.
-Order! The honourable member for Hughes will resume his seat. I will suggest that we have travelled far enough along this path in relation to members on leave. If the House does not come to order some members will not be here at the next division, and they will not be on leave.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your guidance. The record shows that the honourable member for Newcastle took a point of order which you said was not a valid point of order. I ask you, Sir, what is your capacity in your position in fact to seek the striking from the record of frivolous and persistent points of order which wilfully obstruct the business of this House.
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur will resume his seat. The question is that the Bill be now read a third time. I call the honourable member for Wills.
– I think that the third reading of this Bill should be opposed. The Bill is just a part of the pattern of destruction being wrought by this Government on the policies and programs of the previous Government. It will have a very serious and prejudicial effect upon the development of the programs for overseas aid developed over the 3 years of Labor Government.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I move that the question be now put.
-Order! I point out to the House that as yet the third reading has not been moved. So that we might get some semblance of legality about this Bill I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Motion ( by Mr Peacock) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, if I could just say-
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr. P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House and intrude into this debate but I would like to make 2 points. On 29 March the Opposition brought in a frivolous and, as one honourable member described it- I agree with him entirelycapricious matter of public importance for debate in this House. The subject matter was ‘the Fraser Government’s efforts to pre-empt and distort the uranium debate’. I have just 2 comments to make about that point. First of all, in the debate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) made the principal point that the
Government was not in favour of the debate, that it was not promoting the debate and that it was taking no notice of the debate. I hope tonight that all honourable members and the public at large will note that at that time the Government totally rejected the proposition put by the Opposition. I say tonight that it is total evidence of the fact that we are interested in the debate, that we are fostering the debate and that we will listen to the debate. On a small point of a technical nature let me say that during that debate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) made the assertion that the only thing that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has done in a public debate in this Parliament has been to reintroduce on the notice paper the uranium debate, that it has been put back on the notice paper only because of the matter of public importance submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. That is an absurd statement and it is totally untrue. I refer to the resignation speech of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) on 24 March when he said:
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.
The important thing that he said then was:
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving me an undertaking this morning that that matter will be restored to the notice paper.
That decision was taken by the Government well before that frivolous matter of public importance was brought on by the Leader of the Opposition. The only other thing I would like to say is in relation to what honourable members have been doing in the debate outside this House. My remarks are directed particularly to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I urge honourable members to be factual and rational so that the debate may prosper.
-The motivation behind the resumption of the debate on the Fox report is highly dubious. There is no doubt that it is a panic response by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) to the Opposition’s matter of public importance last Tuesday. Apart from the urgency debate, this Parliament has given a bare 2 hours to consideration and discussion of the Fox report. Now it has decided to throw out the sop of another couple of hours’ debate because it has been politically embarrassed. The Government is well aware that it has not honoured the recommendation of the Fox report that the fullest possible public debate be held before a decision is made on uranium mining. The response of the Minister in Tuesday’s debate on the matter of public importance to criticism of the Government’s total apathy to a uranium debate was pathetic. It boiled down to the fact that he was prepared to give a free copy of the Fox report to anyone who wrote to him and asked for it.
The second rung of his argument was that copies of the Fox report were available to all honourable members in the Bills and Papers Office of this Parliament. We know that after the debate on Tuesday the Minister sneaked 9 copies of the report into the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives which had run out of supplies several months ago. Even this aspect of the Minister’s defence was wrong. While he was talking in the House members of my staff checked the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and found that there were no copies. Checks by the office of the Leader of the Opposition also showed that no copies were available in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives. The Minister cannot even get his facts straight on such a piddling part of this vitally important debate. It is common knowledge also that the Minister refused to be briefed on uranium mining by his own Department. His speech on Tuesday was prepared by the office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) who was not game to join the debate in the House. In fact the Deputy Prime Minister has made no statement on this question of uranium in this House. He has hidden behind a smokescreen during question time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order.
– The Deputy Prime Minister knew that he had blundered by going off half cocked at the National Press Club last week.
– It is with reluctance that I rise on this point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in his usual way -
-I object to the Minister taking up my precious 1 5 minutes. He knows that my time is limited. I ask him not to be frivolous.
-I ask the Minister to state his point of order.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just made a clear statement that my speech was prepared by the Department of National Resources and that I rejected my Department’s advice. That is totally untrue.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member can make the statement. The Minister or the person referred to can claim afterwards to be misrepresented.
– The Deputy Prime Minister made it perfectly plain that the Government had made up its mind. It has come down on the side of the mine owners and is now merely marking time. We know that the Deputy Prime Minister has already committed himself. Once the second Fox report is out and an interval of time has elapsed the Government will come out and announce its support for uranium mining. I make it plain that I do not regard this brief exchange in the Parliament as in any sense the public debate sought by the Fox Commission, nor does the distribution of a few thousand copies of the Fox report and the presence of 9 copies in the Bills and Papers Office constitute a public debate. What the Fox Commission wanted was a debate sponsored by the Government, funded by the Government and spread over an extended period. This would allow information kits setting out the arguments for and against mining to be widely distributed to community groups and individuals. This is what the final recommendation of the Fox report means. It is perfectly plain from the wording of the final recommendation. No wonder Mr Justice Fox was disappointed by the lack of debate.
The Australian Labor Party has tried to fill the vacuum left by the Government. We have prepared material which sets out both sides of the agrument, and we are distributing that material to our branches and to our members. We want the Labor movement to be completely familiar with all of the arguments and we want its membership to make their views known through the machinery of the Labor Party. It is a costly exercise for the Labor Party. It is no secret that our financial resources are limited. We would like to extend the exercise to the whole community, but we do not have the means with which to do that. This strain on scarce resources has been accepted by the Labor Party because the uranium issue dominates every other part of public policy. What Australia does in relation to uranium will influence every decision it makes on the economy, on defence and foreign affairs, on equity and on the distribution of income. That is why the Labor movement is working to ensure the greatest possible contribution from its supporters before the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party makes its vital decision in Perth in July.
By contrast, what has the Liberal Party done to ensure the participation of its members in the debate and in the decision-making process? What has the National Country Party done to bring its supporters into the debate? It has done nothing, because the Deputy Prime Minister has already made up his mind on its behalf. There is no reason why the Government could not mount a campaign to bring all Australians into the debate. It is spending a considerable amount of time on referendum issues, which are important but which are much less vital to our national survival that is the uranium question. As soon as the Fox recommendations become available the Government should have accepted its charge to involve the people in the uranium debate.
When we seek the reason why the Government is so passive on that issue, the answer soon emerges. The Government is doing nothing because its case is being argued by default. It can sit tight and do nothing because the uranium lobby has launched on its behalf a vast campaign to put the case for mining. We are now seeing the first fruits of that extremely subtle and expensive campaign. Let me refer to one example. The Sydney Morning Herald last week published 2 long extracts from a pro-uranium book. The articles were headed ‘Uranium Debate’ and Uranium on Trial’. But it was a pretty one-sided debate. The case for the mine owners, as outlined in the book Uranium on Trial written by 3 authors, was accepted without comment. Long passages from the book were published without any countervailing argument appearing. The Friends of the Earth recently published a book setting out the arguments against mining, but no long extracts from that book have appeared on the editorial page of the Sydney Morning Herald. That book has not been publicised or even referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald, as far as I am aware.
The book Uranium on Trial was launched by the Deputy Prime Minister- a staggering act of indiscretion, as the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) pointed out. The launching of that book was only the first shot in the barrage of media support for uranium mining which will build up in the next few months. The promotion of the book Uranium on Trial has not been confined to the printed media. One of its authors is Mr Bob Raymond who is well known as a television producer. He was at one stage the producer of the television program Four Corners. Last week a 90-minute television program called Uranium on Trial was shown in Sydney to chime in with the promotion campaign for the book. The television program was produced by Mr Raymond. It was a blatantly pro-uranium program.
It annoyed me because about a month ago Mr Raymond approached me and asked me to appear on the program. He indicated to me that it would be a balanced program setting out both sides of the argument. At no stage did he tell me that he was in favour of uranium mining. In fact, he gave me the impression that he was against the mining of uranium. He gave not the slightest hint that he was the co-author of a book which expressed views in favour of mining or that the program was related to the book. Because I regarded Mr Raymond as being a man of integrity, I agreed to appear on the program. At that stage he filmed about 20 minutes of an interview in which I made comments opposing mining. The television program showed less than 30 seconds of that interview. There was no other attempt to put the other side of the case, particularly the economic aspects which involve the interests of the ordinary Australian. The whole program was slanted to pointing out the economic gain for the Australian people, but nobody appeared to put the case against that proposition. It was a straight out piece of propaganda for the mining lobby. That is yet another example of the way in which the uranium lobby is linking in with the media to present a case overwhelmingly favourable to mining.
International spokesmen for the uranium lobby will be brought to Australia to push its case. They will make fatuous statements and, in some cases, grossly evil statements like that of Dr Matheson who suggested the dumping of nuclear waste in Ayres Rock. Tame academics will be paid to write articles for publication in the media. The articles will be merely paid puff; there will be no pretence of academic objectivity. Already there have been disturbing suggestions that Professor Johns of the Newcastle University has been paid to write pro-uranium articles. Now we find that Professor Johns has been given a top job by the Fraser Government. That is the sort of pattern which is all too common in the machinations of the establishment which runs this country.
It has also been proposed that the Government or the Atomic Energy Commission should sponsor an Australian tour by Dr Dixie Lee Ray, Governor of Washington State and a leading pro-nuclear figure in the United States. To her credit, Dr Ray seems to have baulked at a private junket sponsored by the uranium lobby. It is a serious matter that there should even be talk of the Government or one of its agencies sponsoring a pro-nuclear visitor to Australia. It is a serious matter which the Government should clarify. Has it been approached to bring international propagandists to Australia? Has it agreed to fund those visits? If so, out of what appropriation will the money be provided? If it is the case that it is sponsoring such visits, would it also sponsor visits by critics of nuclear power and by those who advocate the use of other forms of energy, such as solar, wind and thermal? I find it remarkable that the matter of visits from officially sponsored spokesmen for the mining lobby should even be raised at this time. In view of the Deputy Prime Minister’s strongly partisan attitude the Government must state its approach to that sort of activity.
Furthermore, it is claimed that the International Public Relations Company has been paid $100,000 a year to mount a political lobbying campaign for the uranium miners. That throws the whole issue into the murky area of the political manipulators who operate without any checks of public scrutiny. It also points to the size and the nature of the unlimited funds that will be at the disposal of the pro-uranium lobby. There is no doubt but that a very subtle campaign has been mounted to stifle the anti-mining lobby and to overwhelm it with a mass of paid propaganda. The pattern of multi-national control of the Australian mining industry has become clearer in recent months. In particular, the merger of the General Electric Company with the Utah Mining Company has very important implications for uranium mining in Australia. The giant General Electric and Westinghouse companies produce 80 per cent of the components of the world’s nuclear reactors. As far as we know at the moment, Utah has no direct interest in uranium mining in Australia. It has a major investment in the coal and iron ore mining resources of Queensland. There is no doubt but that the Utah company has very close links with the Fraser Government. Now one of the world ‘s 2 major producers of nuclear reactor components has been given a powerful interest in Austraiian mining. The flowthrough from uranium mining to the manufacturers of nuclear reactors is obvious. The powerful vested interests of General Electric in nuclear reactors will put pressure for uranium mining on the Government through its links with Utah.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to move that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition be granted an extension of time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am seeking an extension of time of 2 minutes to make up for the time that the Minister took when he interrupted my speech. He did not allow me to complete my speech.
-Order! There has been a request for an extension of time.
– It is not granted.
-It is not granted.
-About the only thing I agreed with in the tirade by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) was that this debate is of great national importance. Unfortunately, his contribution demeans this debate. I suppose he has his problems. It was more in the nature of a campaign speech for the deputy leadership. His main concern seemed to be the number of copies of the report in the Bills and Papers Office. That seemed a trivial matter in such a debate. But I resented his statement that we were supporting the mine owners and speaking for them. I plan to speak for Australia and I wish I felt that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was doing likewise. I agree with the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) that there should be a joint policy on this important issue. There cannot be a time when one government has one policy on this issue and the succeeding government has another policy. That uncertainty is intolerable. This is a Party matter; it is a national matter. The statement by the Labor Party that it would revoke contracts entered into under this Government was totally irresponsible.
What we must do also is to achieve community acceptance of our conclusions- acceptance by business and acceptance by unions but not, if I may say, by the extreme left-wing unions. They are not interested in accepting something in Australia’s interests. We must get acceptance by the board run of the sensible trade union which make up the great majority. I wish I could think that we could solve this problem by a joint select committee- perhaps unusually a joint select committee of Ministers- to hack out an acceptable joint policy. But the Opposition shadow Ministers are so bound by the rules of their Caucus that such a course, desirable though it is, would be quite unworkable. This is a very difficult debate because on a highly technical subject many extreme statements are being made. To some extent it reminds me of the debate we had a few years ago on fluoride because of the extreme statements which in my view were quite -
– Fluoride, poofter.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will get his opportunity to speak in this debate very shortly.
– I raise a point of order. He should be made to withdraw that statement immediately.
-Order! I took exception to the honourable member interjecting. I did not hear what he said. So it has passed the notice of the Chair.
– He knows what he said and he should be made to withdraw promptly.
-If the honourable member for Melbourne who is under accusation from the other side feels he should withdraw, he can do so.
– I withdraw.
– On any scientific subject it is always possible to get a conflict of scientific views but what a Parliament must do is to weigh the quality not merely the quantity of the representation it receives. What we must try to judge things by is fact and not emotions. This is what the task of this House is tonight and in future debates. I would like to emphasise that this debate is not about nuclear power stations in Australia. There are no such plans. What we are talking about is the mining, the milling, the export and possibly the processing of uranium. On this issue the Fox report said this:
In considering the evidence we have found that many wildly exaggerated statements are made about the risks and dangers of nuclear energy production by those opposed to it.
Having listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition we can be in no doubt that this is true. What is the present situation as regards nuclear energy? There are 200 reactors in use today in 20 countries. By the mid 1 980s there will be 500 reactors in 30 countries. As for the resources of energy, if the fast breeder reactors are successfuland they will improve the effective use of uranium by a factor of about 30- the energy content of known uranium reserves will exceed that of known fossil fuel reserves. (Quorum formed) Despite the protestations of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition it is obvious that he is more concerned to stifle debate on the uranium issue than he is to encourage it. What are the alternatives to the use of nuclear energy? There is, of course, solar energy. The United States energy authority estimated in 1975 that an ‘aggressive but potentially attainable’ rate of solar energy could supply 1 per cent of United States energy needs by the year 2000 and the United Kingdom estimate is similar. That is a useful contribution but not a major one. We are doing much in the field of solar energy and we should do more. I am delighted to see that the Department of National Resources is pursuing this. I think we should consider whether we should not have a special levy on uranium exports to be used for the development of solar energy. This levy would use the present source of power generation to provide the research for the future and it is a course of action that we should consider. The other principal source of alternative energy supply is, of course, fossil fuel and coal is by far the most plentiful. The Fox report on page 1 13 said this about coal:
It can be seen that the environmental hazards of fossil fuel are severe, particularly in the case of coal . . .
I have here a satire written by a nuclear scientist headed ‘On the Feasibility of Coal-Driven Power Stations’. He is purporting to be looking back from a few thousand years hence at the feasibility of coal stations and he draws the same sort of difficulties and objections to coal power stations that are now being drawn in the community to nuclear power stations. I seek leave to incorporate this in Hansard. It is well worth study by all honourable members.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
ON THE FEASIBILITY OF COAL-DRIVEN POWER STATIONS
A noted European physicist takes time out from his research to interject a humorous and carefully constructed satire into the atomic developments. Dr Frisch is a Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, England.
The recent discovery of coal (black, fossilized plant remains) in a number of places offers an interesting alternative to the production of power from fission. Some of the places where coal has been found show indeed signs of previous exploitation by prehistoric men who, however, probably used it for jewels and to blacken their faces at religious ceremonies.
The power potentialities depend on the fact that coal can be readily oxidized with the production of a high temperature and an energy of about 0.0000001 megawatt day per gram. That is, of course, very little, but large amounts of coal (perhaps millions of tons) appear to be available.
The chief advantage is that the critical amount is very much smaller for coal than for any fissile material. Fission plants become, as is well known, uneconomical below 30 megawatts, and a coal-driven plant may be competitive for isolated communities (such as small islands) with small power requirements.
Design of a Coal Reactor
The main problem is to achieve free, yet controlled, access of oxygen to the fuel elements. The kinetics of the coaloxygen reaction are much more complicated than fission kinetics, and not yet completely understood. A differential equation which approximates the behaviour of the reaction has been set up, but its solution is possible only in the simplest cases.
It is therefore proposed to make the reaction vessel in the form of a cylinder, with perforated walls to allow the combustion gases to escape. A concentric inner cylinder, also perforated, serves to introduce the oxygen, while the fuel elements are placed between the two cylinders. The necessary presence of end plates poses a difficult but not insoluble mathematical problem.
It is likely that these will be easier to manufacture than in the case of fission reactors. Canning is unnecessary and indeed undesirable since it would make it impossible for the oxygen to gain access to the fuel. Various lattices have been calculated, and it appears that the simplest of all- close packing of equal spheres- is likely to be satisfactory. Computations are in progress to determine the optimum size of the spheres and the required tolerances. Coal is soft and easy to machine; so the manufacture of the spheres should present no major problem.
Pure oxygen is of course ideal but costly; it is therefore proposed to use air in the first place. However, it must be remembered that air contains 78 per cent of nitrogen. If even a fraction of that combined with the carbon of the coal to form the highly toxic gas cyanogene this would constitute a grave health hazard (see below).
Operation and Control
To start the reaction one requires a fairly high temperature of about 988° F; this is most conveniently achieved by passing an electric current between the inner and outer cylinder (the end plates being made of insulating ceramic). A current of several thousand amps is needed, at some 30 volts, and the required large storage battery will add substantially to the cost of the installation.
There is the possibility of starting the reaction by some auxiliary self-starting reaction, such as that between phosphine and hydrogen peroxide; this is being looked into.
Once the reaction is started its rate can be controlled by adjusting the rate at which oxygen is admitted; this is almost as simple as the use of control rods in a conventional fission reactor.
The walls of the reactor must withstand a temperature of well over a 1000° F in the presence of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and dioxide, as well as small amounts of sulphur dioxide and other impurities, some still unknown. Few metals or ceramics can resist such gruelling conditions. Niobium with a thin lining of nickel might be an attractive possibility, but probably solid nickel will have to be used. For the ceramic, fused thoria appears to be the best bet.
The main health hazard is attached to the gaseous waste products. They contain not only carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide (both highly toxic) but also a number of carcinogenic compounds such as phenanthrene and others. To discharge those into the air is impossible; it would cause the tolerance level to be exceeded for several miles around the reactor.
It is therefore necessary to collect the gaseous waste in suitable containers, pending chemical detoxification. Alternatively, the waste might be mixed with hydrogen and filled with large balloons which are subsequently released.
The solid waste products will have to be removed at frequent intervals (perhaps as often as daily), but the health hazards involved in that operation can easily be minimised by the use of conventional remote-handling equipment. The waste could then be taken out to sea and dumped.
There is a possibility- though it may seem remote- that the oxygen supply may get out of control; this would lead to melting of the entire reactor and the liberation of vast amounts of toxic gases. Here is a grave argument against the use of coal and in favor of fission reactors which have proved their complete safety over a period of several thousand years. It will probably take decades before a control system of sufficient reliability can be evolved to allay the fears of those to whom the safety of our people is entrusted.
– What are the advantages for Australia of developing her uranium resources? All we are considering here is the mining and milling of them and possibly the enrichment of them. It has been assessed that by 1985 the uranium industry could be earning between $ 1,100m and $l,500m per year on 1976 money values. We should compare this with the current earnings from wool of about $ 1,000m or from mineral exports of about $3, 500m. Also the uranium industry could be employing about 2000 people directly and probably supporting some 8000 more. These are major advantages. What then are the disadvantages? In mining and milling 3 million tons of ore were processed in Australia between 1954 and 1971 and the safety record of these operations was excellent. It was better by far than that for coal mining. There are problems, I must admit, but they are not insuperable problems. The yellow cake itself is only slightly radioactive as nearly all the uranium decayed products are removed from the ore during milling. It presents no problems if it is freed of its toxic substances. The main hazards with yellow cake arise from the tailings left over after the uranium is extracted from the ore. This contains all the radioactive decayed products of the uranium which is responsible for most of the radioactivity in the original ore. In the original ore there is a much larger body of nonradioactive rock. Milling converts this material into finely ground powder which is much more easily dispersed. The question of handling is something which must be looked at. It is not difficult and it has been overcome in many parts of the world. We can foresee no reasonable problem there that cannot be overcome. That is all that directly concerns Australia. We are not proposing to have nuclear power generation in Australia now. The handling and disposal of radioactive waste resulting from nuclear power generation lies with the countries which receive uranium from us. It is not our direct responsibility. Provided we are satisfied that uranium is not going to be misused, we have no moral right to impose our judgment on other countries. They must make their own assessment of the economic value of the uranium against the risk, if any.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
-Order! The honourable member for Isaacs will resume his seat.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There are only 3 members of the Opposition in the House in this very important debate, and for the Opposition to direct your attention -
-The honourable member for Griffith will resume his seat. There is no substance to the point of order. Quorum formed. I call the honourable member for Isaacs.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) continues to attempt to stifle debate. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in this national debate there are only 3 Labor members present in the House. As I was saying, we have no moral right to impose our views on other countries. They must make their own assessments of the economic value of our uranium.
-Order! The honourable member for Isaacs will resume his seat. There is far too much audible conversation and noise within the chamber. The member is entitled to be heard. I call the honourable member for Isaacs.
– Countries must make their own decisions about the economic value of our uranium against any risks the use of uranium may impose on their communities. What is the risk? The figures in the well known Rasmussen report suggest that of 15 million people living within 24 miles of planned and present United States nuclear power stations, the loss through accidents in motor cars would be 4200 killed; from falls 1500 killed; from fire 560 killed; from electrocution 90 killed; from lightning 28 killed and from nuclear power stations a possible 2 killed. No death, in fact, has ever occurred as a result of accidents in nuclear power stations. It can be seen that the person living alongside a nuclear station is more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than by a power station.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the honourable member for Isaacs be granted an extension qf time.
-The question is that the honourable member for Isaacs be granted an extension of time. Those of that opinion say aye, against say no. I think the ayes have it.
– No Mr Deputy Speaker, under Standing Orders 2 people can call for a division.
– I do not dispute that. Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
The bells being rung
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence, may I suggest to the Opposition that because the time of the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) was taken up twice by the calling of quorums, he should be allowed an extension of time.
– Go back and sit with them if you agree with them. Take the piece of paper from your head.
-Order! The honourable member for Hotham is entitled to make his point of order.
– But he does not have to put a piece of paper over his head.
-That is the custom of the House.
– It is not. They are only ringing the bells. Why does the fraud not go over there and sit with the Government.
– Would you like to have your mouth widened? The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Order! Before the honourable member for Isaacs resumes his speech I suggest to all honourable members that this is a most important debate. There has been a tremendous amount of interjecting and cross-fire across the chamber. The Chair will not have it continue. I should like the honourable member for Isaacs to be heard in relative silence. Otherwise I shall deal with the offenders.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for drawing the attention of the House to the importance of the debate. I deeply regret that the Opposition is trying to stifle this debate.
Motion (by Mr Scholes) put:
That the honourable member for Isaacs be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-The time of the honourable member for Isaacs has expired. I call the honourable member for Melbourne.
– I move:
At another time and in another way we will have to have a debate on uranium which I am prepared to provide. As the Labor Party does not want us to debate the matter now -
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. That statement is quite unfounded. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was refused an extension of time -
-Order! There is no point of order.
-. . . then the Government wanted an extension of time for one of its members.
-Order! There is no point of order. The question is, ‘That the question be now put’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
Opposition members- The noes have it.
– Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
Question put. The House divided. (MrSpeaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That Government Business order of the day No. 3 be postponed until a later hour this day.
– I take the strongest possible exception to the behaviour of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) in this matter. We now have before the House a motion to change the order of business -
– I take a point of order. There is before the Chair a motion to which the honourable gentleman is speaking. His comments have nothing to do with the postponement of order of the day No. 3, which is the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill. I suggest that his remarks be directed to that item and to no other.
-The honourable member for Wills will need to make his remarks relevant. I will hear more from him to decide the relevancy.
-The motion before the House relates to the order of business. The subject before us is surely the manner in which we handle the business of the House. The Minister has behaved in an outrageous manner.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C. )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22 March, on the following paper presented by Mr MacKellar:
Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population- Report -Ministerial Statement, 17 March 1977 - and on motion by Mr Staley:
That the House take note of the papers.
-The population of Australia and immigration into Australia is a vitally important topic. It is one that involves the long-term future of the nation. It is allied to those other vitally important topics with which this country is going to have to concern itself in the next 10, 20 or 30 years. Those topics include the long-term energy resources of this country. Because the long term future of this country is concerned with the population and immigration problem and with other problems such as the energy problem, I rise with a heavy heart because in the short time in which I have been a member of this House I have not seen an example of the way in which the programs and procedures of the House can be perverted to match what we have seen tonight from the Opposition.
– You had better be careful or you will not finish your remarks.
– It is perfectly clear -
– You will not finish your speech.
– It is perfectly clear from the threats that are already being made by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker.
-Before the honourable gentleman takes his point of order I indicate to him that he is out of order when he interjects in the fashion he has interjected. I will now hear him on his point of order.
– My point of order, Mr Speaker, is that enough irresponsibility has been displayed irrespective of where the blame is placed. The honourable member for St George is only provoking a further exhibition, if that is what he is calling it. My point of order is that the honourable member should direct his remarks through you, Mr Speaker, at the subject matter that is before the chair and which was announced by the Clerk.
-There is substance in the point of order. I call on the honourable member for St George to direct his remarks to the matter before the chair.
- Mr Speaker, I have the honour to address the House and the nation on a matter which, according to the timetable of the business of the House, was due to be debated at some future time. It is contrary to the interests of people in the electorate of St George that their representative should be called, at very short notice and without notes other than those which he can get together quickly, to speak on a matter of vast importance because of the irresponsibility of the Opposition in stifling debate tonight on another extremely important and related matter to the future of this country.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is a repeat of what I said before.
-I have taken the honourable member’s point. He will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker. I rise to order. I would simply like to state the fact that the previous debate was closed upon the motion of the Leader of the House. That is the only cause to which a change in the program can be attributed.
-I call the honourable member for St George.
– It is quite obvious to any person who has witnessed the proceedings tonight -
-Order! The honourable gentleman must ensure that his remarks are relevant to the matter before the chair, namely, the question that the House take note of the paper on immigration policies and Australia’s population.
- Mr Speaker, I am grateful that members of the Australian Labor Party are present in the chamber to hear this important debate. There are three or four of them here at the moment. At one stage during a previous debate only a short time ago there were only 2 members of the Opposition in the chamber.
-I will not warn the honourable gentleman again to remain relevant to the matter before the chair.
- Mr Speaker, I am pleased that there are a number of members of the Opposition in the House tonight. They stand condemned in the eyes of the public, in particular because they belong to a Party which perpetrated one of the worst humitarian atrocities in the history of this country. I want to refer to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled Australia and the Refugee Problem, because it is most relevant to the question of Australia’s future population and immigration, and to the refugee problem this country is facing. I point out to the House that the report was compiled by a number of senators, including Labor Party senators. The report deals with events in Vietnam after the situation in that country had deteriorated. The report points out that the Australian Labor Party Government refused until the last moment to agree to use its transport resources to evacuate Vietnamese nationals from South Vietnam and Saigon. The report states:
Indeed it appears in retrospect that the attitude was taken that it was the responsibility of individuals to escape as best they could, and only when they were out of Vietnam would the Australian Government consider assisting refugees . . .
The Committee which as I have said, included a number of Labor members further stated:
– They wanted them killed.
– The honourable member for Denison says they wanted them killed. I go further to the report of the committee on page 24 which states:
In view of the Committee’s belief that the Australian Government had been informed of the gravity and magnitude of the situation in South Vietnam some 3 weeks before the evacuation of the Australian Embassy, we are unable to come to any conclusion other than one of deliberate delay in order to minimise the number of refugees with which Australia would have to concern itself.
That is a shameful indictment of honourable members opposite in this House. I note that there are only two of them in the chamber at this moment. It seems that nowadays that is the usual number the Opposition mounts for debates in this House on matters of great importance to this nation. It is demeaning to the House.
I have dealt with the refugee situation. I also want to deal with the general attitude of the Opposition to our population growth as expressed previously in this debate. Some slur seems to be placed upon people who believe that this country should have an adequate and growing population. It is stated in crude terms that the slogan populate or perish’ is an improper one. I believe that it is an accurate slogan because no country can fully thrive without the vitality of continuous rejuvenation and development of its population. We must have elderly, middle-aged and young people. We must continuously have a turnover. We must ensure that there are people in this country working to develop its economy and its defences and that the work effort of those people is able to be provided towards the benefits of the aged population and towards the education of the young. So the economic work effort of those persons in the middle age bracket of our community will produce sufficient wealth to look after those persons who have yet to be brought up and educated and those persons who are older.
The facts of life are that in Australia the population is aging considerably. In metaphorical terms we are greying. Many surveys have predicted that unless Australia has a reinvigoration of younger persons we will face the same situation as the United States of America and a number of other countries. We will have a top heavy situation in which our national resources are divided more and more to look after persons in the older and to some extent in the younger age groups and we do not have sufficient resources to plough into investment to develop our country. The Australian Labor Party seeks to leave our resources in the ground and to leave our people to age without proper development of our population. The facts of life are that the gross increase to this country of between 30 000 and 50 000 persons a year produces a net increase of nil. A gross increase of 90 000 to 100 000 persons a year produces a net increase of about 50 000. A gross increase of 170 000 to 200 000 produces a net increase of about 100 000. Bear in mind that these figures are never accurate for one particular year because the net gain varies.
We are losing every year a substantial component of highly skilled workers. People go overseas. They seek adventure. They seek other fields in which to find expression for their skills. Many of our technical and professionally skilled people are going overseas and many do not return. This is most unfortunate. The more people we can attract back to this country to develop it the better, but the fact is that we lose many overseas.
It is also important to note that our natural birth rate is declining. The figures are clear. If there is one thing about the Government’s policy that gives me concern it is the pessimistic approach to the natural birth rate. The Government’s Green Paper and the Borrie report tend to suggest that the major input in the future will be from immigration. I am pleased that we should continue our immigration program provided it brings in people who are compatible with the work force, who can work, who can contribute to our society or people who ought to be admitted on humanitarian grounds. These humanitarian grounds principally relate to family reunions, refugee situations or other exceptional circumstances. But it is vitally important that we try to regenerate our own natural birth rate.
One of the unfortunate things that has occurred in the Western World in recent times is the necessity for the 2-income or 3-income family because this prevents women who wish to stay at home and increase their families from doing so. I accept the right of every woman to pursue basically what she wishes to pursue in life consistent with the law, but if women are forced through economic circumstances against their will to work when they would prefer to remain at home or to have additional children the resources of our society should be directed where possible to overcome that situation. To this extent I believe that the Government’s family allowances system is very much welcome because it directs the money into the hands of mothers.
I would also like to think that we could develop a national program designed to assist people voluntarily to increase our own birth rate because it will be most important in the future. Other sources are drying up. We are finding it difficult to attract to Australia people in the numbers we would wish. We must have a higher population. We must stimulate proper immigration, namely, immigration that is compatible with our economic requirements. I do not in any way mean that we should discriminate against any person on any of the grounds that we would abhor, namely, race, colour, creed or the like. But it is proper that we should take skilled persons where they are available. It is proper that we should take people on humanitarian bases, but it is also absolutely vital that we increase our own natural birth rate to provide the vitality of Australia that will once again help to build it into the great country it has always been.
In the short time remaining I wish to pay tribute to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who has produced a totally new approach to the problem. He has commissioned papers, he has required information to be brought forward before the public, and he is providing the widest possible debate on extremely important topics. He has been sympathetic to the problem of refugees and he has set the stage for this country to consider this vital topic, for persons to write to him, for submissions to be made and for community attitudes to be developed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Debates on questions of immigration always worry me because for many years we of course accepted the proposition that we had to populate or perish. I say that we all accepted that. I am not picking a fight with anyone on the Government side, because the Austraiian Labor Party played a significant part in promoting the approach that we needed to increase our migration after the war. We certainly have had a dramatic increase in population because of migration. A lot of claims have been made that the country has prospered because of the success of the program. If the point of the exercise was to increase the population I cannot argue. It certainly has been a success. But I wonder on what grounds the assumption is made that the standard of living of the community has been raised specifically by immigration. I know one respect in which as far as I am concerned the standard has been improved and which I enjoy, namely, the crossfertilisation of different cultures and the sorts of foods one could never get. But that is not quite the point I am trying to make.
One can live on plain bread and butter and ordinary meat without the sorts of diets that one has learned to assimilate from our migrants. We could have subsisted on the usual Australian diet and still be very well off. The point is that during this period of rapid growth we have had lots of problems; for example, the migrants have been largely ignored, which is a rather sad thing, by all of us. The Minister frowns. I suggest that it took a long time for the Australian community really to accept them. I speak with some feeling because my parents were migrants. They came here a long time ago, but I was conscious that the attitudes they had to suffer persisted right up until I was an adult. So when one comes to weigh up the advantages to Australia one should not be too glib about assuming that all the advances, or an enormous proportion of the advances in our standard of well-being, have been due to immigration.
The inadequacy of our schools and the inadequacy of education for migrants have only recently been taken up by the Australian Labor Party, and the present Government is now pursuing them. I am not picking a fight with anybody on the Government side about this but I wish to make the point that to overcome what I claim to have been a decrease in the standards has required a massive effort on our part at a time when we were in fact slowing migration. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) during his remarks on 30 March last year and again recently made some other observations on which I would like to comment. For example, in his speech in March last year, 1 2 months ago, he pointed out:
One of the inevitable consequences of that approach -
He is referring to doing nothing about maintaining population growth. This is another point we have to face. Our population growth is tending to zero. He went on: . . that is, if present fertility and mortality trends continue, is that our population will age.
By implication, according to the Minister, this will increase the burden on those of working age and far from improving our standards of living and improving the quality of life will lead to the opposite result. This assumes a static approach to the whole question of retirement and embraces without analysis a number of contradictions. Why should we have such a rigid view of retirement? Why should 75-year olds not work if they want to do so? Why should we assume that they all have to become dependent on the rest of the community once they turn 65 years and retire? At the same time, and this is what I mean by contradiction, there is a growing pressure in many countries for lower retiring ages, not necessarily for the benefit of the aged but so that they can move off the stage to make way for the young who cannot find jobs. Again I am discussing ideas. I am not trying to make political points. I think that we on this side of the House may well be as unaware of these points as are honourable members opposite and the whole community. I think that this is a significant question which we should ask ourselves.
Is it better for the 50 to 60 year olds to continue to hang on to their jobs for fear that if they do not they will be considered a burden on society because they have retired, whilst at the same time a number of under 50 year olds are unable to find jobs although genuinely wanting to work and have to suffer the indignity of being under suspicion as ‘dole bludgers’- the very problem that we have in growing proportions today? In fact a distressingly large proportion of the unemployed are the young people who have never had jobs. They are becoming increasingly dispirited because they are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs. We had the prospect of one Premier suggesting that a way out might be to lower the retiring age for public servants because he wanted to do something for the young who have their lives before them. In essence he was condemning the old to the scrapheap. I am not saying that it was a malicious intention but it is something that we need to worry about.
Whichever way one looks at it, on the assumptions that are made, whether by the Minister or by anyone else, along the lines I have just suggested, there is pain for someone.
– You are assuming no growth in jobs?
– I am assuming no growth in jobs because that is what the situation has been over the last 12 months or so in this country, or it h& been a negligible increase compared with the population increase. Sadly, this looks as though it is the plight of many advanced Western countries, not just Australia. I am not blaming anyone. It is a fact of life. Someone is not pulling his weight. Someone is not showing the drive, the initiative and the energy which we are led to believe from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) we should expect- from others. The Minister goes on to mention how this aging population will ‘require the transfer of resources away from education and training and investment in productive processes to the needs of a proportionately increasing population of aged persons’. That is a limited, narrow, ungenerous assumption, in my view, both of the supposed needs of the aged and of the meaning of education, training and productive processes. Surely we will still need investment in education, training and productive processes in order to help the aged- I am getting close to that category- to retire gracefully because society requires them to do so, as I suggested earlier, for the benefit of the young who are being stifled. This will require continuing education and training to help increasing numbers to cope with the discontent and frustrations they might otherwise feel. I could go on in this way. The point I want to make is that it is tied in with the population problem. One of the arguments put forward in this whole immigration argument is that we need the migrants because that is the only way to get young people to help to support the old people. It implies that all old Australians are going to be literally old and on the scrapheap and are going to be kept by young migrants from overseas. I think that that is nonsense. We need to look at the argument more carefully.
– It youngs up the population.
– I will leave that for a moment. That is a question which I cannot answer and I am not going to pretend to answer it. I think that we need to inquire into it a lot more.
– Actually what I said was that it youngs up the population.
– It youngs up the population but, whether or not it youngs it up, we still have the increasing problem of more people living longer and having to retire because younger people want jobs. A large number of young people are unemployed. Even assuming that 50 per cent of them are dole bludgers, that still leaves 1 50 000 people who cannot find jobs. That is a lot of people, and yet the Government is still talking about immigration. It mystifies me. If we want people to do jobs why not train our own people who are here right now? Surely that would be cheaper. We should train them to do the jobs that need doing because for a variety of reasons they can no longer do the jobs they were doing. I accept that an enormous proportion may be dole bludgers. I do not want to argue about that. I am talking about the few who want jobs and cannot get them.
Now let me turn to another aspect. I suggest that the Minister answers the wrong question when he says that nobody can reasonably argue that there is any prospect that Australia itself will become over populated in the long term. I could even dispute that assumption but for the sake of argument I want to observe simply that it is the short term that worries me. The world may already be perilously over populated and if nothing is done about world population now there may be no long term for anyone anyway. Thus the question we must ask ourselves is what we can do to help resolve the world population problem. I agree that we cannot solve the population pressures of any other country by taking migrants in large numbers- it would have to be very large numbers- from any one country that is suffering these problems. But we cannot absolve ourselves from all responsibility simply by saying that these problems must be solved by the countries and peoples themselves.
It is true that we are travelling in first class cabins on space ship earth and that the over populated countries are travelling steerage, but we are all on board the one ship and we cannot get off. If over population problems lead to excessive pollution, excessive use of resources, mass starvation, social unrest and disorder, plagues and panic, then we cannot escape the consequences. The pollution will not recognise national borders or even ocean barriers as the winds and tides envelop the whole earth. Excessive use of resources in one area with persistence of demand prompts attempts to plunder other areas. Ironically we must admit that in terms of resource use it is the over developed countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia or a number of the advanced countries of Europe which have reached the stage of over use of resources in their own area and are now busy trying to plunder other areas, usually underdeveloped countries. Of course, we do not see it as plunder but as trade and development.
We never ask the real question: Whose development? Clearly the resources use is continuing to go up in the over fat, rich countries and with the benefit of ‘trade’ some few people in the underdeveloped, poor countries are getting very rich but the vast majority of the population of the poor countries is getting poorer. Even if we could overcome this fraud and successfully promote the development of the poor countries with their massive populations and the inevitable massive increase in population which would inevitably take place with the beginning of social improvement and with no other help from us, it would simply mean that they too would quickly run out of resources and need to look elsewhere. But where would they look? So we might find ourselves directly involved in a fight for resources. By then we would have perceived the idiocy of feeling pleased that other countries want our resources in ever increasing quantities, as the Government now appears to react, in an utterly immature, blind and short term selfish fashion. Of course, such plunder of resources might be very good right now for the few who own them- increasingly overseas corporations anyway, as far as the average Australian is concerned, whether he perceives that fact or not. But it will not be good even for my children for the expected term of their lifetime. I could go on. How can we escape the effects of mass starvation, social unrest, disorder and so on anywhere in the world? In our own selfishness we are being blind to the fact that the whole human race is one, that biologically, in ecological survival terms, we are artificially and ineffectually divided into sovereign states. Man invented states, not nature. Man cannot break a basic law of nature- the immutable interdependence of nature, of which man is but a part. The point is that we cannot just seek to push for our own development in this selfish fashion, recognising that we have a lot of unemployed that we cannot accommodate, that we have an increasing aged population, that somehow they will have to survive on social welfare and that we will have to maintain our own productive sections of the community by bringing in trained migrants. There is a terrible immorality in that. If we were moral in this question of trying to save the underprivileged and the poor we would open our gates to the limit of our productive capacity for the people in the underdeveloped countries who have no skills, who if they stay in those countries are likely to starve to death. But is that what we offer to do? Not on your life. We, one of the richest countries in the world, seek to plunder the human resources of underdeveloped countries. We seek to take their skilled workers with pleasure to help us out of our problems but we deprive them of the skilled workers which they need if they are ever going to get out of the plight they are in. Is that morality? Is that progress? Is that the sort of thing that a nation like ours should be doing when it claims that it is trying to promote the welfare not only of its own citizens but also of the whole world, because we are part of the world? If we deprive India of its doctors, its teachers and so on- I will not include lawyers -
Television Services- Jews in the Soviet Union- Education- International Affairs Auditor-General’s Report-Representation of Division of Macarthur
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) ( 10.30)- I rise tonight to speak on a subject which is a constant issue in my electorate. I refer to communications. In an isolated area which is sparsely populated we have seen our train services discontinued, our air services reduced, and the mail services to outback properties reduced from three a week to two a week and then to one a week. The month of February saw a little improvement in our communications with the commissioning of a television translator station at Menindee on the Darling River. It is only a small community but it serves a very historic and large pastoral district. As you would know, Mr Speaker, it was from Menindee that Burke and Wills set out on their epic journey to open up the north of the continent. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that now Menindee has been opened up further through an improved television service. Although the residents of that small township have built huge television aerials and added boosters, their reception is very poor.
The story of the commissioning of the television station goes back a number of years. It will be 4 years in April since I was told by a previous Minister that the facilities would be built at Menindee at a cost estimated in 1973 of $70,000. Delays must have increased that cost tremendously in the meantime. In April last year, the present Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) in reply to a question on notice, told me that the station would go into service in August. August came and nothing happened. After making inquiries I was informed that a major technical fault has caused a delay probably until the end of November. The faulty parts had to be returned to the manufacturer in Japan as they were under warranty. November came and went, and in December I was informed that the delay was now being caused by an industrial dispute. In January the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) who was then acting on behalf of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications told me that if tests done during January worked out the station would go to air on 1 February. The people of Menindee had adopted a ‘seeing is believing’ attitude after I had informed them of each of the latest estimates of the commencement of operation of the station.
I mention this little story tonight to illustrate how important a seemingly small part of the Government’s work is to an isolated community. In my electorate there are a number of small communities at the centre of vast grazing districts which would dearly love to be in the position in which Menindee now finds itself. The Minister says that it is impossible to provide at Wilcannia and Ivanhoe television services equal to those which are available to the majority of Australians because the number of people is too small to warrant the cost. All honourable members will know that Wilcannia was last in the news when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) visited that town last September for the purpose of opening a house built by the local Aboriginal housing co-operative. He arrived with a team of reporters and a Four Corners television crew to record the historic occasion. It was the first time that the Prime Minister had visited the town. The Four Corners team left to make its documentary. When it was put to air across Australia the very people who appeared in the program could not see it because they do not h ave a television service in Wilcannia.
– Were you invited?
– No I was not invited. Ivanhoe may just be a little better off because the people who live there have television sets but they have only a snowy reception. During the election campaign in December 1975 the National Country Party made much of providing a satellite for outback telecommunications. I believe that the officials of that Party would have done much better had they read some of the correspondence in my office from various Ministers on the feasibility of such a system. Yet something must be done to improve the communications between the people in the outback and the majority of Australians.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise tonight a serious situation concerning the issue of human rights and what I can only assume to be the most unsatisfactory nature of diplomatic representation by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in this country. I have been approached on a number of occasions by people seeking to assist Jewish citizens in the Soviet Union. Many of these people fear for the safety and/or release of friends and relatives and there seems to be some substantial evidence that torture and illegal captivity of Jewish people have been features of the Soviet political system.
On 23 December last I wrote to Ambassador Basov, Soviet Ambassador in Australia, seeking answers to some specific questions which has been put to me by Rabbi Sultanik of Doncaster, Victoria. Those questions were:
– They do not honour anything.
– As the honourable member interjects, they do not honour anything. On 3 January I received a 4-line reply from Mr L. Raina, First
Secretary at the Soviet Embassy enclosing 5 booklets, some of which were years old. I would classify them as ancient. I carefully read these documents and the questions raised by Rabbi Sultanik were not properly or completely answered in them. On 10 February I again contacted the Ambassador and said in part:
I have noted the information contained in these documents, however I would still be grateful for specific answers to the individual questions I raised with you in my letter of 23 December 1976. 1 then received another reply from the Soviet Embassy of 1 7 February- this time with 6 lineswhich failed to deal with my questions in any serious way whatever. Can we reach any other conclusion than that this represents contempt for the Australian Parliament by an ambassadorial representative?
This is a most disappointing situation that diplomatic representatives in this country either refuse to refer letters from Australian parliamentarians to their own governments for reply or, because of incompetence, themselves fail to answer when they are able. It would hardly be stretching it to describe this treatment of the Australian Parliament as being most discourteous and lacking any element of the co-operative spirit underpinning the Helsinki Pact about which the Soviet Union has been so sanctimonious lately in respect of President Carter. The issue of human rights in the Soviet Union and in other countries has concerned me and I have placed a question on notice for the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) seeking information on the number of political prisoners in every country on which information can be obtained and I eagerly await that reply.
To return to the Soviet Union, I have received on a regular basis a document called Survey. This is published, so I have discovered, by that neutral and objective body the International Research and Information Association which is a cover for the Trades Hall in Sydney. Their last issue contained an address for subscription renewals and- surprise, surprise- the address was Box 9, Trades Hall, Goulburn Street, Sydney.
– That is a surprise.
– Yes, that is a surprise. I have just received the March 1977 issue of Survey, volume 2 number 12, which has as a standard subheading on all issues, the following words: ‘A monthly digest of trends in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.’ On the front page of this special issue under the heading ‘Human Rights and Socialism’ the statement is made that in the Soviet Union there is ‘the right to freedom of religion’, which of course stands most peculiarly alongside the correspondence I have just mentioned from the Soviet Embassy. Even more remarkable is another sentence on the front page which reads:
We consider it urgent in the interests of people in the West, including Australia, to be given more basic information on this question.
How can we when the Soviet Ambassador declines to help? May I suggest to one Mr W. J. Brown, who is the Managing Editor of Survey’s editorial board that he might use his good offices to persuade the Soviet Embassy to respond to my concern and particularly my letters of 23 December and 10 February.
Finally, it seems to me that the Soviet Union is jeopardising detente and world peace and is curiously supersensitive on the issue of human rights when it complains so bitterly about President Carter’s comments on Soviet dissidents. I agree with him totally. The evidence is there and it is up to the Soviet Union to prove otherwise. As far as this Parliament is concerned, Ambassador Basov has a great deal of work to do.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last week Hansard contained an answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) regarding the population of the various electorates. As a mathematical exercise today I worked out the proportion of electors to population in the electorate of Grey. I have found out that of the 12 South Australian electorates Grey has the largest proportion of population to electors. I think we can assume from that that the electorate of Grey has a higher proportion of young people than the other electorates in South Australia. If we assume that there are more children in the electorate of Grey than in the other electorates, this highlights the need for an increase in the facilities by which these children can receive training in kindergartens and so on. Apart from kindergartens there is a need for care centres. When the Labor Government was in office it went a long way in assisting kindergartens and child care centres under the Children ‘s Services Program. In my electorate a lot of good work was done in respect of kindergartens. I am told that the child care centre at Whyalla is operating. I know that the one at Port Augusta is operating. It is understood that these centres will shortly be officially opened.
Since the change of government there has been a change of policy. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) wrote to members of Parliament some 6 to 8 months ago announcing that the Government was going to change its emphasis on child care services. In the letter she said also that she looked on kindergartens more as a State responsibility than a Commonwealth responsibility. It can be seen that this is another one of those areas in which the Labor Government gave assistance but under the new federalism policy this Government is withdrawing funds from the area and throwing the responsibility back on to the States. The people who will lose are not only the people who are running the kindergartens but also, more importantly, the children and their parents who rely on these forms of education. I think we all received a letter from the Minister which indicates the concern that is expressed by people about the cutback in funds. This shows how government policy has changed. It reads:
As you will know, the Government has been anxious to reorient the Children’s Services Program to give greater emphasis to the provision of child care services for families in need, particularly single parent and low income families where it is necessary for the mother of young children to go to work. I have approved a number of grants over the past few weeks which are aimed at giving effect to this policy.
Further on in that letter the Minister stated:
For your information, I am attaching a listing of new project or projects in your Electorate State which have been approved by me in two recent announcements.
When I read that letter I was all agog to find out what kindergartens were going to be assisted and what was going to happen about new child care centres. I turned over the page full of expectation to find these words:
There were no new projects in your Electorate in the latest approvals under the Children’s Services Program.
Attached for your information is a listing of the new projects approved in your State.
There was another attachment which said that a creche at Enfield was going to receive the magnificent sum of $500.
I understand that in future the Minister may be asked to perform the official opening of these child care centres. I have found in the past when I have attended official openings of projects started by the Labor Government and completed under this Government that this Government has tried to take the credit. I could mention quite a number of instances, including a housing project in Port Augusta for Aboriginals. When the Minister attended the opening one would have thought that he was responsible for the project. It was quite obvious to anybody who knew the circumstances, including the people in that area, that the Minister had nothing to do with it. The whole project was approved in the time when Senator Cavanagh was Minister for
Aboriginal Affairs. I would hope that at the official opening of the child care centres in the northern Spencer Gulf area the Minister will not, if she accepts the invitation to open them, take the credit for them because the credit does not belong to this Government.
-On 15 March the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in a wide ranging speech on our relations with the rest of the world extended what could be fairly described as the hand of friendship to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I quote from page 20 1 of Hansard on 1 5 March. He said:
As the Prime Minister and I have previously emphasised, our bilateral relations with the Soviet Union are sound and we wish to make them as extensive and friendly as possible.
Later in his speech he said this:
There is therefore little in our bilateral relationship which causes the Australian Government concern. What does concern us and what we have felt obliged to draw to public attention is the extent, and the implications, of the Soviet arms build-up in recent years.
– The sabre rattlers are having a blow-out tonight.
-This will draw out the communists, Mr Speaker. The Minister went on to say that the matter that concerned him was the peace of the world and the threat to the peace of the world by the Soviet arms build-up. He then said:
We hope, profoundly, that they will respond . . .
-Order! The honourable member is not entitled to revive a debate. So far all he has done is to quote the Minister’s statement. He had better make his point very quickly or I will have to rule him out of order.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker, I have nearly finished. I was just laying the foundation for what I want to say. I know this is annoying the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). The Minister went on to say:
We hope, profoundly, that they will respond to the approach of a new American President for a genuine arms control agreement which will lead to a substantial reduction in the accumulation of military power.
So spoke our Minister and I believe every honourable member in this House supported what the Minister said and the way in which he said it.
What do we see happen? The President of the United States of America sends his Secretary of State, Mr Cyrus Vance, to Moscow to talk with President Brezhnev about the question of a genuine and worthwhile cutback in the nuclear arms race. We pick up tonight’s Herald and we see the glaring headline ‘No! No! Moscow to U.S.! The article reads:
American-Soviet talks on curbing the nuclear arms race collapsed in Moscow today.
Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev flatly rejected proposals put to him by the U.S. Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance.
I know that the honourable member for Melbourne does not like this. The article continues:
An angry President Jimmy Carter hurriedly summoned Congressional leaders to the While House to tell them the news. - President Carter told Congressmen he was going to ‘hang tough’.
And good on him. To quote further from the article:
In Moscow, Mr Vance told a news conference:
I am disappointed that we failed to make progress in what I consider to be the most essential of the issues between the superpowers’.
Mr Vance said Brezhnev ‘examined our two proposals and did not find either acceptable. They proposed nothing new on their side’.
The Soviet leader held a final one-hour meeting with Vance today.
At the Stan of the session Brezhnev appeared affable.
Wearing a hearing aid and grunting, he shook hands with the Secretary of State as newsmen looked on.
The Government, I believe, has to abide by the diplomacies of international politics but may I, as an ordinary humble back bencher and a fourth generation Australian with 3 kids, say that unlike the honourable member for Melbourne and some of his colleagues I am extremely concerned by the persistent belligerence and aggression of Soviet Russia and its refusal to talk with the United States of America on a reduction of nuclear arms. It is all right for the honourable member for Melbourne. It is in his interests. He would like to see a situation develop where America cut back on her arms but Soviet Russia doubled hers.
The Soviet arms race is, I believe, a matter of concern. I do not want to see in 1977 in Australia the sort of thing which happened in the United Kingdom in 1938. It is people like the honourable member for Melbourne who say there is no problem and that we are kicking the communist can. If his point of view is accepted in the Australian community we will find ourselves totally without defences; we will find ourselves with an Indian Ocean which has been converted into a Russian lake, and we will find ourselves a satellite of Moscow within a very short period of time. The honourable member for Melbourne laughs at me and there are others like him. In another Parliament in London in 1938 they laughed at somebody else. When we can have a situation in which one super power can simply turn its back on reason and discussion designed to halt the nuclear arms race; when we have a situation in which one super power can thumb its nose at the world, I believe every Australian who is concerned about the future of this country, and the world, has a duty to speak out as I have done tonight, no matter what the honourable member for Melbourne and his pro-communist allies like to say on the subject.
-We on this side of the House do not like the behaviour of the Soviet Government any more than does the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) but I remind the honourable member that when it comes to belligerence, in the two great World Wars of my life the Russians have been on our side. I rise tonight to refer to something I have just discovered and what I consider to be an error of fact in a report which was tabled by the Public Accounts Committee last week. I did not have much time to consider it then because it is a lengthy report and I have just discovered the error. It was quoted by my colleague, the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) in the debate. It refers to criticisms I had offered of the Auditor-General’s original report. The Public Accounts Committee 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 . . .
As a result, the Committee called the AuditorGeneral before it. I want to make it quite clear that I make no assertions whatsoever about the autonomy of the Auditor-General but I offered some very severe criticisms of his accuracy. That is what I ask of people like Auditors-General. In the Auditor-General’s report in June 1974, he stated on page 3:
In correspondence, the Secretary to the Depanment has agreed generally with the Audit findings. 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 within the Depanment . . .
That was refuted emphatically in documents which I gave to the Committee and tabled in this Parliament. On page 18, the Auditor-General states, when referring to, I think, elections to the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee:
The main reasons for such shortcomings . . . and the deadline for the actual enrolment, set by the then Minister . . .
I showed that that was a completely erroneous statement based upon no facts whatsoever. On page 23 the Auditor-General said, concerning a trawler:
When confronted with the situation of making the trawler ready for sea in time to meet the then Minister’s deadline . . .
I did not set the deadline. Captain Benson, a former member of this House, showed emphatically to the Committee that I did not do so. It was a totally inaccurate assertion by the AuditorGeneral. On the same page, the Auditor-General stated:
In relation to the accounts paid from Canberra, the commitments were entered into by a consultant to the then Minister and the Depanment had no knowledge of the commitment until receipt of the accounts . . .
The evidence presented to the Committee clearly showed that was not the case. A very senior officer of the Department admitted, in fact, that the Department did know. I have nothing to say about the methods of the Auditor-General in carrying out his research. I have nothing to say and no complaint to offer about his autonomy, but I do have very serious criticisms to offer of a person who is carrying out a statutory obligation to this Parliament of this nation reprinting inaccuracies and assertions against people in his reports to this Parliament without checking their accuracy. What I am complaining about is that no steps were taken to see whether these assertions were accurate before they were reported to the Parliament.
I suggest that honourable members read what the Public Accounts Committee had to say on page 1 3 of its report to see just how we are in the grip of a totally official system in which the Auditor-General thinks it is adequate if he talks to the Department and if the Department talks to him, and for what is actually hearsay to be repeated as hard evidence. That is a serious criticism to offer. I am not greatly concerned about what people say about me. If they do it in public and if it is defamatory, I will take action. If it is done in this Parliament, I will reply. But if it is done by people who are, as I said last week, supposed to be paragons of probity, then I expect from them the same accuracy that I hope I always bring to debate in this place.
-I want to draw the attention of the House to a very lengthy notice appearing on the notice paper. It took 20 minutes of the time of the House to be read yesterday. I draw attention to it because that notice, in effect, appears to challenge my right to sit in this House. It is a challenge by the Labor Party. I am not quite certain who was the creator or the generator of the challenge. I know that the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) presented it but I know not on whose behalf he spoke. I want to stress that there are no legal or moral grounds for suggesting that I should resign as the member for Macarthur. The Labor Party knows that perfectly well. I suggest that this is part of a lengthy, involved and hypocritical campaign, a cynical and desperate effort by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) to hold on to his job as Leader of the Opposition. He apparently believes that if he can create an atmosphere, however false, in which there may be the possibility, at least as far as his Party is concerned, of a by-election, he may be able to convince his loyal supporters who stand behind him with their knives poised, that they should not plunge those knives into his back. If he can create such an atmosphere he no doubt believes he will be able to recall the heady days of his entry into that role of Leader of the Opposition when he was fortunate enough to lead a win in a by-election.
It cemented his role as Leader of the Opposition. I suggest that the only cement that will emerge out of this little venture is a cement suit, politically speaking, for the Leader of the Opposition. The facts of the matter are, in fact, indisputable. I was never liable for the debts of Patrick Partners and therefore have never come to any assignment or composition with its creditors. I simply do not have any such creditors with whom to come to an assignment because I was never an owner or part-owner of the firm. The House knows that. The House has documents which establish it and yet this campaign of vilification continues against me as part of this campaign by the Leader of the Opposition to create a phoney diversion to cement his position. But I believe that this only follows a general pattern of noisy accusations that have been going on for quite some time. If there was any substance at all in these noisy accusations, the Labor Party could have made an application to the High Court to have my seat declared vacant, as the law provides, long before this. It has had since December 1975 to do so and it has not done so. Its failure to take such action exposes its cynical use of the forms of the House to attempt to harass a member. This only follows a pattern that has been set by the Leader of the Opposition when he recently tried to give a false impression of the conclusions of the official New South Wales Government report by Mr Masterman into Patrick Partners.
I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition stands condemned for his leading role in the Labor Party’s series of personal attacks on me for political purposes. The personal reputations of other people appear to mean nothing to those on the other side of the House in their apparently obsessive determination to retain the Leader of the Opposition in his job.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a little late in the session but I think the attention of the House should be drawn to standing order 82. I thought you might have stopped the honourable member, Mr Speaker.
-I think the honourable member for Chifley is drawing the attention of the House to the standing order that provides that a debate cannot be anticipated. As soon as that point of order was taken I would have ruled the honourable member for Macarthur out of order.
I did not interrupt on my own motion because the honourable gentleman was taking an opportunity to defend himself. When an honourable gentleman wishes to defend himself, unless a point of order is taken, I would not stop him of my own motion.
It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. As no Minister wishes the debate to be extended the House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 1 9 April at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
-The Minister representing the Minister for Science has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions.
By way of introduction, it may be useful to state that the expression ‘genetic engineering’ is used here to refer to research with artificially-recombined molecules of DNA, the molecules carrying the hereditary message. The answers to the specific questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
How many adjustments have been made to the value of the Australian dollar since 1 November 1976, on what days were the adjustments made, and what was the extent of each?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
From which Judges or persons who later became Judges has the Commonwealth purchased law books.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member’s attention to the answer provided to Question No. 138 (Hansard, page 1641 of 27 April 1976).
Nuclear Explosions in Australia (Question No. 126)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Can he provide a full list of all nuclear explosions which have taken place in Australia giving the date, the size, location and purpose of each.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. The list is as follows:
The purpose of each explosion was related to the development of a British nuclear deterrent.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Programs of the national service are represented in the table by station ABV Melbourne.
am asked the Treasurer upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Permanent buildings societies committee- 27 August 1976 and 3 December 1976.
Money market corporations committee-27 August 1 976.
Pastoral finance companies committee- 24 September 1976.
Credit co-operatives committee- 27 Septem ber 1 976.
Finance companies and general financiers committee-27 September 1976.
Authorised money market dealers committee- 28 September 1976.
Retailers committee-29 October 1 976.
At the meeting of the retailers advisory committee, members discussed with officials questions they had relating to proposed regulations for a quarterly collection from retailers.
am asked the Treasurer upon notice, on 9 March 1977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Report on Credit Reporting (Question No. 309)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In response to this recommendation and pursuant to my powers under sub-section 11 (2) of the Consumer Affairs Ordinance 1973, I requested the Council to carry out a fact finding investigation into the extent to which consumers had been, or believed they had been, refused credit in the A.C.T. as the result of an unfair or inaccurate credit report
As part of its investigation the Council invited confidential submissions from members of the public who believed they had suffered as a result of the activities of credit reporting agencies.
The Council advised me late in November 1976 of the results of the investigation and made recommendations in the light of the investigation that a system of control be introduced in the A.C.T.
Briefly, the recommended scheme follows the informal arrangements which have been introduced in New South Wales by the N.S.W. Privacy Committee in co-operation with sections of the N.S.W. finance industry.
I have accepted these recommendations in principle and have asked the Director of Consumer Affairs to examine the feasibility of establishing such a scheme in the A.C.T.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No details are kept of any reportings which may have been a consequence of a request by the A.C.T. Division of the Council of the Australian Government Employee Organisations.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 1 1 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 17 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Senator T. J. Tehan (Chairman)
M.J. Neil, M.P.
Hon. I. L. Robinson, M.P.
Senator A. J. Missen
Senator the Hon. R. C. Wright
The Committees’ functions, as announced in the Prime Minister’s press release, include the examination of legislation and assistance with the development of policy; providing a two-way channel of communication between the Government and the community at large; and reporting to the Party Room on proposed legislation after consultation with appropriate Ministers.
The Law and Government Committee performs these advisory functions with particular reference to those matters for which I have responsibility as Attorney-General.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
What are the annual salaries and allowances paid to the members of the Metric Conversion Board?
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
As set out in Remuneration Tribunal Determination Number 1976/7 the current annual salaries and allowances paid to members of the Metric Conversion Board are:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science on 23 March 1977, upon notice:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions.
By way of introduction, it may be useful to state that the expression ‘genetic engineering’ is used here to refer to research with artificially-recombined molecules of DNA, the molecules carrying the hereditary message. The answers to the specific questions are as follows:
By the end of 1975, following parallel moves overseas, the Australian Academy of Science established a Standing Committee to review and make recommendations on proposals for research with recombinant DNA on the basis of guidelines reflecting potential hazards associated with the experimentation. The CSIRO, Universities and other research institutions, as well as the major research funding bodies in Australia, including the Australian Research Grants Council, agreed to refer research proposals to the Standing Committee.
During calendar year 1976 the Standing Committee gave approval to ten proposals for recombinant DNA research. These originated from the CSIRO, Australian National University, University of Adelaide, University of Melbourne and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. A further three proposals have been approved so far in 1977. Only proposals falling within categories of low and minimal risk experimentation have been approved by the Academy Committee. It is understood that in some cases the work has not yet proceeded beyond the stage of establishing the equipment and facilities for the research.
It is understood that the remainder of the approved research projects are covered by internal university or institutional funding, and so constitute an indirect cost to the Commonwealth- as, for example, through the Australian Universities Commission.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Will he arrange for the printing of the consolidation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Regulations.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. The preparation of an up-to-date reprint of the Conciliation and Arbitration Regulations is being given a high priority among the consolidations of Regulations being prepared by my Department.
Conciliation and Arbitration Act: Re-numbering (Question No. 67)
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Would it be possible, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is next consolidated, for the parts and sections of that Act to be re-numbered in such a way as to eliminate alphabetical distinctions between numbered parts and sections of the Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It would be possible to re-number the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in the way suggested. However, any such re-numbering would need to be made by an amending Act. The amending Act would need to include an interpretative provision to enable references in other laws or documents to provisions of the Act to be read as references to the re-numbered provisions.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Will he confirm that section 43 of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 will extend to proceedings in the Industrial Division of the Federal Court, and any appeals concerning industrial matters, by restricting the awarding of costs in industrial cases to vexatious litigation and unreasonable causes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Section 43 of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1 976 provides that the Court or a Judge has jurisdiction to award costs in all proceedings before the court other than proceedings in respect of which any other Act provides that costs shall not be awarded.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, as amended by the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Act (No. 3) 1976, provides in section 197a that a party to a proceeding before the Industrial Division of the Federal Court of Australia, in a matter arising under that Act, shall not be ordered to pay any costs incurred by any other party to that proceeding, except where the party against whom the order is made instituted the proceedings vexatiously or without reasonable cause.
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 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:
Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health (Question No. 138)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development upon notice on 9 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 March 1977:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 17 March 1977:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
Was the position of Commonwealth Ombudsman advertised; if so, where.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 24 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770331_reps_30_hor104/>.